Monday, August 31, 2015

Tinsel Gift Tag Runner (with Tag Block Tutorial)

Tinsel Gift Tag Runner by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

Almost as soon as I finished my Luggage Tag Quilt, I immediately started pulling fabric for a smaller version, a Christmas Gift Tag Runner. I've been saving Cotton + Steel's adorable Tinsel collection for this year's Christmas sewing, and these prints couldn't be more perfect for this project.

For those of you who might be interested in making a "gift tag" project of your own, I made each of these blocks using one 3 x 4.5" rectangle and two 1" squares.

Just place the squares at the top corners of the rectangle (right sides of the fabric together) and sew diagonally across from the outside lower corner of the square to the inside upper corner. Trim the seam allowance and press the seam open.

And there you have it...a simple little tag block perfect for projects that feature luggage tags, gift tags, price tags -- you name it! If you make any projects with one of these, be sure to tag me @fabricmutt on Instagram.

Tinsel Gift Tag Runner by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

I would have spaced these blocks apart a bit further, but I really wanted to use that lime green fabric for the sashing even though I didn't have much left. The runner is backed in a Tinsel washi tape print, and I bound it in a Stitched Circles print from Zen Chic's amazing new Modern Background collection. I used my favorite wavy stitch on my sewing machine for the quilting.

Tinsel Gift Tag Runner by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

I don't think I've ever gotten such a head start on my Christmas sewing. It feels amazing to be so ahead of the game...for today anyway!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Square Box

Square Box Pattern by Amber Crawley, sewn by Heidi Staples

Every now and then I get to test a pattern for a friend, and it's always such an honor. My friend Amber has been turning out a series of unbelievably clever little boxes that are sewn completely by hand using English Paper Piecing methods. I got the chance to test out her new Square Box last week, and I absolutely love how it turned out.

Square Box Pattern by Amber Crawley, sewn by Heidi Staples

My version is slightly smaller than the original pattern, finishing at just 7" square, but it's still very roomy. I didn't have fusible Pellon 71F on hand, but I made do with Pellon Peltex 70 and some adhesive basting spray which worked quite nicely. The combination of firm interfacing, hand sewing, and linen fabrics makes this an incredibly sturdy little box. I can tell that it's going to hold up well with use.

Square Box Pattern by Amber Crawley, sewn by Heidi Staples

I've been needing a bigger container to hold my button collection, which had outgrown the little tin pail I was using. This box not only gives me plenty of space, but it looks just plain adorable sitting on the shelf in my sewing room. Visit Amber's pattern store on Craftsy to make one of your own!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Luggage Tag Quilt

Believe it or not, third grade was the first year that I went to school for an entire year in one country.

Up until that point, my family was traveling back and forth between Southern California and South America where my dad supervised the building and operation of what was, back then, the largest recording studio in Bolivia. The work was sponsored by a non-profit mission organization started by my great grandfather, and it had a huge impact on our family. My parents often reminisce about how young and naive they were as they jumped into that new adventure with two little girls, my sister so young that she was still wearing diapers. Neither of them spoke Spanish when they first arrived (my dad went through intensive language training for the first few months at a local Catholic school), and they had few people to depend on for help. Friends came from unlikely places. My dad loves to tell the story about how my sister and I spent an evening in the convent after one of the nuns at his school insisted on giving my parents a much needed date night. And every time we passed through Rio de Janiero on our way to Bolivia, a kind cab driver named Umberto was always our guide around the city to tourist spots like the Christo and Sugarloaf Mountain, both of which I absolutely adored. He even saved my life once when I accidentally started across a busy street by myself, pulling me back to the curb before I could be run down by an oncoming car.

My sister and I, sitting in front of the studio in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with our beloved guard dog Mickey

I have a hundred memories from those days that come back at unexpected times, but somehow it's the smells I remember most: the vinyl and cigarette smoke of taxi cabs, the sausages in the butcher shop, the potatoes in the outdoor market where we bought most of our groceries. I remember that inflation was so bad in those days that the money was worth hardly anything, so my dad had to carry around a briefcase full of bills like a mobster in order to do our weekly shopping. My sister and I went to the local mission school, but it seemed like most of our time was spent in the little apartment that was built into the recording studio building where our family lived. Amy and I rode bicycles, played games, and fell madly in love with reading. I even had my tonsils out at the hospital down there, where the nurses gave me Jello in recovery instead of the ice cream I'd been promised (I always say that I've been trying to make up that ice cream deficit ever since). My parents insist that they were flying by the seat of their pants back then, trying to keep everything going, but I disagree. In their humble earnestness, I saw a daily example of perseverance, courage, faithfulness, and love that made an enormous impression on me as a child. It's one that I strive to follow even now in my own journey as a parent. 

