Quilted Patchwork Totes

My newest obsession, the quilted patchwork tote.

My first charm pack tote was kind of a fluke. I like to buy decent-sized fabric remnants at thrift stores, and I found one particularly generous pack of several remnants that when I got it home and unfolded, discovered was actually one large remnant with a stack of pink and purple poorly cut squares. Someone was going to make a little girl’s quilt and stopped after rough-cutting charms. New challenge — make something out of these otherwise useless squares.

My first project was based on a YouTube video tutorial from Missouri Star Quilt Company.  The tote is lined and I added a CamSnap at the center top after these pics were taken.

My second tote was based on Charm Pack Tote Bag Tutorial-Sewn Up from Sewn Up.  This bag was not quilted, but is traditionally lined, so I went ahead and quilted the front, back and bottom panels separately and then sewed them together as I added the inset ruffle.  This one was my new favorite.

While I was creating the mauve tote, I knew I wanted to make a denim patchwork tote. This bag is based on Sewn Up’s Charm Pack Tote Bag with Pocket (I didn’t add the pocket), and I used the Classic Bow Tutorial from Better Homes and Gardens to make the perfect decorative bow.  Again, I quilted my bag, but because the accent ribbon and bow are sewn on after the bag is assembled, I was able to quilt the bag in one large piece.

I’ll definitely be making more of these totes, experimenting with sizes and shapes of the charms.

Update:  Gorgeous greens with diamond quilting.

Update:  Thanks Teresa Mairal, TeresaDownUnder, at Sewn Up Patterns for the nice note back!

Update 8/13:  Here’s a project that was meant to be something else, but I completely screwed it up, so it became this instead.


Don’t Iron Plastic, Kids

How to Clean a Hopeless Iron.

20170630_193930Seems like an obvious statement, I know.  “Don’t iron stuff that will melt.”

But stuff happens sometimes.

So this happened tonight.  My iron tipped for a second at the most, as I was pressing a strap.  Unfortunately, it rested right smack on a thin plastic bag that melted instantaneously.  The plastic fused to the sole plate and was so thin and smooth it was NOT coming off.  I tried ironing waxed paper.  I tried gently scraping, I tried freezing and gently scraping, I tried Magic Erasers, and I tried dryer sheets by themselves.  Nothing budged this stuff.  It was one with the iron.

So here’s the trick – it’s a combo trick.

Waxed paper
Clean dryer sheets

Turn your iron on the hottest setting.  Put some table salt on a sheet of waxed paper, and on a surface that you won’t damage with a hot iron, iron the salt on the waxed paper.  The salt will cling to the iron, the iron will smoke.  Immediately iron a couple of clean dryer sheets.  You’ll see the melted stuff come off on the dryer sheets.  Repeat until clean.



Chalk Paint Antique Magnet Frame

We bought a new fridge a couple of weeks ago.  My old ivory side-by-side fridge was also my travel memory board with magnets from all my various travels in the last 10 years.  My fridge always looked cluttered and messy though, which I didn’t like.  I couldn’t bring myself to clutter the front of my shiny new stainless steel fridge.

I had thought it would be fun to take an old, ornate frame, antique patina it, and put sheet metal in it to make a magnet board.  I actually started to do this a year and a half ago when a friend gave me an old frame that was headed to the trash from her garage.  I bought the supplies and started to work on the frame last summer.  I got sidelined by a rear-end accident last August, that left me with severe whiplash and a lot of pain and headaches. It took several months to pick this project back up, and when I did I could only do a little bit of distressing at a time. In between pain relief procedures, short stints of sanding would leave me with intense headaches, sore and hurting for days.  Pressing, and back and forth movement is hard.

But I persevered, and here is the finished project.  

I like how it turned out.  I can’t point you to any particular blog or directions.  I used information from several different YouTube videos and just kind of winged it. I can tell you what supplies I used, in the order of use. 

  • Hammered Bronze spray paint
  • FolkArt Home Decor Furniture and Craft Paint in Patina
  • Sand paper, sanding blocks, 60 to 120 grit
  • Minwax Paste Finishing Wax, Special Dark (this one is thick and you work it on with a round craft brush)
  • FolkArt Home Decor Finishing Wax, clear (this one is thin and paints on, rather than rubs on)

The metal is a sheet of vent flashing from the hardware store.  Don’t buy “sheet metal” pieces, that can cost $30-$35 a piece, but go to the HVAC department.  I paid $8 for the sheet I used.  My husband did the assembly. 

