Category Archives: family

Cause for Celebration

natl quilting day 2016Tomorrow is National Quilting Day, and I’m celebrating on the eve of its 25th anniversary with my third finish of the year:

Abe's quilt
This baby quilt (40″ x 49″) is a fraternal twin of the one I made from the same fabrics and wrote about here. You saw the one above a couple of posts ago before the binding was applied. This is the first time I’ve ever made a scrappy binding and I’m very happy with the way it turned out. I made sure that each side of the quilt received a bit of the striped fabric, which looks so good on the bias.

The quilting motif of bubbles, very nicely done by longarm quilter Sherry Wadley, helped me solve a dilemma when it came to the quilting label. I usually fuse a round label on the back of my quilts (following my own tutorial). Since this quilt is backed with an incredibly soft and plush polyester known as a “cuddle fabric” (aka Minky,) I didn’t dare put as much heat on it as a fusible would require.

The solution was to stitch the label on the back by machine:

Abraham's quilt stitched label

From the front, you can’t tell which circle was made by the label:

Abe's quilt detail

I started the year with four baby quilts on my docket. Now it’s five. Granddaughter #3 (in birth order) is expecting her second child, a girl, in a few months, so my list is expanding rather than contracting. I already have a pattern in mind, and the perfect focus fabric is already in my stash. Another cause for celebration!

 

 

 

Posted in baby quilt, family, update | 5 Comments

Swimming Upstream

My plate is very full at the moment. In between prepping for classes, teaching classes, crafting birthday presents, and doing various and sundry other things not quilt-related, I’ve been working on this sweet baby quilt, made mostly from Into the Deep, Patty Sloniger’s new line of fabrics for Michael Miller:

baby quilt blocks

The blocks finish at 9″ so at this point the top measured 45½” square. I felt it needed a light colored containment border to offset the intense turquoise in the sea waves blocks, and I wanted the border to be green to further highlight the green blocks containing those dapper little seahorses sporting bowties:

dapper seahorse
I added a 1″ border of a pale green Fairy Frost (also by Michael Miller), then dived into my stash (sorry, couldn’t resist) for this P&B blender, which reminds me of seaweed:

baby quilt blender
Do you ever audition a fabric you think is perfect but then are surprised to find it isn’t? That was my experience here. The seaweed fabric looked too dark and heavy, and I didn’t much care for the three other options I tried:

baby quilt border options

Actually, the seahorse fabric might have worked but I would have wanted to fussy cut it and I didn’t have enough.

Then it dawned on me: this quilt top is just fine with its narrow 1″ border!

baby quilt final choice

It will finish at 47″, already on the large side for a baby quilt. I have just enough Fairy Frost left to bind the quilt.

Now all I need to do is piece the back. I’m going to use this wonderful fabric from the same fabric line:

baby quilt backing fabric

No doubt about it: this is the perfect backing fabric.

 

 

 

Posted in baby quilt, bowties, family, update | 11 Comments

Five Years and Counting

ribbonI don’t often write about my personal life in this space. My First Light Designs blog was created to document my sewing and quilting life, with occasional forays into two other pursuits I enjoy very much: travel and fine dining.

But today is cause for special celebration, as it marks both the end of my treatment for breast cancer and the fact that I have reached the five year mark following radiation without discovery of a recurrence.

On Nov. 17, 2010 — the day after my 60th birthday — I learned I had breast cancer. The diagnosis wasn’t a surprise, coming as it did after two mammograms, an ultrasound, an MRI, and a needle biopsy. At each step a health care professional would say, “It may turn out to be nothing but we want to make sure.”

As cancers go, I was pretty lucky. The diagnosis was invasive ductal carcinoma, Stage 1. Detected early, thanks to a routine mammogram and a second reader of that mammogram, who saw something the first reader didn’t.

