Road Trip Adventures, Stop 4: Boston, MA

Today I’m highlighting our 4th “stop” on our recent road trip: Boston, MA.

{If you want to follow along with the road trip from the beginning start with this post.}

Tuesday

Cat got us all set up with the MBTA app so we could use it to purchase our train ticket (how convenient is that?! You can purchase your train tickets on your phone!).

  • Tip: Download the MTA mTicket app (it’s free!) and go ahead and purchase at least 2 tickets (1 round trip). That way you’re not fumbling around trying to enter your credit card information while on the train. The tickets will sit in your app until you activate them (do that when you see the conductor coming through to check tickets after you board).

We boarded the train and enjoyed the scenery all the way into Boston.

train view

View from the train

Our main goal on Tuesday was to find the fabric store I’d been patiently waiting to visit: Mercer’s Fabric.

As a seamstress who loves to travel, I look forward to Seamwork Magazine‘s “The Seamworker’s Guide” each month – the guide features a city and includes a list of “must-visit” fabric shops in the area. In the June 2015 issue they featured Boston, Massachusetts. We knew Cat was heading there for grad school so I immediately pinned the post to my Travel Board.

By the description in the guide, I knew I would enjoy Grey’s Fabric so I started following the shop on Instagram. I realized in October that Grey’s Fabric was closing, but Mercer’s Fabric was taking over.

  • Tip: When you find shops that you want to visit, find them on social media and start following them before your trip. You’ll be able to get a good feel for what their shop is like through pictures and posts. Shops usually post about special items they offer that you may quickly glance past if you hadn’t read all about said item when it was featured on their social media (example: when Mercer’s Fabric posted these cute little cupcake pin cushion rings! I’m ashamed to say I didn’t buy one [and seriously regret it], but I would’ve looked right past them if not for the post I saw on Instagram).

Ok, back to our excursion to find Mercer’s Fabric…

We got lost. More than once. But Boston is a very walkable city so walking in circles wasn’t horrible and we ended up walking along the Harborwalk.

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View from the Harborwalk – North End

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View from the Harborwalk – North End

We finally found Mercer’s Fabric on Charles Street which was a really cute area! I was so excited to touch all of the fabric that I slacked off on picture-taking while in the shop so I only got 2.

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Mercer’s carries loads of patterns from indie designers including Colette (founder of Seamwork Magazine)

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A wall of colorful designer fabric – what could be more lovely?!

I found a bra-making kit in the corner of the store that I snagged. Bra-making is all the rage right now. I’ve been following the trend on Instagram and have become totally smitten with all the lace and girly details – plus, everyone who has made their own says the fit is worth the effort.

The kit I bought was compiled for the Marlborough bra pattern but said it could be used for others. Since I have access to the Florence bra pattern with my Seamwork Magazine subscription, I am going to give it a try before I purchase another pattern {because it’s very likely my bra-making adventures may be a total flop so I should keep my investment low 😉 }. Stay tuned: I promise to post all about the process when I take the plunge with my kit!

bra kit

Bra kit from Mercer’s Fabric

I also picked up 2.5 yards of a really lovely printed knit. I’m not totally sure what I’m going to make with it, but it’s highly likely I’ll make another Out and About Dress {because you know from this post and this post that it’s my very favorite pattern}.

After we left Mercer’s Fabric, we were starving.  A friend had recommended sweetgreen so we searched for the nearest location and started our trek. #WorthIt

  • Where to Eat: sweetgreen! Oh.my.yum! Salad has never tasted so good. Even the Hubs thought it was tasty.
first church

Scenery from our walk: First Church in Boston – built in 1630.

After fueling up on greens, we found the nearest metro. Instead of purchasing all-day passes like we did in DC, we just loaded enough money onto passes to get to Cambridge and back since that was our only non-walkable destination.

We headed for the Harvard Square Station on the metro in hopes of walking around Harvard’s campus. Apparently Harvard’s campus is notorious for just blending in [there’s no obvious sign or college-style-grass-quads] so we were never totally sure we’d made it. I had hoped to find the bookstore to buy my Mom a t-shirt, but frankly you can buy Harvard gear everywhere in Boston so that was low priority.

  • Where to stop for coffee: Darwin’s Ltd. Coffee shop – if you’re lucky [like us]: you’ll overhear a student discussing an experiment with his professor that you can’t even begin to understand, but you find totally fascinating nonetheless
    • What to order: the tuxedo cookie – I’m pretty sure this was the best cookie I’ve ever eaten! And I’m not even a fan of crunchy cookies!

darwin

While we were at Darwin’s, Jeremy got a call from one of his lacrosse teammates from PC. Turns out that Ben was arriving in Boston as they spoke so they made plans to meet up.

