The Junior Billie Bag I am currently working on is slowly taking shape. I’m pacing myself on the construction so I can show my current group of students at the Pine Needle how this quilter’s tote goes together step by step. The bag is a gift for a friend with a November birthday so the timing is perfect.
In the photo below you see most of the individual elements — front and back panels, handles, side panels, inner and outer pockets:
This particular bag is going to have plenty of pockets — 21 to be exact. The pockets have been carefully sized to hold everything a quilter might need, from file folders to acrylic rulers to rotary cutters. The Junior Billie Bag was designed by Billie Mahorney to be customized — makers of the bag decide how many pockets they want and what size they will be.
Now that the second panel on this bag has been quilted and the handles attached, you can see what the bag is going to look like from front and back:
Which is the front and which is the back? It doesn’t matter! The front/back panels are totally interchangeable. The front of the bag is whichever side the owner turns to the outside on any given day.
And you can quilt the panels very simply or be very creative with free motion quilting. I’ve done both on previous bags. On this one I opted to stitch in the ditch in the central part of the panels and to use a serpentine stitch on the strips around the center blocks. I used the same decorative stitch on the handles:
The next step is sewing the front/back panels to the side panels and bottom unit. I’ll demonstrate this in Friday’s class. My students are almost ready for the third dimension!
The first week of October already! September came and went in a flash. It was a very busy month, just not one devoted to much sewing. I’m finally back at work on that wonderful quilter’s tote designed by Billie Mahorney known as the Junior Billie Bag. I’m teaching an upcoming class at the Pine Needle so I need to get a move on.
Here’s the second of two panels in my JBB-in-progress:
The block you see above was inspired by a block in a quilt called Christmas in July designed by Thelma Childers of Cupcakes’n’Daisies:
Click here to read Thelma’s post about the making of this quilt. In July Carrie Nelson of Moda wrote about Thelma’s quilt on the Moda Cutting Table blog and created a pattern for it called Hometown Stars, available as a free download.
Thelma’s quilt is very scrappy. Working with far fewer fabrics, I simplified the block somewhat and made one change that made a big difference in the outcome. Here is my block as it was first laid out . . .
. . . and here it is ready to be sewn:
Do you see the difference? Turning that center square on point reinforced the angles in the Friendship Star blocks in the four corners. Had I made an entire quilt, I would have followed Thelma’s design to a T because the square in the center of the block is central to her overall design:
To minimize the seam lines I opted to construct the center section like a classic bow-tie block using Y-seams:
Thelma’s original finished block size is 17½” square. Carrie resized it to finish at 14″ square, although she included directions for both sizes in the pattern. I had to resize the block to 12¾” square to get it to fit my panel size. That means the half-square triangles finish at 1¾” square and the center bow-tie block finishes at 5¼” square. Good thing I like the challenge of quilt math!
Here are the front and back panels side by side:
Since this Junior Billie Bag is being made for a friend, incorporating the Friendship Star block is a meaningful addition. Thank you, Thelma and Carrie, for the inspiration!
Ladies and gents, I have another finish to report: Here is my latest version of the quintessential quilter’s tote known as the Junior Billie Bag:
I just finished teaching a class at the Pine Needle on making a JBB. I started the class (and this bag) in January; you can read about my fabric choices here.
In the photo above, you see the longer of two sets of handles; these are worn over the shoulder. In the photo below you see the shorter set of handles, allowing the bag to be carried like a satchel:
Notice the custom outside pockets in both photos.
Now look inside the Junior Billie Bag, where you’ll find many more pockets, all sized with specific items in mind:
After those pockets are filled, there’s still room to tuck in bundles of fabric or batting — or even a sack lunch. Now you know why I call the Junior Billie Bag “the quintessential quilter’s tote.”