I really don’t want to do this kind of project again, until I’m pain free, it was too much.  I have plenty of supplies though, just in case. 

Repurposed Men’s Denim Shirt Apron

20170530_184856_HDRA followup to my post yesterday, I made this apron today.  I added embroidery to one pocket.  The material is so thin, I wasn’t all that happy with it, but it’ll do.  It’s another thrift store shirt, but the shirt didn’t have a tag, so I don’t know what brand.  share_temporary

Repurposed Men’s Shirt Apron

Once upon a time, thi20170529_125418_HDR-1s was a men’s long sleeved Faded Glory shirt in size XL that I bought for $2 at a thrift store.  I’m fascinated by aprons, even though as far as I know, only one or two people I personally know actually uses one.  I don’t even use one.

I added about a yard of red gingham fabric for the bias trim and ruffle.  I reused the sleeves to make the ties and the cuffs became a mock waist.  This project taught me lots of things.  First and foremost, I hate binding.  HATE it.  I don’t want to hand sew one side, and I’m not good at catching both sides neatly with the sewing machine. I keep thinking practice will make it better, but honestly, if there is a way I can avoid this in the future, I will.  Applying binding to this has made me question the entire project because it’s not perfect to me.

I am satisfied with the end product though, considering I winged this project.  I didn’t have a pattern or a step-by-step blog to follow.  There are lots of blogs and pins you can find on Pinterest, but I relied a lot on just watching a bunch of YouTube videos to get me started.

I have got to start selling some of the stuff I make.

Arbor Day

Here’s a random memory that came to me today. Way back in second grade — I don’t even remember what school I was going to — I had written a story for Arbor Day.  Somehow my story won a school wide contest and I won a tree from a local nursery.  We were homeless so I never got my tree.

I don’t know how to process this memory now, but here are some pictures from my yard today.


Japanese Maple.  I bought this on a Home Depot clearance for $10 the summer I worked part-time watering plants.


And while not trees, my bushes on the west side of the house.

Summer Wine Ninebarks.  We bought them distressed on clearance in gallon buckets, and they thanked us by thriving.

We have more, but my trees are my favorites.

Digital Break Time

My senses have been assaulted.

Politics has turned the Internet, a fun past-time, into a huge, oppressive black cloud of information suffocating me every day. I’ve gone from “wow,” to “that can’t actually happen,” to “what the fuck,” to now, “what the actual fuck,” to most of the nonstop storm of information and opinions scrolling past me. I care about people, issues and politics very much. I worry about healthcare, immigration, women’s rights, social security, foreign policy, the environment, lost pets, puppies and kittens and the everything else I see. But right now it’s too close, and it’s not healthy. I get information that makes me worry on a very, very basic level — will I have a job and will I be able to pay my bills? I can’t get past that one because there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it except worry.


David Sipress, The New Yorker

I can’t do it anymore. I reached the point where I can’t even watch the evening news. My filters have failed.

Our Holiday Table

One of my son’s favorite parts of the holiday season is the gathering around food in a warm kitchen with family and friends.  The smells are heavenly, the air is warm and comforting in the kitchen, and for just a little while there’s nothing else to think about but the comfort of home, and the people you’re with.

So many of our holidays have been spent with other families.  Grandma Glenda and Grandpa Willie, Nanny, Barb — they spent a lot of years sharing their traditions with us, as well as those of my Aunt Rebecca and cousins.  The memories are priceless and from those gatherings, our own holiday traditions have grown.

Growing up with these gatherings, Matt developed his own vision of what “his” Thanksgiving or Christmas meals should look like; what makes him happy.  For my part, his memories of our holiday meals are one of my gifts to him for the rest of his life.

moms-recipes-coverOver the years I’ve accumulated a number of favorite recipes for the holidays and this download is that compilation.  None of the recipes are truly my creations, but they’re my recipes taken from many sources that I’ve tweaked and improved for our family.

I hope everyone enjoys their holidays and if you find something delicious to try, share with me!

Just Call Me a Sewing Machine Mechanic

Music to my ears, the purr of my old sewing machine.  My old White/Universal metal baby was purring no more though.  Locked up solid, she has been living in my closet for the last year.