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The Hubs (right) and Ben.

Thankfully Ben is a good sport (aka: open to going to a vegetarian restaurant with us for dinner!) because the real reason we in Cambridge was because I read an article about Veggie Galaxy in an issue of Vegetarian Times magazine and immediately added it to my Food Bucket List.

GUYS!! An all-vegetarian DINER!! I couldn’t resist. We had to visit.

I got the Rachel sandwich which entailed: grilled, shaved corned beef seitan, green cabbage slaw, swiss cheese, and house-made thousand island dressing. It was even tastier than it looks.

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the Rachel in all her glory

We also ordered the Hot Fudge Brownie Sundae. The coconut whipped cream is the most delicious thing I have [very likely] ever experienced. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

  • Where to Eat: Veggie Galaxy – vegetarian diner.
    • What to order: I’m pretty sure there’s nothing you could order that wouldn’t be absolutely delightful. Though I do recommend the sundae {because *when in Rome*!}.

In other news, I’ve now added all 24 of these Vegan restaurants recommended by BuzzFeed to my Food Bucket List.

Wednesday

We returned to Boston via “the T” (train) again. This time we had less on our list.

boston

Since we got a late start, we got off the train and immediately looked for the nearest sweetgreen for lunch again (it was that good!). When we finally reached it, the line was wrapped around the block (seriously, that good!).

We turned around and found an alternative which turned out to be [dare-I-say?!] even tastier!

  • Where to Eat: Bon Me – apparently there is a food truck, but we stumbled upon the physical location of the restaurant. It’s Vietnamese served in a paper box. It is absolutely delicious.
    • What to order: Roasted Soy and Paprika Tofu Rice Bowl

Cat raved about the Boston Tea Party Museum so we stopped by the gift shop after lunch. Both the Hubs and I really prefer to explore on our own so we skipped a tour (though I heard that you get to throw fake tea into the harbor during the tour so maybe it’s worth it!).

We then headed toward the USS Constitution to start the Freedom Trail.

freedom trail

Before jumping on the trail, we explored the USS Constitution Museum. It was a bit cheesy and I wouldn’t add it to my “must visit” list, but the gift shop was neat. Unfortunately the ship was closed when we were there so we couldn’t tour inside.

Several friends had recommended following the Freedom Trail. It was so fun (and super enjoyable for travelers like us because you can follow it at your own will only stopping when you want to)!

  • Tip: Follow The Freedom Trail. This self-guided tour will lead you all through Boston on foot. You’ll pass loads of places to pop in for souvenirs or exploring. Not to mention all the fascinating historic sites you’ll see!

There’s a giant red line that winds all through the city so that you pass all kinds of wonderful historic sites – like the church where the signal lanterns of Paul Revere displayed in the steeple on April 18, 1775 to warn the country that the British were coming.

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And this in-action Paul Revere statue…

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We took a quick rest break by the statue and as we looked over we saw this:

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Look in the middle window on the second floor!

That bulldog sat in the window looking out at the passersby for quite a while – it was the cutest thing!!

Then we passed Paul Revere’s house:

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We passed several graveyards – none of which I can remember, but one of them housed the grave of Samuel Adams:

samuel adams

The trail also passed by Quincy Market which we had already explored the previous day, but we did take some time to watch the street performers out front – they were great!

In a nutshell, that’s our visit to Boston! Mostly we just wandered and enjoyed every minute.

Only 2 stops left for the road trip! I’ll be sharing all about Salem, MA and Virginia with you next week. 

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Road Trip Adventures, Stop 3: Marblehead, MA

Sunday

After stopping in Alexandria and exploring DC, we reached our destination: Marblehead, MA – just outside of Boston.

The Hubs’ sister is attending graduate school at Salem State University. She has an adorable apartment that she agreed to let us to crash in for a few days while we explored the area {aren’t siblings the best?!}

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Clearly she’s very excited we’re visiting! 😉

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I call this one: “Pure Joy” – siblings 1 & 2 of 3.

Her apartment is in Marblehead which is on the coast and absolutely breathtaking!

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Upon our arrival on Sunday, Cat showed us around some of her favorite spots.

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It was windy and chilly, but totally worth climbing the rock for the view!

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We arrived in the afternoon on Sunday so we spent most of the day exploring the area around Cat’s apartment and settling in.

Monday

Since it was supposed to rain all day Monday (and it did!), we decided to travel to Norwood. Why Norwood? Because the Hubs heard there was a MonkeySports Superstore there.