The original Billie Bag was designed by Billie Mahorney and measured 21″ x 21″ x 7½”. This version is smaller, measuring 14″ x 17″ x 7½”. Billie never wanted to write a pattern, preferring to teach her design in a classroom setting. Now that she has retired from teaching, I have the pleasure of teaching the class. How glad I am! It’s been so much fun sharing her design with other quilters, and in the process I have made myself a JBB or two and given others as gifts.
When Coco saw me taking photos of the JBB this morning, she trotted right over to investigate. Before I knew it, she had crawled inside and made herself very much at home:
It seems the Junior Billie Bag is perfectly sized for a cat. Who knew?!
Here’s to 2017! Specifically, here’s to lots of sewing and quilting in 2017. I’m already looking forward to several projects — and not just new ones. There’s a stack of UFOs beckoning that I am actually enthusiastic about tackling. But not today.
On this fresh new day of the year, I’m looking back on what I created in 2016. Rather than going in chronological order, I’m grouping my finishes by categories.
This was the year of the Junior Billie Bag, the quintessential quilter’s tote designed by Billie Mahorney. I made a bag for myself . . .
. . . and one for my friend Deborah . . .
. . . and one for my friend Miriam:
Next category: baby quilts. This is the first of two incorporating a charming giraffe-themed fabric panel:
Here’s the second one, using the same fabrics in a slightly different setting:
I didn’t use a pattern for these quilts, preferring to play with simple shapes (squares and rectangles) so that the giraffes on the fabric panels would be the focal point.
My third baby quilt of the year was this one using the pattern Just Can’t Cut It from All Washed Up Quilts:
All three were quilted by longarmer Sherry Wadley.
All by itself in the mini quilt category is Ring Toss, based on the pattern Mini Rings by Sew Kind of Wonderful:
Mini Rings was quilted by Karlee Sandell of SewInspired2Day. Oh, and that’s our new rescue kitty Princess Cordelia (Coco for short).
Lap quilts is the next category. Once again I used a Sew Kind of Wonderful design, adapting the pattern Chic Diamonds into this quilt I named Dragonfly Kisses:
It was quilted by Sherry Wadley.
The next quilt, Where It’s @, was started in July in a class with Karla Alexander of Saginaw Street Quilts. It’s based on her pattern Rewind. I really stepped outside my comfort zone with this quilt, and I absolutely love the result:
The last quilt in this category is Stella by Starlight, a “kaleido-spinner” using the Spinners block by Heather Peterson of Anka’s Treasures:
I call it a “kaleido-spinner” because the six equilateral triangles in each block were cut from identical repeats of the focus fabric, creating a kaleidoscope effect of sorts. The four small hexagon blocks are true kaleidoscope blocks.
Both Where It’s @ and Stella by Starlight were quilted by Karlee Sandell.
The next category is runners, both bed and table. I made one of each, using the same focus fabric in each (Wander by Joel Dewberry) and the same block design (Spinners by Anka’s Treasures) with completely different outcomes. Here is WanderLust I, the king size bed runner made with five blocks:
I liked the focus fabric so much I made the bed runner reversible:
The final category is a bit of a hodgepodge. I made a quilted cover for my stepmother’s new iPad Pro . . .
. . . and a cardholder for her bridge hands:
For my friend and fellow Quister (Quilt Sister) Vickie I made an iron caddy that doubles as a pressing mat . . .
. . . plus a matching 4″ x 4″ fabric box that she can use as a threadcatcher:
For myself I made some accessories to match my Junior Billie Bag: a rotary cutter coat made from my tutorial . . .
. . . and a scissors case . . .
. . . and a sewing caddy that sits upright in a Lucite stand:
A 4″ x 4″ fabric box (yes, it’s a threadcatcher) completes the ensemble:
As you have surmised, I’m crazy in love with that fabric line (Paradise by Alisse Coulter for Camelot Cottons). I expect you’ll see more of it in 2017, as I bought a lot when it was released a couple years ago.
