Cutting it Close

The three-block table runner I made several days ago (and wrote about here) has expanded to a five-block bed runner:

spinners bed runner 20.5 x 90It now measures 20″ x 90″ — long enough for a king size bed. I was going to size it for a queen bed but I had just enough of the batik background fabric to make it longer. Someone very dear to me loves this color combo, and I have a feeling this bed runner will look wonderful on her king size bed.

When I say I had “just enough” fabric, I wasn’t kidding. This is what was left over:

spinners background fabric

I would have liked to bind the bed runner in the same batik fabric. It’s been in my stash for a while so I doubt I could find more of it now. Oh well. I’m just glad I had enough to complete the top.

Next up: I need to make a backing and get the bed runner quilted. Before it is sent to its new home, it will be used as a class sample for a retreat I’m teaching at in June.

The hexagonal block in this bed runner is called Spinners. Designed by Heather Mulder Peterson of Anka’s Treasures, it appears in her book On the Run Again (Anka’s Treasures, 2014). Heather shows Spinners as a one-block table topper and a three-block table runner or wall hanging. I converted it to a bed runner and have been also playing around with some settings for quilts.

Measuring 15½” x 13½”, the Spinners block is the perfect size for a placemat. Another idea for my retreat students to consider. Or me!

 

 

 

Posted in bed runners, hexagons, table topper, update | 3 Comments

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 18 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 | 5 Comments

WanderLust

In my last post I showed you a floral from Joel Dewberry’s Wander line for Free Spirit Fabrics and mentioned I would be using it in a new project. Here is the first block from that project:

Spinners block
Isn’t that pretty? The pattern, called Spinners, is from Heather Mulder Peterson’s book On the Run Again (Anka’s Treasures, 2014), a collection of 15 runners and table toppers. (I made a table topper from this design back in June 2014 and wrote about it here.)

You may be wondering why I have embarked on a new project. After all, my list of WIPs and UFOs is long enough without adding another to the mix. I actually have a very good reason, and I’m excited about it: In June I am going to teach at a retreat for the Pine Needle Quilt Shop.

Spinners is the pattern I have chosen for the 24 students coming along with me. They signed up for the retreat before they knew what the pattern would be! The “big reveal” was held last night at a special meeting for the retreat participants, which is why I had to wait till today to share these photos.

Here is the runner I made using three blocks:

Spinners runner horizontal

The spinning hexagons include two other fabrics from the Wander line along with fabrics from other lines that work well with the floral. The batik for the sashing and setting triangles came from my stash. I extended the setting triangles so the blocks would float.

Right now the runner measures 20½” x 49½” — but I’m not done yet. I’m going to add two more blocks to make it a bed runner. It will be about 81″ or so in length, the perfect length for a queen size bed. With wider strips at the ends, it could be sized for a king size bed.

Look again at the photo above. Don’t those hexagon blocks look great on point? They would be beautiful arranged this way in a quilt, an option I have presented to my students. They can choose to make a table topper from a single block, a table runner or wall hanging from three blocks, a bed runner from five blocks, or a quilt with 12 blocks.

I have one more idea to bring to the table. (My students got a preview last night.) I will let you know very soon what that idea is. Here’s a hint: it involves using that fabulous floral print in the Spinners block in a much more prominent way.

wander horizontal
I’ll post a picture as soon as I carve out some time to make another block.

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

 

 

 

Posted in bed runners, hexagons, table topper, update | 8 Comments

Conspiracy Theory

Fabric designers keep coming up with fabulous new designs. Fabric manufacturers keep flooding the market with tempting lines made from these designs. Quilt shops keep ordering them. And quiltmakers like me keep buying them. It’s a conspiracy!

My sewing room is already loaded with more fabric than I can ever sew through in multiple lifetimes yet I cannot resist the allure of a fresh piece of fabric. Just look at this gorgeous floral from Joel Dewberry’s new Wander line for Free Spirit Fabrics:

Joel Dewberry fabric
The floral is called “Moon Garden” from the Midnight palette, one of two colorways in the collection. I’ve paired it with a couple of prints from the same line and some additional pieces for a new project I am very excited about.

