by Emma Thomas-McGinnis, artist & quilter

Messenger Bags

October 13th, 2013 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (1 Comments)

Spurred on by a Modern Quilt Guild Tote Bag Swap, I made a new product for my Etsy shop….Messenger Bags! (None of these are for my swap partner though, that reveal hasn’t happened yet, so I’m not posting that bag yet!) (more…)

Weekend Projects

April 1st, 2012 | Posted by Emma in Crafts | Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Last weekend when my husband and oldest son went on a trip, Brennan and I got a little extra “project time”…here are few of the fun projects we did. (more…)

More Christmas Gifts to Share

January 4th, 2012 | Posted by Emma in Crafts | Quilting | Uncategorized - (3 Comments)

Ok, so I had a very productive holiday season of homemade gift-giving! Here are a few more I wanted to show you before moving on… (oh and stay tuned for a wrap-up of the gifts my husband made this year, with a little help from his wife!)

This is a package of three little gifts I gave to my small group secret santa, Veronica. Using a fabric line I knew she’d love, I made a button bag zipper tote, a pin cushion and a fancy twisted drawstring pouch.

Then I made a big quilted tote bag for my sister in law who loves to knit. It’s big enough to put a lot of yarn and a sweater in, I’m sure! I used a charm pack called “Cherish Nature”, that I totally love! I was actually starting to think I should keep the bag halfway through, because I loved those fabrics so much. But my generosity won out because it was Christmas and I wanted Jennifer’s gift to be great!

I loved the quilting on this! I used my favorite free motion pattern and it really looked nice…look at those beautiful fabrics!

Two big pockets inside and one on the outside, along with really big, sturdy handles, make this a really useful bag!

And this might have been the most fun project for me, because I truly love making stuffed toys…and I don’t have many girly gifts to give in my family!

Doesn’t look like much yet, but open it up…

it’s a dolly slumber party!

Here’s my hand holding a dolly, so you can see the fun little size they are.

The pattern came from one of my favorite stuffed toy books “Wee Wonderfuls” by Hilary Lang.

Sidetrack: Button Bag

June 6th, 2011 | Posted by Emma in Quilting | Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

Ever see a project you just have to make…so much that you abandon all your other works-in-progress to just start and finish all at once?! That’s what I did this weekend with this silly little “Button Bag.”

I saw the pattern when I was on a business meeting at the Quilt Block. They had a sample made up that was so cute even Brennan loved it and wanted to take it home. I told him we couldn’t do that, but that I could buy the pattern and make one for us. But I admit, when I started making it, I didn’t think of making it for him. I really just wanted to use some of my charm packs. I have several charm packs and a shoebox size tote full of hand-cut and swapped charms in my stash. They are just such a fun size to collect!! It’s just big enough to see the pattern of most fabrics and small enough to cut lots from scraps.

Anyway, this is the pattern. And this is my start….

I used the charm pack called Hideaway by Moda. Just that, no scrap matching, just pulling it right out of that charm pack so I could get stitching. It was actually pretty fun that way! BUT I didn’t like it as I was stitching it together…it looked like a multi-colored mess, too wild and kiddish for me. (The color in the photo above is not very accurate, but it was pretty wild!) UNTIL…

It was turned into a bag. Then, it was actually really cute! (color above is much more true)

Maybe it’s because you can only see half at once, or maybe it’s because those multi-colored fabrics are a part of something in a cute and fun-to-hold shape…but I love it!

Oh, it has a zipper inside too. Not a great construction method, though, because the zipper was to be sewed in by hand and it was really difficult to do. If I make this bag again, I’ll try to figure out a better way.

Anyway, fun sidetrack weekend! Plus, we got a whole bunch of yard work done, the floors washed & vacuumed and laundry done…a very good weekend! Hope you had a good weekend too!

Frugal Blog Tour – Reusable Gift Wrap

December 13th, 2010 | Posted by Emma in All - (3 Comments)

Welcome to my post for Des Moines’ Frugal Blog Tour. I hope you have been enjoying all the blogs on the tour this week and last. There are links for the other stops on the tour here: Des Moines Frugal Family Examiner by Julia McGuire

My topic is Reusable Gift Wrapping. When you were shopping for Christmas gifts, did you happen to throw a few rolls of gift wrap into your cart?  Or do you have a stock pile of it stored away somewhere?  You may not think that extra few dollars is that big of a deal, but if you want to think frugal, remember that all that PAPER is just going to be thrown away a few minutes after the gift is opened. What a waste!!!  Now this is a tough challenge for someone who really has always loved wrapping presents (and wrapping paper is really pretty, wonderful stuff!), but I have challenged myself to reduce the waste this holiday season, and I hope you will try to too.

