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…

By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts by Siobhan Rogers

By the Block - jacket art

This book is SO. MUCH. FUN.  By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts by Siobhan Rogers and published by Interweave (F+W Media) is stinking loaded with great projects for everyone from the novice quilter to the maker who is “time-poor,” as Siobhan describes in her introduction.  The directions for each project are clear, with plenty of diagrams for the spatial learner, such as myself.

"Wild Horses" by Siobhan Rogers, page 119 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

“Wild Horses” by Siobhan Rogers, page 119 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

As I perused the pages, I found that there were 11 projects that I was seriously contemplating making.  Like immediately.  But I had to pick one.  Ugh.  If you ever want to know about someone’s commitment issues, ask them to pick a quilt pattern or a piece of fabric.

"Go Big or Go Home" by Siobhan Rogers, page 47 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

“Go Big or Go Home” by Siobhan Rogers, page 47 of By the Block: 18 Surprisingly Simple Quilts

I finally settled on “Go Big or Go Home.”  I mean really, who wouldn’t love a quilt named that?!?  And besides, how can you go wrong with huge HSTs?  So, I got to work.  The hardest part was picking fabrics from my stash that were worthy.  See the comment above about commitment issues.  The fun part was the arranging.

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I chose to use two different large scale fabrics to go into this project, and I loved playing around with the effects of placement.  I was actually not having the best day, and was really excited when this last arrangement showed up on the design wall…


Now to pick out fabrics for the next project… Maybe “Deco” on page 95- nestled log cabin hearts, which isn’t normally my thing, but hello, this one is cool.  But wait, “Wild Horses” uses fat quarters, and I just got that Alison Glass FQ pack from Spool…

See ya.  I got some sewing to do.

Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt! by Sue Bleiweiss

Colorful Fabric Collage - jacket art

I really like art quilts.  I know it isn’t everyone’s thing, but I have to say that I love being able to cross back and forth on that bridge from form to function.  A lot of times I like to hang out in the middle of the bridge where they both come together, but sometimes I really like to have dinner and a movie on the form side.  Not just a casual relationship, but a little more intimate experience.

So, when I had the chance to review this book, Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt! by Sue Bleiweiss and published by Interweave (F+W Media), I was actually pretty excited to READ it.  I know, that’s not normal for me.  I don’t read books like this often.  I mostly look at the pics, dive into a project, then figure out afterwords everything I should have just read in the first place.


“Windows Arise” by Deborah Boschert on page 28 of Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!

But this book has wonderful information about hand dyeing fabric, creating a fusible fabric to work with, and basic understanding of how to form an idea for a final project.  I especially loved that with each chapter Sue included works by other artists using the techniques that she teaches in that section.  While her techniques and style open the windows to let the fresh air of inspiration in, being able to see how others have used her techniques took the roof off the building.


“City Skyline” by Sue Bleiweiss on page 77 of Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!

Sue uses only her own hand dyed fabrics for the projects presented in Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!, and creates each fabric collage by using a fusing technique that actually differs a bit from my own experience.  I was intrigued by the section that discussed no-reverse applique, and I had to try the technique to make “cookie cutter outlines,” as Sue describes it.  I decided to make a small block for the Our Neighborhood project using Cherrywood Fabrics and this method.

I started out by creating the background through a method of improvisational applique.  Then, using the technique Sue teaches in her book, I created a freeform tree representing The Green Apricot.

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I was pleased with the results, and I was thrilled to have learned a couple of new techniques.

I also liked that Sue included projects other than art quilts in Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!  For instance, there are patterns and instructions for bags, pillows and other small projects.  Really, a great way to try a new method and have a finished product.


“Full Circle” tote bag by Sue Bleiweiss found on page 99 of Colorful Fabric Collage: Sketch, Fuse, Quilt!