quick-ish gifts and fabric love

noodlehead and wisbrun1noodlehead and wisbrun2

I must be getting quicker at this pattern because I sewed six of them assembly-line style and didn’t get stressed out.  This is the famous and forever fabulous Open Wide Zipper Pouch that is offered as a free tutorial on Anna’s beautiful Noodlehead blog.  This is the medium size.  I think they make great cosmetic and project bags.  But really, they are great anything that needs containing. The fabric I used is from Melody Miller {retro look} and Anna Maria Horner {feathers}.

noodlehead and wisbrun3

I feel like the luckiest blogger in the world because on of my most favorite fabric designers ever, Laurie Wisbrun, sent me a very kind preview of one of her latest lines for Robert Kaufman.  It’s called Table Talk and it ships late summer.  Check out what Laurie is making with it.  I am completely smitten with the mix of color it presents. I have lots of plans for this grouping of beauties. The first thing I will do is fussy-cut little bits to add to my snake trail quilt.  Then, my four year old has order a dress made of the top print.  {I was pushing for the rolling pin/whisk print in the purple color-way, but my tiny baker has spoken assertively and that’s that.}  I also have this idea that I will make a bunch of simple potholders that I can have on hand as hostess gifts for when we go to parties and BBQ’s this summer.  Or, if we host a party this year, hand them out as parting gifts.  Confession:  sometimes when we are invited to parties, I consider asking the hostess if I can sew them something rather than bring food.  I never do it because I feel like I’m trying to get out of cooking, but maybe I should try it sometime. Happy summer!


state of the stash

Well. There it is.  In all its glory. What’s pretty nuts is that there is lots of empty space behind those stacks.  The drawers are filled with: notions {top drawer}, colored solid fabric {second drawer}, neutral solid fabric {third}, and misc scraps {fourth}. The only stuff that is not pictured is a healthy dose of Denyse Schmidt’s County Fair.  Raise your hand if you also bought loads of it when a certain online retailer was practically giving it away.

How about a closer look.

I estimate that my fabric stash has been almost slashed in half since I got serious about curbing my crafty consumerism two years ago, when the original Stash Pact group was formed.  I know that during that first year, my initial slip up was a healthy dose of Liberty of London Tana Lawn when I was in New York browsing at Purl Soho.  The other sizable purchase I allowed myself to make as a celebration for making it one full year without doing too much damage was to acquire the new release of Flea Market Fancy, a few Pezzy Prints, and some new Melody Miller Ruby Star Rising.  Or was it Ruby Star Shining?  {I’m horrible with names.}

The terms I’ve laid out for myself for Stash Pact II are that I can’t buy fabric online for nine months.  My only allowances are that I am able to buy a total of 3 yards of fabric at a bricks and mortar shop and I should try to stick to smaller cuts of fabric.  I can swap ’til I drop–and this really helps.  I’ve already purchased two quarter yard cuts, so I’m allowed 2.5 yards more.  I’ve had one big moment of temptation, but a good friend talked me off of that ledge!  Phew.

I thought I was going to speak more about some of the fantastic discussions that have been taking place in the Stash Pact II flickr group, but I have two quilts that are at the hand binding stage and I am wasting time right now typing when I could be snuggled up on the couch with those projects!  That, and I know all anyone really cares about are the stash photos.  I am the same way.


sleeping bags

Sleeping bags


It was serendipitous that Laurie Wisbrun sent me a preview of her new camping themed fabric, called Roughing It, about a week before we were scheduled to take an autumn camping trip at White Lake State Park in New Hampshire.  Two nights before our trip, my kids and I were talking about how the weather forecast called for rain over the weekend.  We starting joking about how cold we were going to be and how we needed to pack lots of warm clothes and sleeping bags and hats and mittens and on and on.  Then, my son and daughter started to talk about how Doggie and Bunny and Sheepie were going to be SO COLD and how they would need lots of stuff to keep them warm.  Of course this led me to say:  “Doggie needs a sleeping bag!  And so does Bunny!  And Sheepie!” And my project idea was born.  I kissed the kids good night, ran downstairs to my sewing machine and got right to work.  Laurie’s fabric could not have been more perfect for the job.  The campers are just plain awesome and my kiddos love the woodpeckers.  The supporting dot fabric makes such a nice accent for bias binding.

