Love By Hand

My Engagement Quilt

finishes, WeddingChristen BarberComment
lucky stars engagement photo

Things are just crazy around here as per usual - seems even more so with wedding planning and everything else! I'm finally catching up on things from the past 6 or so months - new blog, new blogging platform, etc.! Although I haven't had much time for sewing, I do have a few fun updates and new patterns I've tried so I am bound and determined (haha sewing pun!) to get back to blogging and sharing. 

My fiance and I had our engagement photo session scheduled for early September (almost a year to the day prior to our wedding) and although I hadn't sewn much over the summer, something about knowing our engagement photos were scheduled lit a fire under me and I was off to the races to complete a quilt in time for our photos. 

lucky stars engagement quilt

I settled on Vanessa Christensen's Lucky Stars quilt pattern (which I had already purchased when the pattern first came out ;) and her Color Me Happy fabric line. Because, well, I couldn't be happier to be engaged to the most amazing man and love of my life. I loved the colors in the line - just enough pink to make me happy and plenty of blues and greens to make my future Mister happy too. Seriously, a win-win in my book! 

lucky stars quilt nine patch blocks

For fabric, while the pattern calls for 2 jelly rolls (which is great if you happen to have 2 on hand of the same fabric or 2 coordinating lines), I'm not really a jelly-roll kind of girl. So, prior to purchasing, I did a bit of math for the fabric requirements and I ended up ordering a small FQ bundle and a few 1/2 yd cuts from the line. I realized that 2 jelly rolls would leave me with half of a jelly roll left, and since I don't often use jelly rolls (or scraps, I know, the horror! Call the quilting police) I knew I would be able to get variety with fabrics I really wanted included without the extra fabric that I would never use.  

lucky stars quilt block

Although I am not much of a quilter, the pattern was a super quick sew (sorry about the bad iPhone pic above!)- and I was done with the top in a week. A new record for me! So this is the part where I tell you how I took the time to quilt it with love and care, knowing how special this quilt would be to me. Well, I didn't have time for that! But, I did the next best thing, I sent it to my Mom to quilt and bind. She's seriously the best, and SUPER fast. When we arrived in NJ to visit my parents for the weekend, and to have our engagement photos taken, the quilt was finished! 

So, of course, I have to oblige and share some of our engagement photos with the quilt with all of you. I am SOO happy with how the photos turned out and that we'll always have the quilt from such a special day and time in our lives. Enjoy! 

love by hand engagement quilt
lucky stars quilt
engagement photo quilt

Engagement photos by Rachel at Hello Gorgeous Photography 

Quick Christmas Tree Table Runner

ChristmasChristen BarberComment
quick christmas table runner

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year to sew for and I just LOVE Christmas fabric. This adorable Christmas tree table runner is scrap friendly and the fabric combinations are endless - and what's better is that you can sew it up in the morning and have a new table runner to adorn your holiday table before dinner!

Fun & Festive Christmas Tree Table Runner


Large Trees

4, 10 1/4" wide x 8 1/2" fabric squares for large trees & background

3, 2" x 3 1/2" fabric pieces for large tree trunks

6, 4" x 3 1/2" fabric pieces for background (pieces next to tree trunk)

Small Trees

2, 8 1/2" wide x 7" high fabric squares for small trees

2, 1 1/2" x 3" fabric pieces for small tree trunks

4, 3 1/4" x 3" fabric pieces for background (pieces next to tree trunk)

Small Tree Sashing

4, 9" x 1 1/2" strips

2, 9" x 2 1/2" strips

Fabric for Binding and Backing

60 degree ruler

Making the Tree Blocks

Place two of your 10 1/4" x 8 1/2" fabric squares face up on your cutting mat, making sure directional fabric is the correct way. Take your 60 degree ruler and place it on the center of your fabric.

Cut along both sides of your ruler as shown.

Arrange your fabrics to place the correct tree with the opposite background fabric.

Once your fabrics are arranged correctly, place one of your background pieces right sides together on the left side of your triangle making sure to overlap it on the TOP point by 1/4" - this will leave a space at the bottom which is perfectly OK. Sew down the entire length.

Once side one is complete, press open and repeat for the right side. Make sure to overlap the top point by 1/4".

Once the second side is sewn in place, press open flat.

To finish the tree top, you'll cut off the bottom part of the tree top as shown right below the points of the background fabric (approx. 1/2").

Next, make the bottom part of the block with the trunk. Grab 2 of your 4" x 3 1/2" background squares, along with your 2" x 3 1/2" piece for the trunk and sew together.

To finish the block, just sew the trunk piece and the tree top piece together.

Repeat the above process for your remaining large trees and small trees. The large tree block finishes to 11" x 9" and the small block finishes to 9" x 7".

**One thing to note is that 2 pieces of fabric for the tree top and background will yield 2 tree tops just like when sewing HSTs. I've shared the amount of supplies to finish the table runner as shown with 3 large trees and 2 small trees. But, you can totally make the project your own by making all large trees or all small trees or even a whole quilt! Have fun with it!

Putting the Table Runner Together

To make the table runner as shown, add sashing strips to your small trees. Add the 9" x 1 1/2" strips to each side of the small tree block first, then add the 9" x 2 1/2" strips to the top. Repeat for your other small tree block.

Then, take all of your blocks and arrange them as shown, alternating a large tree block with a small tree block.  Sew all of the blocks together, quilt as desired and bind to finish!

The table runner finishes to approximately 42" long x 11" wide. Of course, if you need something larger, just add more blocks, and if you need it wider, just add borders.

I quilted my runner with straight line quilting in lime green thread on an angle to mimic the angle of the trees. 

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial for a fun and festive Christmas Tree table runner - a quick and fast project to get you in the holiday spirit!


Striped Ruffled Leather Tote Bag Tutorial

sewing tutorialsChristen BarberComment
Striped ruffled tote bag tutorial

I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to leave summer in my rear view mirror just yet. Luckily, now that I have this bag with its pop of color ruffle, blue and white stripe and classic brown leather – I’ve got the perfect accessory to transition into Fall without leaving the color of summer behind.

This is the perfect tote for a teacher gift – as it is a great size to hold notebooks, folders, or papers to grade in style. Or, if you aren’t celebrating back to school, it’s the perfect style upgrade for your fall wardrobe.

Striped Ruffled Leather Tote Bag


½ yd. outer fabric (I used home décor weight)

10” x WOF (width of fabric) piece of leather

½ yd. lining fabric

1 20” x 20” piece of Pellon SF101 Interfacing*

½ yd Pellon 987F Fusible Fleece Interfacing

1 magnetic closure

*Note: If using quilting cotton weight for outside of bag, you will not need SF101 and should instead use Fusible Fleece. So, you should have 1 yd on fusible fleece on hand.

Cutting Instructions

From the Home Décor Weight Fabric:

Cut 2, 10.5” h x 13” w for outside of bag top

Cut 1, 12” h x 13” w for outside pocket

From the Leather:

Cut 2, 5.5” h x 13” w for outside of bag bottom

Cut 2, 3” w x 28” l for bag handles

From the lining fabric:

Cut 2, 15.5” h x 13” w for bag lining

Cut 1, 8” w x WOF for outside ruffle

Cut 1, 11.5” h x 11” w for lining pocket

From SF101:

Cut 2, 10.5” h x 13” w

From Fusible Fleece:

Cut 2, 15.5” h x 13” w

Sewing Instructions

Make the Outside Pocket

Take your outside pocket piece and place the right side down on your ironing board. Fold the top down to meet the bottom of the pocket piece, with the right side of the fabric facing up. Your pocket piece will now measure 6” h x 13” wide. Using your iron, press flat. Then, top stitch across the top (the folded edge) of the pocket piece using a long straight stitch with ¼” seam allowance.

Make the Outside of the Bag

Take your 2, 10.5” x 13” outside of bag top pieces and fuse the SF101 to the wrong side (back) of the fabric. Since I used home décor weight, I only wanted to add a bit of stability. However, if you decide to use quilting cotton weight, I would recommend using fusible fleece instead.

Place the outside pocket on top of one of the outside top pieces by lining up the bottom of the pocket with the bottom of the top piece, pin in place. Find the center of the pocket piece (approx.. 6.5”) and use a pin to mark.

Sew down the center of the pocket piece at the marked pin, creating two pockets.

With the pocket piece in place, its time to sew on the leather bottom piece. Place the leather piece right side face down on top of the outside top piece, lining up the leather piece along the bottom edge of the top piece. Since we’re using leather, be sure to use clips to hold in place, as to not create holes in the leather. Sew the leather piece to the top piece along the bottom edge.

Once the top and bottom pieces are sewn together for both the front and back of the outside pieces, fold back the leather and press down with your fingers.  Next, top stitch on the leather using a long straight stitch along the edge of the seam as shown.

Once you are finished top stitching, your outside bag pieces will look like this. Set them aside for the time being to complete the lining.