First came the lumpectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy, the latter to see if the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. When I woke up from surgery and learned the nodes were free of cancer, I rejoiced, as it meant I would not have to undergo chemotherapy. Instead I had 35 radiation treatments, and when those were over I began a five-year regimen of Arimidex, an “aromatase inhibitor.” That’s a fancy way of saying “estrogen blocker,” since the type of cancer I had was estrogen receptive.

The last pill container is now empty, the prescription non-renewable.

Conventional wisdom is that if a cancer patient gets to the five-year mark without a recurrence, the odds of a recurrence decrease dramatically. Still, there are no guarantees in this life. One of the dearest people in the world to me was just a few months beyond her five-year mark when it was discovered her cancer had returned. She lived with it for 15 more years but was still only 63 years old when she died of metastatic breast cancer. I am already two years older than she was when she died. How I wish she could have lived longer!

I take nothing for granted. I am grateful for every day. I count myself incredibly lucky to have good health, a loving family, and the time and opportunity to sew and craft and quilt. Given the size of my fabric stash, I hope to live a very long time.

 

 

 

Posted in family, update | 25 Comments

My Wall of Quilts

dawn's quilt wall

The quilts displayed on this wall in our TV room replace a piano that I donated a few months ago. I had bought a secondhand piano 20-some years ago. Having taken lessons as a kid, I thought I would relearn how to play. That never happened, not because I didn’t want to but because I preferred to spend my free time sewing, especially when I was still working. Retiring in 2008, I plunged headlong into quiltmaking. The piano, alas, remained unplayed.

With the piano gone, my inclination was to increase the seating in the TV room by adding a sectional sofa. Gradually, with that expanse of wall staring at me, the notion of a quilt wall took over. I remembered a photo I had seen in Marie Deatherage and Joyce Brekke’s fabulous book Pieces of Portland (Quiltlandia, 2015). Marie’s husband, Ric Seaberg, made her a wall-size quilt rack:

marie's quilt wall

Floor to ceiling  — what an efficient use of space! Since the wall in our TV room is one of the few that doesn’t get direct sunlight, I knew it would be the perfect spot to display quilts.

I called upon master craftsman Phillip Galyon of Wooden Images. Phillip made me a custom sewing table and cabinet in 2012, and the next year he crafted a console table and stool for our remodeled master bathroom.

My idea for this project was a series of quilt ladders that could stand alone or be joined by pegs to form one piece. After consulting with Phillip, we decided on separate ladders that, when placed next to each other, would look like one unit. The wood of choice was African mahogany, well suited to the original dark stained wood trim in our 1913 Craftsman home.

Here are three ladders butted up next to each other . . .

quilt ladder wall 1

. . . and here they are with a couple of inches between them:

quilt ladder wall 2

As you see from the photo at the top of this post, I chose to put the ladders together — at least for now. They can easily be moved apart for a change of pace. And adding or rearranging quilts will be a breeze because of the ease with which the ladders can be moved.

I can’t say enough good things about the quality of Phillip’s work. He angled the rungs of the ladders so the quilts would hang properly. He leveled the tops of the ladders so they would be flat across the top (level with the floor). And he added a wedge to the top of the backs so they would lie flat against the wall. Not only that, he put felt on the backs so they wouldn’t scratch:

quilt ladder, detail of back
And he signed each piece on the back of the bottom rung:

quilt ladder, signature
All told, Phillip made four ladders for me. There is room for another ladder on my quilt wall in the TV room but for now the fourth ladder is in an upstairs bedroom (hung with quilts, of course).

Having this wall of ladders means that the precious quilts that have come down through my family will be on display as well as the quilts I have made myself. Some of the latter will be given away eventually, to be replaced by new ones, but for the time being I will have the pleasure of seeing them frequently.

I envision my wall of quilts as a changeable feast.

