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Jolly Braid Tote Bag

Introducing the Jolly Braid Tote Bag

Check out this new tote bag pattern from the Fat Quarter Shop! It’s a great way to use their exclusive 5” x 10” jolly bar precut fabrics.

Jolly Braid Tote Bag using Zen Chic Modern Backgrounds Luster fabrics by Moda

Jolly Braid Tote Bag: Pattern by the Fat Quarter Shop and fabric by Zen Chic “Modern Background Luster” for Moda Fabrics.

I’ve made several different bags in the past, and this is my favorite pattern for several reasons:

  • The size of the bag (12″x11″x5″) is perfect.
  • The design is timeless.
  • The bag is easy to sew! The pattern instructions are clear and there’s a great video tutorial.
  • The Soft and Stable adds great shape to the bag and quilts easily.


One reason I chose to make a bag instead of buying one is to personalize it to fit my style and needs.

Fabric Placement

Before I began sewing the braid, I chose six jolly bars for my handles because I wanted them to look like a cohesive unit rather than patchwork. I chose prints that had duplicates so each handle mirrored the other.

For the braid, instead of randomly adding strips, I decided to follow the gradation of color as it was packaged in the jolly bar.

Zen Chic Modern Backgrounds Luster jolly bar

Choosing fabrics for my new road-trip bag.

I placed the dark fabrics in the middle so that they would be on the bottom of the bag. By laying out my strips in advance, I was able to achieve the look I wanted.

Jolly Braid and Side Panels of the Bag


The pattern doesn’t include any interior pockets. Since I like to keep small objects accessible, I used extra jolly bars to create pockets and top-stitched them to the bag lining. I stitched down the middle of one jolly bar pocket to divide it into two smaller sections. The full size pocket holds my pens and mobile phone.

I added interior pockets

Interior pockets organize small items.


  • I used clear Elmer’s Re-Stick washable glue stick (found in the school supplies aisle) to tack the beginning triangle in place and skipped the pins. After I ironed each strip, I added a dab of glue to hold it in place while I stitched on the next strip. By using small dabs of the glue, I didn’t need to use any pins.
  • I left the paper backing on the pieced unit until I added the side pieces; it stabilized the bias edges along the braid as I stitched.
  • I used 505 Basting Spray to ensure my bag unit and Soft and Stable didn’t shift while I quilted it. (I always have this on hand to baste quilts.)
  • I used a clear monofilament thread when I quilted my bag to add texture without additional color that would compete with the gold shimmer on the fabrics.
  • I have large hands, so I left a 5″ opening (instead of 3″) when I stitched the lining to the bag. It made turning the bag right-side-out much easier for me.

Check out other blogger’s who are quilting along! Find photos on Instagram by searching on #jollybraidtote or #jollybraidtotebag.

Linking up with Crazy Mom Quilts and Confessions of a Fabric Addict

Play: Photography and Sewing Just for Fun

Do you need a break from The Overwhelm, the constant coverage of tragedies streaming over TV, radio, and social media? Then take time to play — no deadlines, no pressure — have fun! Spending a few moments doing something you enjoy each day will contribute to your overall wellbeing.

Faffing About: Spending Time in Fun

If you’re an Instagram fan, chances are you’ve heard of faffing: engaging in an activity that’s actually wasting time, not productive. Often photographers who photograph flatlays of objects, such as food or flowers, tag their art #faffing. But don’t think of it as a waste of time, rather it’s engaging in recreational activity — play!

Here are two examples of my faffing about home this week.

Pecking Order PincushionSawtooth Star Pincusion

These photos of my handmade pincushions aren’t especially spectacular; however, I spent at least fifteen or twenty minutes scouting out locations in my home, rearranging backdrops, adjusting lighting, snapping many photos from slightly different angles, and finally editing the shots.

When I faff about, my husband usually asks me what I’m doing, scurrying about — looking busy — but nothing of obvious importance seems to be happening. (Sometimes I put him to work, like when I asked him to hold an electrical cord for my lamp so that it wouldn’t dangle in the background of my photo.)

My dog paces the floor as he watches me, and often he pops his nose or head into my shot. If I move to quickly to flick a light switch, he rushes at me with concern, usually colliding with me and causing a bit of an upset. Perhaps I’ve turned faffing into a family sport.

Sometimes You Need a Nudge to Play

“Come and play with me!”

It’s always more fun to play with someone else, and it’s feels so great to be invited to participate in someone else’s game.

On Instagram, some photography hubs will hold weekly challenges, inviting photographers to join in the game of capturing an image with a particular theme. Instagram has it’s own Weekend Hashtag Project — check it out! This weekend is #WHPdayoff to show how you spend your free time. I love scrolling through the photos to see everyone’s creative spin.

