Here it is, my first test block using a new grouping of fabrics I wrote about in my last post:
The pattern is Refresh, designed by Deb Mulder for Anka’s Treasures. The instructions were written for an 18″ block but I resized it to 16″. Wonder why? Well, I like to make my block components — in this case half square triangles, flying geese, and hourglass blocks — slightly oversize and then trim them to just the right size. The directions for Refresh didn’t call for that, and I found it easier to figure the math for a slightly smaller block.
The other pattern I am considering for this fabric grouping is Swoon, surely one of the most popular patterns in the quilt universe. The original Swoon pattern, designed by Camille Roskelley of Thimble Blossoms, creates 24″ blocks. She has since added three other versions in different block sizes: Swoon Sixteen (16″ blocks, of course), Mini Swoon (8″ blocks), and Patchwork Swoon, one huge block that finishes at 72″ square.
I bought Camille’s Mini Swoon pattern last year but wanted this block to finish at 16″, the same size as my Refresh block, so I resized it as well. Here is my Swoon test block:
What do you think? Do you like one better than the other?
I’m making two baby quilts, both for little girls. I can either make both quilts from one pattern or do one of each. Because the blocks are so large, each quilt takes only four blocks (plus sashing and borders). I could be a fourth of the way done if I opt for both patterns.
The Dear Husband and I got back yesterday from a three-day trip to Seattle, occasioned by the Detroit Tigers coming to town to play the Seattle Mariners in a three-game stand. The DH, a Michigander by birth, roots for the Tigers. I root for the Mariners, but both of us appreciate a good play in baseball, regardless of which side makes it.
We boarded Amtrak in Portland Monday morning for the relaxing 3½-hour train ride to Seattle’s King Street Station. It’s been three years since the grand waiting room in King Street Station was restored to its original 1906 glory but I never tire of taking in the view:
Here’s a close-up of the ornamental plaster ceiling . . .
. . . and the fluted Corinthian columns:
Did you happen to notice the glass mosaic tiles on the column in the picture above? That design on the edge of the column would make a striking quilt block, don’t you think?
If the design shows up on a quilt of mine, you’ll know where I got the inspiration.
More quilt inspiration can be found at Union Station, right next door to King Street Station. Originally a train station, the building was restored about 15 years ago after sitting empty for three decades. It’s now the headquarters of Sound Transit, providing express bus, commuter rail, and light rail service in the region, but the grand hall can be rented out for weddings and other events:
What about that quilty inspiration? Look no farther than your feet:
On Tuesday we visited my best friend from college, who served us an elegant lunch in her gracious home. We were in a suburb of Seattle but I felt like we had stepped into a bistro in Provence:
Here’s a look from the other side of the room:
Isn’t that a beautifully set table? Sandy served an elegant cold spinach soup made from a Julia Child recipe. We sipped wine (Vouvray) and water from vintage glasses, which of course made them taste that much better. The roses on the table are from Sandy’s gorgeous garden.
No trip to Seattle would be complete without a stroll through Pike Place Market, so the DH and I did that on our last full day:
I always make it a point to visit Undercover Quilts, which recently moved to a new location at the north end of Pike Place Market:
Did I support my local quilt shop? Why, yes, I did.
A few blocks away I stopped in at AllSaints, a clothing store on Fifth Avenue — not to shop for clothes but to admire the décor. Over 500 vintage sewing machines line the exterior windows and interior walls of this store:
I was in my element!
Mindful that our sojourn to Seattle was for baseball, I took this picture of Safeco Field from our hotel room, directly across the street from the stadium:
On Thursday morning, we were homeward bound on Amtrak. It was a terrific little getaway, and we’ll do it again next year when the Tigers come back to Seattle to play baseball. Oh, by the way, the Mariners won all three games.
A couple of days before leaving for Seattle, I went over to the Oregon coast with my quilt group, the Quisters, to see the 26th annual Quilts by the Sea show presented by the Oregon Coastal Quilt Guild. In my next post I’ll show you some of my favorite quilts from that show.
Oh, joy! It meant Coleen, an award-winning longarm quilter (the Quilted Thistle), was working on my quilt WanderLust, made from Heather Peterson’s Spinners pattern (from the book On the Run Again).
