Author Archives: Dawn

Throwback Thursday: Early Quilts

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):

Swinging on a Star, 46″ x 58″ (2006)

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:

Starry 9-Patch, 56″ x 63″ (2007)

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:

Star Garden, 44″ x 62″ (2007)

The next quilt in chronological order is V8, a quilt I designed to highlight my discovery of kaleidoscope blocks and inset circles:

V8, 55″ x 64″ (2010)

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:

Simply Dashing, 55″ x 64″ (2010)

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:

Tea Time on High Street, 55″ square (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.

 

 

 

Posted in 4-Patch Wonder, faux-kaleido quilts, free motion quilting, kaleidoscope quilts, Throwback Thursday, update | 8 Comments

Ready for the Quilter!

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!

Posted in Block of the Month (BOM), sampler quilt, update | 4 Comments

It’s a Wrap: Junior Billie Bag #11

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.

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, tote bags, update | 8 Comments

Saying Goodbye

My quilt guild, the Metropolitan Patchwork Society, recently published a blog post entitled “A Call for Comfort Quilts.” Friends of Hopewell House is looking for comfort quilts for residents of Hopewell House, a hospice facility reopening in southwest Portland this fall after a three-year hiatus. Prior to closing in 2019, Hopewell House spent 30 years helping thousands of individuals and their loved ones navigate with grace through one of the most profound times in their lives — death and dying.

According to Jill Citro, the Comfort Quilt Program coordinator, “The Quilt Program will offer patients a quilt of their choice, handmade by generous and creative community members who have donated their time, talents and materials. Each quilt will remain with the patient during their care. Upon the patient’s death, their quilt will be part of their ‘passage observance’ with their family, friends and caregivers, and the family will be invited to take the quilt home with them. As you can see, the quilt becomes an extremely meaningful, moving and cherished gift.”

It’s time to say goodbye to a few of the quilts I’ve made over the past 15 years or so. In a way, quilts are like books. If you’ve read a book and loved it, it’s like an old friend. It’s comforting to see it on a bookshelf; it might even be a book you’ll want to read again someday. I’ve become attached to every quilt I’ve made (even the ones that were made as gifts!) and I have enjoyed filling my home with them. They’ve been displayed in various and sundry places:  draped across chairs or on the back of couches, folded at the foot of beds, or displayed on quilt racks. Many a time a quilt has been pulled from its place on a chilly day to cover me or the Dear Husband while reading or watching TV.

Of the quilts I’m donating, three were made in classes I took from Billie Mahorney at the Pine Needle Quilt Shop in the mid-2000s. (Billie taught me so much about quiltmaking and is the one who first encouraged me to teach quilt classes.) A couple of the quilts are original designs and one is a recent quilt made from a free pattern. Now, freshly laundered and folded, these quilts are on their way to their new home. When Hopewell House opens its doors again, my hope is that these quilts will bring comfort and maybe even joy to hospice patients and their families.

 

 

 

Posted in family, Metropolitan Patchwork Society, update | 10 Comments

Afternoon Delight

I can’t remember the last time I spent the entire afternoon in my sewing room. Despite the fact that it was really hot upstairs — the temperature in Portland reached 100 degrees at 6:00 pm today — I was in heaven. Fortunately, my ironing board is positioned right under the ceiling fan; the circulating air helped. I still got hot and sticky but it was totally worth it.

First I worked on Junior Billie Bag #11, the one I am making as a teaching tool for my students at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego. I could have finished the bag today but I needed to leave the final steps undone so I can demonstrate them for my students at our third and final class on Friday. Look for the final reveal of this ultimate quilter’s tote next week!

Then I finally got the blocks sewn together on my Sea Star Sampler quilt. Because the blocks are of different sizes — finishing at 6, 12, and 18 inches — I knew I’d be sewing the top together in sections. You can see the four sections here:

What’s missing? The 18″ Chicago Star block, which goes in the center:

The Chicago Star was the first block I made way back in May of last year, when Kristin at Montavilla Sewing introduced it in a Block of the Month program via Zoom. Once in-person classes resumed at the Lake Oswego store in the fall of 2021, the BOM project faded away but I carried on, not really knowing what I would end up with. By the time I finished making blocks, I had used only two of the ones in Kristin’s design — but I feel sure she would approve.

