Category Archives: tote bags

Pockets A-Plenty: Deborah’s Junior Billie Bag

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 . . .

JBB inside side panel pockets

and the outside pockets on the side panels:

JBB outside pockets

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:

JBB inside pockets (2)

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:

JBB second panel

It’s a nice counterpoint to the serpentine stitching on the first front/back panel:

JBB front back panel 1

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!

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




Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, Quisters (Quilt Sisters), tote bags, update | 6 Comments

In the Works: A New Junior Billie Bag

And here’s a look at it:

Deborah's JBB in pieces

This quilter’s tote, a slightly smaller version of the one designed by Billie Mahorney close to 20 years ago, is a birthday present for my friend and fellow Quister (Quilt Sister) Deborah, who recently reached one of those milestone birthdays ending in zero. When Deborah opened her birthday present last week, it was in pieces but she was still happy because she’s seen mine and knows what hers is going to look like when it’s done.

I’m teaching two classes at the Pine Needle right now on how to make a Junior Billie Bag, and I’m using Deborah’s bag to show my students the steps in construction. That’s why her bag wasn’t completed before her big day. All the individual components have been made: front and back panels, side and bottom panels, pockets, long and short straps, and binding. My students can see exactly how it comes together before they take the same steps on their bags. And they can choose whatever designs they want for the front and back panels so each bag is truly unique.

The panel on the right in the photo above is ready for some free motion quilting in the outer strips of solid red. As you can see, the panel on the left was quilted with a simple serpentine stitch in the red fabric around the Churn Dash block. The red fabric, by the way, is some French General by Moda that’s been in my stash for a few years just waiting for the right project. I did use some of it a couple of years ago, along with some of the same fabrics you see above, when I made this sewing machine dust cover for Deborah:

2013-3, Deborah's sewing machine dust cover, side view

At the time I had no idea I would be making her a coordinating Junior Billie Bag down the road. I’m so glad I had plenty of fabric left over from that first project.

If you’d like to see what a Junior Billie Bag looks like completed, click on this link to see the one I finished in January. Deborah’s Junior Billie Bag, which will measure 14″ x 17″ x 7½” when finished, should be in her hands by this time next month.




Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, Quisters (Quilt Sisters), tote bags, update | 2 Comments

Traveling in Style

luggage strapIn the not-too-distant future, my husband and I will be taking a little trip. I’ll be traveling in style, thanks to my good friends Peggy and Vickie R., who made me some terrific travel accessories for my birthday.

Knowing my favorite color is green, Peggy made a striped luggage strap using black and white prints to set off the greens. I can see myself at the airport now, waiting in Baggage Claim as dozens of nearly identical black bags roll off the conveyor belt onto the carousel. Won’t I be the envy of all when my bag comes into view?

And look at this matching lingerie bag:

lingerie bag 2It’s generously sized. When not traveling, I can use it as a tote bag to transport small quilts to my guild meetings for Show and Tell.

Vickie R., who also knows my favorite color, surprised me with this Sew Together Bag:

2016-02-05 15.29.19

When I opened up the bag, it was like cutting into a sweet juicy watermelon. Look at the lovely pink interior:

2016-02-05 15.24.25

And just look at all those compartments!

The Sew Together bag was designed for sewers and quilters. It’s the perfect size for stashing any number of sewing notions and quilting tools but it’s also well suited for makeup and toiletry items. How convenient to have all of those items corralled in one container.

I love my handmade gifts and can’t wait to use them on my next trip. Thank you, Peg and Vickie!




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My New Junior Billie Bag

Yes, it’s done! My Junior Billie Bag, the quilter’s tote I’ve been working on these last few weeks, is now ready to travel. It’s full of my favorite quilter’s tools and supplies — and there’s room to spare.

Let me show you a few pictures, beginning with the front and back. Actually, the front and back are interchangeable; I think of them as the pink side and the orange side.

Let’s start with the orange side, with the long handles showing:

Jr Billie Bag orange side 1

Here’s another look at the orange side, this time showing the shorter handles:

Jr Billie Bag short handles orange side

And now the pink side with long handles . . .