Later in the day Coleen let me know she was finished, and off I rushed to claim the quilt. It’s actually a king-size bed runner (measuring 20″ x 88″ after quilting) so it was a bit difficult to photograph. Here are a few shots taken on my back lawn yesterday afternoon:
I liked the floral fabric so much (it’s from Joel Dewberry’s Wander line, which is how this quilt got its name) that I made the bed runner reversible. Because of that I won’t put a label on it — but I may write some information on the back in very tiny letters.
Coleen’s free motion quilting is spectacular! Here are a few closeups:
Coleen and I chose a pale khaki thread with sheen. Because the quilt is reversible, I asked her to use the same thread on the back:
The fern-y batik I used on the front of the quilt is all but gone from my stash. Fortunately, I have enough of the dotted batik from the back to use for the binding:
Getting this bed runner bound is top priority, as I am teaching the Spinners pattern at the Pine Needle retreat this weekend, and I want to show a finished quilt. After that, I am sending WanderLust off to my sister Reigh, as it will look perfect at the foot of her king-size bed.
The baby quilt I sent off to be quilted recently is back, and I’m tickled pink. Make that blue, as this quilt is for a little boy. Longarm quilter Sherry Wadley and I picked a modern swirly edge-to-edge design that echoes the waves in the sea-themed fabric.
Here’s a close-up of the quilting that also shows off some of the prints in the quilt, including a stylish seahorse sporting a bowtie:
On the back, the quilting motif shows up well on the batik stream that flows alongside the jellyfish fabric, part of the Into the Deep collection:
Here’s a close-up of the stream that shows off that organic-looking quilting:
I’m going to bind and label this quilt as quickly as I can so I can deliver it to Baby Stefan. Here’s hoping it will keep him warm and wrapped in love well beyond his toddler years.
In other happy news, there’s a new resident feline in the Portland White House. My husband and I had planned to visit the Oregon Humane Society yesterday but last Friday night I got a call from my friend Colleen, who lives out in the country. A calico cat, obviously hungry, had been hanging around her house all day, and was I interested in taking a look at her? Yes, please!
I picked the kitty up Saturday afternoon, and it was love at first sight. She was thoroughly checked out by our vet on Monday, who thinks she is about one year old. She’s gotten all her shots, been treated for ear mites and fleas, and been microchipped and licensed. She is ours.
And she’s a beauty, don’t you agree?
What a mellow cat she has turned out to be, especially for a stray! Now that she knows there will be a next meal, she is totally relaxed. She absolutely adores my husband. This photo was taken on Sunday, the first full day we had her:
We have named her Cordelia, after the daughter of King Lear. (We name all our cats after royalty and I figure literary royalty counts, too.) We call her Coco for short.
Four of nine blocks for my Mini Rings quilt, made using the QCR Mini (mini Quick Curve Ruler), are done.
I’ve run out of background fabric, a white-on-white Michael Miller pindot. I could make more blocks using one of several other white-on-white prints in my stash but I am holding out for having all my blocks the same. A little obsessive-compulsive, perhaps? Now I have to hope that the fabric I ordered on line is from a similar enough dye lot that no one can see the difference between the old and the new. You would be surprised, even with white and black fabrics, how much dye lots can differ.
Working on these blocks has helped take my mind off the loss of my little cat Theodora, subject of my previous post. Thank you so much to those of you who wrote consoling comments on my blog. I cried the entire time I was writing that post, and I cried while reading the comments.
In the 35 years my husband Charlie and I have lived in this house, we’ve never been without a cat. If one of our cats died, there was at least one still at home to help ease the grief. Not so now, since Theo’s last feline companion, Elfie, died three years ago.
Charlie and I are going to the Oregon Humane Society next week, hoping to bring home a cat (maybe two) in need of a “forever home.” Although it seems a little disloyal to Theo’s memory, I’ve already been on the OHS website looking at pictures and descriptions of available cats. There are some very sweet looking ones! We’ll choose an adult cat, since the older ones are not considered as adoptable as kittens.
By the time of my next post, there may be a new resident of the Portland White House.
My little cat Theodora – Theo for short – was put to sleep on Sunday.
Anyone who has ever had to say goodbye to a beloved pet knows how I am feeling right now. Pretty low. A wise friend, knowing that Theo’s days were numbered, told me last week, “We don’t own pets. They own us, and they own our hearts.” That has brought me comfort in the last few days, as Charlie and I adjust to life without Theo.
