Hack that Tote! By Mary Abreu


It’s no oops, but she did do it again… Mary Abreu has released her third book, Hack that Tote, with Stash Books, a division of C&T Publishing.  Mary is an accomplished seamstress, working on and with projects ranging from a boutique movie production company to a wide range of sewing classes at Intown Quilters, a quilt shop in Atlanta, Georgia.  She has done multiple presentations on everything from pattern hacking to costuming at several pop culture conventions.  Her list of talents is long, and she actually is on her second career.  Her first was as an award-winning print journalist for almost two decades, so it is pretty natural for her to blend her sewing and writing talents.  Actually kind of a “duh” thing, if you think about it!


Hack that Tote! feels like an extension of one of Mary’s classes.  She does a brilliant job of breaking down the basics of making a simple tote bag, and how knowledge of the parts makes it possible to create your own style of the whole.


Think of your favorite bags, and maybe even your not-so-favorite bags.  Why do you feel that way about them?  What makes them good?  What makes them not?  Mary explores how to start with a basic shape and then, well, hack it to create the bag your heart truly desires.


With a particularly helpful discussion on shape, interfacings and hardware, Hack that Tote! can help any maker to up their sewing game.  While the basic tote pattern along with ten tote hacks alone make this book worth having, the descriptions of how to work with the elements of bag making make it worth keeping for a long-term reference guide.


My favorite of the Hack that Tote! patterns is the Tubular Frame Purse, which Mary will be coming to teach at The Green Apricot Studio on Saturday, January 14, 2017.  I’ve seen this bag in person, and I love the length of the handles, the zipper pocket, and the use of an enclosed tubular purse frame.  After reading through the book, I can easily see how the pattern is based on a simple tote, and it gives me ideas for future projects.  Having said that, I am still excited to have Mary come to teach in the studio.  It always amazes me how much I can learn simply by being with other makers, and I don’t believe we can ever stop learning from each other!

Interested in Mary’s other publications?  Here they are, along with a fabulous photo of Mary herself in one of her amazing costumes…

Churning Green


I love quilting books and patterns to the point that it’s almost sick.  Like seriously, the obsession with everything about this industry is real.  I just can never have enough quilts or pictures of quilts or plans of quilts or thoughts of quilts or ideas of quilts.  It’s a bit concerning, really.


And people like these two like to feed my obsession.  Meet Liz Evans and Elizabeth Evans, and if you are double taking over their names, you should be.  They are sisters-in-law, and cohorts in quilting.  Together they have written The Simple Simon Guide to Patchwork Quilting, and it’s a good thing they did.

I never get tired of a beginning quilting book, even after all these years.  Sure, I’m pretty familiar with most of the basic techniques, but I still love them for a few reasons.  This book is a good example of what I mean.

First, the fabrics and photos are updated.  Doesn’t seem like that’s a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but I love that it helps to invite new quilters into “our world.”  Crisp, clear and modern constantly mean something different, and it helps to keep our creative blood flowing.

Second, the techniques do get updated.  A book written 50 years ago wouldn’t have included any information about rotary cutters because, hello, they weren’t invented for quilting yet.

Third, the projects themselves get updated.  I love that in this book they have a great mix of quilts and other projects- everything from a bunting to a bib, from a pouch to a pillow.  Love it!

So, here’s what I made.  It didn’t take me long to make the top, but it did take a while to quilt it.  I love the simplicity of this project as a background for some massive quilting, so that’s what I did.


Churning Green

I had copious amounts of this fabric in my stash, and it was exactly what I wanted.  If you come to the studio/my husband’s shop, you will see it hanging in the bathroom.  This color combination appeals to me, as it reminds me of a lot that we’ve been seeing from prominent fabric designers over the last few years.  The main print is an older piece by Laura Gunn, and I’ve been hoarding it for a while.


I started quilting it the day our youngest went off to college.  I wasn’t in the mood for a lot of chatter, and I for sure needed chocolate.  Juan and I worked quietly and diligently, and for the most part, all went well.  However, I did run into some technical issues that eliminates this quilt from being shown anywhere but the bathroom.  Let’s just say I learned a lot, and am grateful for it, but am really sad because this started out as a great quilt and could have done well.  I may have to try again.