20161018_234710Made of all metal shafts and gears, I had bought my old Model 4400 in 1984.  It was my first machine, and over the years it had made pillows, curtains, purses, pouches, costumes, aprons, even clothing back when I wasn’t so “curvy”.  Computerized machines with a zillion fancy stitches  are nice and all, but I never use much more than straight and zigzag stitches anyway, and the computerized models just won’t do just plain old straight sewing well, through any kind of thickness, and the stuff I make tends to have thickness or heavy seams.  Beep, beep, beep. Fist pounding.  Curse.

20161018_234741If you have an old machine sitting around, they aren’t that hard to figure out.  Metal parts need lubrication, and eventually parts can just freeze in place.  I’m not the most mechanical person, but I had hoped if I could find the spot that was locked up, I could point someone who is mechanical in that direction to fix it.  And besides, it was not working anyway, it’s not like I was going to hurt it.  So I took off the top and side covers of the machine, removed the hand wheel and just watched what happened when I pressed the foot pedal.  Nothing happened.  The motor whirred, but nothing moved — at all.

20161018_234751So I started with the belts and flywheels near the motors — or are they pulleys?  I don’t know, they’re round and weren’t spinning.  Thingamabobbers.  Whosie whatsits.  I tried to turn each of the two flywheels by hand, and found the culprit.  The bigger of the two wheels, the one on the left, wouldn’t budge.  I braved a pair of pliers, grabbed the wheel and gently twisted.  It broke free pretty easily.  Once free, and after a good oiling, it was spinning like a top.  I oiled the rest of the drive shaft and gears because everything had gotten pretty tight, even with standard oiling over the years.  My biggest snaffu was the research required on how to put the hand wheel back on properly.  I finally figured out there was a washer that I didn’t notice had fallen off the hand wheel cap, which as it turns out is a really integral part of the whole thing.  Not only is it integral, it has a top and a bottom and has to be installed correctly oriented.

My old machine has a new life, and has started to purr again.

There wasn’t a lot of instructional videos on YouTube that talk about these 1970s/1980s metal machines.  Either you were repairing the antique Singer machines, or you were troubleshooting a new, computerized machine.  I highly recommend the New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Sewing Machine Maintenance Guide, for some basic info on how these simple 1970s style machines work — and to point out there’s a washer laying around somewhere you just might need, and that little mark on the washer means “top”.

Now to figure out tensioning.  And to get my nails re-done.  Turns out sewing machine oil dissolves gel polish.

The Essentials Only Cross Body Pouch


I carry a cross body bag daily, but like most purses, it tends to gather what feels like rocks.  I don’t know why, but it’s always overflowing with just stuff, most of which I don’t need to lug around all the time. If I have a lot of walking to do, I prefer to be hands-free and to carry just the necessities — phone, credit card wallet and coin pouch.  To that end, I created my own smartphone cross body pouch — designed to hold just the essentials when I’m out running around from the grocery store, to garage-saling, or to a craft fair.

This pouch is tall enough, and more than wide enough, to fit my Samsung Note 4, one of the biggest smartphones out there.  Lined with no visible seams, this bag is simple to customize.  Experiment with by combining different fabric colors and patterns between the three main outside pieces, different closures, and different straps, all in the same pouch.

You’ll need:

  • Outer fabric
  • Coordinating Lining fabric
  • Coordinating zipper, at least 8″ long (we’ll cut this down)
  • Fusible Fleece
  • KamSnap, button, Velcro or some other closure for the flap.
  • Two small swivel hooks.
  • Download the  essentials-only-cross-body-pouch-pattern. All pieces are on one sheet.  Print three copies at 100%, and cut out the pieces A through D.

Piece A – the back and flap.
Cut 1 outer
Cut 1 lining
Cut 1 fusible fleece

Piece B – upper front.
Cut 1 outer
Cut 1 lining
Cut 1 fusible fleece

Piece C  – lower front.
Cut 1 outer
Cut 1 lining
Cut 1 fusible fleece

Piece D  –  Pieces B and C, for pocket lining.

Cut 1 lining

For the strap tabs, cut two rectangular pieces 2″ x 3″ each.