He has been ordering from Lacrosse Monkey and Hockey Monkey for quite a while and didn’t realize they actually had a physical location. Once he figured that out and realized it was within driving distance, we had to visit 😉

It was about an hour’s drive from where we were staying, but totally worth it [for him at least!]. His eyes totally lit up when we walked in. He was like a kid in a candy store.

Being that I know nothing about either sport [in my defense, I’ve tried to figure it out, but ultimately I’m just a clueless spectator], I found a comfortable place to sit for the hours he spent exploring.

{I had several fabric shops on my list so I took this as an opportunity to be very patient so I could remind him later 😉 }

Thursday

I’m jumping ahead to Thursday since we spent most of the day Thursday in Marblehead and this post is all about Marblehead.

While driving to the train station on Tuesday and Wednesday, we passed some of the cutest houses. I couldn’t wait to wind down the week and just wander through Marblehead to take in all the beautiful views.

church

firehouse

Even the firehouse is adorable! {I mean – look at that balcony!}

pink house

My tiny dream house!

ramp

rocks

shell

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Coast view

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This is our “if-we-win-the-lottery” dream house! Can you imagine waking up to that view every morning?!

house

The turquoise door and shutters of this house had me swooning!

Thursday was probably my very favorite day of our road trip. We woke up, walked out the front door and just kept walking.

My favorite thing to do when exploring a new place is to wander with no plan.

  • Tip: Pack comfortable walking shoes and spend a few hours wandering around the area you’re staying. Despite the fact that travel usually means vacation, it can still be a bit stressful [even if just physically stressful]. Walking is something I find incredibly helpful with my anxiety and is a neat way to discover beautiful scenery you may have just buzzed right past if you were driving everywhere. Be sure to take a camera with you.
    • So far this has served me well in every place I’ve visited, but if you have a poor sense of direction or are staying in a not-so-safe-looking-area I don’t know that I’d recommend this tip for you 😉
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Exploring with the Hubs will always be my favorite thing to do.

  • Where to Eat:
    • Shubie’s – it’s a cute, locally owned specialty grocery store with a tasty deli. My favorite part was that they had delicious samples all over the store {am I the only adult who gets crazy-excited when grocery stores have samples?! This is basically the reason I do the majority of my shopping at Trader Joe’s…}
    • Terry’s Old-Fashioned Ice Cream Shop – order yourself a small vanilla ice cream and ask for the warm cookie dough topping. YEP, you read that right: warm cookie dough.
      • This shop was walking distance from Cat’s apartment. I’m extremely proud to say we only went there twice {talk about serious self-control}.
  • Shops to visit: 
    •  The Spirit of ’76 Bookstore & Card Shop – this independent bookseller is the coolest bookstore I’ve ever been to! They have a really neat section of books wrapped in kraft paper with a description written on the front (called a “Blind Date with a Book”). I couldn’t resist so I picked up one for my sister as a souvenir:
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Souvenir for my sister from the Spirit of ’76 Bookstore.

  • Scribe Paper & Gift – this shop had the cutest card selection! I had already stocked up on cards at Paper Source in Alexandria so I didn’t buy as many as I wanted to. But I did find a super fun mug for my Dad {I haven’t given it to him yet or I’d show you, but trust me: this shop is full of quirky, unique souvenir options!}.
  • Marblehead Outfitters – this shop reminded me a bit of our locally owned Backpacker. They had really cute t-shirts – I picked up this one for my sister:
t-shirt

Shirt from Marblehead Outfitters for my sister.

We loved our time in Marblehead! Up next I’ll be sharing all about the fun spots we visited in Boston {including a lovely fabric shop!}.

Road Trip Adventures, Stop 1: Alexandria, Virginia

As I mentioned in last month’s post, the Hubs and I took a road trip to Boston for spring break. Now that we’re back and feeling oh-so-refreshed, I wanted to share some trip highlights with you.

I’ve broken our trip into separate posts by location. I’ve sprinkled in travel tips that came in handy for planning our road trip. {PS: I’d love for you to share your travel tips in the comment section at the bottom of this post!}

Today I’m sharing about the first leg of our road trip: our stop in Alexandria, Virginia [with a quick visit to the National Harbor].

On our drive to Boston, we planned a two-day stop in Washington, DC. We booked a room at the Hampon Inn and Suites in Alexandria. The hotel was great! Very friendly staff, clean rooms, comfy bedding – I’d stay there again.

The hotel also offered free parking and a free shuttle to Alexandria/Old Town or the metro. Being that we were going to have plenty of time in the car, we ditched it for two days and utilized the shuttle and the metro.