I artfully staged this pic so that the biggest offense is not that visible, but I will tell you that a bit of it is peaking out at the top right corner.  Maybe I will write a post sometime about using a Statler, and some of the things I’ve learned since bringing Juan home a year ago.  It’s been an amazing process.

The irony?  This book was written as a beginning quilting book, and while I may be all “I know how to do that already,” I still ended up getting a lesson in the end.

Pride goeth before a fall.  (Prov 16:18)

“We’ll eat you up, we love you so!”*

I recently did a book review on Happy Quilts! by Antonie Alexander, which you can read by clicking here. At the same time that this title came across my desk, I also needed to make a baby quilt for a gift. And of course, being the efficient over achiever that I am, I also saw an opportunity to try a little something that Juan and I have been thinking about for a while. Three birds with one stone. Although I don’t really like killing birds, but you get the idea.


From the book Happy Quilts!

I love children’s literature, and I love to give books as baby gifts. When I saw Alex’s pattern, “Wild Thing,” I was inspired, and wondered if I could do a small quilt inspired by both her pattern and the book Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.

I had wanted to try quilting a background and adding raw edge applique after the fact, and the phrase “his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around” kept sticking in my head, so I thought I’d start there. I loaded the background on sideways into Juan’s arms and began searching for vine patterns. I found a few, and used a verigated thread that had green and brown in it (King Tut Bulrushes #910 by Superior Threads).

I took the quilt out of Juan’s hands and using fusible web, attached the applique pieces to the top. I used a Sizzix Big Shot Pro to cut out the moon, and hand copied three of the monsters from Alex’s “Wild Thing” pattern. I used colors that reminded me of the child’s book, and a very busy backing to hide any flaws in my little experiment.

Then I loaded the quilt back onto Juan so that I could use his programmed circles to stitch over the circle appliqués. Then I took the quilt away from Juan, again, and used a domestic machine (Ruthie) to blanket stitch around all of the raw edges.

I had some fine corduroy left from another project that was just perfect for the binding, although not the easiest stuff to stitch down by hand!  I use a thimble on my middle finger and a set of needle pullers on my index and thumb to help with the thickness.

I also made a stuffie from Alex’s book to go with the quilt, and he traveled around with me for a few days. Truthfully, he was difficult to let go of.

But in the end, I did let go, and I hope this sweet baby and his parents enjoy it!  Still, I might have to make my own stuffie.  Wild thing, you know.

*Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Happy Quilts!  10 Fun, Kid-Themed Quilts and Coordinating Soft Toys

What better way to start a road trip than a book review?  Unless you get car sick when reading or sewing, in which case it’s a terrible way to start a long weekend. But I’m not car sick, and I digress. As usual.

Meet Antonie Alexander of theredbootquiltcompany.com. Isn’t she adorable?!?  Of course she is. How do I know she’s adorable?  Have I visited her in Brisbane?  Had a stirring quilt convo over vegemite sandwich?

Nope. But, I have met her through her creations in her book “Happy Quilts,” and I can promise you, she really is adorable.

Ignore my thumb and the car door. Instead, let’s talk about the Bedtime Superheroes quilt. Hello. Sixteen super heroes.  Boys. Girls. Perfection. And that softie.  Our college-bound daughter is obsessed.

Admittedly, I’m a bit of a softie newbie, so the superhero made me a bit nervous, but as you can see Toni included patterns for multiple levels of experience. This bear is super cute, and I can see doing several of these for gifts.

Oh, and I’m still on the way to Florida.

Toni’s book includes all of the templates on a disk, which is so much easier to deal with than a large printout or trying to photocopy from the book itself. I found the templates and directions to be well written and designed, so they were easy to follow.

Wild Things is my favorite quilt in this book, and I had to try my hand at the stuffie. Juliette conceded that it was pretty dang cute, and while she isn’t giving up on a collection of stuffed superheroes, she was delighted over a monster to take to college.

