Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Crochet Foray

For some time now I've wanted to be a "quilter and." Many a friend I've met in the past few years is not just a quilter; she is a "quilter and knitter" or a "quilter and crocheter." How I've envied these people who fill their Instagram feeds with beautiful quilting projects, yet every now and then suddenly pop in a stunning picture of yarny goodness, saying, "Oh, and here's a little thing I just finished on the side." I love taking time off from one hobby to refresh with another. Fabric design has been a wonderful switch for me when I need a break from quilting, but of course, I'm not allowed to show you 95% of what I'm working on at any time. So a voyage into the world of yarn arts seemed like a good idea.

I've attempted knitting before with dubious results -- and by dubious I mean that I haven't actually finished a knitting project yet. One day after being emboldened by taking an online video course, I was traipsing through the aisles at Joann Fabrics and suddenly told the girls, "Pick out your favorite color of yarn, and I'll knit you a scarf!" They were thrilled and so was I...until I found myself knitting at the speed of a three-toed sloth, which frankly could have probably made better time with three toes than I was making with ten fingers. My husband, who is a wonderful knitter, spent several days quietly watching my agonizingly slow progress before he sweetly offered to knit one of the other scarves to help out. By then I was worried enough that our Southern California "winter" would be over before the girls had the chance to even try on their scarves, so I agreed. In the end, he wrapped up the first and second scarves before I was even halfway done with the third, and I wound up giving him that one to finish as well so that my last daughter didn't have to go around scarf-less while her sisters basked in my husband's handiwork. Since then I've only used my knitting needles as first-class turning tools when I'm sewing.

The dictionary defines a foray as "a sudden attack or incursion into enemy territory, especially to obtain something; a raid." Except for the whole "enemy territory" thing (I've always thought that crochet and patchwork were quite friendly together), this pretty much describes how aggressively I throw myself into any new hobbies I attempt. For the past few days I've been crocheting during every free minute. I absolutely love that this is a craft I can do anywhere. Granny squares are something I always wanted to try, so I found a good video tutorial (this one really clicked for me) and off I went. I made a larger version to go on a coffee table in the living room, and then a stack of tiny ones to form a garland for the family room.

I don't know if I can officially call myself a "quilter and crocheter" yet -- it feels a little early and presumptuous for that -- but I've definitely found myself a new hobby to love. I'll admit, though, that I've felt a bit as if I was cheating on my fabric and sewing machine over the past few days. It may be time to give them some love...

Monday, January 8, 2018

Pinnie Pennant, Enamel Pin Edition

I picked up a few enamel pins at Quilt Market this fall and immediately had the start of a brand new addiction...er...collection. It took me a few months, but last week I finally made a larger version of my Pinnie Pennant tutorial so that I could display my new beauties, with plenty of room for more friends as they come along.

I tripled the size of the original pattern, leaving off the felt landing spot. The colored fabrics are all scraps of Liberty from my small stash, paired with some favorite black and white text prints. Since the larger version needs more stability, I swapped out the hanging string for a pair of twill tape loops and a thin wooden dowel. It's everything I wanted it to be and looks perfectly charming hanging over my cutting table.

I've decided that I might just need my own grown-up reward system involving a new enamel pin every time I accomplish something significant. Now I just have to haggle with my conscience over what constitutes significance. I'm guessing that one pin for each load of laundry folded might be pushing it a bit...

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Recycled Storage Solutions

I've learned to follow my own personal shopping rule when I spot something I like in the store: if you really love it, buy it -- even if you don't know how you're going to use it. I know the experts say that's a no-no, but I've found that I almost always find a use for that object sooner or later.

Fortunately, I didn't need to justify my rule when I spotted this vintage style soda crate at Michael's, because I knew exactly what I wanted to put inside it: the gorgeous stack of Confetti Cotton solids that Riley Blake sent me last week. I actually own several authentic soda crates from the last century which I inherited from my grandmother, but I'd be worried about storing fabric in them with all the accumulated grime inside that's hard to remove with cleaning products yet would undoubtedly rub off on my precious fat quarters. So instead I stack those boxes on the shelf above my teacher desk where I can look at the great typography on the outside. This reproduction crate, however, works perfectly because a) there's nothing on the inside that could come off on my fabric and b) the sections inside are exactly the right width for my folded fabric pieces.

It's always important to keep this sort of thing in mind when you're recycling truly old things to hold new ones. I love using containers of all sorts for corralling sewing notions, home office supplies, or any number of little things around the house, and antique items have so much personality. Depending on what you want to put inside them, though, you might want to consider whether vintage or vintage inspired pieces will work better for the situation.

I'll be sharing some of my favorite repurposed organizational containers with you over the next few months so that you can see how I use them in my sewing room and other parts of the house. Once you start looking for ways to work fun objects into your storage solutions, it's hard to stop!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

After Christmas

I'm one of those people who likes to take the Christmas stuff down on December 26th. It seems heartless, I know, yet I've always felt that when it's over, it's over. We spent all of Tuesday morning packing everything away for next year, and as sad as it was, I can't tell you how wonderful it feels to have all the clutter gone. Even my daughters noticed how clean and neat everything looks again in our house.

