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?

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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.

The Wind Beneath My Wings

There’s a reason this blog is called “Confessions of a Craft Addict.” Yes, I’m quite the crafty babe but I’m also the first person to confess my less-than-stellar moments. Like this one:

I typically use my weekday off from work to catch up on household chores and errands. Today, that meant a trip to Home Depot (among other locations) to pick up a rain spout extension. Exciting stuff, right? On my way to the store, I decided I’d pick up a sheet of insulation board so I can make a design wall for my studio. I’m sure you’ve heard of this hack: Cover insulation board with flannel to make a lightweight, portable design wall on the cheap. I’ve been using my floor forever and it’s really not a great system, given that I have pets who think anything on the floor is the only place to sleep.

This is how I found myself walking out of Home Depot with a rain spout extension tucked under my arm and a 4’x8′ sheet of insulation board in my hands. And this is where things went off the rails, thanks to a little thing called “wind.”

Wind isn’t really something I think about most of the time. Sure, I notice it but it’s more of a passing observation than anything else. Wind, however, really gets your attention when your hands are filled with 4′ x 8′ of lightweight foam board, which immediately turns into a sail.

There’s really no easy way to carry 32 square feet of foam board in the wind. It’s either pushing you or dragging you. And maybe six feet out of the door, all I could do was laugh. Until I got to the car.

You see, I drive a Honda Odyssey — a rather stylin’ swagger wagon — that should easily be able to accommodate a piece of foam board this size — if I’d actually cleaned out my car and prepared in some way. But, really, who does that? I’m living on the edge! Flying by the seat of my pants (almost literally)! Why on earth would I have gotten three bags of outgrown clothing out of the car (since I’m clearly never going to donate them), or random pieces of MDF or my toolbox? It’s so much more fun to try to move that stuff and collapse seats when I have to grip a 4’x8′ piece of foam in my hands so it doesn’t take off across the Home Depot parking lot.

Somehow, some way, I managed to shove the foam board into the car, although it meant driving with about 4″ off it on top of my head, and off I went to run the remainder of my errands. I may have given myself a pat on the back for my excellent problem solving skills. I am woman, see me show foam board who’s the boss!


I may have left out another rather critical detail with my last-minute burst of inspiration. It wasn’t until I hauled the board into the house and attempted to prop it against a wall that I learned a valuable lesson:


Yeah, that was a great idea.


I had no intention of doing handwork. Heck, I had no intention of ever quilting but you can see where that’s led.

Handwork, though. That’s another animal entirely. It’s slow. It seems crazily meticulous. It’s slow. These are not things most would associate with me. And yet …

It’s a little different for me, working in a quilt shop. Being immersed in a world of fabric and sewing and quilting and a variety of techniques that lead to these beautiful things. It’s hard not to be surrounded by all of this and not think, “Maybe. Maybe I can do this.”

I took a class, with the delightful Jen Kingwell, and did my first hand-sewn quilt block (or at least part of a block). I’ve begun collecting things. Books. Patterns. Tools.


“La Paz,” as many fans of the cover quilt refer to it, is what started my descent into English Paper Piecing madness. I’ve seen so many beautiful rosettes on social media and fell in love. Doesn’t matter that I’d never paper pieced before. It’s around 2,600 pieces, some of them about the size of a dime. Go big or go home, right?

the new hexagon


I’m endlessly amazed at how this book can make one shape — a hexagon — look so incredibly different. We’re doing the Glorious Hexagons variation as a block-of-the-month club at the shop this year and it’s taking all I have to not join.

all points patchwork

I’m so glad I added this book to my personal library. It’s not a project book, which might dissuade some folks from buying it. But the techniques and foundations of EPP within its pages are just what I needed. It’s a great resource and I find myself referring to it again and again.


One of the things I’m loving about EPP is its portability. I can baste pieces any time I have a few minutes to just sit. So much better than staring at my phone! The Sew It Goes Tote is perfect for taking projects on the road. Kristin designed something that’s as functional as it is beautiful. Pretty sure I’ll be making a few of these as gifts for Christmas this year!

I’ve surprised myself with the enjoyment of it. I’m certainly not going to forego machine sewing but the handwork is nice for those times when I can’t or don’t want to be in front of my sewing machine.


Sassy Sixteen … Plus Fourteen

My beautiful Pacific Crest quilt made me realize I’ve never made a quilt for my own bed. Honey and I have a beautiful queen-sized half canopy iron bed and buying bedding for it has always been a challenge.

I picked up a fat quarter bundle of Dapper, the new line by Luke Haynes for Moda, at sample spree during Quilt Market in the fall. I’d met Luke at Quilt Market in Portland a couple of years ago and love his work, so I knew I’d probably love his fabric. I was right. Gorgeous wovens in colors that make me happy.

But 30 fat quarters is a lot and I really had no idea what to do with them. One of my coworkers is a big fan of the Sassy Sixteen quilt pattern by Divine Inspirations. We’ve used it at the shop to make a couple of samples, including one with Robert Kaufman’s Shetland Flannels. Sandy assured me that it was really easy to enlarge the pattern to a queen size, especially because I had so many fat quarters to work with.



She was right! Actually the biggest challenge for me was not overthinking the fabric. Sandy suggested I just grab and sew. This might be an easy thing for some folks but I’m a little (OK, a lot) Type A. I’ve been known to mock up quilts in Illustrator with imported fabric swatches to make sure I’d be happy with the finished product. “Grab and sew” required a little deep breathing on occasion!