And so, let me introduce Sawyer. Ummm, yeah, not sure I wanna let either one of them go to college. Just sayin.

But that’s still a couple of weeks away. For now we’ll just enjoy a family cookout and gathering in Orlando, and maybe plot another project from “Happy Quilts.”

Jim Shore’s Angel Coloring Book: 55+ Glorious Folk Art Angel Designs for Inspirational Coloring


When I saw this title come across my desk, I was immediately reminded of when I first saw Jim Shore’s artwork coming into the quilting scene.  I was thinking that it was the late 1990s, but looking at his bio it was more likely the early 2000s.  My quilting peeps and I were all pretty excited to see the brightly colored sculptures, all clearly indicating a heavy influence from quilting.  Currently some of my favorites are from his Peanuts and Disney lines (I really want Pete’s Dragon), but I remember that when they first came widely available, I was crazy for so many of Jim’s Santa designs.  His Angel designs have also been hugely popular over the years, and this new coloring book gives Jim Shore fans the opportunity to be a part of his design process.

Page 4

Jim’s work is known to have multiple themes and intricate designs, so there is plenty and enough on each page to scratch a creative itch.  And in keeping with his style, there are additional elements to color, cut out and add to each angel for a 3D creation.  At 8 1/2″ x 10″, this one is perfect for sliding into your carry-on bag for the plane, or your weekend bag to the cabin.  Grab your favorite pack of colored pencils and a cuppa something yummy to drink, and get ready to relax for a few.

Click any of the links above for more info on Jim Shore, and get your copy of his coloring book at the Interweave Store.




Quilt Local: Finding Inspiration in the Everyday by Heather Jones

During QuiltCon 2015 I was doing my usual social media thing when a local friend of mine who has nothing to do with quilting sent me a message and wondered if I might run into a friend of hers while I was at QuiltCon.  I said, “Sure, who is it?”, all the while thinking that there was no way in the world I would know her friend.  “Heather Jones.”  Really?  Like really?  How on earth does this friend of mine in Georgia have any connection with a sewlebrity from Ohio?!?  Turns out they were online Mommy buddies back in the day when their kiddos were smaller.  I jokingly told my friend that she ought to get that burp cloth Heather made autographed!  haha!


I’ve been very fortunate to have brushes with creative greatness over the years, and Heather is no exception.  I follow her work often, and was really excited to see her book Quilt Local come out last year.  Words like fresh, clean and crisp are what come to mind when I see her quilts.  Like early morning before the day is muddled with all of it’s business.  You can see examples of her work at her website, heatherjonesstudio.com.


Let’s talk about the inspiration in this book first.  I mean really.  It is as much a book that I would have on my coffee table as it is a book I’d have splayed out in my studio.  The book itself is beautifully published, and the photography is fantastic.  From the quilts themselves to the placement of the quilts to the places that inspired the quilts- the colors are crisp, the contrast is right, the composition interesting.

Heather’s background in fine arts is evident with every turn of a page.  I loved the section on color theory, and was reminded once again that I really want to take some classes on color theory.  I honestly don’t really care about a degree at this point in my life, but there are a lot of things I want to learn, and she hit on some of that in this section.

There are 40 projects in Quilt Local, all based on inspiration Heather gained from her immediate, everyday surroundings.  Some from buildings, some from pavement.  She gives amazing, yet simple, tips on how to find inspiration, or maybe better said, allow inspiration to find you.

I wanted to follow Heather’s advice for inspiration, and I will make the quilt that I thought of one day, but it turns out that my inspiration has a tendency to come from busy things.  Like events.  And people.  For this project, I wanted to practice a little self discipline, and try to keep with the feel and vibe of Heather’s book.  So, I looked through the projects.  Then I looked through my fabrics.  Eureka.  Or more appropriately, Lebanon.


Lebanon is a quilt from Quilt Local inspired by the exterior windows of a bank in Lebanon, Ohio.  I liked the quilt when I first looked through the book, and it was one that I was particularly interested in.  So, when I came across this fabric in my stash, light bulbs flashed and I was onto something.

