Monday, July 21, 2014

Butterfly Patch Baby Quilt Tutorial

Butterfly Patch Baby Quilt Tutorial by Fabric Mutt for Riley Blake Designs

I'm guest posting over at the Riley Blake Designs blog today with a Cutting Corners College tutorial for my Butterfly Patch Baby Quilt. If you're looking for a quick baby shower gift, this is it. My version features Zoe Pearn's sweet fabric collection, A Beautiful Thing, which has some perfectly darling prints in it...my favorite obviously being the butterflies. Head on over to check it out!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Market Set

Melody Miller Market Set by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Yesterday was my mother-in-law's birthday, and we celebrated by spending several days in San Diego with her and my father-in-law. It was a great little vacation -- lots of fun activities and family time. Before we drove down there on Monday, I sewed up a little gift for her.

Melody Miller Market Set by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I'm a huge fan of anything by Rifle Paper Co., including this adorable shopping list pad which I picked up at Anthropologie. A few prints by Melody Miller, some twill tape and batting, a rubber band, and a wooden button all came together in about an hour to make a simple little carrier that fits nicely inside a purse. I love quick projects like these which can be easily pulled out when I need a nice gift in a hurry.

Happy Birthday, Grandma Mary. We love you!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Lucy Bag


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: what I love most about sewing is the ability to make anything you want and to make it exactly the way you want it. Take my latest finish, the Lucy Bag...


My sister Amy is going on vacation this week and asked if I could sew a bag for her to use on the trip. We talked about ideas, and she drew me a few sketches to work from. I asked what kind of fabric she liked; she pointed to my recent patchwork mini iPad case and said, "Something like that...I love that." I pulled fabrics, started sewing, and emailed her photos to get approval on details as I went along.


The bag features a front zip pocket, a large inner pocket, a small inner zipper pouch with a detachable ring, and a crossbody strap which can also be removed if desired. The main body measures 9 1/2 x 12 1/2" and is about 2" deep, making it large enough to hold a few necessities without becoming easily overloaded. I used black and white linen Mochi Dots for the exterior, while the bag is lined in a bright print by Denyse Schmidt which my sister absolutely loves.

And the result is one sweet little bag, reminding me that collaboration really can be a beautiful thing.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Overnighter Ellie Travel Case

Overnighter Ellie Travel Case Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Ever since I posted my Ellie Travel Case Tutorial, people have been asking if I could share the dimensions for making it bigger. Yesterday I finally sat down to crunch the numbers and sew up a sample, and here it is at last.

Overnighter Ellie Travel Case Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Though I adore the straps on the original bag, I changed them in this version. These wider straps make a better anchor for a larger case. The big bag also uses Peltex 70 interfacing by Pellon on the lining. I won't kid you, it's a bear to work with on this project, but the finish is worth it. You'll end up with a seriously structured bag. I used a Melody Miller print for the top panel, charcoal Brussels Washer linen for the bottom panel, and pink Mochi Dots for the bag lining. There are endless ways that you could customize your bag with extra details and pockets if you're in the mood to be creative, but the basic version still makes a great travel case all on its own. Here's the new materials list for the larger size:

  • (2) 11 1/2 x 20" linen print for the exterior top panel
  • (2) 11 1/2 x 20" batting for the exterior top panel (You can attach regular batting with adhesive basting spray or just use fusible batting.)
  • (2) 9 x 20" linen for the exterior bottom panel
  • (2) 9 x 20" batting for the exterior bottom panel
  • (2) 20 x 20" linen print for the bag lining
  • (2) 20 x 20" heavy interfacing to reinforce the lining (I used Pellon's Peltex 70 which I fused to the lining with adhesive basting spray.)
  • (2) 1 1/2 x 38" strips of cotton webbing for the handles
  • (1) 22" purse zipper with two sliders and a closed bottom (I bought mine at Joann Fabrics.)
  • coordinating thread
  • Clover clips or clothespins

*All seams are 1/2" except alongside the zipper where they are 1/4" wide.

Follow the same instructions for the original bag with just a few changes:

1. Fuse the batting to the top and bottom exterior panels before you do anything else.

2. Attach the handles to the top exterior panel before you sew the top and bottom exterior panels together. The left handle end is 6" from the left side of the top panel, and the right handle end is 6" from the right side of the top panel. I followed the same procedure for attaching handles that I used in my Ipanema Beach Bag tutorial (minus the outer pocket on this version, though you could add one if you like), sewing 6 1/2" up the handles from the bottom of the exterior panel. I also added a 1" square with an X inside it at the top of the stitching on each side just to keep the handles securely in place. After sewing the two exterior panels together, I topstitched two 1/4" lines below the seam joining them.