I did allow myself a little more Type A time when it came to arranging the blocks. I didn’t worry about colors touching but I did try to avoid having the same fabrics touching. I grouped the borders by color and arranged them in a little more orderly fashion, too. It was still pretty low-key for my style of planning and I think it made for a finished product that I’m quite happy with.

IMG_9081It was tough to get a full picture of the quilt, because it is massive. It’s also incredibly heavy. You can see but both my husband and my son are holding it over the ledge.

I’d love to quilt it myself but I’m not sure how I want it quilted. And since I have no idea what I’m putting on the back, I’m not in a huge hurry — although it sure would be nice to snuggle under it with the wintry blast of weather we’re having right now!


C+S Pacific Crest

I was bound and determined to finish one more quilt top before 2015 ended, which is how I ended up in front of my sewing machine for the better part of two days. It was totally worth it, though, to finally stitch up the quilt top I’d planned about 18 months before.

Beyond Netural by John Adams is one of those books that just clicked with me. I could see myself making every quilt in the book. They’re just so striking and beautiful and, well, I just loved them.

I especially love the cover quilt, Pacific Crest. When we received our first shipment of Cotton+Steel at work, I knew it was a great pairing. I painstakingly picked out the fabrics and the perfect background fabric, expecting to dive in and start sewing right away. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I’d occasionally pet the pile of fabric and sigh, then put it back in the bin until the next petting session.

But, oh, it was worth the wait!


It’s a big quilt, much bigger than I realized when I got started. I think I realized the size when I picked out the fabric but 18 months between picking the fabric and actually cutting and sewing the top made some of the details a little fuzzy.

It’s a lot of half-square triangles but they went together pretty quickly. Laying out the top took about as much time as making all those HSTs! I didn’t pick a really varied palette so that did make for some challenges with layout since it was hard to keep like colors from being too close to each other.

I also used different cuts of fabrics than those listed in the pattern. I touched on this a bit when I was on Pat Sloan’s podcast recently: If you deviate from a pattern, write down what you changed right away and keep it with the pattern or book. Otherwise, when you actually start making that quilt 18 months later, you’ll have to remember exactly why you have 1/3 yard and 1/4 yard cuts of fabric instead of fat quarters. And an extra yard of background fabric.

I’ve got the backing fabric already and have a pretty good idea how I want to quilt it but the size is giving me a little pause. I’ve never quilted anything this size before and I’m not sure I want this to be my practice quilt. Fortunately, I’ve got a stack of tops in need of quilting so plenty of chances to work myself up to this one.


One Word

Last year, I chose a word for the year: evolve. I used it throughout the year to remind myself to be more, try new things, stretch myself.

In many ways, I think I did. I took part in a handful of online mini quilt swaps, took some classes and learned new skills (free motion and hand quilting, English paper piecing and hand piecing). I used tools I have in new ways. And I initiated a couple of business related things that may turn out to be really awesome things in 2016 and beyond.

I have spent some time reflecting on 2015 and evaluating what I need to do to go even further in the new year and the years to come. What do I want? How do I make it happen? And one single word kept sneaking into the picture.


Like many others, I struggle with ” imposter syndrome.” I question my skills, my talent, my ideas. I spend an inordinate amount of time talking myself out of following through because I doubt myself.

In 2016, I believe that I can do what I dream. I believe that I can contribute and make a difference. I believe that my work and my ideas are worth sharing. I believe that happiness is contagious. I believe that I can inspire and encourage others to accomplish their goals.

It’s happening this year. Believe me.






Beyond Modern Style for Girls

I don’t know that I’ll ever stop hacking patterns, especially my own. I get bored making the same thing over and over again, so tweaking things here and there just helps keep things fresh.

When I was working on Modern Style for Girls, I kept thinking of new ways to hack the patterns in the book. At times, I had to force myself to stay focused because an idea was so appealing that I wanted to get started right away!


One of my ideas was this sweet party dress. I actually made and photographed this one as an extra style shot for the book but it didn’t get used. There’s only so much room! But that just gives me the chance to share it with you and give a little more information about how you can use Modern Style for Girls to make one for the girl in your life!

This dress uses the same Basic Bodice but the full length instead of one of the alternate cutting lines. There’s still an invisible zipper in the back, so no change there. I paired it with the short sleeves and the collar from the Collared A-line Dress (make sure you use the correct neckline). I actually flat lined the collar with a piece of ivory lace I had in my stash. If you do this, make sure you pay close attention to where you apply the lace. I find it easier to lay out the collar as it would be on the dress so that I don’t accidentally flat line the same side of the collar pieces.

For the skirt, I used a beautiful sheer cream fabric with a rolled hem and a cream lining fabric for a nice double-layered look. Because the invisible zipper ends above the waist, I could cut the same size pieces for both the front and back of the skirt (you can use the back skirt measurement from the Wrap Top/Dress as a starting point). Since these fabrics are so lightweight and gather easily, I cut them a little wider than I would have if I used quilting cotton or something a little heavier. The lining is a hair shorter than the exterior skirt but you could make them the same length, if you prefer.

Voila! A picture-perfect party dress!

P.S. There’s still time to get an autographed copy of Modern Style for Girls before Christmas!