Hack that Tote! Blog Tour

hackthattotecoverIt’s been so much fun to read along with each stop of the Hack that Tote! blog tour. I’ve loved seeing what each of the talented folks who’ve taken part have done to tweak the bags from the book to suit their needs. A big “thank you” to these wonderful folks for being a part (be sure to check out each to see what they’ve whipped up and enter their giveaway):

9/27 C&T

9/28 Sue O’Very

9/29 Gen Q Teri Lucas 

9/30 Patty Murphy

10/1 Vanessa Lynch

10/2 Lindsay Conner

10/3 Stephanie Moore

10/4 Katy Cameron

10/5 Kim Niedzwiecki

I wrapped up the book last fall but I’ve continued to play around with different ideas for modifying not only the Basic Tote Bag but many of the projects in the book. I’ll see a shape or a fabric or fun hardware and wonder “how can I use that?” and off I go!

That’s somewhat how this particular hack came to be. I saw a metallic leather bucket bag on a fashion blog and immediately realized how similar it was in shape to the Tote. My plan is to make it metallic leather some day but I had some beautiful metallic champagne vinyl in my stash and got to work.

bucket bag

This bag is closer in proportions to the Goodie Bag with Reverse Applique, with all four sides finishing about the same width. I made one long strap and attached it to the center of the side seams with a nice, big box stitch.

handle stitches

Because I put metal grommets around the top of the bag for the drawstring (which I still need — the silver cord is just a placeholder), I opted to use another piece of the vinyl for the top of the lining. It makes it a bit of a challenge when it comes to pressing the top seam of the bag but I like having the extra durability of the vinyl vs. using a full lining of fabric.

One of the touches that I love is the magnetic closure. The tabs are separate pieces and the vinyl should help them hold up to the wear and tear that happens with this type of bag closure.

magnetic closure

My hope with Hack that Tote! is that you’ll not only love the projects I’ve included but that you’ll be inspired to mix up things and make the bags you sew reflect your style. I’d love to see what you make! Tag your projects #hackthatote or share them to my Facebook Page because show-and-tell is my favorite!

And … C&T Publishing is graciously giving away a copy of Hack that Tote! to one lucky reader of this blog! (Printed copy for those in the U.S.; ebook outside of the U.S.) Simply comment below and tell me a favorite hack from the tour. I’ll use Random.org to choose a winner after 5 p.m. Eastern time on 10/10. Good luck!


The Handmade Wardrobe

After more than two years of working on back-to-back books, I’ve been a little burned out on sewing because I have to. Nothing takes the enjoyment out of something for me quite like the feeling that it’s work.

And, while I do have some things to sew for Hack That Tote!, I am pretty giddy about having little sewing-by-obligation on my plate for the near future. It’s rather liberating, but also a little intimidating. I am far more productive when I have a deadline and a plan. Too many options will often send me into a tailspin of indecisiveness.

For several years, I’ve wanted to sew more of my wardrobe and I realized that putting that into motion would meet two needs — plus I’d end up with (hopefully!) cute clothes! I’ve even made it Pinterest official and created a board for organizing my wardrobe planning.

One of the things that’s held me back from doing this in the past (besides a timing issue) is that I couldn’t find a wardrobe sewing plan that really met my needs. I know a capsule wardrobe works for many folks but I like more variety than that. I like mixing it up! Once I sort of gave myself permission to sew the clothes I want, it all started falling into place.



Right now, I’m planning to add a few more pairs of leggings, jeans (oh, how I’d love to make jeans that actually fit me!), cute tops to wear with leggings, a fall/spring jacket, a cooler weather coat, and even … a bra. Crazy, right?

This is a long-term project, a conscious shift toward sewing for myself and away from buying ready-to-wear that is ultimately disposable. I’m excited to get back to sewing for myself and really pushing myself to make beautiful, well-fitting items that I’ll love.


Do You Need a Piecing Makeover?

11170The only thing harder than not talking about the book you’re writing is not talking about the book your friend is writing.

While I was hammering away at the book that would become Hack That Tote!, my friend Patty Murphy was across town working on her own book, Piecing Makeover: Simple Tricks to Fine-Tune Your Patchwork * A Guide to Diagnosing & Solving Common Problems. Every so often, we’d touch base to encourage each other and chat about our progress on our books.