Make the Bag Lining

First, make the lining pocket. Take your lining pocket piece (11.5”x11”) and place right side up on your ironing board. Fold the bottom up to the top right sides together, creating your pocket piece 5.75” h x 11” w.  Leave a 5” opening along the bottom for turning, and sew from the pin to the folded top edge on both sides. Clip the corners and turn right side out. Press flat, making sure to fold in the unfinished edge along the bottom that will be closed when attaching to the lining. Top stitch along the top of the pocket piece (folded edge) using a long straight stitch.

Fuse the fusible fleece to the backs (wrong side) of both lining pieces.  Take one of the lining pieces, and place the pocket in the center approximately 4” from the top. Pin in place. Sew around all three sides, making sure to catch the seam allowance along the bottom of the pocket to close.

Divide your inside pocket as desired for the “stuff” you want to place in it. For me, I like to hold my cell phone, business cards and pens, so I kept the pockets fairly small at 4” and 3” wide. Then, sew a straight line at each pin mark to create the smaller pockets.

Next, add the magnetic closure. Measure down 1.5” from the top at the center approx. 6.5” from the side. Using the backing of the magnetic closure, use a pen to mark the lines where the metal prongs will go through. Use small scissors to cut openings at those lines. Poke the metal prongs through the created holes and place the backing over the prongs, then fold them down to hold the magnetic closure in place. Repeat for both the front and back.

Place both lining pieces right sides together, placing the magnetic closure together to ensure you get the right alignment when sewing together. Pin in place. Also, be sure to use pins to mark a 6” opening at the bottom for turning.

Sew around all three sides, leaving the 6” opening at the bottom and the top open. Set the lining aside for now.

Making the Ruffle

To make the ruffle, find your 8” x WOF piece. Fold in half lengthwise right sides together, so your piece is now 4” x WOF. Sew along your WOF to create a tube. Once sewn, turn right side out and press flat with the seam in the center of the back of the strip.

Create a finished edge for the top of the ruffle by folding in ½” at the top, press and top stitch closed. Now, its time to gather the ruffle. Place the foot of your sewing machine at the center of the top of your strip at the finished edge approx. 2” in from the side and place your needle down.

Once your needle is in place, push up the fabric as shown and sew down the center the entire length of the fabric strip.

Your finished ruffle strip will look something like this.

Finish The Outside of the Bag

Once your ruffle strip is finished, place it onto the top of the outside bag piece with the pocket. Luckily, the pocket piece is already sewn at the center, so you already have a guide for placing your strip. Your finished ruffle strip should be too long, as it should stop where the top and bottom pieces meet.

So, place the top of your ruffle strip 1” down from the top and cut your ruffle strip at the bottom, adding 1” to the length. Fold the unfinished edge under and pin the ruffle strip in place.

Sew down the center of the ruffle strip to attach it to the outside of the bag.

When complete, your outside front of your bag will look like this.

Place both bag outside pieces right sides together, taking care to line up the seams on the side using clips to hold in place. Sew around all three sides. Leave as is.

Create Bag Gussets

Place your sewn outside bag on a flat surface. Using your ruler, draw a 2” square on each bottom corner on both sides as shown. Repeat for bag lining.

Then, create triangles in each corner, making sure to line up the bottom and side seams, and hold in place with a pin as shown for the lining and clips for the outside.

Sew along the line as shown for both the outside of the bag and the bag lining.

Once sewn, cut the triangle off leaving ¼” seam allowance.

Sew the Bag Together

Turn the outside bag right side out, leaving the bag lining inside out. Place the outside of the bag inside the bag lining. Line up the sides of the outside bag and lining and pin in place. Sew along the top of the bag, making sure to NOT catch the ruffle in the top seam. Once sewn, turn through the opening in the bottom of the lining. Use your iron to press the seam along the top flat, ensuring that that lining fabric is on the inside of the bag.

Next, top stitch along the top of the bag using a long straight stitch with a ¼” seam allowance. Once you’ve top stitched along the top, pull out the lining and sew the bottom shut using your machine or a slip stitch by hand.

Making and Attaching Bag Handles

Find your 3” x 28” leather strips. Fold in half lengthwise wrong sides together to create a 1.5” x 28” strip. Top stitch using a long straight stitch on both sides of the handle using ¼” seam allowance. Then, repeat another ¼” on the inside of each previous stitch line. You’ll have 4 stitch lines on each handle.

Take one of the straps and fold 1” under from one end and place in the center between the edge of the ruffle and the side of the bag, clip in place.

Sew a square and an “X” within the square to reinforce the handles. Repeat for each end of the handles on both sides, making sure to line up the handles on the front and the back of the bag.

Once the handles are sewn on, you’re finished! Enjoy!

Flying Geese Christmas Placemats Tutorial

Christmas in JulyChristen Barber5 Comments
christmas placemats
christmas placemats

Hi Everyone! Happy Christmas in July! Today's the last stop on the Sew Lux Fabric Christmas in July blog hop, and I'm so excited to share my tutorial for super cute, fun and fast Flying Geese Christmas Placemats.

I was lucky enough to receive Kate Spain's newest Christmas collection, Solstice. Chrissy at Sew Lux pulled together two bundles, one with light fabrics, and one with brights, so of course knowing me so well, Chrissy sent along the brights.  I was all over the place in thinking about what type of project to make, but in the end, inspiration struck and I'm excited to share these fun Christmas placemats with you! Let's get started with the tutorial!

Flying Geese Christmas Placemats Tutorial

kate spain solstice fabric bundle
kate spain solstice fabric bundle


Tutorial and supplies provided yields 4 christmas placemats.

8 FQs - Bundle Shown is the Kate Spain Solstice Holiday Brights at Sew Lux Fabric

1/2 yd of Solstice Snow on Snow Print (Fun fact about me - I'm a sucker for a white snowflake on cream print. I *may* be hoarding yardage from all of Kate Spain's Christmas lines...just maybe)

4 pieces of batting approximately 16" x 19.5"

8, 2.25" x WOF strips of binding

Scraps of brown fabric for tree trunks

Cutting Instructions

Divide your bundle into two sets of 4 FQs. One set of 4 FQs will be the backings of your placemat, the other 4 will become the main fabrics in the fronts.  Once you have done that, follow cutting instructions as follows:

From 4 backing FQs: Cut 4 pieces 16" x 19.5"

From the half yard of white snowflakes on snow (geese sky and trunk background pieces): Cut 32, 2.5" x 2.5" squares Cut 24, 3.5" x 3.5" squares Cut 8, 2" x 2.5"

From the remaining 4 FQs: Cut 12, 2.5" x 4.5" (small geese) Cut 16, 3.5" x 6.5" (large geese and background) Cut 4, 1.5" x 4.5" Cut 4, 7.5" x 14.5" Cut 4, 6.5" x 4.5"

From brown fabric/scraps: Cut 4, 2.5" x 2.5" (large trunks) Cut 4, 1.5" x 2.5" (small trunks)

Sewing the Placemats

christmas placemats
christmas placemats

Gather 12, 3.5" x 6.5" pieces and 12, 2.5" x 4.5" pieces along with 24, 3.5" squares and 24, 2.5" squares. Mark the wrong side of the fabric to sew your flying geese blocks. I didn't include the full instructions to sew flying geese blocks for this tutorial, but you can see my method here.  You'll have 12 finished large geese units and 12 finished small geese units.

christmas placemats tutorial
christmas placemats tutorial

Once your geese units are complete, you will sew them together in sets - 3 large and 3 small per placemat to create your trees.

christmas tree placemat tutorial
christmas tree placemat tutorial

Next, you'll sew together the trunks of the trees. For the large tree trunks, sew together 2 white 2.5" x 2.5" squares along with 1, 2.5" x 2.5" brown piece. For the small tree trunks, sew together 2 white 2" x 2.5" with 1, 1.5" x 2.5" brown piece as shown above.

flying geese christmas tree block
flying geese christmas tree block

Now you'll sew on the background fabric to create the tree strips. Sew one 3.5" x 6.5" piece to the top of each large tree, and sew one 6.5" x 4.5" piece to the top of each small tree.

Flying Geese Christmas Tree Placemat Tutorial
Flying Geese Christmas Tree Placemat Tutorial
christmas placemats
christmas placemats

Once those are complete, layout the top of each placemat as shown by using one 1.5" x 14.5" strip and one 7.5" x 14.5" piece for each placemat and sew all strips together.

Christmas Placemats Sewing Tutorial
Christmas Placemats Sewing Tutorial

Once the tops of all 4 placemats are sewn together, press well and flat. Baste the top of each placemat with batting and backing fabrics. Quilt as desired. I used straight line quilting because it was simple and easy using Aurifil thread in white. For binding, you'll need 2, 2.25" x WOF strips. I used Kona Red solid that I had in my stash.

christmas placemats sewing tutorial
christmas placemats sewing tutorial

So that's it - you're all finished! That was quick and easy, right? I can't wait to see your versions!