It was time for a refresh on my blog too. For years now I've been wanting to add an illustrated header to Fabric Mutt, featuring Naomi the dachshund, who was my official mascot way back in 2012. I haven't had the chance or the technology to do things the way I wanted to before now, but I'm hoping that this will be a fun addition to the blog that will change with the seasons. Spending this last year designing fabric collections for Riley Blake has reminded me how much I love doing illustration, and it's something I want to share in this space more often.

The past three years have been filled with enormous challenges and adventures for me and my family. I wrote a book, moved from California to Texas, walked through some family health issues, started designing fabric, and intensified my work as a homeschooling teacher for my three daughters, who are all growing up so fast that I can hardly stand it. Looking back, it feels as if the blog has been in survival mode for a while now. What was once a relaxed place to drop in often for a chat with all of you about what was going on in my life, both creatively and personally, has become more like an occasional business meeting to inform you about assigned projects. I regret that.

It only takes a few minutes of reading online about blog trends for 2018 to see that the bar is being raised higher and higher. Blogs are now expected to have the staffing, content, and appearance that was once expected only of magazines, and the competition is stiffer than ever before. The hamster wheel of Make! Publish! Sell! Repeat! gets overwhelming pretty fast, and I've seen more than a few bloggers sharing their keen desire to find a way back to authenticity again.

Heading toward her 40th birthday and the start of a new decade in life makes a girl -- ahem, a woman -- think...a lot. As I've been counting down the days until Saturday with both anticipation and a bit of melancholy over the last few weeks, I've decided that I've reached an age where I need to believe in what I'm doing, to find the fun in it, to be myself. So this year I'll be walking into the future by way of the past, mixing the lessons I've learned over the past 6 years (Yes, Fabric Mutt celebrates it's 6th birthday this week!) with a return to the joy that got me here in the first place, that love of sewing that captured my heart from the start. I'll be stopping by this space more often, probably with shorter posts and fewer photos, but with more of the day-to-day details that go into my personal creative journey. I hope that you'll feel free to share back with me about your own goings on in the comments so that we can truly make this a place to chat about what we're making and doing and why.

Starting over has never felt so right. See you again soon, dear friends...

Monday, December 4, 2017

Cabin Pillow (with Utility-Style Quilts Book Giveaway!)

Cabin Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt from Utility-Style Quilts for Everyday Living by Sharon Holland

My dear friend Sharon Holland has published a book, and I'm so happy to share it with all of you today!

Photo courtesy of Sharon Holland

Utility-Style Quilts for Everyday Living is full of simple, lovely patterns that are somehow both modern and timeless. I particularly love Sharon's emphasis on enjoying the process without getting stuck on perfectionism. She really wants to inspire us to make quilts that will be used and loved.

Cabin Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt from Utility-Style Quilts for Everyday Living by Sharon Holland

I shrank the Cabin quilt pattern, which is featured on the front of the book, down to make an 18" pillow cover. As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of the log cabin block. It's easy to sew, wonderfully forgiving, and always looks fabulous. Using prints instead of solids and reversing the order of colored and low volume stripes, I made a patchwork cover that fits my style perfectly.

Cabin Pillow by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt from Utility-Style Quilts for Everyday Living by Sharon Holland

The pillow is backed in a cheery Lotta Jansdotter print dotted with yellow flowers. It looks great on our family room couch, and my girls love the cupcakes featured in the center of the pillow!

Photo courtesy of Sharon Holland

Along with the book, Sharon has a free pattern available for the Roman Stripe Quilt. It's a beauty, and you can download it right here.

Photo courtesy of Sharon Holland

She's also giving me a copy of her book to give away to one of my readers. Just leave a comment below, and you'll be entered into the drawing. This one is only available to U.S. residents due to shipping costs. (Sorry international readers -- you know we love you!) I'll choose a random winner on Wednesday night.

***Edited to add: Giveaway now closed. Congratulations Jodi/usairdoll!***

Sharon has put together a fantastic book tour. You'll definitely want to visit Amy tomorrow. She is such an amazing quilter! Here's the full schedule:

Monday 12/4  Heidi Staples - Fabric Mutt
Tuesday 12/5  Amy Friend - During Quiet Time
Wednesday 12/6  Maureen Cracknell - Maureen Cracknell Handmade
Thursday 12/7  Amber Johnson - Gigi's Thimble
Friday 12/8  Karen O'Connor - Lady K Quilts Designs
Saturday 12/9  Kori Turner-Goodhart - Olive Grace Studios
Sunday 12/10  Silvia Sutters - A Stranger View
Monday 12/11  Sarah Maxwell - Designs by Sarah J
Tuesday 12/12  Jessica Swift - Jessica Swift
Wednesday 12/13  Lisa Ruble - Love to Color My World
Thursday 12/14  Cindy Wiens - Live a Colorfullife
Friday 12/15  Eleri Kerian - Sew and Tell Project
Saturday 12/16  Anjeanette Klinder - Anjeanette K
Sunday 12/17  Stephanie Kendron - Modern Sewciety
Monday 12/18  Christopher Thompson - The Tattooed Quilter
Tuesday 12/19  Susan Playsted - Hopewood Home