And as soon as our manuscripts were off to the editors and normal, non-book sewing resumed, I hit up the expert to diagnose my particular piecing problems:

  • The curved dahlia that popped up like a volcano instead of lying flat. (Patty’s tip: check the seam allowance. Mine started at one width and finished at another. Oops.)
  • The warped strips.
  • Chopped off points.
  • Bulky seams that just would not behave.

11170_177Face Time and a friend who literally wrote the book on fixing problems with your quilt blocks are kind of the best things ever.

Fortunately for everyone who doesn’t have Patty on speed dial, there’s her amazing new book, which delivers on its promise to help fix those little things that take your quilt piecing to a new level. Best of all, it’s chock full of pictures to really help you see what’s going awry so you can apply it to your blocks.

But why take my word for it? C&T Publishing is graciously giving away a copy of Piecing Makeover to one lucky reader of this blog! (Printed copy for those in the U.S.; ebook outside of the U.S.) Simply comment below and tell me what piecing technique you’d love to improve. I’ll use Random.org to choose a winner after 5 p.m. Eastern time on 9/18. Good luck!

Be sure to check out all the stops on the Piecing Makeover blog book tour:

9/13  AnneMarie Chany http://www.genxquilters.com/
9/15 Teri Lucas/Gen Q Magazine  http://generationqmagazine.com/
9/16 Sandi Hazlewood http://www.craftyplanner.com/
9/17 Mary Abreu http://confessionsofacraftaddict.com/ < You are here!
9/18 Kristin Esser https://kristinesser.com/
EDITED 9/19/2016: And the winner is … Anna-Marie! Congratulations! I hope this helps you with the quilt you’re making for your daughter!

Stretching Myself

When I’m short on sewing time, I tend to gravitate to knit patterns. They typically are fast to cut and sew, which means I can get something finished — or close to it — in a small amount of time.

I’ve been tinkering with a self drafted leggings pattern for a while now and was eager to get it right. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not a particularly difficult task. I just tend to half heartedly do my measurements or just guess at the numbers, which doesn’t lead to the best results.

But I’m counting down to the arrival of some cute Alexander Henry jersey at work and wanted to get my leggings pattern down so I could make a pair when I can get my hands on the fabric. I already had a cute knit by Patty Young for Riley Blake on hand for my first “real” pair, so I braved the convection oven that is my studio (the AC is not working) and got to work.

Another use for random leftover fabrics: making a muslin/toile/mock up.

A photo posted by Mary Abreu (@thatcraftaddict) on

As I mentioned the other day, I have a lot of odds and ends in my knit stash and I scrounged around to find some pieces that would work for a muslin (or toile or mock up). I use up lots of weird pieces of fabric making muslins, especially when I’m not worried about it being wearable. For these leggings, I’ve mostly had issues with fitting the rise and through the thigh, so I didn’t worry about cutting full-length pants.

A photo posted by Mary Abreu (@thatcraftaddict) on

Success! I did end up taking 1.5″ off the top of the waist and I need to add another inch to the hem but I’m happy with the overall fit. Plus the fabric is ridiculously cute. Now, if it will only get cool enough to wear them…

Not ready or interested in drafting your own leggings totally from scratch? Pick up a copy of the Espresso leggings pattern by Cake. It walks you through the process of drafting a custom-fit pair of leggings!

Back to School

My daughter starts sixth grade today. I’m not quite sure how that happened. Part of me thinks she should still be toddling about on chubby baby legs and taking naps. She’s mostly excited about starting her middle school adventures (and maybe a tiny bit nervous) and I decided some mama made clothing was in order.

I have tons of odd pieces of knit jersey in my stash, leftover bits from things I’ve made myself or Miss L, as well as random cuts that I’ve picked up here and there. I’ve been loving the look of mixed fabric raglan tees and decided those would be a great way to use up some of those scraps.

A photo posted by Mary Abreu (@thatcraftaddict) on

One of my favorite raglan patterns is by Jalie, in part because of the range of sizes included in the pattern. Not many patterns fit toddler to plus size! After updating her measurements, I traced off the correct size and cut the first tee. Once I sewed and checked the fit, I started the assembly line. Before too long, I finished four tops for her — and used up a good portion of my knit scraps.