Christmas In July
Christmas In July

Complete A Holiday Project & Enter To Win

Get a head start on your holiday sewing! Make one of the 9 tutorials from the Sew Lux Fabric Christmas in July Blog hop and link up on the Sew Lux Blog here by August 4 for your chance to win amazing projects! Here's the list of fabulous bloggers with awesome projects for you to get sewing!

Winter Wonderland - Lee of May Chappell

Be Jolly - Chrissy of Sew Lux

Folk Art Holiday - Sarah of Stitching & Bacon + Megan of Quilt Story

25th & Pine - Tessa of The Sewing Chick + Tracey of traceyjay quilts

Solstice - (Me!) Christen of Love by Hand + Stephanie of Quarter Incher

So, what are you waiting for? Get sewing! 

Christmas In July Holiday Tutorial Series with Sew Lux Fabric

Christmas in JulyChristen BarberComment
Christmas In July
Christmas In July

Hi Friends! Yes, its that time again - time for Christmas in July! Its my favorite time of year when all of the new holiday fabrics arrive in fabric shops and I can start drooling over all of the awesomeness and dream of the many items I will make! Christmas is my absolute favorite holiday in which to sew items for myself and family members (and you all know about my Etsy adventures with Christmas Stockings and Tree Skirts every year too!).

This year I SWEAR that I am going to get a jump start on my holiday gift sewing, so of course I said yes when Chrissy from Sew Lux asked if I wanted to join in the festivities for Christmas in July again this year. Our hope is that you'll join all of us to get inspiration to start and finish a few gifts well in advance of the holidays! And, I'm really excited to be sewing with Kate Spain Solstice, the holiday brights fabric bundle.

Kate Spain Solstice Fabric Bundle
Kate Spain Solstice Fabric Bundle

Chrissy clearly knows me very well, as most of you know my love of all things bright! I'm really excited about the Kate Spain Solstice fabric, as I've long been a fan of her holiday fabrics and this line just screams Christmas to me! I am currently torn between two possible projects, so my project will be a secret for now until I get a more solid plan together. A quick hint is that both are Holiday decor projects that you'll love bringing out year after year!

Christmas In July Sew Lux Fabric Bundles
Christmas In July Sew Lux Fabric Bundles

But, if the brights of the Kate Spain fabric line aren't your thing, there are so many awesome bundles to choose from! And this week you can save 10% on all featured Christmas in July Bundles at Sew Lux Fabric with coupon code NICELIST.  Offer ends 7/13/14.

So are you ready to see who else is joining in this awesome Holiday party in July and learn more about awesome prizes?!

Christmas In July with Sew Lux Tutorial Series Schedule

July 7th - Series Announcement & Bundle Sale at Sew Lux Fabric

July 14th - Solstice Wreath Mini Tutorial  - Chrissy of Sew Lux

July 21st - Sewing with Winter Wonderland - Lee of May Chappell

July 22nd - Sewing with Be Jolly - Chrissy of Sew Lux

July 23rd - Sewing the Folk Art Holiday - Sarah of Stitching & Bacon + Megan of Quilt Story

July 24th - Sewing with 25th & Pine - Tessa of The Sewing Chick + Tracey of traceyjay quilts

July 25th - Sewing with Solstice - Christen of Love by Hand + Stephanie of Quarter Incher

July 21-August 4th - Linky open to link up your projects

August 5th - Winner Announced

Get A Jump Start on Your Holiday Gifts and Start Sewing!

To encourage you all to also get a start on your holiday sewing, of course there are prizes!  All you have to do is make a project using one of the tutorials from the series and link it up by August 4th!  You can use a bundle or fabric from your stash - it only has to use one of our 9 tutorials from this series!


There will be two winners chosen at random and announced on August 5th. International friends are welcome to participate - your prize will be included with your shipment upon redeeming your gift certificate.

  • Grand Prize: $50 gift certificate to Sew Lux Fabric, a set of 6 You're Sew Nice cards, and an assortment of three patterns by May Chappell
  • 1st Prize: $25 gift certificate to Sew Lux Fabric, a set of 6 You're Sew Nice cards, and a pattern by May Chappell

Ok, so who else is as excited for Christmas in July as I am? Cue the Michael Buble Christmas music, because its never too early for Christmas music!!

Weekender Sew Along - Winners!!

weekender sew along 2014Christen Barber1 Comment
amy butler weekender sew along 2014
amy butler weekender sew along 2014

Whew! Is it just me, or is time in overdrive?! The days are flying by for me and I am running fast just trying to keep up - let alone catch up! But, enough about me and my inability to keep track of the days - let's get on to the important stuff...Weekender Sew Along Winners! I'm so excited about the bags that were linked up (and no, I still have not finished my bag...#fail). They look amazing and I'm so happy that we were able to inspire all of you to tackle this bag!

Before I announce the winners - let's recap our wonderful sponsors and the prizes!!

Prizes for the Link Up

weekender sew along prize sponsors
weekender sew along prize sponsors

Grand Prize Pack

$50 Gift Certificate to Sew Lux Fabric FQ Bundle of Savannah Fabric from Dear Stella Mini Quilt Patterns from Thimble Blossoms by Camille Roskelley

First Prize Pack

$25 Gift Certificate to Sew Lux Fabric FQ Bundle of Haven from Monaluna  T-shirt of Your Choosing from Patchwork Threads

Ok...drumroll please...

The Grand Prize winner is... Robyn from Robbyn's Nest with this amazing pieced Weekender! I must say, I just LOVED watching her progress on Instagram. This bag is seriously a stunner! (photo via Robyn's blog)


And the First Prize winner is...Kathy from Kathy and Kids with her awesome bag! I just LOVE the fabric and contrasting piping! (photo via Kathy's blog)


And, just for posterity, here are the screen grabs from to select the random winners!


Ok you lucky ladies, email me at christen.barber (at) with your address so we can send along your goodies! Thanks again to everyone who sewed along and finished their bags - they look great and I'm insanely jealous of all of them!

Weekender Sew Along - Finished Bag Link Up

weekender sew along 2014Christen BarberComment

amy butler weekender sew along 2014

Whew! How did it get to be the end of May already? Oh, right, I know - I GOT ENGAGED!!! So, I hope you'll cut me a little bit of slack with this sew along for the weekender bag, as life definitely got in the way in a BIG way and I have spent ZERO time in the sewing room and have had even less time to blog. So, please forgive me and my tardiness in finishing and providing you all with tips along the way! In other news, my sew-to-do list is a MILE long and I'm holding up not just one but TWO medallion along groups I'm in. I'm getting more stressed even as I type this!!

So, with that said, our schedule is definitely off, but we've updated the link up for those of you who have worked super hard to finish your bags! I just love seeing them all! I personally hoped to finish this weekend, but its my Fiance's birthday tomorrow, so who am I kidding, I won't be spending very much time sewing at all.

Before we get to the link-up, let's recap the PRIZES!!!

Prizes for the Link Up

weekender sew along prize sponsors

Grand Prize Pack

$50 Gift Certificate to Sew Lux Fabric FQ Bundle of Savannah Fabric from Dear Stella Mini Quilt Patterns from Thimble Blossoms by Camille Roskelley

First Prize Pack

$25 Gift Certificate to Sew Lux Fabric FQ Bundle of Haven from Monaluna  T-shirt of Your Choosing from Patchwork Threads

Are you ready to link up and show us those bags already?!

Link up starting today, May 30 through Friday, June 6 by 11 PM EST. We'll choose two random winners via random number generator for the prize packs above! Can't wait to see all of your finished bags! (And, send a little bit of extra time and fast sewing my way, so maybe I can finish by next week too!


[inlinkz_linkup id=410848 mode=1]

Weekender Bag Sew Along: Cutting and Interfacing

weekender sew along 2014Christen Barber1 Comment

amy butler weekender sew along 2014

Yay! Its Wednesday again and its time to get started with our Weekender Bags! Today, we're going to go over cutting the pieces of our bag. Chrissy, Nicole and I decided to change up the schedule a bit, so today's post is going to go over cutting here with me as written in the pattern, and Saturday I'll post on making piping, handles and assembling the main outer panels. If you are doing the piecing method with Chrissy or Nicole, they will be going over piecing panels/pockets and quilting them today with assembly of the two main outer bag panels, piping and handles on Saturday.

Weekender Bag Sew Along Schedule

Wed. April 30 – Planning Your Fabrics & Materials Wed. May 7 – Cutting & Interfacing Sat. May 10 - Sewing the Outer Panels Wed. May 14 – Sewing the Outer Bag Together Wed. May 21 – Finishing the Bag & Link Up Wed. May 28 – Winners Announced

We think it breaks things up better for everyone into smaller chunks anyway, so let's jump right in!

Last week we gathered all of our supplies so we're all ready to get to cutting. Since I'm following the pattern as written, I think I've got it a bit easier than my co-hosts Chrissy and Nicole during this step. Chrissy is piecing her pockets (which is turning out AMAZING - you can check her progress out on Instagram) and Nicole has been making up a bunch of hexies for her large pocket panels. So be sure to check out their blogs if you are going that route.