I’m sending a shout out to the talented longarm quilters who transformed my 2016 quilt tops into beautiful quilts — Coleen Barnhardt, Karlee Sandell, Debbie Scroggy, and Sherry Wadley — and to you, my loyal blog readers, for your continuing interest and support of First Light Designs.
It’s Thanksgiving Day and I am thankful to be here in Georgia at the home of my twin sister, Diane, celebrating with her family and my own DH. After six days away from my sewing machine, however, I am eager to get back behind the wheel. (A sewing machine has a flywheel, after all.)
Many years ago I brought my old Elna sewing machine (purchased in 1975) to Diane’s home, and I have worked on many a quilt and home dec project since then. This year I brought a few small projects from home to work on, including a new sewing tool caddy using some favorite fabrics I have used on other quilting accessories:
The pattern (Travel Case by Pearl P. Pereira of 3designs.com) calls for three pockets on the inside to hold tools but I am adding a fourth pocket:
My fabrics are cut and ready to sew but I am putting everything away for now to help Diane with Thanksgiving Dinner. The air is already redolent with the smell of pumpkin pie, which just came out of the oven. The turkey goes in next!
For those of you who celebrate American Thanksgiving, I hope the same good smells are permeating your home and that you too are spending the day with loved ones.
I’ve made three Junior Billie Bags this year. The first one was made as a class sample, which I kept. The second was made as a birthday gift. Number 3 was also made as a class sample. Since I don’t need another JBB, I decided to make one for a good friend. Regular readers have seen this bag while it was still in flat pieces. Now it’s three dimensional!
A Junior Billie Bag is challenging to make — but oh, so worth it. I call it the quintessential quilter’s tote. Measuring 14″ wide, 17″ high, and 7½” wide, it’s large enough to hold a lot of supplies but small enough to be carried easily, especially because of the two sets of handles. Pockets on the outside and inside can be customized to hold a quilter’s favorite set of sewing and quilting tools.
Here’s one side of #3, finished last week:
I like that block so much I used it on #1 and #2. On the other side of the bag I made what I call a kaleido-spinner block:
Here are a couple of side views, to show you the pockets on the outside:
And finally, a peek inside the bag, which is loaded with pockets:
My friend Miriam was as delighted to receive it as I was to give it to her. We work on quilt projects together at the Pine Needle, the local quilt shop where I teach. It’s the same quilt shop where Billie Mahorney, the designer of the bag, taught for almost 20 years before moving to Idaho in 2009. Billie taught her bag class many times during those years, and I am very honored that she has passed the torch on to me.
The next time I see Miriam, I expect she will be toting her brand new Junior Billie Bag, loaded with her favorite things.
JBB? That’s the Junior Billie Bag, the most versatile quilter’s tote I’ve ever seen. I’m teaching a class on it at the Pine Needle, making one along with my students but staying a couple steps ahead to show them how the bag, designed years ago by Billie Mahorney, comes together. (You can see what a finished Junior Billie Bag looks like here, and you can see my first post about the JBB currently under construction here.)
The front and back panels are now quilted, with the lining and two sets of handles attached:
Back in August, before making the two blocks you see above, I used a strip of that bold floral fabric to make a test kaleidoscope block, thinking I might use it on a front or back panel:
It didn’t make the cut. I liked it but didn’t love it. Still, I thought there might be a way to use it in the Junior Billie Bag. And there was. I decided to incorporate the kaleido block into an exterior pocket.
A kaleidoscope block made of eight 45° triangles forms an octagon. I downsized it and converted it into a smaller circle, surrounding the circle in the brightest lemon yellow fabric I could find:
Here’s what it looks like now, made into a pocket attached to one of the side panels of the Junior Billie Bag:
The circle is 4⅝” in diameter and the pocket is 6″ deep.
See that band of black fabric at the top of the pocket? I used the same fabric to make a slightly deeper pocket (8″) on the other side panel:
I love how the wavy lines on the pocket fabric play against the lush floral you see above it.
In an upcoming post I’ll show you the pockets on the inside of the bag — lots of them, specifically sized for the tools quiltmakers use most. Please come back for a look.