These are a very quick sew, and if you have a kiddo in your house who loves to tuck dolls or stuffed animals into bed as much as my three year old does, they will see lots of use.  With that in mind, I thought there might be some other crazy camping moms out there who would want to make these mini-sleeping bags someday.  I’ve written up some very basic instructions and included the pattern pieces in one handy document.  These sleep sacks are designed to be used with smaller stuffed animals {8-10″} but you could always enlarge the pattern pieces to suit your needs. Download the sleeping bags pattern + instructions here.

Roughing It won’t hit stores until mid-December but Laurie sent along an extra set of fat quarters to give away in advance of the official release date.  Just say hello with a comment. I will choose a winner on October 24, 2012 and send notification via email.  Cheers!  {NOTE:  THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!}

roughing it!

Talented fabric designer Laurie Wisbrun sent me a bit of one of her upcoming lines with Robert Kaufman called Roughing It.  I’ve had a chance to make something really fun with it and I am excited to share.  The above photo shows some of the combinations I was considering for my project.  To see the whole line of adorable, camping-themed fabric–replete with woodpeckers!– have a look at Laurie’s blog.  I’ll be back soon with my project, a tutorial, and a giveaway.

confessions of a fabric stasher: part four {final post!}

Without further ado, here is a list of things I have tried to do in order to curb my fabric shopping habits:

-I organized my fabric and kept it in a place where it is easily accessible.  Having my stash organized and in plain-view {yet unexposed to lots of light!} served as a constant reminder that I don’t need to buy more. It can also inspire me to sew more frequently because I am able to catch glances of my materials throughout the course of the day. And even if it doesn’t stop me from buying more fabric, it does help me to shop smarter.  {I have tons of blues and greens, but  very little orange and yellow fabric.} Finally, when other family members know just how large my stash is, it helps me to be more accountable.  I don’t think further explanation is required on this one!

-I made a rotating list of fabric lines that I thought I ABSOLUTELY NEEDED TO HAVE but held off on actually purchasing them.  I added to that list over time, and pledged that I wouldn’t buy anything until there was a line of fabric  that stayed at the top of the list for a good solid period of time {4-5 months?}.  It’s pretty amazing to observe how quickly the list changes/how frequently you add to it/how often your absolute-most-favorites-must-have-fabrics rotate.  It’s a great exercise to force you to realize how swiftly the industry is moving, and that there will never be a lack of gorgeous new fabric for you to love.

-I stayed away from the big online sales by unsubscribing from online fabric shop newsletters and tried to buy locally.  I know that shopping locally isn’t always possible because not everyone has good fabric store nearby.  {I am forever grateful that I have access to the Franklin Mill Store.} There are several reasons why I prefer shopping in person.  First, I can purchase smaller quantities at my local shop and I know I will love what I am buying because I can see it up close. Second, it is logistically a lot trickier for me to get to a fabric store—especially if I want to shop without my kids. Shopping online is too fast and easy!  If I shop locally, I shop less frequently. Finally, I realize that I tend to pay more per yard at my local shop, but I am able to benefit from the overall experience.  I like to think of it as a cheap night out—like going to the movies.  Sometimes I’d rather go alone to my favorite shop on a Thursday evening — to wander around, browse their bolts and chat with their sewing experts — than go to the movies.  Does that make any sense?

-If I can’t purchase  something locally, I try to be very discriminating about online shopping.  I make sure I understand the scale of the prints.  I only buy if I have seen the fabric in person already or know that I  love the work of the designer.  Another trick is to fill up an online shopping cart and then wait a few days before pulling the trigger.  Most of the time, I can talk myself out of a purchase.  Finally, when I do shop, I buy smaller cuts of fabric.  If I am just stashing, fat quarters are plenty. If I have a specific project in mind, like a garment, then larger cuts are OK.  But no more stashing yardage for dresses I may or may not make for my daughter someday!

-I joined an online support group called the StashPact.  It’s not very active currently, but members of this flickr group stated their goals as well as a list of rules they hoped to follow in order to limit their spending on craft supplies. I allowed myself purchases on my birthday, mother’s day, and when we were on vacation. Some people allow solids, if that is what their stash is lacking.  Others allowed purchases for quilt backings and bindings and some folks even went cold turkey. There were other members of the group who pledged to adhere to a strict budget.  Throughout the year, we posted photos of finished projects that were sewn from stash. It was inspiring and motivating and, most importantly, it helped. UPDATE:  STASH PACT II IS HERE.  Join us!