For those of us using the pattern and 2 fabrics, our hardest part is going to be interfacing! But, this week, we just have a bit of that to break up the tedium.

Weekender Pattern Pieces

First, cut out and assemble your pattern pieces. I'm sure at this point, you are wondering - well, how hard can this bag really be, it only has 3 pattern pieces?! Am I right? Well, keep thinking those positive thoughts, as I promise this bag is a piece of cake if you take your time, so that's what we're going to do.

Next, we're going to start by cutting out the pattern pieces. I always start with my outer bag fabrics first, but you'll see that my photos are with my lining fabric, as the stripes were starting to play with my eyes on the photos! LOL! So, while I'll be using lining fabric to illustrate, the process is the same for both for the main pattern pieces.

cutting the weekender pattern pieces

Rather than follow the instructions in the pattern (as I think that actually wastes fabric, I fold over the side edge vs. the selvage edge. For this bag in particular, since I am using a directional striped fabric, I had to do this anyway. So, if your bag fabric is directional, think about placement to ensure all of your pieces are going in the right direction.  Since this home decor weight fabric is 54" long, I can get both main panel pieces and large pocket pieces along the folded edge with room to spare. Be sure to only fold over enough to cover the main bag pattern piece width wise since you will need the fabric width for cutting out the top panels of the bag.

cutting the top panels

Next, cut out the top main panels of the bag. For the outer bag, it was a tight fit for me but it worked perfectly. The lining was no problem, as I folded the fabric selvage to selvage once again.

weekender strap cutting

While the fabric is folded selvage to selvage on the lining, I cut out the pieces for the handles. Again, I'm going to make mine a bit differently than the pattern suggests. So I cut 2 pieces 4" x WOF (54" in my case). The handle will finish at 1" wide and I think will be a great length. Then, I also cut my strips for my piping (again since the fabric was already selvage to selvage). Disclaimer: I do not make bias binding for my piping. I haven't had any trouble with it yet, and let's be honest: ain't nobody got time for that! So, straight cut binding it is for me selvage to selvage. Personal preferences here people, and I'm here to tell you it works fine. Is it 100% perfect and foolproof, no. But, the results are perfect-enough for me!

Next, I cut out the side pocket pieces. I'm doing something a little bit different, and I'm using my lining fabric for the side pocket panel piece. I made the decision for two reasons. First, with directional striped fabric, I wasn't really digging the horizontal side pocket and the vertical main top panel piece look on the side. Second, I really wanted to add another bit of pop of the coral to make the bag more "me" (navy and white stripes are a very tame choice for me, so of course, I needed to personalize a bit!).

Once the bag pieces are cut, its time to cut out the woven interfacing, Pellon SF101 and the Pellon Peltex as outlined in the pattern. I make quite a few changes to the interfacing cutting here, so I'm going to outline the list of pieces I use in my bag. Now, this is a personal preference of mine, as I like a very sturdy bag and lining.

From the SF101, I require at least 1-2 additional yards than the pattern requires for the following additions:

- 2 main pieces for the bag lining - 2 additional side pocket pieces for both the outer and lining of the pocket pieces - 4 additional top panel pieces for the lining panels

weekender cutting the pelted

When cutting the Peltex, I follow the instructions on the pattern exactly - I know, shocker, but no changes there. Be sure to follow the instructions to get 1/2" in from all sides of the main pocket and main panel pieces to ensure it doesn't get into the seam allowances when sewing.

weekender pieces cut

Once you've cut all of your bag pieces, SF101 and Peltex - you're all cut out! Yay! I like to group my fabrics by outer bag, lining and interfacing, as that is how I stay organized the best.

Interfacing the Outer Bag Panels and Main Pockets

Before we can call today's work done though, we are going to go ahead and work ahead in the pattern a bit and interface the main bag panels and large pocket pieces. This was probably the trickiest part of the pattern for me when I first made the bag.

interfacing layers

Place your outer bag fabric right side down on your ironing board with the Peltex centered within the pattern piece, and place one piece of SF101 on top, with fusible side down. So, you are essentially using the SF101 to hold the Peltex in place. However, if you are like me, and you got the fusible Peltex, then simply just fuse the Peltex to the main panel piece starting from the center out to ensure its smooth without any creases.  Then, turn over, and iron on the SF101.

interfaced panels

Complete the above for both main outer bag panels and large pocket pieces. So, you're panels should be nice and sturdy and ready for the next step on Saturday!


Prizes for the Link Up

We're sew excited about all of the finished Weekender Bags that will be finished at the end of the month! And, we're even more excited about the giveaways we have planned for two lucky winners! Starting on Wednesday, May 21 the link up will be open to share your finished weekender bag until Midnight on Tuesday, May 27. On Wednesday, May 28, we'll announce the winners from a random drawing to win the Grand Prize or First Prize! Thanks so much to our sponsors - we've got some great stuff!

weekender sew along prize sponsors

Grand Prize Pack

$50 Gift Certificate to Sew Lux Fabric FQ Bundle of Savannah Fabric from Dear Stella Mini Quilt Patterns from Thimble Blossoms by Camille Roskelley

First Prize Pack

$25 Gift Certificate to Sew Lux Fabric FQ Bundle of Haven from Monaluna  T-shirt of Your Choosing from Patchwork Threads

Man, I wish I could win! I'll see you back here on Saturday with tales of piping and outside panel piece sewing. Until then, happy cutting! And, don't forget to email me if you have any questions or run into any issues.

Weekender Sew Along: Planning Fabrics and Supplies

weekender sew along 2014Christen Barber2 Comments

amy butler weekender sew along 2014

Its Wednesday, so that can only mean one thing - its the start of the Weekender Sew Along! Yay! I'm so excited and so happy that so many of you are excited to get on board too! I promise you can do it - and Chrissy, Nicole and I will be here for support along the way!

Ok, so let's get started. I'm going to be making the bag as written in the pattern using Home Decor weight fabric and the peltex interfacing. I have a couple of modifications to share with you that can help make the process a bit easier and let you know that if you do things a certain (and most likely EASIER way) it will still turn out OK in the end! If you are interested in a pieced patchwork style bag, head on over to Chrissy at Sew Lux today as she's given the run down of her supplies as she makes her bag. Nicole at Modern Handcraft is going to be doing hexies on her bag, so check out her supplies list too.

Choosing Fabrics

I don't know about you, but I ALWAYS start with my fabric when making a bag. This is a REALLY tough process for me because I personally LOVE ALL OF THE FABRIC! Personally, I have found that Hawthorne Threads has the best selection of designer home decor weight fabrics and they usually ship same day! And, in the past when I've been on a deadline, I've just sent an email to Lindsay to ensure my order ships the same day and I have always received a quick and courteous response. So, if you are joining me with this version of the bag, I'd start there for lots of great inspiration.

weekender sew along supplies After days of debate, I finally settled on this amazing thin navy and white stripe and solid coral from the Bekko fabric line by designer Trenna Travis for Michael Miller. I'm totally hooked on navy and coral right now, and it seems like the perfect combination for a summer bag and my dreams of making it to the beach more than once! Of course, you'll need to go ahead and order the pattern. Sew Lux has more patterns arriving on Friday to ship, and its on sale for $11 through the end of the day today! So go ahead and order so you can get to sewing!


Supplies & Materials Needed

weekender bag supplies - 1 5/8 yds home decor weight fabric for bag exterior - I'll be using the thin navy stripe - 2 yds home decor weight fabric for bag lining, piping and straps - I'll be using the solid coral - 4 yds* Pellon SF101 woven fusible interfacing. *Note - The pattern calls for 3 but I've run out on both bags, so I bought 4 yds this time to be safe. And, I think I'm going to be adding extra to the zipper pieces on the exterior for extra weight. - 2 yds of Peltex #70 by Pellon - I buy the fusible for extra stability - 5 yards of 6/32" cotton cording - 24" metal zipper* *Note - When I was making my first bag, I found a tip to use a shorter zipper than the one called for and its worked well for me on both bags. Plus, 24" comes in great coordinating colors and readily available at my local Joanns.

Beyond the materials and supplies that the pattern calls for, you'll also want to be sure that you have the following on hand.

- Appropriate sewing machine feet including your walking foot, zipper foot and piping foot if your machine has one. I personally don't have one for my machine, and I was able to successfully make my own piping multiple times - it really does come together very easily. - Clover wonder clips - seriously, buy them already. I promise you absolutely NEED them for this bag. My first Weekender I tried to make do with pins and it was a nightmare - all of my pins bent. My second bag, I had my clips and it was a MUCH better experience. - Marking Pen - Seam Ripper - become one with your seam ripper for this bag, as you will become best friends and it will all be ok! Promise! - Jeans Needles - make sure you have at least 3 just in case - Coordinating Thread

My Planned Modifications

Here's a quick list of modifications I'll be making. These don't change how the pattern is written or followed if you choose not to make the same changes I'm planning. However, I did want to give you a heads up for your planning.