Jr Billie Bag pink side 1

. . . and the short handles:

Jr Billie Bag short handles pink side

Having two sets of handles gives you choices in how to carry the bag — over your shoulder or in your hand.

Here’s a shot of one of the side panels, the one with a single pocket:

Jr Billie Bag side view with one pocket

(That reflection you see is from a specialty ruler.)

Now have a look at the other side panel. Just for fun I added contrasting bands of color at the top and bottom of the two pockets on this side:

Jr Billie Bag side with two pockets

The small pocket was sized to hold my business cards on one side and a name badge on the other. That’s one of the great features of this bag: you can customize the pockets for whatever you want to put in them.

In these three-quarter angle shots, both sets of straps are tucked inside the bag:

Jr Billie Bag three quarter angle orange side

Jr Billie Bag three quarter angle pink side
Which side do you like better, the orange or the pink?

Except for the orange batik and navy Maywood Shadowplay fabric used on the front and back of my Junior Billie Bag, all of the fabrics are from the Paradise line designed by Alisse Courter for Camelot Cottons. Several more Paradise prints are inside the bag in multiple pockets. It’s hard to get a good shot of the pockets now that the bag is done; this photo shows the pockets before the bag was completely sewn together:

Jr Billie Bag inside view of pockets

(I went wild for these fabrics and bought almost the entire line, so you will be seeing more of them in future projects.)

Measuring 14″ in width, 17″ in length, and 7½” in depth, my Junior Billie Bag is a slightly downsized version of the original bag designed at least a decade ago by Billie Mahorney, a popular quilt teacher in the Pacific Northwest, now retired. You can read more about Billie and my earlier progress on the bag in these previous posts:

Dec. 29, 2015:  Billie’s Blessing
Dec. 31, 2015:  Update: Junior Billie Bag
Jan. 4, 2016:  The Third Dimension

It feels good to report a finish on this, the sixth day of the New Year.

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




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The Third Dimension

It’s official: my Junior Billie Bag has reached the 3D stage.

If you’ve been following me at First Light Designs, you know I’m working on a Junior Billie Bag, the quintessential quilter’s tote designed by Billie Mahorney.  A smaller scale version of Billie’s original bag, the Junior measures 14″ x 17″ x 7½” — the perfect size for toting a large (but manageable) amount of quilting supplies.

One of the panels (front or back? I haven’t decided yet) has been attached to the side panels and bottom, and the binding has been sewn on. This is what the bag looks like from the outside . . .

Jr Billie Bag flattened view
. . . and this is what it looks like from the inside:

Jr Billie Bag inside view of pockets
To paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis, there’s a whole lot of pockets going on!

With the binding applied along this panel, my Junior Billie Bag is looking more finished. Now you can easily see how the two sets of handles come into play (although you see only half of them here):

Jr Billie Bag one side with binding sewn on

The longer straps go over the shoulder; the smaller straps make it easy to carry the bag like a satchel. The best of both worlds.

When you see this bag next, it will be completed! Before the first week of 2016 is over, I expect to have my first finish to report.

I’d say the New Year is off to a very good start.




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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

Billie’s Blessing

Junior Billie Bag 800
Dawn’s Junior Billie Bag, made in 2011

Back in 2009, when my favorite quilt teacher Billie Mahorney moved from Oregon to Idaho, she suggested I take over the teaching of her popular quilter’s tote. Billie, who taught at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop in Lake Oswego, named her tote “The Take It All With You Bag” but over the years it has become known among local quilters as the “Billie Bag.”

Each Billie Bag is unique because the maker can put whatever design she wants on the front and back of the bag, and the inside pockets are customized to hold the maker’s favorite quilt supplies. The bag holds an amazing amount, including a 6″ x 24″ acrylic ruler, thanks to the 7½” width of the side panels.

I had made the bag once in a class with Billie several years ago. While I loved the finished product, I found the process very challenging. Not only did I not relish the idea of making another bag, I couldn’t even imagine teaching others how. After all, I had never taught a quilt class before.

