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?!
Oh, my — quilting sure makes a difference! Here’s a before and after shot of the windmill panel of the Junior Billie Bag I’m working on:
After stitching in the ditches, I quilted straight lines inside the red and gold shapes to emphasize the angles. In the black border strips I used a decorative stitch that mimics the little teardrop shapes in the fussy-cut center block:
That’s a very subtle touch (translation: you can hardly see it) but I like knowing it’s there. I also stitched around the veins of the leaves to hold the layers in the center together.
In the other panel (which I wrote about in an earlier post) I added some additional straight lines radiating from the center circle:
I also outline stitched around the red poppy and the center of the flower to hold those layers together.
Here are the front and back panels with the two sets of handles attached:
Am I pleased with my quilted panels? I’m crazy about them! Next up: side panels with exterior and interior pockets.
I didn’t have to look far to find a block design for the other main panel of my quilter’s tote known as the Junior Billie Bag:
It’s essentially the same block that’s in the red and white quilt I started a couple weeks ago. I swapped out the pinwheel center of that block with the fussy-cut square you see above, surrounding it with a narrow black accent strip.
I am loving the bold look of this block, which reminds me of a windmill. (My red and white blocks with the pinwheel centers look even more like windmills; there’s a quilt name in there somewhere.)
Here’s the latest windmill block with black border strips added to size it for my Billie Bag:
I’m mulling over the quilting possibilities. Maybe straight line quilting in the windmill block and free motion meandering in the black background strips?
Just for fun I positioned the block on point on my design wall (and cropped it here so it would be framed in black):
Striking, yes? It reminds me a bit of a Maltese cross. Wouldn’t it make an interesting quilt? Oh for another lifetime to make all of the quilts that are in my head!
Last year I taught the Junior Billie Bag class three times and made three bags. (You can see them at this link.) Now I’m teaching the class again and — yep, working on another bag myself.
This is the first of two quilted panels for my current JBB:
As much as I enjoy making these bags, I really don’t want to make one every single time I teach a class. I like to begin each class with a “deconstructed Billie Bag” to show my students how each element goes together. Then as the class progresses I’m able to demonstrate construction techniques and share my tips. At the end of the class I have a finished bag along with my students.
What might work instead is to have a partially constructed JBB on hand as a teaching tool. Then I wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. That said, I love these fabrics so much I can’t imagine not finishing this one. Look at these three fabrics from the Scarlet line designed by Pamela Mostek for Clothworks:
They’re not new — they’ve been in my stash since 2012. Every so often I would get them out and — I admit it — fondle them, thinking about how they might be used in a quilt. Inspiration on a quilt design is yet to come but in the meantime I’m using some of the yardage to make the wonderful quilter’s tote designed many years ago by Billie Mahorney.
The panel design is my own. I centered a poppy in an inset circle and sewed black strips all around to bring the panel to the proper size, adding red flanges for more drama. The directional gold print surrounding the center poppy is a Joel Dewberry design from another line. It looks like it was meant to go with the other fabrics.
I’ve pulled a few other fabrics from my stash for interior and exterior pockets:
Don’t you think the fabrics have an Arts and Crafts vibe? The Joel Dewberry print is directional and I’m having a bit of fun with that.
Now I have to decide what to put on the other panel. Oh, the possibilities!
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.
Any idea what it is? I won’t keep you in suspense: it’s a scissors case made to hold the 6″ Gingher scissors I take with me to quilt classes.
Here’s what the case looks like closed:
It’s part of a set that includes a rotary cutter coat made in June, a sewing tool caddy made over Thanksgiving, and a fabric box made somewhere in between that serves as a threadcatcher:
With the exception of the fuchsia and white dot, the fabrics in these pieces come from the same line used in the Junior Billie Bag I made at the beginning of this year:
The fabric line is “Paradise,” designed by Alisse Courter for Camelot Fabrics. I am as charmed by these fabrics now as when I first saw them last year. I didn’t really plan it but I wound up with a matched set.
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.
Heather’s original design calls for six different fabrics in the triangles surrounding the center hexagon. I used six identical triangles in each Spinners block to get a kaleidoscope effect of sorts, coming up with the name “kaleido-spinner” to describe the effect.
You probably noticed something different in the quilt top pictured above: the four small kaleidoscope blocks in the second and fourth rows. I was originally going to put half-kaleido-spinner blocks there. But then I was perusing Heather’s blog, Trends and Traditions, several days ago and saw something very clever she had done.
Heather has a brand new booklet, Starstruck, coming out that features chevron fabrics in hexagon blocks; when sewn together in hexagons made of six 60° triangles, the chevron fabrics form stars. Some of the quilts featured in Heather’s book have half-size hexagons in the places where half-blocks would normally go. When I saw those quilts, I knew the concept would work very well in my quilt. So thank you, Heather, for your wonderful block design as well as the inspiration for the setting of this quilt!
Making the half-size kaleidoscope blocks fit properly turned out to be quite a challenge. The full-size kaleido-spinner blocks in my quilt finish at 15½” x 13½”. That means the half-size kaleidoscope blocks finish at 7¾” x 6¾” . On top of that, I opted to finish all of the setting triangles on the sides of the blocks with Y-seams to extend the width. I added 3″ strips at the top and bottom to float the blocks the same amount. The quilt top now measures about 53″ x 73″.
I hope you can tell from the photo that the black background isn’t a solid. It’s a tiny random white-on-black dot by Cotton + Steel called “Sprinkle” that reinforces the feeling that those kaleido blocks are spinning in a night sky. (Hmmm. Perhaps there’s a quilt name in that image. I’ll have to work on that.)
Now, a confession. I didn’t notice until I was cropping the photo above that I had reversed the two large blocks in the fourth row. I can’t believe I didn’t see that when I was sewing the rows together. Am I going to fix it? Yes, I am. I worked very hard when laying out the blocks to achieve a good balance of color and value. It feels “off” to me now. My obsessive-compulsive self will be much happier when that change has been made.
There’s one more thing I need to do to this quilt top before I can declare it truly done. That will be the subject of my next post.
P.S. Heather Peterson did not ask me to promote her new book. I just felt it was important to acknowledge her designs (block and setting) in the creation of my latest quilt top.
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.