The Chicago Star block needed to be added to my top with partial seams . . . and here it is in its rightful place:

I did wind up making one last-minute swap of two blocks and am pleased with the decision. Right now the top measures 48½” square but there are two borders to come. Maybe tomorrow?!

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Block of the Month (BOM), Churning Stars quilt block, Junior Billie Bag, sampler quilt, tote bags, update | 6 Comments

That Magic Moment . . .

. . . when a Junior Billie Bag becomes three-dimensional:

It makes all the work that goes into a JBB totally worth it! You’re looking at the inside of my current Junior Billie Bag-in-progress. You can’t see them all but there are 14 pockets in the three sides in the photo above. The other front/back panel has four pockets, bringing the number of inside pockets to 18.

But wait — there’s more! The side panels on the outside of the bag also have pockets. There are three in the photo below . . .

. . . and one more in this next photo, bringing the total number of pockets to 22:

The size of each pocket was carefully measured and made to hold the tools I use most often when I go to take — or teach — a quilt class.

Here’s a look at the side panels/bottom unit on the outside . . .

. . . and on the inside:

I’m absolutely loving the bold poppy prints, all of which have touches of silver. I also used two other silver metallic fabrics in other parts of the bag. I’ve loved every single Junior Billie Bag I’ve made, all of which have been bright and colorful, but this one — #11 — is probably the most elegant.

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, tote bags, update | 6 Comments

Off the Back Burner

Is it just me or is the summer flying by way too fast? It’s been several weeks since I made my last Sea Sampler block. I played around a bit with block arrangements in early June but couldn’t seem to land on a setting that pleased me. Last week I finally figured out why. After remaking a few of the 6″ Atomic Star blocks this week (more on those below), this is what I wound up with:


The Atomic Star blocks look like this:


Now take a look at this photo from early June:

See how the Atomic Stars are arranged with positive/negative blocks next to each other? That’s what was bothering me. The only place I really liked the effect was the one row of three Atomic Stars in the upper left quadrant of the quilt top. There’s already a lot going on in this sampler quilt (any sampler quilt, for that matter) so going with one color combo for the Atomic Stars, in this case the one with the dark star and the lighter background, calms it down a bit.

I had one other design dilemma:  the placement of the block I think of as Dawn’s Nebraska Star because I found the design on a coffee cup purchased in Nebraska years ago:

Don’t get me wrong. I love this block. But the blue star is smaller in scale than the ones in the other 12″ blocks. This one just couldn’t hold its own next to them. I found a couple of places I thought the block could go. It was my non-quilting twin Diane who helped me decide after I texted her two possibilities.

Once the blocks are sewn together, the quilt top will measure 48½” square. I’m going to add a narrow green border (an inch, I think) and then a wider border (say, five or six inches) of the little fishies print that you see in the circle of the Nebraska Star above. I’ll wind up with a quilt around 60″ square — a good size for a lap quilt.

Thanks to a suggestion from my good friend Vickie R., this quilt has an official name: Sea Star Sampler. (Love the alliteration.) Thanks, Vickie!

 

 

 

Posted in Churning Stars quilt block, family, sampler quilt, update | 3 Comments

In the Works: Junior Billie Bag #11

Because of the pandemic, it’s been almost three years since I taught a Junior Billie Bag class. That changes tomorrow, when I teach the first of three sessions to a new group of students. I’m pretty pumped!

Here’s a look at one of the front/back panels of my current bag:

Isn’t that a gorgeous poppy? I’m using several fabrics from the “Poppy Promenade” line designed by Greta Lynn for Kanvas in association with Benartex Fabrics. The line was released a year ago (or was it two?) and I bought a few yards of the main focus fabric, a stunning border print:

My thought was to make myself a sundress (which hasn’t happened yet) but I also purchased a few of the other prints in the line in smaller quantities in case I decided to make a quilt. That hasn’t happened yet, either.