Made for Me

I’ve been trying to sew more for myself lately. It’s sometimes a challenge, carving out time to sew, and I sometimes feel guilty for sewing for me instead of sewing for work. Honestly, if I don’t make time to sew for fun, sewing just becomes all work and that’s a total bummer.

A photo posted by Mary Abreu (@thatcraftaddict) on


Intown Quilters had a major sale on Kokka fabrics, so I picked up this ridiculous unicorn double gauze to make into a top for myself. Some people might say a woman of my age and size shouldn’t wear such a fabric and to those people I say, “neener neener!” I grabbed a copy of the Willow Tank pattern from Grainline Studio and whipped out a quick muslin one Saturday morning. There are only a few pattern pieces, which is a definite plus in my book. I’m also a huge fan of the bust darts. My least favorite part of the pattern: the bindings for the neck and arm holes. I was on the fence about using the double gauze for the bindings and used them anyway. I sewed in one and decided I had zero interest in pressing under the world’s tiniest binding edge, so I ran it and the others under the serger to finish the single raw edge. So much easier!



I couldn’t wait to wear the finished top out of the house! I paired it with a denim mini and my denim Fluevog Prepare Guides (they go with everything!), and threw on a Target necklace (picked up on clearance) to complete the look. I’m really happy with how the tank fits and plan to make a few more with some lawn and double gauze fabrics in my stash.

The Secrets We Keep

A year ago, I was eagerly awaiting the release of my second book, Modern Style for Girls.

A year ago, I was wrapping up my third book, Hack that Tote!

Only a handful of people knew I was writing another book, each of them sworn to secrecy. I wanted my second book to have time to build an audience, without the distraction that comes with another book.

So here I am, less than a month until my third book launches into the world, finally spilling the beans.


Hack that Tote! is 104 pages, filled with some of my favorite projects and a wealth of information about fabrics, interfacings, hardware and so much more. At times, I felt like writing this book was a bit of a brain dump! The base project, the Basic Tote Bag, is one I’ve taught for years in my Sewing Basics class at Intown Quilters. Each of the hacks — the modified patterns for the additional 11 projects — shows you simple ways to transform the Basic Tote.

But it doesn’t end there. I’ve included information about the process behind the hacks, with key information to help you further modify the patterns to really put your own twist on things. There’s tons of photos and illustrations to help, too.

Hack that Tote! will be out in September. Ask your local quilt shop or book store to order it! I also have a limited number of autographed copies available for purchase in the U.S. (just click the Buy It Now button):

The STEM Connection

Today is STEM Day here in Georgia, a day for schools and companies to increase awareness of career paths in science, technology, engineering and math. Miss L’s school observed STEM Day a day earlier and invited parents with STEM careers to talk to their child’s class about what they do.

To: Teacher

From: Me

Subject: STEM day

My job isn’t typically considered STEM but if you are still looking for speakers, I’m happy to come share about my work and how sewing and creating sewing patterns (and books) is as much about math and geometry as it is about fabric. This year’s Met Costume Gala theme is “Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology,” which is related to my current explorations involving LEDs, el wire and the use of tech as clothing embellishments.

To: Me

From: Teacher

Subject: Re: STEM day

This sounds great and interesting for the kids! … Thanks!!

A photo posted by Mary Abreu (@t

hatcraftaddict) on

So my Power Point presentation, my bag of stuff and I headed out to talk about the STEM side of sewing and quilting for an hour before work. Crazy, right? I mean, who thinks of sewing and quilting as STEM?

FullSizeRender (13)

But that “M” — that’s “math,” and it’s everywhere in this passion of ours.


I explained to the kids about creating pattern blocks/slopers from measurements, translating a 3D figure into 2D representation. How those slopers are used to create patterns, which are then cut out of fabric and sewn into garments.I showed them how arduino, conductive thread and LEDs add a little something extra to a quilted panel. After quizzing them about the Fibonacci sequence, I showed them a quilt that illustrates it perfectly (you can see it in action on my Instagram). They passed around English paper piecing samples and saw examples of arranging hexagons in different ways created new patterns. And then I gave them packets of paper hexies and glue sticks and cut them loose.

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While the kids worked on their quilt block art, I talked with Miss L’s teacher about my presentation. “I really had no idea about any of this,” she said. “Why aren’t people talking about sewing in the context of STEM?”

I have no answer for that but I’m trying to start the conversation.