By the time I was eight years old, I had spent more time on a plane than many people do in a lifetime, and to this day, I have a love for all things travel related, particularly vintage travel. So when I spotted Places to Go, People to See by the talented people at Kate Spade, I couldn't resist it. The photo of luggage tags stood out to me above all else -- I was sure there was a quilt in there somewhere. And when I spotted the rainbow Suzuko Koseki bundles at Sew Me a Song, I knew that I had found the perfect fabric to make that quilt a reality. I emailed Becca immediately, asking if she'd let me do a promotional project on my blog, and she was sweet enough to send me this bundle. Thus, the Lugguge Tag Quilt was born.

It was such fun to make the tag blocks for this quilt simply by sewing diagonally across squares at the top corners of a rectangle. A few of these rectangles are pieced, but mostly I wanted to see how many different designs I could come up with by carefully fussy cutting the prints. I adore Suzuko Koseki's fabrics for their vintage style and originality. Her work has so much personality to it, and I was thrilled to have an entire color spectrum of prints to choose from. With a little input from my friends on Instagram, I decided to add a suitcase to my quilt as well, using some yardage of another Koseki print that I had on hand. Quilter's Linen adds a bit of texture and makes a nice neutral background. 

The quilt backing is made entirely of scraps leftover from the original bundle. I sewed pieces together into rows and then sewed the rows together, going in color order as I went. The result is a backing that I love just as much as the front. I quilted wavy lines down the sashing strips and bound the quilt in a pink and navy floral print that I absolutely love to use for binding. It looks great around just about any patchwork quilt I've held it up to yet.

Of course, now that I've started thinking about tags, it occurs to me that a "gift tag" pillow would be absolutely perfect for Christmas. Meanwhile, so many thanks to Becca for letting me play with this gorgeous bundle, and thanks also to my sweet friends on Instagram who were so encouraging as I shared my progress. 

This lovely little quilt is now draped over the end of our couch in the family room where it will be waiting the next time my youngest daughter comes up to me and says, "Mommy, I'm your cold little Mousie. Can you snuggle me in a quilt?"

Saturday, July 25, 2015

My Favorite Spot

Liberty Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

My girls and I were wandering around World Market yesterday when suddenly I saw it...the cutest little loveseat ever made. We've pretty much come to the end of furniture purchases for our new home, but I couldn't get this piece off my mind. Thankfully my husband was kind enough to not only send me off to the store this morning to buy the loveseat, but he even got it upstairs to our room and assembled it for me. What a guy...

Liberty Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

This beautiful piece is covered in natural colored linen and dotted with little buttons, each one covered in a different fabric print. They reminded me so much of Liberty prints that I decided it was time to finally break out my small stash and make a matching pillow. This was my first time working with Liberty, so I pulled out Alexia Abegg's beautiful book Liberty Love (now out of print and only available electronically unless you're lucky enough to find a hard copy) to read up on her tips for sewing with lawn. I found it very helpful, and the fabric was easier to work with than I had expected.

The pillow is made up of six blocks, each containing one 4 1/2" square and five 2 1/2" squares. Each block contains prints that feature a dominant color: red, yellow, green, blue, pink, and purple. It was such a treat to play with all those little squares until I got the layout I wanted.

Liberty Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I backed the pillow in leather yarn dyed Essex linen, binding the edge of the backing in a favorite Liberty print.

Liberty Scraps by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

And look at the beautiful bowl of scraps I had left over! I'm leaving these out on my cutting table to look at while I work. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed making this little pillow. There will definitely be more Liberty sewing in my future.

Liberty Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

But for now, I can't wait to get upstairs and curl up with a good book on that loveseat, my new favorite spot in the house.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Lovely

Patchwork Mug Rug by Heidi Staples for Fabric Mutt

So far this summer I've only had the chance to sew one thing: the little mug rug you see above. It was a small project, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Give me rainbow patchwork and a whole lot of low volume text prints, and I'm always a happy woman.

I took the time to hand quilt this little piece with AuriFloss in a soft shade of raspberry. Quilting by hand is something I definitely need to do more often. It was a lovely, quiet pause in the middle of what has been one of the craziest times in my life. In this wild roller coaster called "settling in" we've experienced just about everything there is to see...

We've had the good times: scouting for fresh peaches in Fredericksburg, enjoying family meals at some great local eateries, playing tourist at the River Walk, having movie nights with the girls at home.

We've had the bad times: watching water pour out of the light in the kitchen ceiling due to an overflowing toilet upstairs, adjusting to the thriving Texas insect culture, and going three weeks straight with something in the house -- the dryer, the air conditioning, the plumbing -- breaking down

But then there are those magical moments, the ones so lovely that they don't seem real. Sitting in rocking chairs chatting with our neighbors as the sun goes down. Watching my daughters gasp in delight at their first encounters with deer, frogs, and all the other local wildlife that we didn't have in the suburbs of Southern California. Splashing in the pool -- our very first pool -- with the entire family while the girls hang around our necks and sing silly songs. Life has been going past me at warp speed for the last few months. I'm seeing my daughters grow up faster than ever before, and I know these golden weeks of summer won't last forever.