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, update | 17 Comments

Second Finish of the Year

My second completed project of the year is this baby quilt:

Malachi's quilt 1.2016
Malachi’s Quilt, 42″ Square

Most of the fabrics are from the Migration line by Michael Miller, featuring slightly abstract giraffes and pineapples in shades of blue, aqua, and charcoal. The line also included some blenders and an irregular striped fabric, which I cut on the bias for the binding. I just love the way the bias binding frames the quilt:

Malachi's quilt, detail of binding
Bias Binding

Sherry Wadley quilted this for me. We chose an edge-to-edge motif that beautifully echoes the spiky tops of the pineapples and the trees:

Malachi's quilt, quilting detail 1.2016
The Perfect Quilting Motif

Leftover strips of fabric went on the pieced back (including the leftover bias binding strips) :

malachi's quilt, back 1.2016
Scrappy Back

The label is on now, and the quilt is being washed and dried as I write this, not only to assure that it’s clean but also to give it that wonderfully crinkled look that quilts only get when they’ve been laundered.

Malachi, for whom this quilt was made, is no longer a baby; he is a toddler. Now that he’s walking, it would please me enormously if he is allowed to drag his quilt anywhere he wants. It was made to be used and loved.

Linking up with Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation on NTT (Needle and Thread Thursday).

 

 

 

Posted in baby quilt, family, update | 3 Comments

Bricks and Blocks for Babies

Back in September 2015, I made this baby quilt top, the first of four I planned to make in short order for babies in my extended family that had either arrived already or were soon to make their appearance in this world:

giraffe baby quilt top #1
Quilt Top #1 — 42½” x 50″

 

The fabrics are from the Migration line by Michael Miller Fabrics. The giraffe panel print was printed along both sides of the fabric, from the selvage to the fold, so I knew I would be able to make two baby quilts from one length (two half widths) of fabric. Wonderful!

I decided to make a similar top for quilt #2 but make “bricks” instead of squares. Days passed into weeks, weeks passed into months. On January 1, I realized that four months had elapsed since Quilt Top #1 was completed. Four months! How could I let this happen?

Well! There’s nothing like a New Year to galvanize one into action. I decided to get cracking on those three unmade tops. By the end of the first week of 2016 I had finished Quilt Top #2:

baby bricks quilt top jan 2016
Quilt Top #2 — 42½” square

 

The next order of business in 2016 is to get these two baby quilts quilted, bound, labeled, and delivered to their rightful owners. The quilts are small enough that I could quilt them myself on my domestic machine but they will surely get finished sooner if someone else quilts them for me. This also gives me the opportunity to support the longarm quilting industry, which I am happy to do, especially as we have a plethora of talented quilters in the Portland metropolitan area.

Babies #3 and #4 — a girl and a boy — have since been welcomed into our world, and I vow to get their quilts to them in a more timely fashion. I already know what I’m doing for Baby Quilt #3. Inspiration should strike soon for Baby Quilt #4. When it does, you’ll be the first to know.

 

 

 

Posted in baby quilt, family, update | 2 Comments

Pretty Little Things

This is Part Two of a two-part post on what I accomplished in my sewing room during 2015. Part One featured my finished quilts (unquilted tops don’t count) and can be seen here. Most everything else qualifies as a Pretty Little Thing, so let’s take a look at the Pretty Little Things I made in 2015:

This 9″ x 41″ reversible runner was made for my sister Diane’s living room to cover a “seam” created when two small chests were placed back to back to make a larger unit:

runner completed

Here is the runner in situ in her living room in Atlanta:

Scott find round box for remotes in place
To celebrate the spring birthdays of my friends and fellow Quisters (Quilt Sisters) Deborah and Peggy, I made these fabric baskets based on the 1 Hour Basket Tutorial from Hearts and Bees. The baskets measure about 9½” wide, 6½” tall, and 5½” deep.

a pair of baskets
Pillowcases! I make several every year. Here are cases I made as a hostess gift for my friend Anna in Paris . . .

pcases for Anna and Joe

. . . and a pair made for the Portland White House:

pcases for Portland White House

Of all the pillowcases I have made for my own home, these are the ones my husband likes best.