-I started swapping fabric. I came to realize that I didn’t necessarily have to spend money to acquire new fabric. If you are really feeling like you need a surge of new prints in your stash, or a shiny new package in your mailbox, set up a swap with like-minded fabric friends.   The great thing about swapping is that you still get fun fabric packages in the mail, but the cost to you is minimal {shipping} and you aren’t adding unnecessary bulk to your stash.  That said, swapping can be time consuming, so if you want to get your fix without all the negotiating, set up a simple swap with a friend who has similar taste in fabric.  Jenny and I have an ongoing swap in which we send each other five inch charms of fabric in an envelope that requires one stamp of postage.  Jenny sends me a fun envelope and then I send one in return.  There are no deadlines. We don’t make requests.  Whatever we receive is a surprise.  {OK—sometimes we ask each other about preferences, but that’s only because we are both pretty geeky about fabric and it adds to the fun.} This was Jenny’s idea and it is brilliant.

-I set up a few small, manageable projects to have at the ready.  Sometimes I would shop because it was the quickest, easiest part of the process.  But when you think about it, you can sew a nine patch in no time. Having simple projects on hand was helpful. This way, when I had the urge to shop, I would spend my time sewing instead. Its OK to spend just 20 minutes crafting.  Sometimes just being engaged for a short while can go a long way.

-I began to catalog fabric that I was running run out of by making something that I will keep for myself. I love these silly green hedgehogs, and I am down to the tiniest scraps.  Now that they have been incorporated into a postage stamp quilt for me that I plan to have FOREVER, I don’t need to try to track down the fabric and buy more. Now that I think about it, I have since made two quilts of this nature recently and will share the other one in my next post.

So, that’s it! I hope this little “series” was  interesting and maybe even helpful.  I make a point to never apologize for lags on posting to this blog, but I will acknowledge that I really know how to drag out a succession of posts!  Thanks for hanging in there with me.  If you want to read all of the posts on this topic, they can be found here.

confessions of a fabric stasher: part three

In my last post in this series {which I shared with you approximately one million years ago!}, I discussed all of my bad habits related to fabric shopping.  Commenters also chimed in with great insight into theirs. In this post, I will write about things I try to consider  to help keep my personal consumerism under control.  In the next and final post, I will share ideas for things that I try to do to manage my shopping habits.  In a nutshell, this post is more about mind-set and the follow-up will share ideas for action items.

Things to consider:

-I try to examine my crafting habits and figure out how they relate to my shopping habits.  What type of crafter am I? How much time do I realistically have to sew? How much fabric do I use over the course of a year?  Does the fabric that I have coming into my house vastly outweigh the fabric that I am using in a month’s time?

-I do my best to stop making excuses and change my frame of mind.  Instead of justifying purchases, I ask myself some hard questions. Do I really need it?  Do I already have something in my stash that I could use? Do I absolutely love it? As Amy/Badskirt says in this very relevant post:  Does this fabric make my stash look fat?

-I make every effort to recognize marketing gimmicks for what they are and prepare myself to confront them.  When I am tempted by a sale or free shipping {or the two combined!}, I try to talk myself down.  I remind myself: 1) I don’t need it and–in the case of a sale that has a minimum one yard requirement–I certainly don’t need THAT MUCH! 2) Organizing new fabric {even though I love doing it!} takes time away from actual sewing time, and 3) Even though it’s a good deal, it still costs something. Would you rather have a ton of fabric that you like, or a smaller, more curated collection of prints that you absolutely love?  For me, having a smaller quantity of fabric that I truly adore — rather than a larger quantity of fabric that I bought because I like it well enough and it was a a good deal — is preferred.

-I try not to get caught up in the hard-to-find (HTF) or out-of-print (OOP) phenomenon.  I’ve stopped grumbling about the lightening-quick pace of the fabric market. Rather, I’m learning to embrace it and be glad that gorgeous new lines of fabric are being released all.the.time!  Because of the nature of the market, there will always be tons new lines of fabric that I will love. And who’s to say that a certain line of fabric that is becoming hard to find {at reasonable prices} won’t be re-released?