Some ways to reduce the waste…

1. Use part of the gift as the wrapping.

You know, those beautiful gift baskets of fruit or coffee you see in the store. Put together your own gift basket, skip the cellophane and your gift recipient won’t mind seeing the present before it’s opened, if the presentation is beautiful! Think about food treats in a basket or on a pretty platter, cooking gadgets packaged in a mixing bowl, an apron and potholders wrapped up in a tablecloth, you get the idea!

Especially for my quilter-friends, if you’re giving a gift to a fellow fabric lover, go ahead and wrap their gift in fabric! They’ll love you for it! Tie a ribbon with a little ric rac, bias binding or even a flexible tape measure!

2. Use a tote bag or purse as wrapping.

Have you noticed the cute reusable shopping bags that stores are selling these days. Target has them, craft stores & grocery stores have them, Toys R Us even had some fun ones. Look for a good pattern and strong, non-see through one, stuff it and tie it closed with a ribbon. It’ll look just as nice as a paper gift bag, but your recipient will have another extra little gift from you too, the tote bag. And what about a purse? Do you want to give a gift card, toiletries or even jewelry? Package it up in a purse and that’s a really nice extra gift. It will look more like a wrapped gift if you add a ribbon and a gift tag.

3. Make your own tote or gift bag.

I really enjoy making reusable shopping bags with recycled sheets or fabric that I don’t need anymore. You can go to for an easy tutorial or I like this tutorial for a folding “Green Grocery Bag.” Put your gift inside, then wrap it up in ribbons.

Then if you’re sewing, you can make a gift bag just the right size for your gift. Big craft stores have great sales on holiday fabrics, so it’s almost as inexpensive as gift wrapping paper…but this way it can be reused. If you give these bags to your own children, you can store them away where you would have stored unused up rolls of paper! (I’m thinking I’ll make a tutorial for these little guys later, if you’re interested, let me know!)

OR if your gift is something such as blocks or other toys with pieces, choose a non-seasonal fabric and your recipient can use the bag as storage. Drawstring bags are great for kids.
Here’s a really great tutorial, I haven’t tried to make yet, but plan to: Box with drawstring top tutorial by June at Noon

4. Use Recycled Items as the Wrapping.

If you’ve ever socked away a nice sturdy box thinking it would be good for something, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Try using something that would have otherwise became waste. I can remember many a year my family would open a gift and say, “No, I didn’t get you Cheerios” because we liked to reuse boxes. But you can eliminate this problem by decorating your box rather than wrapping it. Gold spray paint would be great, contact paper is nice, even last year’s greeting cards can cover up the label if most the box is simple, such as this shoebox. For the contact paper box, I used a sturdy corn dog box, coated it with a light spray paint primer first so the label wouldn’t show through and then wrapped it carefully with the contact paper. I can just see someone reusing this box for storage! And if not, it’s recycled, so it’s already been reused once!

5. Don’t forget decorative tins.

I think of my mom as I write this one! She used to collect tins! I think she still does, she uses them for storage in her sewing room and pantry! So pack up your mom’s gift in a pretty tin, I bet she’ll appreciate it!

Making it Pretty….

Just because it’s reusable or recycled, doesn’t mean that your gift has to be any less pretty on opening day. Feel free to add ribbons and gift tags. Use nice fabric ribbons and they might even be saved too. Try a tie on such as a tree ornament or festive brooch instead of the plastic premade bow.

I even like the idea of using a knit scrubby instead of a bow! Imagine this little treat in more festive yarn! (red and white?!) There’s an easy pattern for it here. I just made this last night thanks to Bobbi from My Little Soapbox, an earlier stop on the blog tour!! Thanks, Bobbi!

And thank you Julia, for inviting me to participate in your frugal blog tour, it’s been fun!

Now go wrap your presents!

Happy Holidays!