3. The squares cut out on the four corners of each exterior panel are 3 1/4" square for this bag size.

4.  I did not make zipper tabs for my zipper this time, but you can if you want to.

5. Go even slower as you sew in the zipper on this bag. The Peltex 70 makes for a tough wrestling match, but you can win if you put your mind to it!

6. I added leather thongs to the ends of my zipper sliders on this bag. I love this easy finishing touch.

Overnighter Ellie Travel Case Tutorial by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

That's it! The resulting bag is approximately 9 x 12 x 13. Not quite enough for a weekender, but definitely good for an overnighter...as long as I don't bring my children along, of course. Speaking of which, my husband and I fly off tomorrow for a quick getaway to San Antonio, Texas. You can follow our adventures on Instagram if you're so inclined. I'm not sure that I'll know what to do with myself without three little girls running around...

If you make one of these larger cases or decide to go with the original, be sure to tag it #ellietravelcase on Instagram and tag me too @fabricmutt. There are already so many adorable versions of this bag out there, and I look forward to seeing more!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Myth of Summer Vacation

Patchwork Pouch at Fabric Mutt from Tutorial by Quarter Inch Mark

"I'll get to it this summer."
"That's a great summer project."
"We have the whole summer to do that!"

Please tell me I'm not the only person who says these things. Every year the myth of summer vacation calls to me, convincing me that two short months are long enough to accomplish all the leftovers from the ten months before...not to mention taking trips, cleaning my house from top to bottom, and getting everything ready for another year of home schooling in August. As I sit here looking at my sewing to-do list, my house & school to-do list, and my calendar for the month of July, I can't make the numbers work unless I cut back to about five hours of sleep each night, an idea which -- trust me -- is not going to be good for anybody in this house.  A few things have to go by the wayside, and I've decided that since there are so few of us sewing along, one of those things will have to be the Graph Paper Quilt Along. I hope you all will understand.

Patchwork Pouch at Fabric Mutt from Tutorial by Quarter Inch Mark

I couldn't bring the sew along to a close without showing you Small Project #3, the incredibly talented Chase's amazing Mini I-Pad Pouch. While I don't have any such electronic devices in my life, I wasn't about to let that stop me. I love this little pouch to pieces. If you want to make one of your own, you'll find all the instructions right here. My pouch is lined in a cheerful retro style fabric by Denyse Schmidt, and I used a musical print by Tim Holtz from his latest round of Eclectic Elements for the outer flap. I quilted the piece with a lovely peach colored thread by Aurifil. For me, the hardest part was deciding which patchwork panel to relegate to the back of the pouch. Can't we just have two fronts?

Patchwork Pouch at Fabric Mutt from Tutorial by Quarter Inch Mark

So as I near the halfway point of our summer vacation, I'm officially waving the white flag of surrender. I'm willing to admit it: I can't do everything. I figure I might as well make peace with it now, reset my expectations, and stay off the hamster wheel. After all, what am I going to remember a year from now...crossing every item off my to-do lists or taking time to actually enjoy my life?

Something tells me the second option is the way to go.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Graph Paper QAL Link-up #2


This week I made something that's been on my to-do list for at least two years: a desktop ironing board. I can't begin to tell you how much I love it. If you've been thinking about making one yourself, don't hesitate any longer. You'll absolutely love this handy little tool. There are several tutorials out there, but this is the one that I followed. I covered mine with one of my favorite prints by Melody Miller. It just makes the whole room a happier place.


I've reached the "sewing room floor = design board" stage of the quilting process. The picture above shows where I was last night (forgive the bad lighting -- it's so hard to get a good photo of this sort of thing). After a lot of debating, I finally decided to alternate colorful and low volume squares for my quilt. It's a simple look that I love. During my local quilt group's first Sit and Sew on Saturday, I sewed random pairs of squares together and then had fun spreading them out on the floor over the weekend. I'm hoping to have a quilt top ready to go in a day or two.

If you've finished your quilt top and are searching for some fun quilt backing inspiration, look no further than Pinterest. There are about a million and one amazing ideas to be found there. That being said, there's nothing wrong with pulling out a print or two and making a simple backing for your quilt. As always, make it the way you want it!

