I was getting ready to appliqué the round label onto the back of my Sea Star Sampler quilt today when Princess Cordelia (aka Coco) wandered into my sewing room. She promptly planted herself on my quilt, as she is wont to do:
As you can see, I caught her with her little pink tongue sticking out.
Here’s a look at the front of the finished quilt, measuring 60″ square:
. . . and a better look at the label on the back:
Here’s one more shot, taken minutes after the quilt was pulled from the dryer:
Who doesn’t love the crinkled look of a quilt washed for the very first time?! By the way, the finished size after laundering is 59″ square.
Two blocks from this quilt were part of an optional Block of the Month project designed by Kristin at Montavilla Sewing Center and offered over Zoom starting in May 2021. In-person classes were suspended in March 2020 due to Covid-19 so several of us jumped at the chance the following year to engage with the folks at Montavilla via Zoom. By the time in-person classes resumed last September, most of us were “Zoomed out” and the BOM sort of faded away. I had already veered off on my own path and wound up choosing nine other blocks to complete my sampler quilt.
The “Sea” part of the name developed when I realized many of my fabrics were evocative of the sea: starfish, schools of fish, sea anemones, seaweed, water, waves . . . you get the idea. And all but two of the blocks are stars so it was reasonable to call it a “Star Sampler.” You know how much I love alliteration; it wasn’t long before my Sea Sampler had morphed into my Sea Star Sampler.
Like many of my quilts, this one evolved over time. If you’re interested in the progression (admittedly slow) of this project, simply click on “sampler quilt” under the CATEGORIES list on the right side of my home page to see all of the posts in reverse chronological order.
Third time’s the charm, they say. It took trips to three local quilt shops before I found the perfect print for the outer border on the reproduction ’30s quilt top I bought at my quilt guild’s recent silent auction:
The delicate floral print is from the “Aunt Grace Basket of Scraps” line designed by Judie Rothermel for Marcus Fabrics. It’s shown with one of two blocks in the quilt (out of 30) that have a similar colorway. This is the other one:
I brought the quilt top with me so I could audition border fabrics with it in hand. One thing I noticed right away is that reproduction prints in quilt shops now have whiter backgrounds. When this top was pieced 20 years ago or so, the prints were creamier. I’m confident the border fabric will work well, though.
After choosing the border fabric, I strolled around the shop looking for a vintage-y print that would work on the back. I found some lovely ones but none that had that ’30s vibe. Guess what I came back to. Yep — I bought enough of the border fabric to make a backing. I actually bought the rest of the bolt — almost 10 yards — thinking I might want to make a pair of pillowcases to go with the quilt.
As a reminder, here’s a look at the entire top (I’ll add lavender strips to the sides to complete the narrow first border):
Each of the 30 blocks was made with a different print. Most of the prints are floral but several represent characters and scenes from children’s storybooks (think Humpty Dumpty and Little Bo Peep) and a couple prints are of kittens chasing balls of yarn. You know I like to name my quilts. I’m thinking of calling this one Vintage Vignettes.
In my post the other day about this quilt top (by an unknown maker) that I bought recently at my guild’s annual auction, I lamented that I would never be able to match the solid lavender sashing fabric that was missing from the sides of the quilt top. I was wrong but you’ll never guess the reason why.
The same day that I posted the photo of the quilt top and explained how I acquired it, I heard from the quiltmaker herself — and it turned out to be Vivienne Moore, who also happens to be a good friend of mine! Vivienne follows my blog and immediately recognized the quilt top. It turns out that she is also good friends with two of my Metropolitan Patchwork Society guildmates who organized the auction. Viv was cleaning out her sewing room earlier this year so she donated a few bags of fabric and tops for the auction. She lives 50 miles away so I would never have predicted she would be the maker.
But wait, there’s more. Vivienne was pretty sure she had a piece of that lavender sashing fabric in her stash. And she did! Yesterday’s mail brought a remnant of the fabric large enough to cut sashing strips for the sides. A perfect match, of course. I’ll have to work around a few fade lines to piece the sashing strips but that’s easily done.
Vivienne told me she made the quilt top over 20 years ago. She remembers that the lavender fabric was from a line of solids produced about 30 years ago by one of the manufacturers of 1930s reproduction fabrics. The solids were pink, green, yellow, blue and lavender, and were supposed to be authentic to the time period.
Viv isn’t sure why she didn’t finish the quilt but thinks it may be that her interest in pastels and ’30s reproduction fabrics had waned by the time she neared the end of piecing it. In addition, she was doing all of her quilting by hand at that point and probably didn’t want to invest the time to finish the quilt in that manner.
“I still can’t quite believe that this quilt ended up in your hands,” she told me, “but I’m so happy it did!”
There’s yet another coincidence. The photo I posted the other day was taken in my living room and in the background you can see a small quilt draped over the chair:
That too was made by Vivienne Moore! It’s a miniature Feathered Star measuring 33″ square. Vivienne gave it to me as a gift in 2011. At the time we were both in the same small quilt group, the Quisters (short for Quilt Sisters). It was our group’s custom to give each other birthday gifts, usually something quilty or crafty that we had made. I had no idea I was taking a photo last week of two quilts made by the same person.
Here’s a close-up of the Feathered Star quilt, showcasing more of Vivienne’s exquisite work:
Each star block is only 6½” square. And those little green feathers? A mere one-half inch each.
As far as the auction quilt goes, the search is on to find a suitable ‘30s reproduction print for an outer border so I can finish the top and get it quilted. With a wide border added to the quilt, it will easily fit a double or queen-size bed.
It tickles me to know that when this quilt is complete, my friend’s name will be on the label along with mine.
Way back in May I promised my sister Reigh a pair of oven mitts. Good thing she’s a patient person! I finished the mitts last week . . .
. . . and popped them in the mail.
Reigh had requested yellow and blue. I chose a medium dark blue tonal print for the outside of the mitt — a practical choice and one I’ve used before — and a lovely blue and yellow floral print for the lining. I must have bought a lot of that floral print back in the day because I used it close to 20 years ago to make a ruffled bedskirt for my twin Diane that was eventually swapped for a more tailored one. It also went into a couple of cloth napkins that are in constant rotation at the Portland White House.
You can see more of the lining fabric in this process photo:
That’s a freezer paper pattern I’m sewing around. When the mitt on the left below is trimmed and the cuff is bound, the mitt is turned inside out and looks just like the mitt on the right:
Reigh’s mitts have arrived — she likes them! — and my guess is she has already put them to good use.
Just in case you’re new to my blog, here are links to my tutorials on how to make these oven mitts yourself:
My quilt guild held its annual auction last week, selling over 200 items. My goodness, I’ve never seen such an array of generously bundled fabrics along with books, patterns, sewing notions, vintage linens, and even a Singer Featherweight machine. And what did I come home with? This beautifully pieced quilt top:
We all know the last thing I need is another quilt top when I have so many of my own begging to be finished, but friends, I could not resist. The final bid was $20 — an absolute steal. Truth be told, I would have paid more but the top didn’t seem to be drawing a lot of interest. Was it because I was hovering in the background willing my guildmates to keep passing it by? I also lingered nearby (inconspicuously, I hope) as the auction drew to a close, making sure no one could squeeze in at the last minute to outbid me.
I have no idea how old this top is or who made it. Judging by the looks of it, the fabrics are 1930s reproductions rather than vintage pieces. What struck me as I unfolded it to get a better look was how beautifully it was pieced. The quiltmaker sewed consistent quarter-inch seams . . .
. . . and every single point on the front is perfect as a result:
That makes my little wannabe perfectionist heart go pitty-pat. It also argues for the top being more recent. My guess is that the quiltmaker used a rotary cutter and made very accurate cuts before piecing the top so accurately.
I hadn’t seen that block design before but it seemed to be a variation on the Shoofly block. I did a little research from the best source of all: Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. Looking in the index under Shoofly, it didn’t take long to find the block, which has several names. It’s known as Richmond, Aunt Vina’s Favorite, Pin Wheel, Butterfly, and Lucy’s Four and Nine:
Brackman notes that the earliest publication she has seen for the pattern is Hearth & Home magazine about 1915 under the name Richmond.
The quiltmaker used a 5 x 6 setting, separating the blocks with 2″-wide sashing. The blocks finish at 10½” square, which seems a bit unusual to me. Right now the top measures 61″ wide by 77½” long. But here’s something a bit odd: there’s a border strip of the lavender lattice fabric on the top and bottom of the quilt top but not on the sides. Look back at the first photo to see what I mean. Could the quilt have been abandoned because the maker didn’t have enough of the lavender fabric to complete the border?
I’ll never be able to find the exact shade of lavender to add side borders. What are my options? Well, I could add side borders with a reasonably close match to the original lavender but in my heart of hearts I know that’s not going to happen. I could remove the top and bottom borders and find a different fabric — perhaps a reproduction print containing many of the colors in the quilt top — to border the blocks. Or I could cut down the lavender fabric on the top and bottom borders and make borders for the sides with what is cut off. Then I could add a larger border of print fabric. Just an idea — but I’m leaning in that direction.
Having recently finished my 11th Junior Billie Bag, it was inevitable that I would make a suite of accessories to go with it:
In clockwise order starting at the top, you can see a 4 x 4 fabric box (which I use as a threadcatcher), a quilter’s tool caddy (an embellished version of P3 Designs’ Travel Case pattern), a rotary cutter coat, and a scissors case. Directions for the rotary cutter coat and scissors case are on my Tutorials page.
It was also inevitable that Princess Cordelia aka Coco would photobomb my picture-taking efforts:
I shooed her off the ironing board so I could take a photo of the quilter’s tool caddy in its open position . . .
. . . and she returned to photobomb that as well. Notice the proprietary paw placed firmly on the tool caddy:
Here’s a better look at the threadcatcher:
I’ve devised a way to attach the binding that does not involve sewing!
This fall I’ll be teaching a class at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego on how to make all four of these accessories. The class, called “Quilter’s Tote Accessories,” is intended as a companion to my Junior Billie Bag class but these accessories would be welcome additions to any quilter’s tote.
If you’re in the Portland metropolitan area and would like to treat yourself to some useful accessories or perhaps make gifts for your best quilting buddies, this may be the class for you. Thanks for stopping by!
. . . is back from the longarm quilter! Here’s a glimpse of the front:
This photo was taken by Karlee at SewInspired2Day, who has quilted several of my quilts. Karlee’s photo turned out better than the one I took inside today so I borrowed it (with her permission) from her Instagram page.
There’s quite a bit of negative space in my Sea Star Sampler, especially in two of the three large blocks that finish at 18″ square, so I was looking for a quilt design that would look good in the background without distracting from the sampler blocks. The motif we settled on is “Embellish” by Quilts Complete, and I must say I like it a lot! In keeping with my theme of selecting fabrics evoking the sea, you could almost say the quilting looks like swirling water.
Here are a few close-ups:
The simple pieced back features just two fabrics:
The trimmed quilt measures 60½” square. I have just enough left of the purple fabric used in the 6″ curved Atomic Star blocks to make the binding. I’ll be back with photos when the binding and label are finished.
When I showed a picture on my blog a couple weeks ago of a stack of six quilts I had donated to Hopewell House, a hospice care facility in Southwest Portland, some of my readers asked to see pictures of the full quilts. Three of the quilts pictured above were made before starting my website/blog in 2012 so I thought it would be fun to do a “Throwback Thursday” post and show you these early quilts as well as the more recent ones.
We start with the the quilt at the top of the stack — Swinging on a Star, the quilt I pieced in 2005 under Billie Mahorney’s tutelage in Quiltmaking III, the third installment of the Quiltmaking class she taught for so many years at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop in Lake Oswego (current home of the Lake Oswego branch of Montavilla Sewing Center):
In this class Billie taught us how to draft blocks (including some from Quiltmaking II) that finish at 9″ square, and how to set them in a “Twist ‘n Turn” technique described by Sharyn Squier Craig in her 1996 book of the same name. At the time I started this quilt my focus was on using up cottons I had accumulated in the 1980s while making charity quilts for babies. Little did I know that setting foot in a quilt shop 20 years later would cause me to abandon all hope of using up that old fabric as I quickly began accumulating a much larger amount of new fabric that would become known as “my stash.”
Swinging on a Star was the first of my quilts that included free motion quilting (FMQ). Billie insisted that we learn how to do that. I stitched in the ditch around the star blocks and did free motion quilting in the borders. Happily the ditsy print in the borders hid a multitude of FMQ sins.
The fourth quilt I am holding in the first photo is Starry 9-Patch, finished in 2007. I took Billie’s Quiltmaking series out of order, starting with the second class. I learned so much in Quiltmaking II and III that I decided to take Quiltmaking I when she offered it again. The basic design was a combination of 9-Patch and Rail Fence blocks but I threw in some Sawtooth Stars to jazz it up a bit:
The bottom quilt in the stack pictured is based on Billie’s original design called Maisie’s Garden. She taught this class at the Pine Needle in 2007 and I happily jumped in, using a palette of blues, greens, and yellows, a combination I still love to this day:
The next quilt in chronological order is V8, a quilt I designed to highlight my discovery of kaleidoscope blocks and inset circles:
Every circle is a revelation! You don’t know what a block will look like until you have sewn eight 45-degree triangles together. I named my quilt V8 because the colors reminded me of the vegetables that go into the making of the vegetable juice blend.
One thing I can definitely say after posting these photos is that digital photography has certainly improved over the last 15 years!
Number 5 in the grouping of quilts is Simply Dashing, also an original design, this one focusing on four-patch kaleidoscope blocks, the ones I call “4-Patch Wonder” or “faux kaleidoscope” blocks:
In this quilt the centers of the Churn Dash blocks (on point) and the alternating blocks (also on point) are 4-Patch Wonder blocks.
The final quilt I donated to Hopewell House is a recent one, Tea Time on High Street, finished in 2021:
Was it hard to part with these quilts? To be honest, yes. The first three have a lot of sentimental value because of their association with my teacher and mentor Billie Mahorney. The other three represent steps I took in trying out my own designs and/or moving outside my comfort zone. The hospice patients and their families who become the recipients of these quilts may never know their significance in my quilting journey but the fact that they are helping people on a different kind of journey makes it all worthwhile.
It’s been a few days since I added borders to my Sea Star Sampler quilt top:
The outer border is the same fabric used in a couple of interior blocks, this whimsical design by Jessica Zhao for Cotton + Steel:
I made sure all four borders show my little fishies swimming upstream! To do that I had to cut the side borders on the lengthwise grain. I had enough fabric to make single cuts for the sides but had to piece the top and bottom borders because they were cut on the crosswise grain.
Today I made a simple pieced backing for the quilt using mainly this fabric, which has already made an appearance in three blocks (in fussy-cut form):
The plan is to deliver the top and backing to my longarm quilter later in the week. Since many of the fabrics in this quilt are related to the sea and/or are suggestive of water, I’m thinking of asking for a simple quilt design suggesting waves. But I am open to other ideas. Feel free to weigh in!
Officially finished and ready to load! Here ’tis, my eleventh Junior Billie Bag (JBB):
The block in the left photo above features an inset circle. Rather than make a different block for the other side (right photo), I used an uncut piece of the focus fabric because I wanted to showcase that gorgeous poppy border print. I really like how nicely the binding fabric — a metallic silver and black leaf print — sets off the grey, red, and black fabrics as well as the poppy print.
The bag is 14″ wide, 17″ tall, and 7″ deep. The depth of the bag is sufficient to hold a 6″ x 24″ acrylic ruler, which is only one of the terrific features of Billie’s design.
It’s always rather difficult to get good photos of the JBB with both sets of straps in plain sight. Here you see both sides flattened out, with the short and long handles in view:
Why two sets of handles? It’s so handy being able to choose when to carry the bag as a satchel using the short straps or when to carry it over your shoulder using the long straps.
It’s also difficult to get a good look at the pockets inside a Junior Billie Bag:
Here’s a photo of the interior (from a previous post) taken before the fourth side was added:
If you’re new to my blog, you may be wondering why on earth I’ve made so many Junior Billie Bags. The short answer is that I’ve been teaching this scaled down version of Billie Mahorney’s original design since 2015, and every time I teach the class, I make a bag because I’ve found that the best way for me to demonstrate construction techniques is to build a bag alongside my students.
Because of the pandemic, quilt classes came to a halt early in 2020. The last JBB I made was in 2019. When I started working on this one I realized how rusty I had gotten. As I tell my students, “This is a challenging bag to make but so worth the effort!”
You can see all of my Junior Billie Bags on the Gallery page of firstlightdesigns.com or by clicking here.