Machine Quilting is Mega Fun with Pat Sloan

I have a stack of quilt tops languishing in my studio. My intention has always been to quilt them myself because they’re small or made with inexpensive fabric or not tops I think are worth the expense of longarm quilting.

So they sit on shelves and in bins, waiting for me to get around to quilting them myself — except I still consider myself something of a machine quilting novice and the thought of tackling the pile intimidates me.

pat-sloan-mega-fun-book-toursqWhen my buddy Pat Sloan asked me to be part of her Mega-Fun Book Tour for her new book, Teach Me to Machine Quilt, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. Reading it was like having a conversation with Pat — I could actually hear her voice in my head. Her tips and detailed explanation of techniques really makes machine quilting on my home sewing machine more doable.


The weakest part of my quilting game is the quilt basting, hands down. I can manage smaller quilts but anything larger than a throw inevitably ends up with wrinkles and puckers in the backing. Pat’s tips for basting made so much sense! I actually feel like I can tackle the quilt I made for my queen-sized bed now! (A Sassy Sixteen made with Luke Hayne’s Dapper fabrics, backed with Tula Pink Freefall.)

My Sassy Sixteen quilt top made with Luke Hayne's Dapper fabric line.
My Sassy Sixteen quilt top made with Luke Hayne’s Dapper fabric line.

I love that Pat also included projects in her book, broken down by quilting style (walking foot vs. free motion quilting). I’ve already decided I need to make this quilt:


Pat’s Mega-Fun Book Tour includes an amazing line-up of participants (seriously — I can’t believe my name is on the same list as these folks). Be sure to head over and check out all the posts, tips, interviews and  more:

Nov 18

Nov 19

Nov 20

Nov 21

Nov 22

Nov 23

Nov 25

Nov 26

Nov 28

Nov 29

Nov 30

And … YOU can win your very own copy of Pat Sloan’s Teach Me to Machine Quilt from the super talented author herself! Head here to enter to win (be sure to read the details to make sure you’re entered). Physical Copies for US residents, digital copies for all other winners. Be sure to enter by midnight on Dec. 1!

Review: Quilts for Scrap Lovers

When Judy Gauthier asked me to be part of the online tour for her new book, Quilts for Scrap Lovers, I couldn’t say “yes” fast enough. I have a love-hate relationship with my fabric scraps. I love to find uses for them but they’re weird sizes and — because I make a lot of garments — often they are oddly shaped.


Yet I can’t seem to stop saving them, to the point that my color-coded scrap bins are stuffed to the brim. And don’t even ask about the tubs full of scraps from my three books that I keep thinking I’ll turn into the most epic scrap quilt ever.

I finally had a chance to dig into the ebook for Judy’s book while traveling to and from Quilt Market and I knew this was the book for me. All the challenges I’ve encountered with my own scraps? She gets it and she tells you how to deal with them. She’s not afraid to tell you what she’s done wrong, too, which I love, like admitting that cutting her scraps into certain size pieces without a plan made things way too hard.

I found myself nodding my head and occasionally commenting out loud in agreement (sorry, nice lady in the seat next to me on the plane!) to things like, “You can’t go wrong if it makes you happy when you look at it.”

She breaks up the pieces into three sizes of templates (the acrylic templates are sold separately; you can also use acrylic rulers, template plastic or even cardboard to make the templates). Position the templates and cut, then reposition and cut again until all the usable fabric has been turned into pieces that are ready to turn into amazing scrap quilts.

Judy talks about mixing old and new fabrics, color, value, bias edges, balancing quilt layouts and more before showcasing 16 quilt designs that use actual scraps. Some of the quilts require background fabric but even those backgrounds could be made with something like a variety of white-on-white fabric scraps to really go scrap crazy.

While I read through the projects, I was mentally flipping through my inventory of scraps, plotting which quilt I would make first. I’m pretty sure the cover quilt, Sunshine and Shadows, is near the top of the list. But it’ll have to wait until I’ve made Hugs and Kisses:


I just love this quilt! And I can totally see making it in a mix of pinks and aquas, which are two colors I have more scraps than I can manage!

Be sure to check out the other folks taking part in the book tour:

Mary Abreu Nov. 3 <– that’s me!
Diane Knott Nov. 4
Kim Lapacek Nov. 5
And now for the fun part: You can win your very own copy of Quilts for Scrap Lovers! Comment below with your favorite tips for organizing scraps and you’re entered to win. Winner will be chosen via on Monday, Nov. 7.

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 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 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
9/15 Teri Lucas/Gen Q Magazine
9/16 Sandi Hazlewood
9/17 Mary Abreu < You are here!
9/18 Kristin Esser
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.