So I don't mind putting down the laptop -- and yes, even my hand quilting -- to catch these memories before they drift away...

Monday, July 6, 2015

A New Beginning

Sewing Table by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

It seemed appropriate to finish off the Busy Girl Sews Tour with a look at how I'm setting up my new sewing room in Texas. There's a part of me that wanted to wait until every piece was in place, but I knew that would mean holding off on showing you the room until some time this fall. I'm working slowly through everything, trying to take my time and really organize things instead of just stuffing them in baskets and cupboards. It's time consuming yet so worth it to do things this way. I'll spare you the photo of my unsorted fabrics, notions, and tools, but believe me when I say that there's quite a bit left to be organized before I'm through.

My new sewing space is, quite frankly, a dream come true. Our house has an enormous loft at the end of the upstairs hallway which is large enough to hold my husband's office, our home gym, playtime and library areas for the girls, and a sewing area that is at least twice the size of what I had in California. It gives me plenty of room to spread out as well as add a few new areas to my studio that make it even more friendly.

I'm probably most excited about my new cutting station. Being rather tall (almost 5'11"), it's been a painful thing to lean over my sewing desk and cut fabric over the past few years. The first thing I did after arriving in Texas was purchase a high square pub table from Amazon which is the perfect height for me to work without straining my back. I added an adjustable stool from Target so that I can sit at the desk too whenever I want. Bonus tip: most tabletop desk organizer units are absolutely perfect for storing your cutting tools. I've had this one for months, and I'm absolutely crazy about it!

The area that used to hold my cutting mat will now be my pressing station, and it will be so convenient to sew and press seams at opposite sides of the L-shaped desk that used to belong to my dad. I still have all my tools lined up along the edge in glass and wooden containers as you can see in the picture at the top of this post. Did I mention that this is part of the view outside my sewing room window? I tell you, it's been hard to get any work done since I arrived. All I want to do is gaze out the windows all day long...

Right now I have at least half of my fabric folded and sorted. I decided to go back to my old system of storing linen and canvas prints in this black wire drawer unit, and larger scraps are still being kept in my wooden Melody Miller drawer unit above that. The big plastic tubs to the right are waiting to hold quilt backings and works in progress.

I'm still using my great grandfather's old cabinet to store fabric, and I put my wooden cubbies and my antique scale and typewriter back on display above that where I love to see them. Sometimes I think the non-sewing things we keep in our rooms are just as inspiring as the fabric!

I saw this linen storage bench at Target over the weekend and immediately knew that it belonged in my sewing space. Batting, interfacing, and pillow forms fit perfectly inside, and my sewing files and some inspirational design books are in the baskets to the left. This bench makes a great spot for me and the girls to curl up with a good book or get together for a little mother-daughter chat during the day.

My scrap tins are now lined up along a table that also used to belong to my great grandfather. Having them out on display instead of tucked inside a cupboard makes it so much easier for them to be used. The girls can stand next the table or sit on the storage bench while they sort scraps for me.

Just to the right of my sewing space is the new library that I've set up for my girls. I've long been wanting to create a special reading area for them, and this spot next to a big window couldn't be more perfect. The large book display works as a natural divider between my space and theirs. One side holds their picture books and the other side shows off a good portion of my sewing library.

My husband teases me that I said I was buying it just for the kids, but seriously, how could I resist?!

I can't tell you what it's meant to me to put together this sewing space over the past week. Somehow it's both a new beginning and like coming home. The crazy schedule with our move meant that I had to pack up most of my sewing room back at the beginning of May. I've gone for two months without sewing a stitch, and it was so hard to lose that part of myself. While it's good to know that I can still exist without my sewing, I can honestly say that sewing continues to make my life a happier one. And really, that was the whole point of my book after all.

May you have the happiest of weeks ahead of you, my friends.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Busy Girl Sews: Sew Can She

If you're looking for a sewing tutorial, look no further than Sew Can She, Caroline's brilliant website which has links to just about every free tutorial under the sun. Caroline is a talented pattern writer herself and is the co-author of Just for You, a wonderful book full of clothing and accessory projects. I have loved following her blog over the years and am delighted to have her on the Busy Girl Sews Tour this week. She's sharing her own organizational progress report as well as the adorable caterpillar pillow you see above. Stop by her blog to read more!

Next week I'll be wrapping up the book tour with a look at my new sewing room here in Texas and how I'm working to get myself organized again after our move. It's all in progress now, and I can't wait to share the (hopefully!) finished product with you next Monday!
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