Friday

We left bright-and-early so we could arrive to DC in the early afternoon.

National Harbor

We had considered staying at the National Harbor (I stayed there when I spoke at Tableau’s conference a few years ago and loved it), but once we factored in paying for daily parking, Alexandria [less than 10 minutes away] won for the budget.

Since we arrived to DC a few hours before hotel check-in, we drove straight to the National Harbor to check that off our “to visit” list.

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National Harbor

If you’re planning to visit DC, you should definitely plan a quick stroll through the National Harbor! It’s a gorgeous area to walk and there are often neat events going on (none for our dates though). It’s a very family-friendly area.

You can find all kinds of helpful information for planning your visit to the National Harbor here.

  • Where to Eat: Nando’s Peri Peri (flavorful Portugese cuisine. The National Harbor location has great outdoor seating).

Alexandria/Old Town

When we decided to stay in Alexandria, I quickly found a site with information for visitors (here!).

  • Tip: When planning a vacation or a stop on your roadtrip, google:
  1. things to do in [CITY, STATE]” – for bigger cities you can often find some great lists or blogs with ideas of cool places to visit, local events or other ideas for things to do you may not have thought of.
  2. visit [CITY, STATE]” – this will usually take you to a visitor’s site for the area. These are a great resource for tourists! I like to find hotel recommendations there [which I then follow-up with reading reviews from several sites like any trained researcher 😉 ]. I also like to browse the event calendars to see if there are any unique things going on during the time we’ll be there.

Friday we took the hotel shuttle to downtown Alexandria and explored. We walked along the waterfront and through Founders Park – it was gorgeous!

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We loved the walking paths and watching the dogs playing in the park. If we had a blanket, we definitely would have had a picnic here!

You can see downtown DC from the waterfront in Alexandria and if you look close enough you can see the Capitol!

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If you’re visiting Alexandria, take some time to walk along the waterfront before the sun goes down – it’s lovely.

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The cobblestone roads reminded me of Charleston. {Note: don’t wear heals!}

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After we’d had fun wandering around, we started looking for a dinner spot. There are lots of yummy options {you can browse some here}, but I did little research on food in Alexandria so we stumbled upon a pizza place without a long line – Bugsy’s – and went for it. We opened the menu only to find out the restaurant was opened by a former Montreal Canadien‘s hockey player {the Hubs’ favorite hockey team as shown ironically by his attire for the evening!}

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I spotted a beautiful paper shop across the street as soon as we left the restaurant. Have you ever visited a Paper Source store?! This was my first time. It’s definitely paper heaven.

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Yes, I admit it: I wish these were fabric. I would’ve bought them all! 😉

We picked up some quirky birthday and mother’s day cards before heading back.

Saturday

We got up bright and early [again] to maximize our day – we had a lot planned!

  • Tip: If your hotel offers free breakfast, take advantage of that! One less meal and coffee to purchase = more souvenir money! If you’re brave, snag an apple/banana/other non-refrigerated snacks to throw in your backpack for the day ahead.

Alexandria’s visitor site has a list of free things to do which was super helpful! I’m much more inclined to do something if it’s free 😉 [again: free events = more souvenir money].

On the list: the Old Town Farmers Market. We took the hotel shuttle to Alexandria early Saturday morning after breakfast. The shuttle dropped us right in front of the market which was full of beautiful flowers, locally grown produce, plants and handmade goodies. It was beautiful!

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Flowers at the Old Town Farmers Market

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More flowers at the Old Town Farmers Market {with festive bunnies for Easter!}

While walking to the King Street metro station from the market, we passed loads of beautiful shops. The area reminds me so much of Charleston with all the colorful buildings.

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If we hadn’t have set out so early, I would’ve loved to explore the Pendleton store!

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I’ve never been to a Pendleton store, but from the window it looked fabulous!

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That dress! And that sweater! #AllTheHeartEyes

After getting an all-day pass for the metro (it was about $15, but with destinations on our list that were spread out this proved to be worth it), we set off for downtown DC!

Stay tuned: I’ll share the details of our DC exploration this Friday. 

Follow along on our Road Trip with these posts: 

Melly Sews Favorite Purse {and mine too!}

In July I visited Baltimore for work. The trip snuck up on me and backed right up to our annual trip to Asheville.

As usual, I had about a bajillion sewing projects running through my head that I was determined to make before leaving. At the top of the list was Melly Sews’ Favorite Purse. I knew this would be the perfect travel bag – it has ample pockets and is larger than my usual cross-body pattern.