Theo has been part of our lives since the day in May 1998 we found her behind a cyclone fence at an abandoned electric station a few blocks from our home. She was so small we thought she was a kitten. She was cold, dirty, and hungry. Miraculously, she was also purring, riding high on my shoulder as I carried her home. She was coal black, with yellow eyes. She had no tail, just a little stub at the end of her rump.
With two cats at home, we weren’t looking for another cat. But that’s how it goes. We weren’t sure how Elfie and Isabelle would react. Elfie took to Theo right away; Belle simply ignored her.
We took the little black cat to our vet the next day for a checkup. He estimated she was about eight months old and thought she might be a Manx, as she had other characteristics of the breed besides the lack of a tail.
In keeping with our custom of naming our cats after royalty, we named this one Theodora after Empress Theodora, wife of Justinian, who ruled the Byzantine Empire from 527 to 565 AD. (One learns a bit of history being married to a history professor.)
Like her namesake, Theodora was imperious. She regularly demanded – and received — attention. She loved keeping company with Charlie in the study, curled up in the upholstered chair a few feet from his computer. She loved hanging out with me in my sewing room, often usurping my chair when I got up to use the iron:
One of my favorite photos of Theo is this one, peering at me through my sewing machine, willing me to stop sewing and pay attention to her:
In her later years, she liked to crawl under the covers at night and snuggle with us, and she would purr for the longest time before finally drifting off to sleep. The last couple of years she launched a nightly yowling campaign to coax us to bed, usually way before bedtime.
Theo’s coat remained a glossy black as she got older, although late in her life there were a few white hairs among all the black ones. And there was that one white whisker. One time it fell out, and the new whisker that grew in was also white:
As the years passed, we continued to refer to Theo as “the kitten” because she was so petite. At her peak she weighed 7½ pounds. At the end she was a little over 4 pounds. Despite a voracious appetite, she had been steadily losing weight over the last couple of years. She was being treated for thyroid disease and incipient kidney failure. By now she was also completely deaf.
A few weeks ago problems associated with kidney disease began to surface. We could tell she was in some distress. After multiple trips to the vet, we had to face the fact that, while we might try different treatments that would prolong Theo’s life, she was never going to get better. We didn’t want to wait until she was suffering greatly to make the decision about euthanasia.
My twin sister Diane (whose cat Alex lived to be 23) told me the other day, “In my next life I want to come back as a cat and live at the Portland White House.” I know Theo had a good life, and I am glad Charlie and I were able to provide that for her. But it doesn’t lessen the profound sadness we feel at her absence.
Even now, I expect to see her demanding to be fed or given treats every time I walk into the kitchen. I catch myself looking for her in her favored napping spots: the chair in the study, the top of the clothes dryer, the rug on the heated bathroom floor, the mantel in the living room when the sun was just right, and yes, the chair in my sewing room.
When I was in Paris a year ago at this time, I bought a souvenir mug that featured a chat noir (black cat en francais), partly because the cat reminded me of Theo (minus the tail). Theo wasn’t terribly photogenic. Even though she was a happy cat, in photos she always looked like she was scowling. Take a look at the cat on the mug. Doesn’t it look a lot like Theodora?
She was with us for exactly 18 years. RIP, kitten.
In this case, the river is running through the backing for a baby quilt:
My starting point was a length of fabric from Patty Sloniger’s Into the Deep line for Michael Miller Fabrics. I needed to piece the backing to make it wider, and somehow a straight strip of fabric just wasn’t going to cut it. I blame it on those undulating jellyfish. The backing clearly needed something that emulated the motion of their tentacles. I needed to go with the flow, so to speak.
My batik stash yielded a watery print that picked up the blues and greens in the jellyfish fabric. I cut some gentle free motion curves through both layers and then sewed them together. It was easier than I thought, although I did have to pin the concave and convex curves.
Here’s a close-up of those two fabrics:
Don’t they look good together? I suppose that batik is a bit more fern-y than watery, but it still gives the effect I was looking for.
I used several other pieces from “Into the Deep” on the front of the quilt, which you may remember seeing in this post a few weeks ago:
This is the third of five baby quilts on my to-do list this year. Baby Stefan won’t have to wait too much longer for his quilt, and I’ve already started Number 4. Now that’s progress!
Tomorrow is National Quilting Day, and I’m celebrating on the eve of its 25th anniversary with my third finish of the year:
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:
From the front, you can’t tell which circle was made by the label:
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!
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:
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:
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:
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:
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!
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:
No doubt about it: this is the perfect backing fabric.
I 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.