I hope you’ll check back later this week to see what I’m working on.

 

 

 

Posted in update | 9 Comments

The Joke’s On Me

I feel a little sheepish telling this story but I thought it might make you chuckle.

A few months ago I went through my stash and pulled out several pieces of fabric I didn’t want anymore. Enough to fill a good sized grocery bag. I donated the fabrics to the Metropolitan Patchwork Society (MPS), the guild I joined last year.

Every year at its March meeting, the guild has a potluck and silent auction, selling fabrics and other quilt-related items. The proceeds go into a special account used to bring regionally and nationally known quilters and fiber artists to speak to the guild and teach workshops.

As I circled the meeting room looking at all the items for sale, I had to smile as I recognized pieces of fabric that had been in my stash just a few months ago. And then I spotted this fabric:

Jasmine fabric

Two and a half yards from the Jasmine line designed by Pamela Mostok for Clothworks. Why, I wondered, had I given this piece of fabric away? It’s green (my favorite color), it has leaves on it (one of my favorite motifs), and it’s really quite beautiful. I must have given it away because I couldn’t figure out what to do with it.

The organizers of the silent auction had very cleverly combined items to make the offerings that much more desirable. In this case, someone had added a spool of lime green Aurifil thread to the fabric:

Jasmine fabric Aurifil thread

You know what’s coming, don’t you? I outbid every one else and bought my own fabric back.

In my defense, I paid less for the fabric the second time around. The money I spent went to a good cause, and this piece of fabulous fabric is back in my stash where it belongs.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

 

 

 

Posted in update | 8 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

Cause for Celebration

natl quilting day 2016Tomorrow is National Quilting Day, and I’m celebrating on the eve of its 25th anniversary with my third finish of the year:

Abe's quilt
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:

Abraham's quilt stitched label

From the front, you can’t tell which circle was made by the label:

Abe's quilt detail

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!

 

 

 

Posted in baby quilt, family, update | 5 Comments

Swimming Upstream

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:

baby quilt blocks

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:

dapper seahorse
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:

baby quilt blender
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:

baby quilt border options

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!

baby quilt final choice

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:

baby quilt backing fabric

No doubt about it: this is the perfect backing fabric.

 

 

 

Posted in baby quilt, bowties, family, update | 11 Comments

Five Years and Counting

ribbonI 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.

 

 

 

Posted in family, update | 25 Comments

Happy Leap Year!

Isn’t it nice to have an extra day in the month? I could sure use an extra day more often than once every four years. How about you? Think of all the Unfinished Objects we could cross of our lists!

I have several UFOs that I would dearly love to work on but I’m still playing catch-up with baby quilts (and greatly enjoying the process). Two down, two to go.

This top, one of two featuring abstract giraffes from the Migration line by Michael Miller Fabrics, went off to longarm quilter Sherry Wadley recently . . .

giraffe baby quilt top #1

. . . and came back with circles all over it. Here’s a partial view:

giraffes and bubbles

Don’t those circles remind you of soap bubbles floating in the air? Such a happy motif for a baby quilt! (That’s Minky on the back — first time I’ve ever used it.)

What little fabric I had left from making both tops is going into a scrappy binding:

circles and scrappy binding

Sherry also quilted the other giraffe quilt, which you can see here.

I’ve already picked a design and cut out the fabric for the third baby quilt:

baby quilt to be
Five of those six fabrics are from Into the Deep, a new line designed by Patty Sloniger for Michael Miller fabrics. It’s a wonderfully whimsical line featuring jellyfish and waves and sea anemones and seahorses wearing bowties. Seahorses wearing bowties? Irresistible!

dapper seahorse

The pattern I’m using, Just Can’t Cut It by All Washed Up Quilts, is one of my “go to” patterns for baby quilts. I reduce the block size from 12″ to 9″ for baby quilts. The quilt top before borders will measure 36″ x 54″ if I use a 4 x 6 block setting or 45″ square if I use a 5 x 5 block setting. Right now I’m leaning toward the 5 x 5 setting.

Just looking at the fabrics makes me smile. This quilt is going to be fun to make!

 

 

 

Posted in baby quilt, bowties, update | 5 Comments