Alright!  More to come on this topic soon-ish….

confessions of a fabric stasher: part two

In my last post, I promised to share with you information regarding my fabric stashing habits of the past.  {P.S. This post will make more sense if you read the post that precedes it.} Here you have it–the good, the bad and the ugly:

-I truly enjoy shopping for fabric, and when I didn’t have a lot of free time to craft, shopping was the quickest and easiest part of the “making” process. When I didn’t have time to make things, I could hop online and acquire pretty supplies.  It’s quick. It’s easy. I would get my fix. And I would get a lot of fun mail!

-I justified my shopping habits.  It would go something like this:  “Fabric shopping is my only consumer vice.  I hardly ever shop for things like clothes, shoes and make-up.” Or “ I make lots of gifts, so I am SAVING money.” {HA!} I could go on and on with examples. I am an expert in talking myself into things.

-My stashing habits were not very conscientious.  I wasn’t giving much thought to what type of fabric I already had.  I was clueless as to whether or not I was low on warm colors or that I owned an absurd amount of blues and greens.  I threw everything into a closet with no regard for organization and that was that!

-I used to get caught up in sales and/or free shipping offers. I would buy fabric, not necessarily because I loved it, but because it was a good deal. I would buy more fabric than I needed in order to justify paying for shipping.  Or I would buy more fabric than I wanted to buy in order to meet the minimum for free shipping.

-In a similar vein, I would occasionally get burnt by online shopping.  I would buy things that looked great on my computer monitor, and yet were just.plain.ugly. in person.  That’s the risk you take with online shopping, especially when you are dealing with something as tactile as fabric.  You really don’t know whether you are going to love something until you see it in person.

-I used to buy cuts of fabric that were too large for the type of sewing I do.  I would often buy one-yard cuts of fabric because, if I wanted to use it to make clothing for my daughter, I wanted to have enough on hand.  But the reality is that for someone like me, who likes to have a very wide array of fabric represented in most projects {quilts especially}, the largest cut of fabric I should ever buy is a quarter yard.  I shouldn’t “stash” fabric for an imaginary dress I think I might make someday.  I should buy that fabric when I know I am going to do that project.

-I would get worried when I was getting low on a print that I love and want to buy more before it disappeared.  This problem is generated by the lightening quick pace of the fabric market.  New lines are released and then disappear before you can blink an eye.  Some weird sense of urgency is created.  It can make some people feel pressured to shop for fabric just because, if they don’t buy it RIGHT NOW, it will be gone.

So, what have I missed?  I am sure there are other things I have done that I am forgetting to mention.  If you are susceptible to any {bad} habits that have not been mentioned in the above list,  please chime in if you feel inclined.   I think it could be informative to update the content of this post with ideas from other people.

In my next post, I will write about the various things I have done to try to break these habits.  Again, I really want to stress that I am not perfect and I haven’t stopped buying fabric all together.   The last thing I want to do is sound preachy! What I have done is become better aware of the type of crafter I am, and the ways it makes sense for me, personally, to acquire materials.

confessions of a fabric stasher: part one

At the start of the New Year, I created a mosaic that showcased almost all of the things I sewed in 2011.  I was going to post it here but since most of those items have been featured on this blog, I decided it would be redundant. If you are interested, it can be found here. One thing that did strike me, when I looked at all of the things I sewed, is that I was particularly good about using fabric that I had on-hand.

At the beginning of 2011, I resolved to try to stop buying more fabric.  I realistically don’t have a ton of free time to sew. I am part of a family with two young children and I have a full-time job that has absolutely nothing to do with my hobby.  And yet, I own a healthy amount of fabric.  And by “healthy” I mean that I have at least eight times as much as I could possibly use in a year. At least.

That said, I’m not apologetic about having a sizable stash.  I have enough materials to allow me to start almost any project without needing to go to the store– which is great when you don’t have a lot of free time to sew. Another positive aspect of having a mini stockpile is that I am able to create things that are more my style.  I love scrappy patchwork–I don’t tend to make thing from a single line of fabric.  I am able to express myself more freely because I have more options.  I really can’t imagine buying fabric project-by-project.  So, in that regard, I defend the notion of having a stash!

In early 2011, I organized all of my fabric and displayed it in a visible area of our home.  This was the act that forced me to realize that I had hit a saturation point.  Having it all right there in plain view, it was undeniable that I already had in my possession more than enough variety of prints and colors, and really couldn’t justify buying any more. It was time to reflect on my shopping habits and change my ways.