And so, I spent the Friday evening before leaving for Baltimore cutting out and taping the paper pattern pieces followed by cutting the fabric. Since I wasn’t going to sew until Saturday, I pinned the paper pattern pieces to the fabric pieces so I could easily locate pieces for construction.

I had bought the pattern when Melly was running a killer sale for Memorial Day weekend (you should sign up for her newsletter so you can get in on those and see all the free patterns & tutorials she offers – and check out her blog).

I was feeling a little intimidated with all the zippers involved with constructing the Favorite Purse, but I’ve been practicing with simple zipper clutches lately (here’s my favorite tutorial!) and was feeling more confident.

Melly includes great instructions in her pattern with lots of helpful pictures.

I even learned how to make my own bias tape which was very exciting after I had looked at fabric shops to see if I could find a cute package of patterned bias tape a few weeks ago (in an effort to save time) and was super bummed to discover only solid colors 😦 I knew I wanted the main fabric to be solid for versatility, but wanted the bias tape to add a little pizzazz. So, I taught myself! It was much easier than I thought.

I’m really excited at how my bag turned out AND how it perfectly matches my Noodle Head Super Tote (which I used as my carry on bag).

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matching handmade bags for the WIN!

One thing to note about my version of the Favorite Purse is that I excluded the oval shaped side tabs. I had originally cut out the pieces and fully intended to add them (because they looked so cute!), but attaching the bias tape around the curved edges almost killed me. I had little time to spare so I just nixed them from my design (since they weren’t essential) and it turned out okay! 🙂

I also added a magnetic clasp to the front pocket (behind my label on the interior). I did not add a magnetic clasp to the back pocket (which looks the same as the front without a label) because it would be lying flat against me so would likely stay shut (and it did). I appreciated the back pocket not having a clasp because it actually made it more convenient for holding my plane tickets.

My zippers are a bit mismatched because I decided late Friday night that I’d spend the whole day Saturday constructing the purse. I knew if I went to the craft store for matching zippers in the morning, I’d be there for hours buying all sorts of other things and lose precious construction time. {I needed to be up early Sunday morning to drive to Charlotte to catch my flight. And I still hadn’t packed. Time was of the essence.}

The black zipper at the top is from The Zipper Shop on Etsy, the interior zipper (I used a 6 inch zipper and added fabric zipper tabs on each end so it fit the area I’d cut in the interior to attach) is from The Zipper Stop on Etsy, and the light blue zipper that you see on the front is a vintage zipper I picked up at an estate sale (never underestimate the goodies you can find at a garage or estate sale!).

On similar note, I recently ordered zippers from The Zipper Shop on Etsy. I love the selection and the quality of these zippers. The shop is located in North Carolina which also makes me happy (we Carolinas like to stick together 😉 #GeographyJoke) and the shop owner is super fast with shipping!

I just ordered these beauties and can’t wait to use them!

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[Click the image to be taken to these zippers on Etsy]

I skipped making my own removable strap. Thanks to my obsession with vintage purses and the fact that many of them have removable straps (and my friend Emily who brings me straps she finds while thrifting!), I had a few on hand so I knew one was sure to work. I had a shorter leather luggage strap that Emily found a few months ago that worked perfect (thanks Emily!)! Since the bag is a good bit deeper than my usual cross-body bags + I’m a good bit shorter than the average person, this shorter strap was a life saver (because I couldn’t find an adjustable strap in my stash to match!).

Excluding the time it took to cut out and piece together the paper pieces (which wasn’t too bad) and cut the fabric pieces, the bag took a full day to construct (if you eliminate my coffee reheating breaks and a dinner break [yes, I forgot about lunch], it was probably close to 6-ish hours). That being said, it was totally worth it! I know I am going to get a lot of use out of this bag – it’s by far my most useful yet (because of all the pockets and the depth! It’s got the storage of a shoulder bag, but the comfortable wear and functionality of a cross-body bag…win!).

From the airport to the streets of the Inner Harbor (shopping, dining, sight seeing and wandering), this bag was perfect. It easily held all my necessities and even a few small souvenirs. It kept my plane tickets, room key, conference badge and other essentials organized and easily accessible so I wasn’t awkwardly digging around trying to find something when I needed it.

Oh, and here I am taking shameless elevator selfies after arriving to Baltimore {I just had to get an “in action” shot so you could see how fabulous this bag is!}:

travel bags

Matching handmade bags & my weirdest wolf shirt make for great travel attire 😉

Interested in making your own version of Melly Sews‘ Favorite Purse? Find the pattern here.