  1. Cut Outer and Lining fabrics, and fusible fleece, as noted above.
  2. Prepare the tabs. Fold tab in half lengthwise and press.  Fold the edges inside, press again.  Resulting  strip will be 1/2″ wide.  Topstitch to close.  Set aside.
  3. Iron fusible fleece to the outside pieces A, B and C.
  4. Attach zipper to front pieces, B and C.  Lay the Lining piece B down, right side up.  Lay zipper, face up, on top edge, aligning edges.  Lay the Outer piece B on top, right side down, aligning all, creating a “zipper sandwich”.  Stitch.
    20161010_132500a.  Fold back the outer and lining fabrics so they are both right side out, and press, exposing the unsewn edge of the zipper.


    b.  Repeat step 4.a. for the other half of the front, piece C.  Take care to sew the straight edge of the fabric to the zipper, not the curved corner side.


    In this step, be sure to match patterns better than I did.  I realized when I got done, I’d put the top portion of the pocket on upside down, so the chevron pattern didn’t match properly.  But, I kind of liked the look and opted to leave it alone.

    c.  Fold back the outer and lining so they are both right side out, and press.  Topstitch along the edge of the zipper teeth on both sides.


    d.  If you’re using Velcro as a closure, now is the time to sew a rectangle of Velcro down in the center of the top portion of the pocket.  If you’re using a KamSnap or button, skip this step.

  5. Lay pocket lining D wrong side up on front zipper panel, also right side up.  Trim the pocket lining at the straight edge if it’s too long.  Stitch.  Turn under and press.  Topstitch.




  6. Open zipper halfway and baste pocket lining to pocket front to hold in place while finishing.  Double stitch over the zipper to secure.  Snip the excess zipper on both sides.
  7. Lay fold one tab from step 1 in half, and lay with loop toward the center on the front of the pocket piece.  Baste in place.  repeat on other side.  Trim ends.
  8. If you’re using Velcro, now is the time to stitch a rectangle to the top center of Piece A Lining. If you’re using a KamSnap or button, skip this step.
  9. Lay piece A, Outer Back down, right side up. Lay finished pocket on top of back, right side down.  You can baste stitch the pocket to the back at this point if you want, but you don’t have to.  Lay piece A, Lining Back face down on top of all.  Pin or clip in place.  Stitch around the entire outside edge, leaving a 2″ or so opening in one side of the flap so you can turn the entire piece when done.  Trim seams, clip curves.
    (A cute customization idea, during this step try sewing a simple loop in at the center of the top of the Back flap, when you can then attach to a button sewn to the front pocket of the pouch as the flap closure.)




  10. Turn the pouch right side out through the opening left in the flap.  Turning is tedious, and there’s some bulk that will have to go through the hole you left.  Once turned, press the entire pouch flat, turn the raw edges of the hole you left to the inside and press flat.  Whip stitch closed.

    (Optionally, if the fabric is not too thick, topstitch around the entire perimeter of the pouch and flap, including closing the opening.  If you choose to topstitch, don’t topstitch over the zipper.  Topstitching is usually a nice finish, but in this case I think it makes the whole pouch appear kind of flat, a look I didn’t care for after I did it.)
  11. If using a button, add a buttonhole to the completed flap now. Sew down a button to the top of the front pocket.  If using a KamSnap, apply it now similarly positioned.  I used a KamSnap on this pouch.  If you used a loop closure, sew your button down to the top of the front pocket now.
  12. Create a strap using complimentary fabric. A good length for the strap when used by an adult, is 50″. There are lots of options to attach the strap.
    – Try sewing a small D-ring into the loop to attach a swivel hook to when adding the strap tabs to the purse in step 7 above — or leave the loop plain.
    – Try leaving the loop plain and slipping the end of a rope or very narrow sewn strap through the loops, then tie a knot in the end right under the loop, and tack the knot down to the bag for a “rustic” look.
    – For this purse, I opted for a narrow strap and swivel hook attaching directly to the loop.

Have fun experimenting with different scraps of fabric, different patterns and colors, and making a patchwork style pouch.  If you’re into machine embroidery, the back is more than suitable for an embroidered monogram, as is the lower part of the front pocket. Change up the shape of the flap.  These would make great gifts for anyone — I can envision shortening the strap for a teenager and using their school colors.

Thanks for trying out my very first tutorial and if I can answer any questions, leave me a message.