- Lengthen the bag straps - 24" metal zipper - Adding an additional layer of SF101 - Alternate way to insert the lining because ain't nobody got time for hand stitching!

A Few Words of Advice & Encouragement Before We Get Started

And finally, once you get your pattern, take the time to read it completely from start to finish so you can start to get familiar before you jump right in - as this bag isn't really a bag you just decide to make on a whim with a simple "Hey, I think I'll make a weekender today!" In fact, take the time to be thoughtful with your planning and take your time with each of the steps. This bag is totally doable - I promise and taking your time is only going to ensure you have a bag you not only love at the end but are damn proud of!

And finally, I'm here to help. So, just email me with your questions - we'll get through this together (just picture me smiling and giving LOTS of encouragement from afar)! Oh, and don't forget to share your progress with us on Instagram with the hashtag #WSA2014 - can't wait to see all of the bags start to come together and the fabrics everyone chooses!

Oh Happy Day! Picnic Quilt Tutorial for Dear Stella and A Giveaway

GiveawayChristen Barber81 Comments

oh happy day fabric picnic quiltHi Friends! I'm so excited to share my latest tutorial - a picnic quilt in the gorgeous Oh Happy Day! fabric from Dear Stella. As soon as I saw a sneak peek of the fabric on Instagram, I just KNEW I had to make something - anything! - with this fabric. It has ALL of the things I love in a fabric - big, bold florals, large-scale prints and an amazingly awesome multi-colored stripe! Is it not just oh-so-swoonworthy?!

oh happy day picnic quilt

And seriously, is it just me, or is striped binding perhaps the best.thing.since.sliced.bread?! I just LOVE it! So, head on over to the Dear Stella blog for the full tutorial to make your own! But wait, before you go, there's more!

Oh Happy Day! Fabric FQ Bundle Giveaway

oh happy day fabric

The wonderfully generous and amazing folks at Dear Stella have offered to giveaway a FQ bundle of the entire Oh Happy Day! fabric collection to one lucky reader! Three cheers for free fabric!! Yay! So, just leave a comment with your favorite print from the line. I'll choose a winner on Sunday via random number generator. Good luck!

Weekender Sew Along 2014 #WSA2014

weekender sew along 2014Christen Barber1 Comment

amy butler weekender sew along 2014

OMG guys I'm so excited to announce a new sew along today - the Weekender Sew Along of 2014! So get your big girl sewing scissors out and get ready to tackle the sewists right of passage as we're going to be making Amy Butler's Weekender Bag just in time for summer pool days, beach days and weekend getaways.


love by hand weekender sew along

This will be my THIRD Weekender Bag, so you can imagine that I've learned a thing or two with the other two I've made. Personally, I think this bag and pattern gets a bad rep - I LOVED making the bag and absolutely LOVED the finished product. So, I wanted to make the pattern accessible to those of you who have yet to try it to let you know that you CAN do it - plus, I'll be here to help and answer questions along the way!

And, I have two fabulous ladies joining me in the fun to bring you a super fun 4 weeks of sewing one very rewarding bag! Nicole from Modern Handcraft will be making a quilt-as-you-go style bag with patchwork hexies and Chrissy from Sew Lux Fabric will be making another amazing patchwork version - be sure to check her first weekender finish out. All I have to say is mini swoon, and man is it swoon worthy! I'll be following the pattern as written (ok with a few adjustments) with some AMAZINGLY awesome summer-inspired home decor fabrics.

Weekender Sew Along Schedule

We'll start next week with fabric selections and planning for the different versions and finish in time to bring your brand new Weekender with you to the pool, beach or just your backyard by Memorial Day!

Wed. April 30 - Planning Your Fabrics & Materials Wed. May 7 - Cutting, Interfacing, Making the Panels Wed. May 14 - Sewing the Outer Bag Together Wed. May 21 - Finishing the Bag & Link Up Wed. May 28 - Winners Announced 

Sponsors and Prizes


And, of course there will be prizes to award you for all of your hard work! We'll have a link up at the end for finished bags and randomly select a few winners. I'm so excited that Sew Lux Fabric will be the presenting sponsor and providing a couple of gift certificates you won't want to miss out on!

amy butler weekender pattern

And, the Weekender bag pattern is in stock right now and available for 15% off through April 30 - no coupon code needed and it will arrive in time to join in the sew along! So go ahead and get your pattern here!

We'll also have other great prizes from Dear Stella, Monaluna and Patchwork Threads plus a few more! We'll have more details on prizes and how to win in next week's post.

So, are you in or what?!

As you can see, we've thought of everything! There is something for everyone with lots of options for your Weekender. Because this bag is far too involved (noticed I didn't say difficult!!!) to make something you don't absolutely LOVE!  Don't forget to sew along with us on Instagram using the hashtag #WSA2014! You can find me @lovebyhand and Nicole @Modernhandcraft and Chrissy @SewLux. We hope you'll join us! Can't wait to see all of your bags start to pop up!!

The Importance of Blogging: You Can’t Pin an Instagram Photo

sew bizChristen Barber3 Comments

sew biz love by hand Welcome to the first installment of "Sew Biz!" I'm super excited about a new content direction I plan bringing to Love By Hand on a weekly basis to share business and marketing advice for those of you with a sewing related business - bloggers, pattern and fabric designers, makers, fabric shop owners - everyone really! After my class on blogging and social media at Sew South this year, I had such a great and overwhelming response to share more. So, I'm sharing! For those of you who are new or maybe don't know much about me - I'm a digital marketing professional in my day-job and have been in marketing, public relations and advertising for the past 10 years. So, I thought combining my day job and my passion for online marketing along with my love of sewing and fabric would be a perfect match. And, if I help someone in the process - even better. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy this week's post on why blogging is here to stay!

importance of blogging: you can't pin an instagram photo

The Importance of Blogging: You Can't Pin an Instagram Photo

If you are like me and spend lots of time on social media (ok, I realize that not many of you will be exactly like me since my day job pays me to be online all day long, but you know, if you are around and keeping up with general goings on), then you’ve probably seen a few posts in which sewing bloggers are asking the question “Is anyone out there reading blogs anymore?”

Sure, it’s a valid question, as there has been a recent shift online to social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook because well, its easier. It doesn’t take as much time to find projects I love on Pinterest as it does when going through my feed on Bloglovin. Am I right? And for bloggers, it’s a heck of a lot easier to post a photo on instagram than to write a full blog post, take photos, format and edit said photos, etc. etc. etc.

However, to all you sewing bloggers out there, as much as I would LOVE to tell you that its OK to give up your blogs and move 100% to social media, I just can’t do it. Sure, the landscape has changed over the past couple of years and you might not be getting as many comments as you used to and the market is definitely more crowded, but without a blog, your online brand will slowly disappear. Here are 3 marketing-driven reasons why blogging is important to your online brand.

1. The Power Of Search

Bloggers are at the core content creators aka content marketers, right? All of the tutorials, product reviews, and projects completed are all “content.” And, when put on a blog, are available to be searched via search engines. If you are going to invest time in blogging, you must take the time to optimize each post for relevant search terms. I have an entire 3-part series planned on SEO for blogging that will totally change the way you blog for the better to gain more traffic.

2. Building Your Business Over Time

As any great blogger will tell you, it takes time and effort to build a following and increase site traffic. Part of building your blog is to hopefully get paid for those efforts in some way either through blog sponsors who are interested in selling their products to your site visitors or through selling patterns, books, finished products or fabrics you create. Your blog or website is where you can create in-depth content that visitors can get to know you better and learn to trust you. And while most blog followers are not checking in to read every post as soon as you hit publish, many are seeing your updates on various social media platforms and remembering the last experience they had with you and choosing to return or not based on that experience.

3. Social Media Is Always Changing, Blogging Stays Constant

I’m sure many bloggers have noticed the huge changes Facebook has made recently in which they have publically declared that pages will only be able to reach on average 1% of their followers organically ie. without paying to reach them. Social media marketing changes day-to-day, and what you are doing today to gain blog visits or followers might not work tomorrow. So, its best to think more long-term about the type of content you are sharing to attract readers to your blog.

blogging and social media ecosphere

Given how quickly social media changes, its best to think about your online marketing like the above graphic – your blog is at the center creating the content that can be shared across the various social media platforms that make sense to reach your potential audience of buyers or readers.

And here’s why blogging is still important in its simplest form – you can’t Pin an Instagram photo. Social media platforms are meant to engage with followers and readers to create a community around similar interests, etc. and ultimately, drive site traffic to your blog. Instagram doesn't allow live links within posts, nor does it allow users to pin the content on Pinterest for inspiration or use at a later date. However, your blog can do all of those things when used properly with social media platforms, as social media platforms are meant to drive traffic back to your blog where the important content lives.

I hope you found this post informative and helpful. Let me know in the comments any other topics or questions you have around blogging or social media, and I’ll be sure to answer or write a future post!