To make the panel you see at the top of the page, I fussycut the border print to isolate a poppy and made an inset circle in the middle of a 10″ block of pearly grey fabric. The block is surrounded by a narrow red print flange, with solid black strips to finish the panel.

Instead of piecing the second front/back panel, I cut one piece of the border print:

I make a new bag with each class so I can show the students the individual components of the JBB and how they go together. Then I assemble the bag right along with the students so that I have a finished product the same time they do. Actually, I’m always a step or two ahead of them!

If you’re new to my blog, this link will explain the history of the Junior Billie Bag and give you a look at the 10 bags I have made over the last 10 years.

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, update | 7 Comments

Linda’s DWR Quilt

Greetings! We’re one week into the official start of summer. Hope yours is off to a good start. I’m popping in to show you how well the pillowcases I made for Linda, one of my 10th Blogiversary Giveaway winners, go with her stunning Double Wedding Ring quilt. See for yourself!

Linda was kind enough to send me a photo and she gave me permission to post her photo here. In addition to the pieced wedding rings, the quilt contains appliqué in the borders that she did using the needleturn method. And she hand quilted it herself!

Linda made this beauty to celebrate her 40th wedding anniversary. I’m so happy that the pillowcases I made for Linda are keeping company with her heirloom quilt!

Posted in appliqué, Giveaway, needleturn appliqué, roll-it-up pillowcases, update | 6 Comments

10th Blogiversary Giveaway Update

The three winners of my recent giveaway — Linda, Chipper, and Bridget — had their choice of three bespoke items: a pair of pillowcases, a rotary cutter coat, or a pair of oven mitts.  Much to my surprise, all three winners chose pillowcases.

After a few back-and-forths via email with the winners, taking careful note of their color and fabric preferences, I got to work. It did take me a while to get the pillowcases made, what with teaching quilt classes, working outdoors alongside the Dear Husband to get the garden up to speed after a verrrry long and wet spring, and welcoming visiting relatives to the Portland White House.

But the cases are done, I’ve sent “sneak peeks” to the winners, and am happy to report the cases are, as they say, “in the mail.” Do you want to see what the end results are? Of course you do!

First up are Linda’s cases. As a reminder, Linda’s comment on my 10th Blogiversary post was this: “What a lovely and generous way to celebrate your blog’s anniversary! So hard to pick a favorite color combo, but pretty much any combination of blues and greens is hard to beat.” Linda’s cases contain — surprise! — blue and green:

The body of the pillowcase is a subtle white-on-white dot. Fun fact:  the fabrics were chosen to complement a stunning Double Wedding Ring quilt that Linda made — and hand quilted! — to celebrate her 40th wedding anniversary.

Chipper, my second winner, said “I love blue and white. Congratulations on 10 years!” Here are the cases I made for her:

Fun fact: there’s an amusing story about how I wound up with the blue and white floral fabric you see in the body of the pillowcase.

My third winner is Bridget, whose comment on my blog was this: “Ten years and I have loved so many of your posts! Congrats! I am not sure how this happened, I hate orange but right now I am liking orange and cream combos or maybe orange and yellow…um 😉 Oh, hey, maybe it is a lack of sunshine this spring! lol”

Fun fact: When I showed Bridget a few prints as possibilities for her pillowcases, she jumped on one for a very special reason: her nickname is “Birdie.” Check out her pillowcases:


And take a look at this close-up:

All of the birds have orange beaks! It was meant to be, right?!

My thanks again to all who helped me celebrate 10 years of blogging by entering my Blogiversary Giveaway. I am grateful for each and every one of you. Here’s to the next 10 years!!

 

Posted in family, Giveaway, home dec, oven mitts, roll-it-up pillowcases, rotary cutter case, tutorial, update | 4 Comments