My sister Diane commissioned me to make a pair of pillowcases to give as a hostess gift to friends in Maine:

pcases for Kathy and Paul's guest house
Her friends have a darling little terrier named Lucy who got her own little pillowcase (and pillow). It measures 6″ x 12″ and goes in her doggie bed:

dog pillow front

This sewing-themed fabric became a singleton pillowcase for me to take to Quilt Camp:

Dawn's quilt camp pcase
I drew my sister Diane’s name in our annual sibling draw for Christmas. When I asked her for ideas on what I could get her, she said, “Dawn pillowcases, of course!” I made her these king size pillowcases from my batik stash:

pcases for Diane and Ed
By the way, all of the pillowcases above were made following my tutorial, Perfect Pillowcases.

For the annual fall Open House at the Pine Needle, the quilt shop where I teach, I made these Cozy Flannel Armchair Coasters, inspired by coasters bought at a craft sale 30 years ago:

flannel coasters print

The coasters are reversible. Below are the backs of the coasters you see above. Just for fun I changed orientation of the herringbone weave:

flannel coasters brown

The coasters were a big hit so I made some more as gifts. My friend Beth got these for her birthday in her favorite colors . . .

coasters teal and purple
. . . and I tucked in this set of four as part of my sister Diane’s Christmas present:

flannel coasters red
My last non-quilt project for the year isn’t small and didn’t get made in my sewing room but I’m including it here anyway. It’s the two-fabric tablecloth I made for my sister Diane’s dining room while visiting her over Thanksgiving:

tablecloth
The tablecloth goes with the 16 mitered-corner napkins I made for her a couple of years ago out of the same large floral print used in the border. Here’s one of those napkins in a place setting:

tablecloth with setting

Oh, there’s a tutorial for those napkins, too: Make Mine Mitered.

How satisfying to have a visual record of what I made last year! Thanks so much for taking this look back with me. And now it’s time to head back to my sewing room and get started on my 2016 projects.

Avanti!

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, mitered corners, Quisters (Quilt Sisters), roll-it-up pillowcases, table napkins, table topper, update | 3 Comments

Update: Junior Billie Bag

In my last post I showed you the front and back panels of my Junior Billie Bag, the quintessential quilter’s tote designed several years ago by my teacher and mentor Billie Mahorney. I also showed you the array of fabrics by Camelot Cottons that I’m using in the interior of the bag. Here are several of those cheerful prints made into pockets for my Billie Bag:

Jr Billie Bag inside pockets

A lot of pockets. A plethora of pockets! At last count: 17. And that doesn’t include the pockets that are going on the outside of the bag.

With the pockets and handles attached to one panel, it’s really starting to look like a Billie Bag:

Jr Billie Bag front

The two sets of handles make it possible to carry the bag over the shoulder or by hand, like a satchel. It’s so nice to have both options in a tote that holds a lot of supplies.

Now it’s time to sew straps and pockets to the other panel:

Jr Billie Bag back panel and pockeets

On this last day of 2015 — a cold, sunny day in Portland, Oregon — I am enjoying spending time in my sewing room working on my Junior Billie Bag. Later on, since the Dear Husband and I prefer to stay home on New Year’s Eve, I’ll make an extra special dinner and we’ll spend a quiet evening playing Scrabble, watching TV, and toasting the New Year with champagne.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year. Here’s to a great 2016!

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, family, Junior Billie Bag, tote bags, update | 7 Comments

“It’s a Puzzlement!”

yul brynnerIf you are a lover of musical theater, you’ll recognize that line from The King and I, the stage musical and movie based on the experiences of Anna Leonowens, a young British widow who spent five years in Siam (now Thailand) in the 1860s teaching English language and culture to the wives and children of the king.

“It’s a puzzlement!” the king repeatedly exclaims, as he struggles to understand western ways.

I know how he feels. That phrase has been on my mind since my eagerly awaited copy of Dahlia Quilts and Projects arrived in the mail a few days ago. You’ll know from my last two posts that I ordered this book after swooning over my niece’s vintage star quilt during a visit to her home in Alabama over Thanksgiving.