Top 10 Reasons To Love Sew South

sew southChristen Barber8 Comments

Hi Friends! Whew! Its taken me over a week week to catch up since I got back Sew South in beautiful Charlotte, North Carolina! (And that long to catch up on my sleep too!!) But, it was, in one word - AMAZING! There is always SO much to say about my time spent at Sew South, so I thought I would share the Top 10 reasons to love Sew South, now that I'm back from my second trip. Because, well, you might want to go next year. Which is ok, as long as I get my ticket first!

sew south photo booth

#1: Time Spent With Friends

Seriously, I had the best time with my dear friend and roomie Tessa! Seriously, it was like we were at the most fun sleepover ever the entire weekend. Not one night did we go to sleep before 2 AM! And, it was so great to see so many friends from last year and spend time catching up while sharing our love of sewing. Its priceless really.

sew south secret sisters

#2: Secret Sister Swap

This year, I was SPOILED ROTTEN by Nicole - her gifts to me were so thoughtful and just so ME, my heart was warmed so many times over the weekend.

secret sister swap gifts

And, I think its even MORE fun to make things and give to your secret sister. This year, Cindy was my secret sister, and let's just say that one of the funniest moments of the weekend was on the second morning I was less than awake while packaging up her morning gifts, and actually SIGNED my name to the card. So much for a "secret" right?! And the funniest part is - I had NO IDEA that I signed my name. So about an hour later, when she asked me if I was her secret sister, I LIED to her and of course said "No! What would make you think that?!" To which she quickly replied, "Well, you signed your name to the card!" Note to self - do not try to do something secret before 9 AM! Oh well, I hope I made up for giving up the secret with the rest of my gifts over the weekend!


#3:  Cheesecake For Dinner

All of the dinners at Sew South are on your own, and one night, Tessa had a FABULOUS idea - Cheesecake for dinner! So, we headed over to the Cheesecake Factory with Marcia and proceeded to enjoy the most amazing Cheesecake EVER for dinner. It was perfect. And delicious. Did I mention, delicious?!


#4: Meeting New Friends

On the last day when everyone was taking photos, I was so overly tired and just so consumed with saying my goodbyes, I completely forgot to get photos with LOTS of my new friends. Even with so many repeat faces and friends to catch up with from last year, it was so wonderful to meet and connect with so many new friends. Hi Asha, Marcia, Lisa, Tracy, Shirley, Nancy, Nicole, Laurel!!! Let's all sew together again soon, ok?

finished sew south projects

#5: Finishing A Few Sewing Projects

Ok, let's all be honest for a minute - sewing retreats are not actually about sewing. I know, crazy right?! But, I did actually get a few finishes in on Saturday including my boxy pouch taught by Kelly from Kelby Sews and my Scrap Bucket Basket taught by Heather from The Sewing Loft. And, I also finished a fold over clutch too. It matched my outfit, so I had to get a photo!


sew south sponsor

#6: The Swag

Seriously, the sponsors for Sew South really step up to the plate and provide the most amazing swag and gifts throughout the weekend! I of course don't have a photo of it as I have yet to unpack the SUPER LARGE BAG, but you can enter to win your own swag bag from Jennifer at Ellison Lane this week. Thank you so much to all of the sponsors including Coats and Clark, Rowan Fabrics, Free Spirit Fabrics, Joanns, Pellon, Dear Stella, Michael Miller, Oliso, Stash Books, Aurifil, Robert Kaufman, Lark Crafts, Dritz, Schmetz and Aurifil.


#7: Making Time For You

One of the biggest reasons I heard from friends at Sew South was that "they needed a break" - no matter if it was from work, family, kids, etc. And really, don't we all need time for ourselves to focus on us and the things that make us happy. I spent 5 glorious days with my dear friends and only had to worry about myself. It may sound selfish, but for those 5 days, being selfish was priority #1 and it felt REALLY good. Taking time away to focus on you can be so renewing for all other aspects of life. And, I was totally surprised to come home and realize I hardly took ANY pictures and didn't spend time checking email while I was gone. Seriously, the best!


blogging and social media sew south

#8: Meaningful Connections

Whether you are in search of new friends who "get" you and your need for more fabric or you want to connect with online sewing friends in real life, Sew South has it all and more. And, if you are looking to make sewing related business contacts, they are there in abundance too. I can't even begin to tell you of the friendships I've made that I know will be everlasting for many many years to come that not only get my need for more fabric but encourage it ;) Sew South has also been a great spring-board for opportunities that I know I wouldn't have had as easily otherwise.

And, this year I was able to connect my  my day job in online marketing to my passion of sewing by teaching a class on blogging and social media. It was truly amazing and such a supportive and attentive group! And, what's more is the sheer wealth of knowledge in attendance is astounding - from women who have written sewing books, designed fabric, written and sold patterns - if you have an idea or want to turn your sewing into a business, someone there has already done it and is happy to share their story!


#9: Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

This could be applicable to so many things during Sew South! Everything from getting out of your comfort zone to meet new people and share a bit about yourself to perfect strangers (although, I will vouch for the fact that not once did anyone at Sew South that felt like a stranger!) to trying a new technique. One of our classes this year was improv sewing taught by Katie of From the Blue Chair - a new technique for me! Do check out Katie's blog if you haven't seen her improv work, be sure to check it out! Seriously, some truly amazing stuff!

#10: An Abundance of Inspiration

Katie's presentation was so inspiring to me! She started with the above Ted Talk video, and something about "embracing the limitations of the box" spoke to me in a new way. And, Alison Glass was absolutely amazing and awe inspiring as she told her personal story. As was my new friend Asha, as she shared the story of her family with me late one night during open sew. Same with Tracy as she shared her goals and aspirations over dinner.

There were countless moments throughout the entire weekend that truly inspired me in a new way, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one. Last year, I was just so thankful and happy to have finally found "my people" - friends who understood me and got this thing we do called sewing. But this year, this year was even more special in so many ways. This year, I walked away with a new sense of purpose and clear thinking. Calm and relaxed but also energized and buzzing with ideas.

I'm excited and looking forward to the next Sew South and the new experiences and friendships it will bring - hope you are too!

Crafty Traveler: Sew Sweetness Aeroplane Bag Pattern Review

pattern reviewsChristen Barber7 Comments

Welcome everyone! Today's my day on the Crafty Traveler Blog Hop hosted by Jennifer of Ellison Lane. You'll also want to hop on over to Bryan House Quilts, as she's also sharing a pattern review for the Crafty Traveler as well.

I was so excited when Jennifer asked me to be part of this blog hop, as bag making is my first love in sewing. And, I've been wanting to try the Sew Sweetness Aeroplane Bag pattern - so it was completely a win-win!

So, why sewing bags? Well, for me, sewing bags started it all for me with sewing as an adult. Approximately 5 years ago, I moved to Richmond, Virginia with only a few friends in the area. My Mom, an amazing quilter for over 20+ years, was visiting me for the first time and we went to check out the local quilt shops - because well, that's what we do! And, at one of the shops, they were having a class the next weekend to learn to make a bag. Mom signed me up right then and there, and with a borrowed machine, I went. And that was all it took! I was completely in love - although I have to say there have been quite a few tears and broken needles in the beginning.

For me, sewing bags combines everything I love about sewing, such as:

  • Creating Unique Fabric Combinations. I love choosing fabrics and pairing unexpected combinations and colors to create a unique look that is completely my own. 
  • Making Unique Gifts. I love making and giving handmade gifts. And, I haven't met anyone yet who hasn't loved a bag that I've made them. Choosing fabrics and color combinations that is unique to the person is such a fun process, and one that makes the gift recipient feel oh so special ;)
  • Instant Gratification. I've had to work up to quilting because with bags, I can start a project in the morning and finish it before dinner! And, one time, I started a clutch in the morning and finished it in time to bring it with me to a wedding that night. There is nothing more satisfying than starting a finishing a project in the same day. 

Sew Sweetness Aeroplane Bag Pattern

Ok, so now that you know a little bit more about me and my thoughts being bag making, I'm super excited to share my thoughts on the Aeroplane Bag Pattern by Sew Sweetness. I'm not sure how I've managed to go this long without sewing one of her bags, as her pattern shop has so many cute styles! I'm so glad that I chose this one first, as it met my criteria for a unique bag and quick finish!

For this bag, I really wanted to combine two of my loves right now - navy and white stripes, pink and leather. As my friend Sarah from Stitching and Bacon says - everything is more fancy with leather! And I couldn't agree more. I think the leather really creates a sophisticated and finished look - which is exactly what I go for when sewing bags. I want someone to ask me where I got it and be completely surprised when I say that I made it!

You might have noticed that I added my own bit of "flair" to the bag. When I finished the bag as the pattern was written, I was pleased with it and its shape, however, I really felt it was a bit too plain and missing something. So, I quickly sewed together a strip of my favorite polka dot ever, Michael Miller Ta Dot in Candy, and tied it on. It completely did the trick and I'm completely in love!