In 2011, Billie returned to the Pine Needle as a visiting instructor and offered the class again. I was so delighted she was teaching again that I signed up for her class, conveniently forgetting I had sworn never to make another Billie Bag. Good thing, too, because I thoroughly enjoyed the class and was delighted with my new Billie Bag, shown above, a slightly smaller version of the original.

By the time I made this second Billie Bag, I was teaching at the Pine Needle myself. Still, it took another four years before I felt I was ready to take on the challenge of teaching Billie’s design. I talked to Billie a few weeks ago to see where she stood on the issue. Happily, she still thinks it’s a fine idea and has given me her blessing to carry on with the teaching.

The Pine Needle scheduled a class in March and April 2016, which filled almost immediately when word got out. That’s how popular Billie Bags are! What else could the Pine Needle do but add a second class? (You can find more information on the upcoming classes here.)

With classes now scheduled, I am in the process of making another bag to refresh my memory on the process. Billie’s original bag measures 21″ x 21″ x 7½”. I’m teaching the smaller size: 14″ x 17″ x 7½”. It’s been dubbed the “Junior Billie Bag,” and I’m making my new version from fabrics in the Paradise line designed by Alisse Courter for Camelot Fabrics. You may remember from this post last summer that I fell in love with this line of fabrics and went on a bit of a shopping spree at Hawthorne Threads:

Paradise fabrics
Here are my front and back panels pieced and quilted:

Jr Billie Bag front and back
The panel on the left features two inset circles, made using my favorite freezer paper method, and narrow flanges framing the 12″ block. The panel on the right contains a 4-Patch Wonder block (my name for a four-patch kaleidoscope) in the center. I used an orange batik in my stash to set off the floral fabrics.

More of the Paradise prints are being used on the inside pockets. Lots of prints; lots of pockets.

I’ll be posting pictures as my Junior Billie Bag comes together. I hope you’ll come back to see my progress!




Posted in 4-Patch Wonder, Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, tote bags, update | 7 Comments

On the Town with Bonnie and Beatrice

Beatrice and Bonnie, July 2015Bonnie (15) and Beatrice (12), the youngest of my six granddaughters, left for San Francisco yesterday morning after a weeklong visit here in Portland with their grandpa and me. I wish they could have stayed longer.

We managed to make the most of our time together. The highlight for all of us was seeing the Tony Award-winning musical Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Broadway Rose Theatre Company. It was terrific!


Bonnie has performed in youth community theater for several years and is studying classical voice at School of the Arts, a public high school in San Francisco. She’ll be a sophomore in the fall. Beatrice is a gymnast and ballet dancer; she’s going into the seventh grade. Both girls love the theater, so we always try to incorporate at least one play or musical into their annual visits.

What else did we do? Let’s see . . . we went for walks in the neighborhood, swam at a community center pool, baked Salty Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies, enjoyed a picnic in Millennium Park with my dear friend Anne, and got in some school clothes shopping.

The girls always do something special just with their grandpa. This year he took the girls to Lan Su Chinese Garden followed by a walk on the Eastbank Esplanade, a pedestrian and bicycle path along the east shore of the Willamette River. They were pretty tuckered out by the time they got home. Fortunately, I had dinner waiting, which we ate out on the back deck. It was a lovely midsummer evening in Portland, made extra special by the presence of our girls.

A sewing project is usually on the agenda when Bonnie and Bea visit. Beatrice was keen to make a fabric basket like the birthday baskets I made for two friends, based on the 1 Hour Basket tutorial from Hearts and Bees. She picked two colorful fabrics from my stash and got to work.

Here she is pressing the basket straps . . .

Bea ironing
. . . and topstitching them:

Bea topstitching handles
The instructions call for interfacing the outside fabric with fusible fleece. We decided to interface the lining fabric and handles as well to add more body to the basket.

Here Beatrice is boxing the corners of her basket:

Bea boxing corners
After sewing the outer basket and the lining together, she was ready for the fun part — pulling the basket through the hole left in the lining:

Bea pulling basket through lining
The “aha” moment:

Beatrice pulling basket through lining
Now all that was left to do was tuck the lining back inside the basket, press around the top edges and topstitch them. Because the extra layer of fleece added bulk at the top, Beatrice topstitched ½” away from the top edge.