As a reminder, here is a picture of one of the blocks . . .

floral star block 7

. . . and a picture of the entire quilt:

floral star quilt-001
I asked readers for help in determining the origin of the design and quickly learned that my mystery quilt is known as a Star Dahlia. One reader even provided a link to the book, published in 1995, which appears to be the only book available on star dahlia quilts.

Apparently if I lived in Pennsylvania instead of Oregon I would have been able to identify the block readily. Cheryl Benner and Rachel T. Pellman, authors of Dahlia Quilts and Projects, say the pattern has been a favorite of Lancaster County PA quilters for many years. The authors refer to the block as the Dahlia.

“The Dahlia pattern,” they write, “is based on a traditional geometric eight-point star, but it takes a distinct diversion from tradition by adding curved, puffy, gathered petals and a round center. These variations on the basic geometric design make the assembly of the patch more difficult. The compensation for that extra effort, however, is a stunning quilt in three dimensions.” The authors go on to say that their directions for making the blocks were written after consulting with several Lancaster County quilters who are competent makers of Dahlia quilts.

The book contains 10 projects, with many pages of templates and hand-drawn illustrations on how to stitch the components of the block together (by hand, please note). Here’s a look inside the book:

instrux in dahlia book
So — the source of my puzzlement? It is this: after reviewing all of the projects and measuring the templates for each project, the logic behind the authors’ “variations on a basic geometric design” continues to elude me.

At first glance the block looks like a basic 9-patch, made up of nine equally sized squares. Not so! There are two sizes of blocks used in the book. The measurements for the larger one call for the four corner squares to finish at 4⅜”. The middle section of the block appears to finish at 6⅛”, making the block’s finished size 14⅞”. Okay, that’s pretty close to 15″, although the instructions don’t state a finished size.

The measurements for the smaller block call for the four corner blocks to finish at 2½”. The middle section appears to finish at 3⅝”. That would produce a block that finishes at 8⅝”. Is your head starting to hurt, too? I’m one of those quilters who enjoys the challenge of figuring out the math involved but I’m not so sure about this one.

The only way I’m going to solve this “puzzlement” is to make a block — to cut out pieces according to the templates and actually put a sample block together. It will also help to dig out my protractor to determine the angle of the star points.

How I wish I could drop everything and attend to this right now! Alas, it will have to wait. Christmas is four short days away. I still have presents to buy and wrap, and the Dear Husband’s stocking is waiting to be filled. I should be dreaming of sugar plum fairies and dancing nutcrackers over the next few days but I have a feeling my head will be filled with dahlia petals and star points.

 

 

 

Posted in family, update, vintage quilts | 4 Comments

Mystery Solved

floral star block 2-001
This block is one of 30 12-inch blocks in a lovely 66″ x 82″ vintage quilt I had the pleasure of examining recently at the home of my niece in Alabama. I wasn’t familiar with the block and published this post a few days ago asking if any of my readers could identify it. Within hours I had my answer. More correctly, I had my answers (as in plural).

It turns out this block goes by a few different names. Thanks to Bill Volckening, who suggested Barbara Brackman’s 1993 book Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns as a source, I learned the names of two possible candidates: Star Dahlia and Kansas Sunflower. A quick search on my computer — ah, the power of the Internet! — was all it took to confirm that the block I asked about is indeed called Star Dahlia aka Amish Dahlia Star and also simply Dahlia. The Kansas Sunflower block is very similar, as is another block identified as Missouri Daisy.

Dahlia Quilts and Projects book coverA reader named Anne told me about a book called Dahlia Quilts and Projects by Cheryl Benner and Rachel T. Pellman that contains several patterns using the Star Dahlia block. Anne even provided a link on amazon.com, which I immediately checked. Needless to say, I promptly ordered the book. I can’t wait till it arrives in my mailbox!

A shout-out to readers Arden, Bill, Anne, and Kimberly for offering suggestions and helping solve the mystery of this beautiful block.

It’s on my “to do” list for 2016!

 

 

 

Posted in family, update, vintage quilts | 1 Comment