I made the long version of the pattern and let me tell you, this bag is HUGE! It measures 18-1/2" long by 14-1/2" tall by 8-1/2" deep. I can imagine myself using this bag over and over again this summer at the pool, at the beach, on a picnic - it will hold multiple beach towels, snacks, etc. And, I absolutely love that it has an interior zip pocket to hold important things like money and keys, which will be perfect for time spent at the beach or pool so I can leave my purse at home!

Overall, I'd say this bag is perfect for a confident beginner to intermediate sewist. And, I only say that because it has two zippers. I found that the zipper instructions in this pattern were extremely straight forward and easy to follow - which I think would make it easy for anyone to be successful with the zippers on this bag!

The only part I found that might be tricky for someone who has never sewn a zipper or bag before would be sewing the bag together once the main zipper was in, as the pattern images do not fully illustrate that step and could lead to a broken needle or two. My tip is to start with the outside of the bag first and pin or clip the front and back pieces together as close to the zipper end as possible, and sew as close to the zipper as possible, but not over it. It will still be secure but you won't break a needle in the process.

Fabrics and Supplies for My Version of the Aeroplane Bag

Navy & White Stripe Home Dec Weight Fabric, Faux Leather Gifted by Mom

- Lizzy House Pearl Bracelets in Pink

Inside Pocket:
- Tsuru Making Tracks Print by Rashida Coleman Hale for Cloud 9

- I used Pellon Fusible Fleece 987f on the Home Decor Fabric, as I didn't have Soft & Stable on hand and have had a love affair with fusible fleece for a long time and knew that I'd love the results.
- For the leather bottom portion, I used cotton duck cloth as a sew-in interfacing to give it more structure as it was quite flimsy. This would not be needed on a heavier leather or suede.
- For the lining, since the outside was in home decor fabric and fusible fleece, I didn't want to bulk up the bag with heavy interfacing. So, I used Pellon SF101 Shape Flex to give the quilting cotton a bit more structure on the inside and to hold the zipper pocket.

Thanks so much to Jennifer for having me as part of the hop - I'm looking forward to loading up my bag with sewing projects for Sew South coming up in just a few weeks! I hope you enjoyed my version of the Aeroplane bag and are inspired to make your own. I hope you do, as there are quite a few prizes to win if you link up!

Crafty Traveler Blog Hop

Link-up your travel handmade project March 6-12 for a chance to win one of three great prizes!
(US only)


#1: Free Spirit Fabric, Crafty Traveler Tote supplies and Dritz rotary cutter.
#2: Box of 50 Coats Threads
#3: Pellon Prize Pack (Interfacing & Batting)

To enter to win simply link up your project at on March 6. Please link from a new blog post but your project can be anything you've made to travel handmade within the last 6 months. You may also link from Flickr or Threadbias. 

And, don't forget to stop by the rest of the stops on the hop for more Crafty Traveler inspiration and projects!

Blog Hop Schedule

3/6: Link-up opens at 
3/13: Winner's announced! 

Thanks so much to the Crafty Traveler sponsors! 

Valentines Ombre Heart Pocket Pillow Tutorial

sewing tutorials, valentines dayChristen Barber2 Comments
pocket pillow tutorial
Hi Everyone! I've got Valentines Day on the brain (how can you not with the barrage of diamond and chocolate commercials on TV right now?!) - so I thought I would share a pillow tutorial for this super quick, adorable and fun Ombre Heart Pocket Pillow that I originally created as part of the Craftaholics Anonymous Creative Team. I don't know about you, but I just love pillow tutorials that are fun, quick and easy, as I'm often leaving holiday decorating until the last minute!

Ombre Heart Pillow Tutorial


To make your own 16” pillow, you’ll need the following supplies:

½ yd fabric for front and back of pillow ½ yd fabric for pocket and binding ¼ yd fabric for heart 1, 9” x 9” piece of heat n’ bond 16 ½” x 16 ½” piece of fusible fleece (used Pellon TP 971F) 1, 16” pillow form Free Heart Template

Fabrics used for pillow tutorial: Pillow front and back, Essex Yarn Dyed Linen by Robert Kaufman Pillow pocket and binding, Simply Color by V & Co. for Moda Heart, Simply Color by V & Co. for Moda

Heart Pocket Pillow Tutorial

Making the heart

From the ombre fabric that is already 9” wide, cut 9, 1 ½” strips from the various colors in the fabric, approximately 3 dark, 3 medium, and 3 light to get the desired ombre effect for the heart. Next, sew all the strips together in order from dark to light along the 9” side to create a 9” x 9” square. Press all seams open.

Place your 9” x 9” square of fabric face down on your ironing board with your 9” x 9” piece of heat n’ bond on top. Following instructions for the heat n’ bond, press together and allow to cool. Using the heart template, trace the heart outline onto the paper side of the heat n’ bond and cut out your heart. Set aside.

Making the Pocket

Cut 2 pieces 10 ½” x 10 ½” from your pocket fabric. Place both pieces right sides together and pin in place. Sew around all 4 sides using a ¼” seam allowance, leaving a 3” opening at the bottom. Clip your corners and turn right side out. Press flat, ensuring your opening seam is folded into the pocket.

Take your heart and remove the paper backing. Center it on the pocket and press in place using a hot iron. To sew the heart in place, I used variegated pearl cotton and hand-stitched around the outside edge. However, you can also use a long straight stitch on your machine and sew around the edge of the heart as well. Note that this method can allow for some frayed edges since it is raw-edge applique.

Attach the Pocket to the Pillow Front

Cut a 16 ½” x 16 ½” square from your pillow front fabric.  Fuse this piece to your piece of fusible fleece to give the front a bit of weight. Center the pocket with the heart and pin in place. Sew around three sides, leaving the top open and making sure to catch the pocket opening in your stitch line along the bottom.

Making the Back

To make an envelope closure on the back of the pillow, cut 2 pieces 16 ½” x 10”. Along one edge of each piece, fold in ¼” and press, and fold in another ¼” and press to create a finished edge. Using a straight stitch on your machine, sew down the middle.

Finishing the Pillow

Place your pillow front face down on a flat work surface. Next, place both of your back pieces right side up, lining up the three unfinished edges with the edges of the front. Your pieces will overlap approximately 2 inches on the back, creating the envelope back. Pin in place.

Next, create your binding using your preferred method by cutting 2, 2 ¼” x wof (width of fabric) strips from your desired fabric. Since I wanted the project to be quick, I sewed my binding to the back of the pillow using my machine, and then I sewed to the front using my machine rather than hand stitching. Some say its cheating, but I say its quick and it works for me!

Next, just put in your pillow form and your pillow is finished! Don't forget to add a cute note, card or goodies for someone special!

I hope you enjoyed the pocket pillow tutorial! If you make your own version, I'd love to see it! Leave a link in the comments and I'll be sure to check it out!

A Mash Up of WIPs

WIP WednesdayChristen Barber3 Comments

Wow! Its been a busy month, and I promise that some sewing has been happening. Today, I've got a bit of a mash-up of WIPs to share.

Remember the two medallion along groups I'm participating in? Well, they are still going on - slowly but surely - and I finally have a border finish to share with you.

All of you know my friend Chrissy of Sew Lux - she's seriously the best! I've had her Christmas themed medallion center for a couple of months, as I wanted the Christmas rush to pass by so I had time to really focus on doing a great job (especially considering my last medallion border!).

And let me tell you, I'm so glad I did! I really enjoyed the process with this border more than I have with any other - and I got it out by the time I said I would! I had trees in my mind for the border for a while, especially after the wall hanging my friend Tessa from The Sewing Chick gave me for our SURMA Christmas Swap - yes friends its mine all mine!! 

I used the tiny templates provided in the Modern Holiday Book by Amanda Murphy without enlarging them. It was a true labor of love for a dear friend, as the trees finished at 2" x 3" - FINISHED friends!! By far, they are the tiniest things I have ever pieced or made ever.

Here's the finished border added to Chrissy's medallion center. If you notice, the photo above of the border is before I realized that I would need to add an inch on each side to make the borders even on the top and the bottom - since they were 2" x 3" vs. square. So, my seam ripper and I became good friends. The borders matched up this time perfectly around the center and I easily added 4 HSTs to the corners on the top and bottom.  I'm totally in love with how this turned out, and I think Chrissy is too! I sent it off to Holli where I know she'll add something great too.

Next WIP to mention is this baby quilt I am making. I originally had a plan to gift it, but I was too late for the shower, so now I think I'll finish it up and list it in my Etsy shop. I am SO in love with it - the pink and teal along with the low volume prints - swoon! The pattern is a free pattern, the Star Bright Quilt by Katie Blakesley at Swim Bike Quilt. It goes together super quick and was the PERFECT thing to make with my Ladies Night bundle from Sew Lux curated by my friend Sarah.

I'm feeling really great about my sewing lately - more creative than ever. So, I'm sure I'll be popping in with many more updates in the next few weeks now that I've gotten over my Holiday sewing craze!