Quilters also like to play — alone with their fabric or stitching along with others.

This week I decided to join in on Moda Fabric’s 12 Designer contest on Instagram. “Simply make a pincushion using any Minick and Simpson fabric and post a picture on Instagram with the tag #12contestsminickandsimpson. It was the perfect nudge to join in the fun, see what other sewists were up to, and play with my fabric tucked away in my Vault of Happiness.

When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” – Walt Disney

The first pincushion is a spin-off from Missouri Star Quilt Company’s pattern, Pecking Order. Instead of putting together five-inch blocks, I started with a 2½″ block and trimmed to 1½″. The finished pincushion is 4″ square. The second pincushion is the traditional Sawtooth Star block (finishing at 4″ square) and the only the center red square is filled with crushed walnut shells to form the pincushion.

It’s raining outside today, so I plan to spend a little more time at my sewing machine. How are you going to play today?

Today I’m linking up with Amanda Jean at Crazy Mom Quilts. Have some fun and see who’s joining along.

Play: Our Brain’s Favorite Way to Learn

Do you make time to play each day?

My favorite daily creative play is iPhone photography. As I walk my goldendoodle through our neighborhood, usually something captures my attention because of how it’s bathed in natural light. It may be a small flower or a brazen sunset flashing across the horizon.

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Lady of the Lake Quilt

Recently the Fat Quarter Shop invited me to participate in the Lady of the Lake quilt along. I was so excited to play with fabric I pulled from my vault of happiness and learn a few new tricks along the way. Check it out! Maybe you’ll decide to make a Lady of the Lake quilt; it’s perfect for all my family in friends living in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (Minnesota).

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Opening My Vault of Happiness

My favorite part of a meal is dessert. There’s rarely a nutritional benefit; it’s sole purpose is delight!

Work is the meat of life, pleasure the dessert. - B. C. Forbes

I also welcome other things and experiences into my life for the sheer happiness they bring: flowers growing outside the door, a dog’s wagging tail, the organic fragrance of trees and ferns growing in a park, and the sound of rain falling on the roof.

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Change: Time for More, Time for Less, Time for Rest

Butterfly - Give yourself time to change.

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. – Maya Angelou

More Learning, More Connecting, More Creating

In my last post, Discovery: The Examined Life, I shared ideas from Bob Buford’s book, Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance. Buford encourages his readers to spend time in self-discovery — live lives that are more. More creative, more impactful, more meaningful, more adventurous, more learning, more contribution.

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Discovery: The Examined Life

An unexamined life is not worth living. - Socrates
My last blog post introduced Bob Buford’s book, Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance.1 Buford begins his book by describing his successful career. Then, after experiencing the unexpected death of a family member, Buford describes his time of personal discovery during which he asks himself a probing question.

“Is this as good as it gets?”

Buford labeled that slice of time halftime because he equated it to a football coach adjusting his game plan between the first and second halves of a football game, thereby enabling the team to play their best game.

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Can I Skip the Crisis?

Can I have a constructive midlife crisis?

Today I began reading Bob Buford’s book, Halftime:® Moving from Success to Significance, and I’m especially curious to learn whether Buford’s book departs from or confirms the ideas put forth by Richard Rohr. As I read the preface, I anticipated that Buford’s experience might be very different.

Instead of facing a crisis as I approached middle age, I discovered that a new and better life lay before me. I called the process of discovery “halftime,” and the eventual outcome of this process led to my “second half.” The metaphor fit because, after a successful first half, I needed a break to make some changes in how I played the second. I had plenty of success over the preceding twenty years, and I wasn’t burned out or frustrated, but I felt something was missing and I needed to change my game plan. In retrospect I can see that I must have been divinely protected from chasing down the usual trails people take to find what was missing.

Compared to Rohr’s description of “a necessary suffering and humbling pain” moving people into the second half of life, Buford’s experience sounded a lot easier.

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A Necessary Suffering

crushed from every side

Yesterday I wrote a very brief overview of Richard Rohr’s book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Basically Rohr says that people first build their identities, then experience a necessary suffering that serves as a crossover, and finally God calls them on to a further journey of faith during the second half of life. Rohr notes that not everyone chooses to move into that further journey, but rather they will spend their lives continually focused on building and maintaining their identities.

Does everyone agree with Rohr’s viewpoint? Probably not, yet it’s worth considering. I would say my own life does fit that pattern.

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A Midlife Crisis


At last I finished reading Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life1 by Richard Roar. This was the first book I read so far in which the author acknowledges a midlife crisis.

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