I’ve already finished two this year, one for myself and one for a friend. Now I’m making a third one. The reason? I’m teaching a class that begins tomorrow at the Pine Needle. I made my first Billie Bag, designed by Billie Mahorney, about 10 years ago, and found it very challenging. It’s definitely not for beginners.
Now that I am teaching Billie’s design (in a slightly smaller version), I find that the easiest way to give my students the confidence to make their own totes is to demystify the process by showing how the individual components go together. I call it a “deconstructed Billie Bag” but in truth it’s a Billie Bag under construction.
I guess every time I teach this class I will wind up with a new Junior Billie Bag. This one is going to a friend as a surprise.
What you are seeing in the photo above are the front and back panels, the side panels/bottom unit, two sizes of straps, and some of the interior pockets. In a few weeks’ time, you will see a finished quilter’s tote measuring 14″ x 17″, with a generous 7½” depth to accommodate a 6″ x 24″ acrylic ruler.
I started out with two 12½” blocks to which strips were added to make two panels that will be trimmed to the proper size after quilting:
The panel on the left is yet another version of the Spinners block, from the book On the Run Again by Heather Peterson of Anka’s Treasures, that I’ve used in some other projects this year. The one on the right is a traditional star block that I jazzed up with a four-patch kaleidoscope (what I call a 4-Patch Wonder block).
Isn’t that a great black-white-yellow floral print? I found it last summer at a quilt shop in Central Oregon and bought the end of the bolt. It’s by Studio 8 for Quilting Treasures. I paired it with one of Cotton + Steel’s Basics from 2015: “Sprinkle,” designed by Sarah Watts. (I love the Sprinkle design so much I bought it in two other colors.)
My biggest challenge in making this Junior Billie Bag will be keeping Coco out of my sewing room:
The Junior Billie Bag, measuring 14″ x 17″ x 7½”, is a downsized version of the quilter’s tote designed several years ago by Billie Mahorney, a popular local quilt teacher and designer. (I made one for myself a few months ago, which you can see here.)
Billie never wrote a pattern for her bag but taught classes for many years at the Pine Needle in Lake Oswego and elsewhere in Oregon. She is now retired from teaching and has passed the mantle on to me to teach her wonderful design.
Earlier this week I finished teaching the second of two classes on the Junior Billie Bag and will most likely be teaching more classes in the fall. Two of my students have already completed their bags, with three more close behind. When all 10 bags are finished, we’ll have a virtual Junior Billie Bag parade. You’re invited!
Time for a progress report on the quilter’s tote that I’m making for my friend Deborah’s birthday. Known as the Junior Billie Bag, it’s a scaled down version of the tote designed several years ago by my teacher and mentor Billie Mahorney. I’m making Deborah’s bag alongside the students in my two Junior Billie Bag classes at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop. It really helps to have the individual components on hand so I can show my students exactly how a bag goes together. It will measure 14″ x 17″ x 7½” when finished.
The pockets on the inside and outside of the bag are customized to fit a quiltermaker’s favorite rulers and tools. I’m hoping that the pocket sizes I chose for Deborah’s bag will be a good fit for her. Here’s a look at the inside pockets on the side panels . . .
and the outside pockets on the side panels:
Both outside pockets are trimmed with the solid red French General fabric loved by so many quiltmakers.
Now have a look at the inside of the bag with the side panels pinned to one of the front/back panels:
All told, this bag has 20 pockets. That’s a lot of pockets!
When I first wrote about Deborah’s Junior Billie Bag (you can read that post here), I hadn’t yet quilted the second front/back panel. The original plan was to do some free motion quilting but I opted instead for a modified chevron that extends the lines of the star points:
It’s a nice counterpoint to the serpentine stitching on the first front/back panel:
I’m having a lot of fun working on this bag and am happy to report that I am entering the home stretch. Deborah won’t have to wait too much longer to claim her birthday present!