Why I Love Handmade

Christen Barber1 Comment

Reason #1: Getting To Be Part of Life's Biggest Moments

 Can we talk about how cute this little one is?! Meet Rylee, looking absolutely ADORABLE in her newborn photo shoot just a few weeks before Christmas. I just love that the stocking I made will forever be part of little Rylee's story. Totally warms my heart!

Reason #2: Making New Friends

Through my Etsy shop this year, I made around 60 stockings, 5 tree skirts and a few other items within an 8 week stretch. Whew! But, I also receive so much love and excitement in return from new friends once their new stockings are hung by the fireplace with care.

Reason #3: Handmade lasts long after the occasion

I made these Christmas placemats for my Mom this year (one of the FEW gifts I actually made!). Next year when I go home to celebrate the holidays with my family, these will be on the table. And each year my Mom brings them out, she'll think of me with a smile on her face and know how much I love her. And, even though I no longer live with her, I'm there in some small, meaningful way. No other gifts stand the test of time like handmade.

There are so many more reasons why I love handmade, and I'll be sharing more of them here over the next few months. I'd love to hear from you - what are your reasons that you love handmade!

2014 Sewing Goals

Christen Barber7 Comments
Image via RosieandViolets on Etsy

I'm so excited about all the promise this new year has in store and I have so many exciting ideas that I could just BURST with excitement.

If you had asked me a couple of weeks ago, what my sewing goals were for 2014, my answer would have been so very different. You see, last Friday, I met up with my dear sewing friends Chrissy, Lee, Sarah and Xandi. I was working on a commissioned project (one that isn't too exciting if I'm honest) and we were all going over our traveling medallion quilts. As we were thinking of what the next border should be, we all noticed the last borders of the quilt "smiled" at us and the quilt was not square. So, I'm going to come on out and share - the last border on the quilt, the ones that were terribly crooked and "smiling" were mine. I was completely and utterly mortified, although, my friends, being so dear and wonderful, assured me that it was fixable and that its a common problem in quilting. Whew.

Before I tell you my goals and the end of the story above, let's rewind a bit and let me tell you a bit about my sewing journey. If I had to say what type of sewist I am, I would say "I make things" and those things can include everything from bags, to tree skirts, to stockings, to crib bumpers, and yes, it also includes quilts. I would not classify myself as a quilter. Why? Well, I kind of just "taught" myself how to make a quilt since I know the basics of how to sew and from watching my Mom all these years. I can follow a pattern, I know I need to use a 1/4" seam allowance, I know how to make a bunch of HSTs. I know the basics, and from there, I kind of just figure it out.

So back to my sewing day with friends, Lee and Chrissy started to talk about "easing it in" and how to correctly sew borders to ensure no smile (although I want a happy and fun quilt, a smiling border is NOT ok) and I had no idea what they were talking about and how to do what they were saying. So, I did what every good sewist who wants to be a better quilter does - I helped Chrissy seam rip off all of the borders I added and pressed them down, and then I asked questions and watched to make sure I knew how to fix it, and what I could do differently in the future. Now, I know that was a long story, but I promise it will make sense in a minute!

2014 Sewing Goals

Goal #1: Learn to Enjoy the Journey

A few posts from this past year have touched on this, and I have my friend Holli to thank. I REALLY need to slow down and learn to enjoy the process of sewing. I'm so deadline driven in my day job and with my Etsy shop, that I let it spill over into other things that are supposed to be fun and enjoyable and make them into a chore with a bad attitude of "I just have to hurry up and get this done!" So, this year, I vow to take my time on projects and embrace the make.

Goal #2: Push Myself to Learn More

There are so many things that I know about sewing that I have taught myself and learned from trial and error, especially in bag making. However, in quilting, there is still so much I need to learn about nesting seams and ironing (I know I could improve here), paper piecing (I've learned how but haven't really pushed myself), and the need to explore more complicated patterns or techniques - just so I can add them to my list of experiences. Since I will be slowing down and taking my time based on goal #1, its the perfect time to add a few more complicated projects to my list and just work on them at my own pace without a deadline.

Goal #3: More Me Sewing

I tried but failed to launch my selfish sewing series, but this year, I am going to resurrect it and stick to it! Along with this I really want to take time to explore projects and ideas to help me better understand my personal sewing style. Given that I spend so much time of my sewing time making things for others or for sale, I rarely have time to think about what I like anymore. Its so sad and pathetic I know! But that stops now. I'm going to say no a lot more to others so I can start saying yes to myself to be more creative with my sewing projects and learn more about what I like to sew for me.

Goal #4: Clear the Decks

I made a list of all the projects I still have to complete that I didn't finish by the end of 2013, and that is NO WAY to start a new year with new sewing goals. So, first up will be to clear the decks and wipe the slate clean by finishing all of my projects that are still owed to others. Its a SERIOUSLY long list, and to be honest, only a few things on the list interest me enough to finish. But, the sooner I finish them, the sooner I can take a deep breath and focus on me for a while.

Goal #5: Blog with Purpose

A year ago (almost), I started this blog as a new creative outlet without much of a purpose or plan. And, that worked for me over this past year, but I'm still craving more, and have SO MUCH MORE to share that I think others will find valuable. So, this year, I'm going to be more purposeful with the type of posts I share here on the blog. That's all I'm going to say about that, as I don't want to make it a formal list of post titles, but stay tuned for a few new kinds of posts to start cropping up in the next month or so!

So, are you as excited about the new year as I am? Thanks so much for joining me in this journey and Happy 2014 to you!

2013 Year In Review

finishesChristen Barber6 Comments

Wow. I can't believe 2013 is over, but on the other hand, I'm so happy to be putting it in my rear view mirror. I originally wanted to title this post "my love/hate relationship with 2013" but the more I thought about it (let's be honest, scrolled through the photos of projects I took, as it was all really a blur in my mind), there were A LOT of positive things that happened this year.

First things first, I posted over 60 times to this new blog that I started on January 20, 2013. That's coming up in just a few weeks! I'm really proud that I kept it up. And, I think my instincts were right - it felt right share my love of handmade and my love of sewing with everyone through this new blog.

2013 Highlights

Published! I had two projects published in Stitch Magazine - the Spring and Summer Issues of 2013. I also had a stocking project published in Fat Quarterly too. And, I had a table runner tutorial on Sew Mama Sew!

Attended Sew South. The event was awesome, and more importantly, I met the most wonderful group of friends that I could ever imagine to have in my life. It all happened at just the right time, and I'm so thankful for Sew South for bringing us all together. Love you ladies to pieces!

Christmas In July. Along with my new friend Chrissy from Sew Lux, I hosted my first big blog event of fun holiday tutorials for a Christmas in July series. I had such a great time, worked with a few new bloggers and made a few new friends too.

The Makes of 2013

I'm not going to do a full count (because let's be honest, I lost count months ago), but here's a few accomplishments that I'm happy to share.

Finished my HUGE Little Black Dress Swoon Quilt. I haven't had a chance to write up a full post, but I got it back from the Longarmer and put the binding on in time to gift it to the BF's mother at Christmas. Yay!

Completed two quilts for Dear Stella and got to play with new fabrics, including their new sparkle confetti dots!

Sewed not one, but TWO Amy Butler Weekender Bags! And yes, they were the exact same (Hi Xandi!) and yes, I still love the pattern.

This holiday season, I sewed approximately 60 Christmas Stockings for my Etsy shop, plus 4 tree skirts and a 90" table runner - did I mention I did all of that in only 8 short weeks?!

Speaking of Holidays, I actually crammed in a bit of last minute Christmas gifts. I finished a set of placemats for my mom, plus 2 fold over clutches, a Christmas table topper and a throw quilt top. I'll share more on that and my love of Handmade gifts in the next week or so.

How did your 2013 end up? I'll be back early next week with my thoughts on 2014 and my personal sewing goals and goals for the blog - I think I finally have a plan and I'm so excited!

Giveaway Day - Christmas Tree Table Runner

Christen Barber248 Comments

Yay for Sew Mama Sew Giveaway Day! For those of you who are new, welcome! I'm so excited to be participating again, as I had a very successful giveaway in the spring and found a lot of new blogs and online friends!

I'm very busy sewing lots of Christmas stockings these days, so I'm feeling particularly Christmas-y and thought that a giveaway of my HST Christmas Tree Table Runner that I created a tutorial for during Sew Mama Sew's Christmas in July series.

The runner is made with the Hip Holiday line and its super cheerful, fun and bright - the perfect addition to any holiday decor or a great hostess gift! Its ok to re-gift if you win, I know how hard it is to fit in time to make gifts prior to Christmas!

Enter To Win

To enter to win the handmade table runner:
Entry #1: leave a comment below with your favorite color combinations for holiday decorating.
Entry #2: like Love By Hand on Facebook and leave a comment that you did below.

The Giveaway ends on Friday, December 13. I'll choose a comment by random number generator. 

Good Luck! 

Be sure to head on over to Sew Mama Sew to see all of the other giveaways and find new blogs to follow!