Link-up time! Share your own quilt progress. Show us pictures of your pincushion or patchwork wristlet. Tell us about another project you're making with patchwork squares. We can't wait to see it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How to Clean Up a Mess in 4 Easy Steps

My mom embroidered this picture for my grandparents back in 1980 for their anniversary. I love it so much.
I've shared several posts here at Fabric Mutt about my grandmother who passed away a few months ago. While I loved her very much, there was, sadly, a dark side to it all. Despite our many attempts over the years to change the situation, my grandmother was a hoarder. Who can say what really started it -- her childhood during the Depression, her obsession with antiques, her refusal to throw anything away. Whatever the cause, by the time we moved her into an assisted living apartment and were faced with the task of cleaning out her house, it was an absolute disaster.

The front bedroom in my grandmother's house -- after my sister had cleared a path down the center.
Grandma didn't live in a large home, but she managed to fill the two-bedroom house, basement, garage, and attached studio apartment/laundry room to the brim with decades worth of junk and treasure. There were layers of dust and grime, bug infestations, and even exploded cans of food hidden among the layers of objects and memories. It was enough to make us sit down and cry to look at it. My sister started working on the house last December, and just last week we finally finished going through it all. I wanted to share some advice for those of you who may face a similar situation in the years ahead (and I seriously hope you don't have to). Here are a few things we learned along the way...

My brother-in-law, sister, me, and my husband on that glorious last day of work.
1. Get help. Don't even think about tackling something like this by yourself. Find friends and family members you can trust who are willing to help you go through items. Do some research and choose a nearby estate sale group to assist you like the one we found. Realize that this is not a job that you can finish in a weekend; it takes time, patience, and much coordinating of schedules to get it done. Also be aware of your own limits. My mother knew that she would struggle emotionally with going through some of the items at the house. We worked out a system where other family members tackled those things so that she didn't have to.

Those blue rubber gloves were my best friends, even when holding treasures like these.
2. Use caution. A hoarder's house can be a very dangerous place, and you have to arm yourself accordingly to clean it out. We rented several dumpsters and had them emptied as often as necessary to deal with the mounds of garbage that needed to be removed from the property. All of us wore rubber gloves to protect our hands while we worked. When the dust levels got bad, we put on masks to spare our lungs -- especially important for my sister and husband who both have asthma. Be sure that everyone is up on their tetanus shots. My sister was stabbed by an old needle, and I had a run-in with a rusty circular saw blade. Keep first aid supplies close at hand in case you need them.

Anything looks gorgeous in jadite bowls, vaseline glass containers, and vintage measuring cups.
 3. Be picky. Have a goal in mind when you go through the house. Our plan was to remove important or meaningful family mementos (photos, letters, pieces of my mom's needlework, etc.), legal or financial documents, and money (my grandmother loved to hide it in odd places all around her house). Everything else was left for the estate people to go through. As we worked, we set aside any special items that we wanted to keep. I made a rule for myself that I wouldn't save anything unless I had a pretty good idea of where it was going when it came home with me. Most of the objects I kept will be living in my sewing room: original Ball jars, jadite and milk glass, a typewriter, silk maps that my grandfather carried with him during WWII, a few old wooden soda crates, and so on. I'll use most of them to hold sewing notions or decorate the walls.

My new fabric cabinet which once belonged to my great grandfather. It's topped with an old typewriter we found in the studio apartment behind the house. These are by far my two favorite items that I brought home with me.
4. Learn from the past. Anyone who's spent time cleaning the house of a hoarder will have a hard time wanting to ever bring anything into their house again that isn't a consumable item. All of us feel that this experience has taught us to make some better choices in our own homes about what we keep and discard. Now that we've finished going through my grandmother's house, my mom and I have been spending time purging our own home of items that can be thrown away or donated. Hoarding is a sickness, but it doesn't have to be contagious if we're willing to put a stop to it.

For the last decade of her life, my grandmother never left her house more than a handful of times. She couldn't leave her treasures unprotected, she said, and it broke our hearts to watch her become a prisoner within the walls of her own home. It could have all been so different. She could have been out spending time with her family, playing with her great grandchildren, and making some wonderful memories during her last years here on earth. Instead, she spent her days guarding dusty mounds of glass, paper, metal, and wood.

I have drawn my own line in the sand. It ends here. And may I add that this includes fabric hoarding. It's time to break it all out of the cabinet and start using it. What am I saving it for? Why not enjoy it while I can? I need to stop stashing and start sewing.

I'm reminded of an old quote by Jonathan Swift who said, "May you live all the days of your life."

How I pray that we do.
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