Back to Basics

Next month I start teaching a new class at the Pine Needle:  Quiltmaking 101. I’m both excited and apprehensive!

On the one hand, teaching a beginning class has appealed to me since I started teaching in 2010 and discovered how much I love it. I remember how much I learned from taking Billie Mahorney’s beginning class at the Pine Needle more than a decade ago — and at the time I already knew how to sew and had even made some baby quilts. I love the idea of passing on skills, techniques, and good practices on to the next generation of quiltmakers.

On the other hand, it’s an awesome responsibility. It needs to be done well — and it needs to be fun. My goal is to teach the basic skills in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere and to nurture creative sparks in those students eager to push boundaries at the outset.

When Billie moved away from Oregon in 2009, she told me if I ever taught a beginning class I could use her syllabus. And Nancy McGuire, whose move away from Oregon created the teaching vacancy I am now filling at the Pine Needle, also told me I could borrow from her materials. I have incorporated elements from both of my predecessors in the syllabus I am in the midst of preparing. Thank you, Billie and Nancy!

My students will have the option of making a 5 x 5 baby quilt or table topper or a 5 x 7 lap quilt. The basic blocks in both quilts will be the 9-Patch and Rail Fence, with options to add four other blocks to the mix. This is a sample top I made with the addition of a few Flying Geese blocks:

Notice that it contains only four fabrics. For me (and many of my quilting friends), the hardest part of making a quilt is deciding on the fabrics. I want my first group of beginning students to really enjoy this first step so I have deliberately limited the fabrics involved. I’ll suggest they start with a favorite border fabric and then pick the other three fabrics based on the border print.

I think I am on the right track!




Posted in Quiltmaking 101, update | 3 Comments

Happy Mail

The postman left a package on my front porch today:

Oh Happy Day! It’s from Victoria Findlay Wolfe, containing a pattern and ruler I ordered just a few days ago.

As a result of visiting Victoria’s shop on my recent trip to New York City (subject of my last post), I visited her website — and found something I really liked. Friends, there’s another kaleidoscope quilt in my future. It will be based on Victoria’s pattern Big Block Star:

When she says “big block,” she really means it: those star blocks are 41″ square. They’re made with the help of Victoria’s acrylic template/ruler, cleverly marked to aid in fussycutting the diamond shapes to create a kaleidoscope effect.

So. . . I have the pattern and I have the ruler. Guess what else I have? The fabric! I’ve been hanging on to this piece of Kaffe Fassett fabric for 10 years, just waiting for the right project to come along:

Ten years! How do I know that? Take a look at the selvage:

The design is called “Lake Blossoms.” There’s something about that particular combination of green, orange, and purple that calls to me.

I would love to jump right into Big Block Star but . . . duty calls. I’m prepping for a new class at the Pine Needle and have promised myself not to start anything new until preparations are completely wrapped up. Then there’s the matter of a few other Works-in-Progress that need some attention. I think I’ll set Victoria’s pattern out where I can see it every day to give myself a little extra incentive to finish those WIPs.




Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 7 Comments


One week ago at this time I was in New York City at the beginning of a quick getaway with my twin sister, Diane. It was supposed to be the beginning of a three-week vacation with the Dear Husband — four nights in New York, two weeks traveling in Portugal and Spain, and four nights in New York on the way back. Alas, the trip had to be postponed because the DH needs a new hip.

We had planned to rendezvous with Diane in NYC at the beginning of our trip. She had already bought a ticket to NYC from her home in Georgia. Happily, my sweet husband was fine with the idea of me running off in high spirits and leaving him at home, so off I went.

Diane and I saw five plays in four days . . .

. . . a comedy, a tragedy, and three musicals — all terrific productions.

Here we are enjoying an after-theater dinner at Osteria al Doge, one of our favorite restaurants in the theater district:

We dined on prosciutto-wrapped shrimp served on a bed of soft polenta garnished with watercress:

Yes, it was delizioso!

We saw some excellent exhibits, including two at the Museum at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and one on Venice at the New York Public Library (NYPL):

We also saw a fabulous exhibit on 40 years of musical theater in London and New York, shown at the NYPL for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. For lovers of musical theater like Diane and me, this was a little bit of heaven.

I also went to New York on a quilt-related mission: to visit the shop of Victoria Findlay Wolfe. Another bit of heaven! We were greeted warmly at the shop by Lindsey, who gave me permission to take photos:

Barbara B., a student in one of my “Sew with Dawn” classes at the Pine Needle, bought Victoria’s new pattern Star Storm recently:

Barbara asked for my help in enlarging this 80″ square quilt to fit a queen-size bed. I wanted to discuss my ideas with Victoria or a member of her staff. Victoria was vacationing with her family in Japan last week so I met with Kim, who was extraordinarily kind and helpful. She gave me a great idea that I can’t wait to share with Barbara.

Even without an agenda, the trip to the shop would have been worth it. So much color, whimsy, and quilting loveliness packed into a relatively small space!

Here is Victoria’s Victory Block quilt and a Dresden Plate block featuring some of her new fabrics:

I was excited to see a different version of Star Storm on display:

Here’s a close-up of the quilting:

I find the combination of straight lines (both horizontal and vertical) and feathers very pleasing.

You can bet that Victoria Findlay Wolfe’s shop will be on my list of places to visit on future trips to New York City.

Just so you know: the DH did just fine without me, though he is happy to have me home. He’s scheduled for hip replacement surgery April 11, which happens to be our 36th wedding anniversary.




Posted in family, update | 14 Comments

Loops and Swirls

Baby Selene’s quilt is back from longarmer Sherry Wadley, who did a wonderful job, and I can’t wait to show you how it turned out. Here it is, trimmed and ready to be bound:

Take a closer look:

First notice the loops and swirls in the quilting motif. Then focus on the aqua and green print in the center of the photo. Those are tiny snails. (The print is from the Far Far Away collection designed by Heather Ross for Windham Fabrics.)

When I was auditioning quilting motifs with Sherry, I was waffling between three designs. My friend Colleen was with me at the time and pointed out that one of the designs was reminiscent of snails. She was absolutely right, and my decision was made at that instant. The quilting motif is called Sashay.

The loops and swirls in the quilting really show up on the back:

As mentioned in an earlier post, I’m going to bind this in the red cross-hatch fabric. I normally finish my quilts with a narrow ¼” binding but this quilt seems to call for a slightly wider binding — I’m thinking ½” — to highlight the red in the center of the pineapple blocks and the tiny red ladybugs in one of the other prints.

Selene’s quilt, based on Karin Hellaby’s Pineapple Plus design, will finish at about 49″ square. That’s a good size for a baby who is now officially a toddler.




Posted in baby quilt, family, Quilter's Affair, update | 7 Comments

Cause for Celebration

Did you know that March is National Craft Month? Not only that, March 18 is National Quilting Day.

But wait — there’s more!

March 18 is also Worldwide Quilting Day — a day to celebrate the art and craft of quilting with like-minded friends around the globe:

I follow quite a few quilters in other countries through Instagram (are you on Instagram too? You can find me here) so I am delighted to know quilters around the world are celebrating the same day we are.

National Quilting Day is always celebrated on the third Saturday of March, coinciding this year with two quilt shows in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area.

The 23rd annual “Airing of the Quilts” is this Friday and Saturday, March 17-18, at the Milwaukie Center, 5440 SE Kellogg Creek Drive in Milwaukie, Oregon. It’s a non-juried community quilt show exhibiting old and new quilts, traditional and non-traditional. Show hours are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm both days. For more information, visit

“Every Quilt Tells a Story” is the theme of the Metropolitan Patchwork Society’s one-day show Saturday, March 18, at the Beaverton Public Library, 12375 SW Fifth St., Beaverton, Oregon. Hours of the show are 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. This show is also non-juried and features quilts made primarily by MPS members.

I’m a member and have submitted two quilts I completed last year: Stella by Starlight . . .

. . . and Ring Toss:

If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll visit one or both of these quilt shows.

Quiltmakers are always being exhorted to support their local quilt shops. In the spirit of National Quilting Day and Worldwide Quilting Day, consider this a call to support your local quilt guilds as well.

See you at the show!




Posted in kaleido-spinner, kaleidoscope quilts, Metropolitan Patchwork Society, QCR Mini, Quick Curve Ruler, update | 1 Comment

Reach for the Stars: Another Finish

It started with this, back in July 2015:

You’re looking at the center medallion and first five blocks of Annette Holder’s Reach for the Stars quilt. Annette lives in Jonesboro, Arkansas. We met online as part of a community of quilters making the dazzling sampler quilt designed by Terri Krysan that was featured as a series quilt in Quilter’s Newsletter magazine during 2013 and 2014.

By June of last year Annette had completed her quilt top:

A few weeks ago she sent me pictures of her completed quilt and I am delighted to share them with you. Look what she has the pleasure of sleeping under:

Like many of us who started with Terri Krysan’s sampler quilt design, Annette made some design modifications. She replaced one of the original blocks with this friendship star, whose center square shows off her beautiful paisley focus fabric:

Annette credits “Jana and her elves” at Jana’s Quilting in Jonesboro, Arkansas with the longarm quilting. Here are a few close-ups:

I spy a lot of stitching in the ditch to outline the blocks and give dimension to the quilt:

Annette named her quilt Oh My Stars.

If you’d like to see other versions of this stunning quilt design, take a look at my Reach for the Stars page on Pinterest. If you’ve made your own version, I would love to hear from you! You can email me at dawn (at) firstlightdesigns (dot) com.




Posted in Reach for the Stars sampler quilt, update | 8 Comments

Getting Right to the Point . . .

. . . is not as easy as it looks.

I’m talking about the places on my red and white windmill quilt where the points of the windmills meet. Matching my points turned out to be much more challenging than I had anticipated.

Here’s why. Take a look at a complete block:

The seams in the Half Square Triangle (HST) corner blocks and in the center pinwheel are sewn at 45° angles . . .

. . . whereas the seams in the V blocks are sewn at sewn at 60° angles:

When a V block is sewn to an HST or pinwheel block, the seams don’t naturally “nest,” even when the seams are pressed in opposite directions. Accuracy in pinning and sewing is essential.

My individual blocks went together nicely. Joining the blocks to form rows and then sewing the rows together was where I ran into problems. I’m a pretty precise piecer but I found that getting my points to line up properly was not just a matter of careful pinning and stitching.

Eight seams come together where the outer points of the windmills meet in adjacent blocks. It’s very difficult to sew them together without some of the seams shifting ever so slightly. With the amount of contrast between light and dark fabrics, points and seams that are even a stitch or two out of alignment are going to stick out like sore thumbs.

The seam between Rows 1 and 2 gave me absolute fits. There was much ripping out and resewing of small sections, accompanied by much gnashing of teeth (and some unpardonable language). I finally resorted to pinning and basting two rows together, then going back to do corrective sewing on the problem points (ripping out, repinning, rebasting . . . multiple times) before sewing the entire seam with a shorter stitch length.

The horizontal seam in the center of the picture below shows two properly joined blocks:

On the back where the eight seams come together, the row seams were popped open to distribute the bulk, forming ½” square pinwheels:

I can now happily report that all of the frustration was worth it. Take a look at my finished quilt top:

Now that all of the blocks are joined, can you see the overlapping circles? You should be able to see both light and dark circles. They are illusions, as there are no curved seams in this quilt top. The quilt block is a variation of the classic Winding Ways block, which employs curved seams to form overlapping circles.

The pattern (A Midwinter’s Night by Cottage Rose) calls for borders with pieced cornerstones but I like the look of this without any borders at all. It measures 48½” x 60½”, a nice sized throw.

And I have a name for it. Because I think of the blocks as windmills, I’m going to call this quilt Dutch Treat. Some of my readers suggested I call it Coco’s Valentine, since my calico kitty seems to like it so much. Truth be told, Coco likes every quilt I make, never missing an opportunity to lounge on a quilt under construction or a finished one.

Linking up with Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation.



Posted in cats, update, Winding Ways quilt block, windmill block | 9 Comments

Filling in the Blanks

This is the final layout of my scrappy red and white windmill quilt:

Windmill Quilt final layout
The pinwheel centers were the last to go in, as they needed to be balanced with each other as well as inside their respective blocks. And it was a balancing act. First the windmills needed to be positioned so that no like red prints (which read as solids) were in adjacent blocks and then the pinwheels needed to be positioned in the same way. My other self-imposed rule was that the red prints in each pinwheel had to be different from the other reds in the same block.

Since I was working with a limited number of reds, this turned out to be quite a challenge. I wound up with two neighboring blocks with the same red in the pinwheels (not sayin’ where) but I’m not worried about it because the quilt top still looks balanced over-all.

Speaking of pinwheels, those little blocks look pretty cute from the back:

back of pinwheel block

To flatten the center where eight seams intersect, I popped two seams open, creating a teeny tiny pinwheel which no one will ever see once the quilt top is sandwiched.

The pattern I am using is A MidWinter’s Night by Deb Eggers of the Cottage Rose. I made one small but significant change to her directions which is best explained by showing you a couple of photos. Here are the first two blocks I made, side by side:

dk and lt windmill block

See how the values are reversed in the two blocks so that the windmill is dark in the left block and light in the right? But notice that the dark and light values in the center pinwheels are in the very same position.

Doesn’t it stand to reason that the values in the pinwheel should be reversed as well? I removed the pinwheel in the left block above and replaced it with a pinwheel with reversed values. Now look at the two blocks:

windmill blocks lt and dark
Doesn’t that look better? I sure think so. I’m glad this occurred to me before I sewed 20 pinwheels together the same way.

I am hoping to get all of the blocks sewn together this weekend. I might even get the top completed. My efforts are somewhat hampered by this constant visitor to my sewing room:

Coco on ironing board
Coco likes to make herself at home on my ironing board. She’s always very interested in what I’m doing:

Coco helping me sew
See how she has placed her paw directly on the pieces I am trying to pin? With “help” like that, no wonder I sometimes feel my progress is too slow.




Posted in cats, update, windmill block | 11 Comments

Color Me Cranky

Me? Cranky? Yes, because until yesterday I hadn’t sat down at my sewing machine for 10 days. Ten days! That must be a record for me. It seems there are just too many other things going on right now. Such is the life of a busy retiree — but this retiree isn’t happy unless she gets to spend some quality time in her sewing room on a regular basis.

What I needed was a little red and white color therapy, and happily I got some:

windmill pinwheels
What you see here is a jumble of pinwheels. These blocks will go into the windmill quilt I started last month.

Here are the pinwheels laid out in the order they will appear in the quilt:

windmill pinwheels 2

That hole in the third row is because the pinwheel already got sewn into this block:

windmill block 1
If all goes according to plan, I’ll post photos tomorrow of the entire quilt layout. Maybe I’ll even have some blocks sewn together. Now that would make me really happy.




Posted in update, windmill block | 5 Comments

I ♥ My Windmill Quilt

I’ve been longing to get back to my windmill quilt and today, after a three-week break, I finally did. With Valentine’s Day coming up next week, it seems appropriate to be working with red and white fabrics.

You may recall I’m making this pattern by Deb Eggers:

a mid-winters night quilt pattern
“Controlled scrappy” is the look I’m going for, with a mix of reds for my darks and two red-on-white prints for my lights. Here’s a light and dark block side by side:

dk and lt windmill block
My plan is to use a few additional red-on-white prints for the pinwheels in the center of each windmill block. After making the two complete blocks you see above, I decided to hold off on final selection of fabrics for the pinwheels until after all of the blocks were laid out on my design wall. I wanted to be sure the red fabrics, some of which are brighter than others, were balanced across the quilt with no like fabrics touching in rows or columns. A bit obsessive-compulsive, perhaps? Oh, maybe just a bit . . .

I decided on a 4 x 5 setting, requiring 20 blocks, and sewed the outer strips of each block, leaving the middle strip unsewn because of the missing pinwheel centers. I was having difficulty laying out the partial blocks on my design wall until I hit upon the idea of using just one V block from each windmill block.

This is what I wound up with:

windmill quilt V blocks

It’s just coincidental that laying the blocks out this way created some elongated hearts. Sweet!

Satisfied with the placement above, I laid all of the blocks out:

windmill quilt layout
I am already in love with this quilt!



Posted in update, windmill block | 6 Comments