Have a beautiful week, friends!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Bee Happy Blocks

Bee Happy Blocks by Lori Holt adapted by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

There are people in this business who never cease to amaze me, and Lori Holt is one of them. She has an unending store of creativity with new ideas constantly on the horizon. It's so wonderful to see! Riley Blake asked if I would be a part of her Bee Happy Quilt Sew Along this month, and though I was afraid that last weekend's wonderful trip to Quilt Market would keep me from finishing my blocks in time, it all worked out in the end.

My assignments were the Pin Cushion and Coral Flowers blocks. I almost never do applique work, so it took me a while to get in the swing of things with this project. Once I hit my stride, though, I really enjoyed getting the chance to do some sewing by hand for a change. Instead of waiting for time at my sewing machine in the afternoons, I could work on this at my teacher desk while homeschooling my daughters. (Did I mention, by the way, that I have three desks? One is for sewing, one for teacher work, and one for designing fabric. No wonder I'm always running around like a crazy woman during the day!) It was a real treat to sew in the mornings during school, and I'm quite tempted to take up more applique in the future just so I can do more of this.

Bee Happy Blocks by Lori Holt adapted by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

For my Coral Flowers block, I wanted to bring in more color than the original block called for, so I alternated red, pink, aqua, and navy around the corners with a yellow flower in the middle. The green leaves and stems balance it all out, and I like the way this has an almost folk art look to it. I started to quilt the flowers, but decided that I liked them better as they were.

Bee Happy Blocks by Lori Holt adapted by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

Blue gingham paired nicely with the front, and I stitched a line just inside the edge of the pillow cover which gives the illusion of piping. This pillow looks just perfect sitting on a chair in our family living room.

Bee Happy Blocks by Lori Holt adapted by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

The pincushion block is surprisingly intricate for such a small piece, but I love the way it turned out. I simplified the "Bee" inscription on the mason jar, using one line of stitching instead of the original pattern's two lines. I also left off the "pins" on the far left and right so that I could use just one button of each color to make a rainbow at the top. That fussy cutting on the lid makes me so happy!

Bee Happy Blocks by Lori Holt adapted by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

I turned this block into the cover of a little kit for holding small notebooks and pens, almost a simpler version of my Stationery Kit tutorial.

Bee Happy Blocks by Lori Holt adapted by Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt

These projects were such a pleasure to make, and I enjoyed getting the chance to broaden my skills a bit. Every new challenge, however large or small, is always exciting for me, and I think it's good to keep looking for these opportunities to grow. Just when I think I might be getting a little stale, I find myself falling in love with sewing all over again...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Crafty Little Things Blog Hop & Giveaway

Way back near the beginning of 2014, my friend Caroline asked me if I'd be willing to contribute a project to her next book.  Crafty Little Things to Sew is finally hitting stores this month, and I couldn't be happier to see it in print at last!

When I came up with the idea for my Patchwork Calculator Tablet Case, I was actually thinking that it would be a fun place to stash my daughters' math flashcards. The pattern was loosely based on the look of a calculator, mostly because I thought it would be a great way to include lots of colorful patchwork for the "buttons." My first version used a rainbow of geometric prints and a number scrap for the "screen" set against a solid black background. I quilted all of the colored pieces just inside each shape. I love to use a pouch this size for a sketchbook and drawing materials -- so perfect for inspiration on-the-go!

For my second attempt, I wanted something more whimsical. I switched out the black background for a more organic looking brown print, used a text print for the "screen," and carefully fussy cut 16 squares from Heather Ross fabrics in shades of white, pink, yellow, and orange. This time I quilted around the squares and rectangle instead of inside them. As you can see, it really makes a wonderful case for a Kindle or tablet with room to spare for a few more items if you want to carry the pouch instead of a purse.

This project makes a great gift, and it's a quick finish too. You can easily put one together in an afternoon. Caroline's book is full of these sorts of projects, which are from a wonderful array of talented designers, and it's why I love the book so much. There's nothing I enjoy more than fast, fun, useful sewing!

I'm giving away a copy of Crafty Little Things to Sew to one lucky winner. Just leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing. You can get extra entries by tagging friends on my Instagram post (@fabricmutt) too! Just be sure to leave an email address in your comment if you're a no-reply blogger so that I can get in touch with you if you win. I'll be picking a winner on Thursday.


Be sure to follow the other bloggers on the tour. There are so many fabulous projects coming up!

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