Category Archives: tote bags

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!




Posted in tote bags, update | 6 Comments

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).




Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, tote bags, update | 5 Comments

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.




Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, tote bags, update | 4 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

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.




Posted in family, tote bags, update | 5 Comments

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).




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

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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Around the World Blog Hop

Today’s my day to post in the “Around the World Blog Hop.” It’s like a chain letter passed from one blogger to another. What a fun way to meet new quilters and discover new quilting blogs! My assignment is to respond to four questions and then tag another quilter who will post on the same questions a week later.

I was tagged by Debbie Scroggy of All Quilted, LLC. Debbie is a local award-winning professional longarm quilter whose clients keep coming back because she does beautiful work. She takes care to bring out the best in every quilter’s project. I know this because she has quilted two quilts for me — and they will certainly not be the last. I’ve seen examples of quilting Debbie has done for other people as well as quilts she has made herself.  You’ll see for yourself when you click on the link above. And when you do, you’ll find a link to the blogger who tagged her. This blog hop takes you backward as well as forward.

Moving forward, you will hop from Oregon halfway across the North American continent to visit Jennifer Gwyn of Seams Crazy. Jennifer lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and two young children. Despite the demands of working and raising a family, she still manages to get a lot of quilting done. Jennifer’s fabric choices are always pleasing to the eye. I especially admire her ability to go scrappy when the quilt calls for it. I have Jennifer to thank for the project you see below. She wrote about it on her blog late last year and got me hooked.

On to the assignment at hand.

1. What am I working on?
Ah, the easy question first. I always have several projects underway. One is my series sampler quilt, Reach for the Stars:

2014-10-11 02.40.46
Reach for the Stars Border Puzzle

I’ve been working on this quilt since the beginning of the year, and the end is tantalizingly in sight. At the moment I’m trying to solve the puzzle of how to make the borders match in all four corners, something the original design does not do. The math doesn’t work out, and I’m trying to figure out a creative way to make it work.

Another work-in-progress is this Bow Tucks Tote, designed by Penny Sturges of

2014-10-11 01.13.43
Tote Bag in Progress

I’m currently teaching a class on this bag at the Pine Needle and need to make a tote along with my students to demonstrate the steps. In the photo above, that’s the lining you see on the left. The green strip turns into pockets that go around the entire inside of the bag. Clever!

Yet another project is this Rotary Cutter Coat, one of my own designs:

2014-10-11 02.49.42
Rotary Cutter Coat in the Works

Look closely at the fabrics in the unfinished project above: those are zipper pulls and zipper teeth on the front and straight pins on the back. So cute! (I posted a tutorial a few days ago that includes a link to the free pattern; perhaps you’d like to make a rotary cutter coat yourself.) As soon as the zipper pull coat above is finished, I’m going to give all three away. I hope you’ll come back later this week for my Giveaway.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I would be hard pressed even to identify what genre my work fits in. I’m all over the map in terms of the kinds of quilts I like — and the kinds of quilts I like to make. Am I a traditional quilter? Absolutely. Non-traditional quilter? Yes. Modern quilter? Yes. Art quilter? That too. I tend to make what pleases me, and most of the time my work pleases others. That’s satisfying on both fronts.

3. Why do I create what I do?
It’s all about the fabric. I love fabric! I love to make things with it. My mother taught me to sew when I was 12 years old, and I honestly can’t remember a time I didn’t have some kind of sewing project underway. I made all of my own clothes well into the 1980s (past the time when it was cheaper to make clothing than to buy it), along with pillows and curtains and other “soft furnishings.” By then I had also discovered quilting, which became a creative outlet and antidote to an intense work schedule. When I retired six years ago, quilting — and then teaching quilting — took over my life. Oh, and sewing for my sisters, who think I’m the Home Dec Queen.

4. How does my creative process work?
Often an element in a quilt — a block, perhaps, or a border — will catch my eye, and I will think about how I might incorporate it into a quilt of my own. Or I will look at a traditional block and ponder how it might be jazzed up a bit. I will look at a design element and think, “What if I did this or that to it?” Some of my best ideas have come from asking myself, “What if . . .?”

Some of my work is frankly derivative. Case in point: the rotary cutter coats pictured above. A couple of years ago I saw a pattern in a magazine for a quilted eyeglasses case. I was instantly transported back to the age of four, when I got my first pair of glasses. I came home from the optician with glasses on my nose and a faux-leather case to store them in when I wasn’t wearing them. The case was cut along the same lines as the one in the magazine. I examined the eyeglasses case in the photo and said to myself, “What if . . .?” The result was a case (or coat, as I like to call it) designed specifically for a rotary cutter, though it could certainly double as a case for a pair of large eyeglasses.

I find inspiration everywhere: not just in books and magazines but also in nature, the work of other quilters and crafters, designs in fabric, a sidewalk, a coffee cup. I study quilts I like — and quilts I don’t much care for — to understand what appeals to me and why. Straying from the familiar path and trying something new are parts of the creative process, so I take classes whenever I can.


Jennifer’s “Blog Hop Around the World” post is due Oct. 20, one week from today. But you don’t have to wait till then to visit her blog. Go there now and see what she’s working on. Not only will you get a glimpse of her Reach for the Stars fabrics, you’ll be able to check out the size of her stash. Oh my!




Posted in Giveaway, Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, rotary cutter case, tote bags, tutorial, update | 2 Comments

Bow Tucks Tote

I made this tote as a birthday present for my friend Vivienne:

Viv's tote front
A Tote for Vivienne


The pattern is Bow Tucks Tote, designed by Penny Sturges of A couple of months ago I saw this tote on display at Sew Creative, a quilt shop in Ashland, Oregon, and knew right away that I wanted to make one for Viv. In addition to being an exceptionally talented quilter and stitcher, Viv is an avid knitter, and I figured the tote would be a good size for a knitting project. It measures about 13″ wide, 11″ tall, and 5″ deep.

Inside the tote are pockets on all four sides:

Viv's Bow Tucks Tote, inside
A Peek Inside


For good measure I added a pocket on the back side of the tote:

Viv's tote back
Pockets Galore


In a departure from the directions, I used a contrasting fabric on the inside of the straps. I also made them a bit wider and longer.

Here’s a side view of the tote, which shows you how it got its name:

VIv's Bow Tucks Tote, side view
All Tied Up


When I was in Central Oregon last month for the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, I found this vintage yellow button for a dollar:

Viv's tote button detail
Vintage Button Trim

Don’t you agree it’s the perfect finishing touch?

Happy Birthday, Viv!




Posted in tote bags, update | 7 Comments