Losing a loved one is hard. And, sadly, sometimes, it can be tough to lose a stranger, too, especially if they’ve made a difference in your life. That’s what happened when I (and all the other “Lazies”) got the sad news that innovative sewing pattern designer Joan Hawley died May 3 after a massive brain bleed.
Her Lazy Girl Designs’ projects helped reinvigorate my love of sewing and convinced me to pick up quilting after avoiding it for many years of self-doubt. A lot of pattern makers are so good at what they do that they gloss over small details. It was sharing those little sewing secrets that Joan Hawley did best. She welcomed everyone to the cool kids’ table, not just the sewists with lots of experience under their belts.
Read on to learn more about Joan Hawley’s amazing work, and find out which cheerful projects from Lazy Girl Designs I’d recommend you buy and add to your sewing pattern library.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Who Is Joan Hawley?
Her friends called her “Joanie Joan.”
But, in her own words, Joan Hawley described herself as a “thinger.” Thinger is the wonderfully clever word that she came up with to describe all of us folks–like her—who are “a little sew-y, a little quilt-y” and like to mostly make things.
If you sew and her name doesn’t instantly ring a bell, because of the diversity of her patterns, there’s a good chance you know her famous company (or maybe even stopped by her blog for a tip or two).
For over 25 years, Joan Hawley’s Lazy Girl Designs’ patterns for “functional, gifty, easy-to-make, feel-good creations” have been a go-to for sewists because her designs are unpretentious, cute, quick-to-make, and not too complicated.
Joan Hawley used the skills she gained in the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program to help others go further in their sewing. She took the time to write every pattern in a way that ensured any sewist felt uplifted and confident that they could find success if they followed her lead.
In a charming 2018 interview about her pattern-making philosophy with the On the QT blog, she said: “Due to my own sewing tragedies, I keep my projects within a safe playground. And, I think the journey should be as enjoyable as getting there. … If you can cut and sew a straight line, you can make anything I design.”
The Best Lazy Girl Design Patterns
I love a sewing pattern that takes just a little effort but always turns out awesome.
I’ve made about eight of Joan Hawley’s projects that she developed for Lazy Girls Designs, and each turned out great. That said, there are three of her patterns that I return to over and over.
Based on my experience, the best Lazy Girl Design patterns are:
Why I Love Joan Hawley’s Fobios Pattern
What’s not to adore? If you have just a smidgen of special fabric, some interfacing, and a cute zipper, in less than an hour you can turn it into a fabulous fabric key chain using Joan Hawley’s pattern and her exclusive key fob hardware. (If you buy the pattern digitally, you can just use hardware from your favorite sewing supplies store. I have only used her hardware, though, and I can attest to its durability.)
Lots of patternmakers on Etsy and elsewhere sell patterns for fabric keychains, but—imho—none are as unique as Joan Hawley’s design. This project uses her signature “one-zip” technique that I mentioned earlier.
As a gift on its own or as a fun pull on a bag, the “Fobio” is a pattern I have sewn so many times I’ve lost count. It’s that good.
What Makes the Becca Bags Pattern So Good
Like the Fobios, you’ll learn Joan Hawley’s “take the zipper apart and put it back together” trick when you make either size of her Becca Bags. These small pouches are a great way to use three coordinating fabrics that you love.
For the first sets of Becca Bags that I sewed, I made a not-so-smart mistake of putting a light-colored fabric on the bottom. These bags are so rad you’ll use them a lot. Knowing this, don’t make the same mistake as me. Instead, plan your project so that your light-colored fabric is near the top so that you won’t have to wash them all the time to remove any dinge that will surely appear after regular use.
Why You Should Sew a Runaround Bag
Sometimes, you just don’t need a big heavy bag—am I right?
Joan Hawley knew this simple truth, and that’s one reason why she created the simple-yet-chic Runaround Bag pattern.
I love to use this small fabric purse at times when I want to be hands-free without the bulk of a big crossbody bag. I’ve pulled out my Runaround bags to hold my wallet and essentials on too many instances to count. They’ve been everywhere with me, from making antiques-hunting trips to the Shipshewana and music festivals (Riot Fest, anyone?) to even times when I’ve gone digging through bins for “treasures” at Indianapolis’ Goodwill Outlet.
Like the Becca Bags, you can use several fabrics to create a playful look when you sew a Runaround Bag. I have even made some more substantial versions of this project using upholstery fabric and faux leather samples I saved at ZeroLandfill Indy.
FAQs About Joan Hawley & Lazy Girl Designs
Where Can I Share a Memory?
Joan Hawley’s online obituary includes a place where you can share condolences with your family, people in the crafting community, and other Lazies who adored her and Lazy Girl Designs patterns.
What Made Joan Hawley Such a Good Sewing Pattern Designer?
When you are a complete beginner, Joan Hawley’s patterns give you plenty of detail. She makes it easy to master even what might seem like a tricky step in a pattern. In fact, it was her clear instructions—included with the Becca bags pattern—that helped me master the intimidating task of taking apart a couple of zippers and then putting them back together again, mixing and matching their sliders (or pull tabs). What fun!
When you’re an experienced sewer, her patterns are flexible and have just enough flair. They give you what you need to use your expertise to personalize her designs. Joan Hawley’s encouragement and support made you feel brilliant if you took one of her creations to the next level with your interpretation of her original project.
Can You Still Buy Patterns From Lazy Girl Designs?
Yes! Lots of distributors still have patterns for sale, and you can still buy patterns—physically and digitally—from the products section of the official Lazy Girl Designs website.
Do You Have an Idea of Something I Can Do to Honor Joan Hawley’s Memory?
Consider making a hospital gown. Since 2005, there’s been a section on the Lazy Girl Designs website with free digital sewing patterns that you can download to create a patient-friendly hospital gown for a loved one.
There are options for an adult or child.
“To access monitoring the chest with a stethoscope or a heart monitor with wires or other leads, we created a really attractive access point at each shoulder so the gown can be folded forward unbuttoned or un-Velcroed so you can have some modest access to the chest without inconveniencing the patient,” Joan Hawley said in an interview from 2010.
You can grab your own copy of the patterns and learn more about this initiative on the blog of the Lazy Girl Designs website.
Where Can I Go to Hang Out With Other Lazies Online?
On Facebook, Joan Hawley created a group for people who love Lazy Girl Design patterns. It’s an active community with at least a dozen posts each week.
Why I’m Grateful to Joan Hawley for Sharing Her Passion and Expertise
Joan Hawley made me a better sewer. She understood how intimidating it can be to try and pick up new skills using a sewing machine.
In one of her last email newsletters, she shared stories of her recent baking wins, writing: “I know that success encourages trying again.” That it does.
Her patterns are why I am far less afraid to try to sew a challenging-looking pattern that requires picking up new techniques. I’m so thankful for all of the basics I learned by making her projects.
I only wish I had taken the time to tell her so via email before she passed away.
Instead, in her honor, I think it’s time this “thinger” makes some Bendy Bags (that’s the latest pattern I purchased when I spotted it at True Cotton Co. in Carmel during my last visit to buy fabric). I’ll be sure to write up a post and let you know how it turns out (even though I’m pretty sure I know it will be another winner).
Thanks for everything, Joan.