I thought it might be helpful to share my experience and thoughts on this topic because I know that I am not alone in this little conundrum.  We are crafters!  We see so much potential in raw materials! We get excited for the challenge they present! We love to anticipate the beauty they will inspire!  All of this is normal.  Healthy. Good.  But if you start to feel overwhelmed with regard to the amount that you have, it is probably time to examine your behavior, try to understand the reasoning behind your actions, and decide whether or not you need to switch things up.

In my quest to slow down my fabric purchasing, I learned a few things about my habits, in general, as well as some tricks that have helped to keep the consumer in me at bay. Believe me, I am not perfect.  I’ve made good progress, but I still have my moments of weakness. The purpose of this first post was to introduce the topic.  My next post will explore the {bad} habits I’ve identified throughout the course of this exercise.  The following post will explore things I’ve done–with mixed results– to help improve my situation.  And perhaps I will do a wrap up after that? I hope that sounds alright. And I hope that everyone has a great weekend!

brrr! winner

The random number generator chose #32 Katy to be the winner of the the Brrr! fat quarter pack.  Congrats Katy!  You are going to love it.  I will send you an email soon.

I managed to sneak a little bit of Brrr! into some of these quilt blocks I made for a new virtual quilting bee I joined recently.  I’ve resisted joining a bee for at least four years, but I made the leap and it is turning out to be so much fun.  By coincidence, Katy is a member of this bee, although the blocks pictured were made for another member of our six-quilter group.

brrr! bags + giveaway


Just before Christmas I received the most beautiful pile of gorgeous fabric from talented fabric designer Laurie Wisbrun.  I spent a lot of the holiday break thinking about what I wanted to create with it and this vision of a pile of box bags would not leave my head.

Since my daughter’s birthday is in January, I felt like her party was the perfect excuse to make the bags, so I did.  To say that these goodie bags went over well at her party is an understatement.  The kids liked them, but I could tell the Mom’s were plotting ways to keep them for themselves.  {Well, I guess I can really only speak for myself here, but I have definitely been downplaying their appeal with my kids.} This fabric, you guys!  It’s fantastic.  How perfect is the scale of the two polar bear prints for this sort of thing!?!!  They are just too sweet.  This is a very early sneak peek–Brrr! will be available in June.  There are more photos of this wonderful line of fabric on Laurie’s blog. I am so grateful to Laurie for sending me these beautiful prints.  I had so much fun making these!

My process for sewing these involved a mash-up of several free online tutorials I have used in the past.  I considered sharing my full process in more detail, but I am questioning whether there is a need for yet another box bag tutorial.  This one sums it up really nicely and other tutorials I have learned from before  include this one, this one, and this one. I will leave you with a few project notes at the end of this post.  These jottings are basic and I am really just posting them here so that I don’t lose track of them. If you’ve never tried to make a box bag, these will probably sound like gibberish, and that is OK!

On to the fun part!  Who would like to win a fat quarter pack of this adorable line of fabric? Just say hello via a comment on this post and I will choose a random winner on February 1.  I will ship internationally.

Project notes:

-The finished bags measure 7″ x 4.5″ x 3″ (L x W x H).  I start with a rectangle that measures 11.25″ x 16.5″ and use a .5″ seam allowance. I cut the sides that measure 11.25″ with pinking shears.

-There are exposed seams inside.  I used to be very opposed to this, but since I finish the seams with a zig zag stitch, there really isn’t much of a difference in the end result and it saves so much time.

-I use a medium weight sew-in-stabilizer/interfacing in between the outer fabric and the lining. Using an interfacing that has an adhesive on both sides would make the process of attaching the zipper easier.  I get nervous about wrinkles that can appear with adhesive interfacing, so I try to stay away from it.

-I do this cheater thing when I sew on the zipper. I top stitch and attach the zipper to all three layers of fabric all in the same step.  This probably involves breaking SO MANY RULES but it works for me. This is also why I “pink” the ends of the fabric on the sides that measure 11.25″. The first tutorial that I link to does this as well.  It is a time saver and simplifies fussy-cutting.

-I sew the fabric onto the zipper in a particular order so that it doesn’t get all bunchy and awkward in the neck of my sewing machine.  I would love to explain this but I need to just take a photo so that I am able to express myself well.  (Has anyone ever seen a tutorial that explains this part?)

–When I box the corners, I mark a line that is 1.5″ inches down from the corner.  This creates the 3″ width of the bag.