Handmade Christmas Part 1

December 12th, 2010 | Posted by Emma in All | Crafts - (0 Comments)

I LOVE making Christmas presents! There is nothing as fun as spending the whole day playing “Santa’s Workshop” and making as many presents as I can. I remember my mom trapping herself in the “sewing room” (a very small laundry room off the kitchen) and not letting anyone in while she was playing “Santa’s Workshop” so I know I’m not the only one who loves this. I have a very big list to get through and I hope I can do it in time for Christmas. I’ll show you a few of my creations as I am able…and I’ve also found quite a few ideas online to share with you.

The DIY Basic Bag…

The first thing I did was this pretty handbag. I made it from the DIY Dish’s “Basic Bag” tutorial. It’s super easy and fun, but I think it looks complicated and fancy, not basic at all. Check it out here. It’s really neat that you need 2 yards of coordinating fabric, how easy is that for shopping?! Although, you’ll see that with mine, I had trouble finding full yards in my stash, so I used a jelly roll to first make a yard of striped fabric, then make the bag.

Aren’t they pretty fabrics?! The jelly roll was a really nice one I received from Lisa at my quilting small group’s Christmas part last year…everyone loved the fabrics so much and passed them around, I knew they would like something made from it! So this was the gift I brought to this year’s gift exchange!

The Zippered Pouch…

Another perfect little gift is the zippered pouch. I made a few for my etsy shop and I may be giving away a few for Christmas! They’re fun to make and easy to customize for whatever style you think your recipient might like. Make it the right size for a handheld video game, phone or other gadget and it’s sure to be a hit!

This is the tutorial I used and loved, by “Make It Perfect.”

Project Quilting 1:2

May 31st, 2010 | Posted by Emma in All | Quilting - (0 Comments)

So, I forgot to take in progress photos of my latest “Project Quilting” challenge…but I definitely want to show you the finished project! And here’s the story….

The challenge: The theme is “Road Trip” and must use at least 12 different fabrics on the front of your quilt.

My inspiration: An old, metal, red cooler that my family had when I was growing up. We went on lots of family road trips and camping trips and decorated that cooler with souvenir stickers from the places we visited. I’m pretty sure my parents started the collection before I was born, because some of those stickers I just heard the stories about. It was a fascinating cooler.

So this tote bag is symbolic of that very special cooler! So, I found images of souvenir stickers online and tried out a new transfer paper I had called “TAP – Transfer Artist Paper”. It was pretty easy to use. It went through my inkjet printer really smoothly. Then I ironed it onto a piece of white cotton and the backing peeled right off. It was working a little too well, as I wanted the transfers to be rough around the edges. Many of those stickers had been through a lot, and were in various stages of faded and rubbing off, so I tried to mimic that by distressing the transfers a little and printing some of them more faded then others.

Click the image for a close-up of the patches.

Here’s one in progress photo I remembered to take.  I quilted diagonal lines on the outsides of the bag.  I also stitched around the patches.

The top border has a story too, I needed to include 12 fabrics, so I decided to go all out with scraps. I dug through and found any scraps I had that looked like scenery of a road trip; flowers, stones, starry skies and leaves. They are arranged in two strips on either side of a road-like dashed yellow line.

I wanted this to be a nice tote bag to use for future road trips, so I quilted the sides, lined it, made a gusset in the bottom so it’s really roomy and added nice thick handles, so it’s a really functional bag.
My mom doesn’t know where that old cooler is anymore…but the memory of it will live on in this project!

It’s already time to vote, so if you like my project, please go to Kim’s Crafty Apple and vote for it. But if you have a chance, go there to see all the other entries, too. There are some really talented quilters participating in these challenges. I don’t even know which I’m going to vote for! :)  You should actually go to the Flickr site to see all of the entries in more detail.

Earth Day

April 24th, 2008 | Posted by Emma in All | Crafts - (0 Comments)

Did you do something nice for the earth on April 22?! I hope so!! If not, there’s still time…make it Earth Day everyday. Here’s a picture of my project.

My small mission for the earth is to reduce the waste of plastic shopping bags. I made this reusable tote using six plastic shopping bags, ironed together until fused. They made a heavier plastic, with a feel more like nylon. I could then sew it into a sturdier, reusable tote bag. Link to Etsy Tutorial.

My other favorite kind of reusable tote bags are the Mors Bags. I’ve made probably twenty of those out of sheets and old curtains and use them for most of my grocery shopping, those that I haven’t given away. Please visit: