Indie vs the Chain

The fine folks over at Sew Mama Sew posted a link on Facebook today to a blog post by author Christine Haynes about the closing of Sew L.A. If you’ve not yet read it, I highly recommend it before you go any further. Go ahead; I’ll wait right here for you.

Welcome back!

I commented on the link but decided to elaborate on my thoughts here because it’s my blog and I have thoughts. Many, many thoughts. As someone who works and teaches at an independent quilt shop, I found Christine’s insights eye opening and, frankly, quite sad.

I keep seeing people blaming the big corporations for the demise of shops like Sew L.A. and others but, ultimately, the blame lies with the consumer who stops supporting the small, indie business. I absolutely understand the need to be cost conscious; however, I know that money spent at local businesses like the one where I work/teach directly benefits other small businesses. For example, today I used some of my most recent paycheck at a funky local boutique on a cute pair of socks and letterpress card (made by an indie artist), then had a scoop of ice cream from a cool mom-and-pop shop on the walk back to the car. Tonight, my daughter had gymnastics practice at a family-owned gym she’s attended since age 3, which my paycheck also covers. And I’m not going to go into detail about how much of my paycheck is reinvested at work. (Oh, like you could resist after being around all that gorgeous fabric, day in and day out.)

No chain store comes close to the experience and knowledge of our employees and teachers, who have been known to spend hours helping a customer pick fabrics for a single quilt. (And those customers return with their finished projects, so happy to show them off — and we love it!) The folks who work at chain craft stores don’t have the ability to devote that much time to helping customers but that doesn’t mean they aren’t experienced or knowledgeable. Two of my friends — who also are two of the most talented seamstresses I know — I met while they worked the cutting counter at a chain store.

It’s no secret that my older son spent nearly three years working for a chain store. It was a great experience for him and he always got a kick out of surprising customers with his crafty know-how. The same store carried my first book — as did other chains — and I’m so grateful they did. I’m equally grateful that so many independent stores not only carried the book but taught classes from it (which made my heart grow five sizes!). I loved doing book signings and trunk shows at quilt shops, meeting the store owners and their employees (and often their families), chatting with folks about the projects they like to make and the loved ones for whom they sew.

I don’t think big chains are evil and out to destroy small businesses. I think there is room for everyone because they fill different needs. As consumers, we need to be cognizant of those roles and place as high a value on service, experience and community as we do bargains or we lose not only the choice of shopping with independent businesses but also the distinct character they add to our neighborhoods.


Tune In


I am beyond excited to be a guest on the Aug. 10 episode of the American Patchwork & Quilting Podcast with the delightful and oh-so-talented Pat Sloan! Tune in and listen as we chat about my books, sewing and a bit of my costumed hi jinks. You can listen to the show live, starting at 4 p.m. Eastern time.

And one for me

I always feel compelled to sew something to wear at Quilt Market. I’m not quite sure why that is, but I’m inevitably sitting at the sewing machine a few days before I leave, trying to make a new garment for the occasion.

May’s Quilt Market in Minneapolis was no exception. I’d had the Out & About Dress from Sew Caroline on my list for a while, and the fabric was already washed and ready to cut. Because this was my first time making this pattern, I pulled out some odd cuts of leftover knits and mocked up the bodice to check the fit, adding just a hair to the bodice bottom to move the waistline a little closer to my actual waist. Perfect on the first try!



I modified the skirt portion of the dress to be more of an A-line rather than gathered to the waist. I think the style just works better for my shape.

Sarah talked me into using this Robert Kaufman print of multicolor mustaches instead of the polka dot fabric I’d first picked up. I really love the Laguna jersey and this fabric is really no crazier than any of my funky leggings, so I went for it.

I’m happy with how it turned out and can’t wait for the weather to cool off in the fall so I can wear it again.

Summer is for Shorts

While at International Quilt Market in Minneapolis last month, I fell in love with the Coachella Shorts sample hanging in the Checker Distributors booth. I knew they’d be perfect for Miss L and with summer coming up, I put them at the top of my “must sew” list.

The pattern is by Striped Swallow Designs and features a curved hem accented with trim. It’s sized for girls 6 months-12 years and uses just a small amount of fabric — like, 3/4 yard for size 8-12. Bonus!

My sweet girl had a massive growth spurt since this time last year, so I couldn’t wait to whip up a pair of these as soon as the patterns arrived at the shop. I opted for the size 8, based on her current measurements and the pattern sizing.


They are super cute but clearly not the best fit. And she found them very uncomfortable. Back to the cutting table!

I trace all my patterns so I used washi tape to add an extra piece to the center crotch seam of both the front and back shorts pieces. I measured and extended the pieces about 1-1/2″ to give her the needed room.

While I could have just sized up the shorts, I opted to make the pattern modification because the rest of the fit seemed spot on. Sizing up would have made them larger all over.


I skipped the trim on the second pair, just in case the fit was still off. They turned out much better! The trim really shows off the cute seam lines, so I’ll definitely be using it on future pairs. L says they feel so much better and she’s gotten quite the use out of them.

Summer Camp, Revisited

It’s been a couple of years since Miss L attended my Little Stitchers Camp at Intown Quilters. Half-day camp was ideal for her, although she was slightly disappointed that the camp focused on hand-sewing projects rather than using a sewing machine.

Ah, but time flies. And this year, my sweet girl was old enough to attend my full-day Fashionista Camp at IQ. I’m not going to lie: I was a little nervous about having her as a student. Teaching your own kid is usually tougher than teaching someone else’s kid. But we both had a blast and I was so proud of her for what she accomplished during the week.

Even though L has owned a sewing machine since she was five years old, I’ve never given her the same types of lessons that I do with my regular students. Instead, she’s mastered threading it on her own (including winding and installing the bobbin) and spent endless amounts of time sewing together scraps she’s collected from my sewing room.

With some guidance from her camp teacher, she cut out and sewed a pocket tissue cover, some pajama shorts and the cutest cat purse ever made.


Simplicity 118 has the cutest animal face purses I’ve ever seen. The pattern calls for using vinyl but we substituted Kona cotton with foam interfacing for the exterior and heavyweight fusible interfacing on the lining. The bag is essentially flat lined with a zipper in the gusset plus a zipper pocket on the outside and patch pocket on the inside. I changed it up and swapped the zipper pocket for a second patch pocket because I’m not sure she was quite ready for the zipper. Plus, at only 10, I’m not sure she would have the patience to plug along on a two-day project.


I helped her fuse down and stitch around the appliques for the cat face. She picked colors that reminded her of her brother’s cat, Max. She really took her time on the stitching and I looked over several times and saw her with a seam ripper in hand because she was unhappy with her stitching.


After seeing her work, I think I could have let her do the zipper. She’s far more careful than I was at her age, and really took her time with sewing. I actually let her use my Janome HT2008 for the week instead of her Janome Hello Kitty because it has a computerized speed control, which I knew would come in handy.

IMG_7353She especially loved the mouse applique on the outside pocket. I think it’s her favorite detail! L is so happy with how her purse turned out and has worn it everywhere since she finished.



Around this time last year, I was signing a contract for the book now known as Modern Style for Girls. It simultaneously feels like yesterday and forever.

Writing craft books is not for the impatient. The process — and it’s definitely a process — takes around 18 months. There are times when it’s the only thing you’re doing and it just consumes every waking minute of your day. And then there are times when you sort of forget that you’ve written a book because you’re not actively working on it and it’s not time to start digging into the promotion of it.

final pages

Less than two weeks ago, I spent eight days reading, reviewing and marking up the final proof of Modern Style for Girls. It’s the first time I was able to see the book laid out and designed, and the last time I’ll see it before it’s printed and bound.

It’s such a different experience, seeing my words and photographs pulled together in book form for the first time. I’m so fortunate that my daughter and her friends happily modeled for me. It makes me smile to see them wearing what I designed and made, and know that other people will soon be able to make the same garments.

Introducing Modern Style for Girls

In April 2014, I was finishing up a book proposal I’d started maybe 18 months prior. By the end of that month, it was in the hands of C&T Publishing’s acquisitions editor and less than two weeks* later received the exciting news that my proposal was officially going to be my second book:

Modern Style for Girls: Sew a Boutique Wardrobe, October 2015, Stash Books, an imprint of C&T Publishing
Modern Style for Girls: Sew a Boutique Wardrobe, October 2015, Stash Books, an imprint of C&T Publishing

Modern Style for Girls: Sew a Boutique Wardrobe
Stash Books, an imprint of C&T Publishing
October 2015

Give your favorite girls the gift of endless wardrobe options!

Best-selling author Mary Abreu is back with a book that will shut down the dreaded words, “I have nothing to wear!” from young girls. Starting with three basic pieces—a top/dress, skirt, and pants—you’ll learn how to modify simple patterns and rectangles to make twelve classic garments: four tops/dresses, four shorts/pants, and four skirts. Technique instructions teach you how to gather, create waistband casings, and insert zippers. Advice on choosing fabrics and adding embellishments is also included. With this handy guide, you can help your girls develop a style all their own.

• Add collars, change armholes, and add ruffles to basic garments to create updated takes on existing pieces
• Clear techniques will guide you on how to finish seam allowances, insert zippers, hem, and add unique embellishments
• Help your girls create an entirely new wardrobe of classic pieces to mix and match in any way they want.



*This was unusually fast. Not that I’m complaining. 🙂

The Big Reveal 2.0

I’m so ridiculously excited to finally be able to share the cover of my next book!

Fancy Felines: Boutique Style with "Cattitude," (October 2015, Stash Books, an imprint of C&T Publishing)
Fancy Felines: Boutique Style with “Cattitude,” (October 2015, Stash Books, an imprint of C&T Publishing)

Fancy Felines: Boutique Style with “Cattitude” will be out in October 2015. I’m just tickled that C&T Publishing again worked with me (it’ll be out on their Stash imprint), especially on such a niche title.

Cat lovers will embrace this book with its 58 clothing options tailored for their favorite companion. Everything has been graded and sized to fit a variety of feline figures, from sleek to “bigger boned.”

I can’t wait to reveal more in the coming months!