I’ve had this fabric for a while- several years really.  It’s a line by Basic Grey through Moda, and I remember when I first saw it that it evoked feelings from my gut, but I couldn’t think of why.  Then I remembered.  These colors, this mix of greens and yellows and browns and greys, are what fall looks like in the Atlanta, Georgia area.  Not up in the trees, but down on the ground.  Along the side of the road, and in the occasional open field.  This fabric reminds me so much of riding in the car when I was small, and watching the landscape go by.


So, while Heather’s version of Lebanon is a street view of windows in a building, but my version is from the inside out.  I planned the quilting when I was planning the quilt- grey walls with paint brush strokes.  White window frames.  A slightly different view in each window, but a consistent palette.


I really love this quilt, and was glad to have had the inspiration from Quilt Local.  I don’t keep very many quilts for myself, but I am keeping this one.  Makes me feel like I am a skinny little grey-eyed girl in the back seat of the car with the wind in my long, stringy brown hair.  Much happier to be looking out that window than you could ever know.

For tips on an easy accurate way to join binding, click here, but you can also add this tidbit to your toolbox.  Finishing corners off full, flat, and straight can be tricky.  Binding needs to be full to to last longer, and to be correct for competition.  I let my batting and backing extend just a bit past the edge of my quilt top all the way around.  This little bit allows the thickness that batting needs to have when I turn the binding to the back and stitch it down by hand.  When I get to the corners, I trim the extra batting and backing right up to the edge of the quilt, because while bulk is good around the quilt, it is not so good in the corners.  Ask me how I know.  Also, I like to use finger cots or needle pullers to help get a good grip on the needle while I am hand sewing.  It actually helps me to sew a little faster, except that I have a tendency to take them off and text for a few minutes here and there.


The fuss about fusibles…

Recently I had the opportunity to do a guild presentation for the Plantation Quilters at Jarrell Plantation in Juliette, Georgia.  The program was a mashup of info on curved cutting, piecing, and applique with a discussion on fusibles and pressing aides.  One simply led into another.

I was grateful for the experience, as it gave me a chance to discuss fusibles and what the difference is from one to another.  There are a lot of products on the market, and I don’t pretend to cover all of the options here, but I just wanted to take a minute to explain the difference between some of the big players.

When someone asks me which fusible I recommend or is my favorite, I’d have to answer with “It depends.”  Fusible webbing products all basically have the same end purpose- to fuse fabric and/or fibers to each other, either temporarily or permanently.  Fusible webbing isn’t new on the market.  I remember when I first discovered Wonder Under, and was thrilled with the possibilities.  I think the first projects I made with it were three dimensional flowers, and I think maybe some garlands or something like that.  You know, 1995-ish.  However, there have been a number of developments in the fusible webbing world over the years, and there are many more options available today.

One of the biggest differences between fusibles has to do with weight, and the feel of the fabric after the fusible has been applied.  Some fusibles are very heavy and leave fabrics feeling particularly stiff, and can gum up a sewing machine needle quicker than quick.  And don’t even think about hand appliqueing through it.  Your hands will fall off.  It is important to read the packaging when it comes to which grade of fusible to buy.  Heat’n’Bond Ultrahold says plainly on the packaging “No Sew”, and trust me, it’s best to believe them.  Having said that, I have found that the Ultraholds of the world are not the best products for how I want my applique to finish.  I prefer products that have words like “lite” in the title.  They hold my pieces appropriately in place until I am ready to sew them down, and depending on the fabric and the fusible, generally finish with a soft hand, just the way a quilt should.


It doesn’t take a lot of experimenting to learn the difference between weights of fusible webbing, but there are other differences as well.  The three products shown above are my current favorites, and yes, I have a need for all three.

Let’s start with Soft Fuse.  It is the most similar to what I grew up with in my quilting experience.  It is a paperbacked, heat activated fusible.  Draw or trace images on the paper side of the fusible, then follow the directions to heat-fuse the adhesive side to the back of the fabric intended to be fused to the background.  (Remember- how ever you draw the images on the paper is how they will look when you fuse them to the background.  For instance, you must reverse letters before drawing them on the paper, or the letters will be backwards on your project.)  Cut images out following the drawn lines on the paper.  (I will say this multiple times- nothing beats Kay Buckley Perfect Scissors for this.)  Peel off paper backing, leaving the shiny adhesive on the fabric.  Again, following directions, use an iron to adhere the applique pieces to the background.  So, how is this any different than the traditionals?  It is remarkably lighter, but still does the job.  No heavy hand to the finished product.