Here’s Bea with her finished basket:

Bea with her basket
It measures about 9½” wide, 6½” tall, and 5½” deep. A look at the inside:

Bea's basket inside

Bea used ¼”-wide Steam-a-Seam 2 to close the opening in the center seam where the basket was pulled through the lining. It gives it a nice finished look.

Here’s a close-up of Beatrice’s basket:

Beatrice's basket

Didn’t she do a beautiful job?

And what was Bonnie doing while all this sewing was going on? She was making beautiful music! Out of storage came my trusty Yamaha guitar, bought in the 1970s when I had long hair and played folk music. (Yes, friends, that was a long time ago.) The guitar is still in great condition, and it was a pleasure to hear Bonnie playing it — she’s teaching herself how — and singing. I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture of her doing both.

Next year, I trust.




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Birthday Baskets

a pair of baskets
1 Hour Baskets (Pattern by Hearts and Bees)

I made these fabric baskets a few months ago for Deborah and Peggy, my fellow Quisters (Quilt Sisters). Their birthdays are in March but they didn’t receive their baskets until very recently, which is why I held off posting pictures. (The Quisters try to meet every month but this spring and summer our schedules have just not been meshing. We’re working on that.)

Kelly of kelbysews, one half of the design team Hearts and Bees, posted a tutorial in the spring for the 1 Hour Basket. The tutorial is available as a pdf digital download from Craftsy. In no time at all photos began popping up everywhere on Instagram. When I saw them, I knew right away I wanted to make birthday baskets for Deborah and Peggy.

I made one change in the tutorial directions: I lined the handles with the same fabric used for the basket lining. Here’s a close-up of Deborah’s basket:

Deborah's basket
On Peg’s basket, I turned the handles inside out because I liked the look of the contrasting fabric on the outside:

Peggy's basket
The baskets are perfectly sized to hold a bundle of fat quarters, so of course I tucked some into each basket before wrapping it up.

Happy Birthday, Dear Quisters!

Linking up with Kelly on Needle and Thread Thursday (NTT).




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Central Park Tote

Someone’s got a brand new bag. And it’s not Papa. Take a look:

Central Park tote 1
Dawn’s Central Park Tote


The pattern is Bow Tucks Tote by Penny Sturges of It’s 13″ wide, 11″ high, and 5″ deep. As you can see from the picture below, I made the handles on my tote several inches longer:

Central Park tote 2
The Tote and the Pattern


It’s easy to see how the pattern got its name:

Central Park tote 3
Bows and Tucks on the Sides


Are you wondering why I am calling it my Central Park tote? It’s all about the fabric! This is what I used for the lining:

Central Park tote 4
City Girls in Central Park

I love New York, and when I saw this print last year from the Central Park line by Timeless Treasures Fabrics, I promptly bought some. It features slightly retro and very chic young women walking their dogs, bicycling, and picnicking in Central Park. When I chose the fabric for the outside of the bag (from the Doodle line by Alice Kennedy, also for Timeless Treasures),  it occurred to me that this fabric would go well with it. And it would make me smile every time I looked inside.

Did you notice the New York skyline in the fabric above? I fussy-cut that scene and added a pocket on the back side of the tote:

Central Park tote 5
A Pocket on the Other Side


A close-up of said pocket:

Central Park tote 6
The View from Central Park


The inside of the bag has divided pockets that go around all four sides:

Grand Central tote 7
Pockets All Around

What a great feature! A tote with lots of pockets is a very good thing. On the bottom of the bag is a rectangle of 1/4″-wide foam core covered with a fabric sleeve. The foam core provides stability and helps the boxed corners keep their shape.

The pattern calls for a button-and-loop closing. I dug around in my vintage button collection and found a button just the right shade of green but too small. I paired it with a larger plain black button, aligned the holes, and sewed both of them onto the bag together:

Grand Central tote 7
Vintage Buttons


This is the first tote bag I have ever made for myself. I think I will enjoy using it!




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