Next in line of my favorite fusibles is Lite Steam-A-Seam 2.  Notice “lite” in the title.  Original Steam-A-Seam 2 is too heavy for most of my projects, although I use it from time to time on an unusual application.  This product is not used in the traditional manner.  It is a double-sided fusible that is both pressure and heat sensitive.  With this product, the fusible has paper on both sides, very different from traditional fusibles.  One of the papers has a blue grid printed on it.  The grid makes drawing images, particularly letters, much easier, and also makes it very obvious which is the “right” side.  Draw images on the paper with the blue grid, but just like with Soft Fuse, you must reverse images before you draw them on the grid.  Roughly cut out images, leaving both papers and the fusible in tact.  This is where you can run into a problem.  The papers have a tendency to come away from the fusible, and it can take some manipulation to make sure the fusible stays where it is supposed to.  When the backing paper is peeled back, the fusible should stick to the blue grid paper.  After removing the backing paper, stick the fusible (and the blue grid paper) to the back of the fabric simply by using your fingers to apply pressure.  Using the drawn image on the blue grid paper as a guide, cut out the applique shape.  (Again, Karen Kay Buckley scissors!)  Peel off the blue grid paper.  And here’s where the value of Steam-A-Seam 2 comes out- finger press the applique piece onto the background as desired.  Don’t like it?  No problem.  Move it.  When it is finally where you want it to be, follow the package directions and use the iron to heat set the adhesive.  It has a slightly heavier hand than Soft Fuse, but has the ability to be moved around repeatedly until the desired design is achieved.

Last is MistyFuse, which is a pretty amazing product.  Totally different than other fusibles because there is no paper involved at all.  The fusible looks something like a gauzy spider web, and comes in white, black and UV.  Black is used in a number of art applications, and the UV has been tested for it’s ability to stand up to UV light better than other fusibles, which can turn light fabrics yellow over time as exposed to sunlight.  The white is the most commonly used, and what I will focus on here.  With this product you must use a pressing sheet, of which there are plenty on the market, but MistyFuse likes the Goddess sheet in particular.  I can talk about those sheets as well another day, but what you need to know is that there is no difference (except maybe size) between the Goddess sheet and the Bo-Nash Giant sheet, and that you can essentially get the same effect from a roll of parchment paper.  Parchment paper will eventually burn, and need to be replaced with another piece of parchment paper, but other than that acts very similarly to the pressing sheets on the market when it comes to fusible webbing.  To use MistyFuse, draw images on a piece of parchment paper using a pencil.  Keep in mind that the image will be automatically reversed when using this process.  (In other words, write letters the correct way on the paper, they will transfer reversed on the back of the fabric, which will make them correct when fused to the background fabric.)  Lay the piece of parchment paper on the ironing surface, drawing side up.  Lay a piece of MistyFuse on the parchment paper, covering the images.  Lay fabric on top of MistyFuse.  Lay another piece of parchment paper on top of the fabric.  Following the directions, use the iron to fuse the MistyFuse to the fabric.  If done correctly, the fusible will be a very light, shiny surface on the back of the fabric, and the pencil-drawn images will have transferred to the back of the fabric as well- all ready to be cut out and fused to the background.  (One more time- Karen Kay Buckley…)  The other thing about MistyFuse is that you can prepare large-ish pieces of fabric ahead of time, and if you allow the fabric to cool and cure for about 20 minutes after applying MistyFuse, you can fold it up, put it in a drawer, and return to it at a later time.  Then it is possible to rotary cut shapes using templates, or draw directly on either side of the prepped fabric for whatever your heart desires.  Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me!

So, there it is.  Hopefully it wasn’t dreadfully boring.  I just wanted you to know you have options.  Now go forth and fuse.