Author Archives: Dawn

JBB #12 — Can You Believe It? — Is Under Construction

I’ve been gearing up to teach my Junior Billie Bag class that begins at Montavilla Sewing Center next week by creating the components that make up a completed bag. This is one of two front/back panels and it gives you a good sense of my color scheme: navy, gold, and white with just a touch of dusty blue. An elegant combo, yes?

My inspiration came from these fabrics I bought at Montavilla a couple of years ago:

At the time I wasn’t sure what I would make with them but I knew I would come up with something. The line is called “Gingham Foundry” and was designed for Riley Blake Designs by My Mind’s Eye. It features a large floral print on a navy background and several companion prints, including the text design you see above right. In case you can’t make out the words, they are the lyrics for “What a Wonderful World” — one of my all-time favorite songs.

The design on the front/back panel is one that I came up with a few Junior Billie Bags ago. It features a large bloom from the main print set into a circle and framed with a narrow flange.

I returned to another favorite design for the other front/back panel:

It’s a Churn Dash block set into the center of a Sawtooth Star block. I call it a Churning Star block as a nod to Jenifer Gaston, who designed a quilt front this block that she named Churning Stars. Her blocks are set on point in her charming version:

I found several fabrics in my stash that play nicely with the “Gingham Foundry” fabrics you see on the left and right sides of this photo:

You’ll see these fabrics in supporting roles in the JBB: they will appear on the inside and outside of the bag as pockets. Oops, I see I forgot the white and gold dot fabric that’s one of the “Seasonal Basics” by Lori Holt for Riley Blake dating back to 2019. I have that dot in a few different colorways.

Please check back soon. I’ll have a preview of those pockets — and you’ll be amazed how many pockets there are in this tote bag I call “the quintessential quilter’s tote.”




Posted in Billie Bag, Churning Stars quilt block, Junior Billie Bag, tote bags, update | 3 Comments

Back in the Saddle Again

Four weeks without a blog post! That’s a record for me. I take the month of August off from teaching my quilt classes at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego. I didn’t intend to take a month off from my blog but this past August was not a typical month. The latter half was filled with several mini family reunions, although the occasion that brought us together was a sad one: a memorial service in Portland for my beloved brother-in-law Ed, who died in June following a lengthy battle with cancer. Ed and my twin sister Diane were married for 52 years, 41 of which were spent in the Atlanta area.

Diane flew out to Portland in July to make arrangements for the service and then came back in August for the service itself. Ed grew up in Portland, one of eight children, so we knew there would be a large number of his family members in attendance (spanning three generations) as well as several from ours. It was a lovely service. I had the honor of reading a beautiful eulogy written by Ed and Diane’s dear friend Lisa, who was not able to attend. An equally lovely reception followed.

Diane stayed two weeks after that. We went for long walks in the neighborhood and played a lot of Scrabble. And we made a quick trip to Bend to see our stepmother Shirley, just home from an unexpected stay in the hospital. When I was in Bend in late July delivering Shirley’s living room valances, which I wrote about here, Shirley asked if I would make simple valances for the windows in the master bath and guest bathroom. I gladly said “yes” and we talked about fabric ideas.

On this most recent trip to Bend, Diane and I made a visit to the Quilt Basket quilt shop and came back with fabric for two valances plus a third piece for simple café-style curtains for Shirley’s office. These are our fabric selections:

Shirley has a beach theme going in both bathrooms. The top fabric is for the guest bath, the middle fabric is for the master bath, and the bottom fabric, a batik, is for the office. Shirley waited patiently for well over a year for me to get her tailored living room valances completed and installed. I have promised her she won’t have to wait nearly as long for these next ones!

But here’s the thing:  one week from today is my high school’s 55 + 1 reunion. As a member of the planning committee, I volunteered to make a continuously looping slide show based on hundreds of photos from four past reunions. I’m well into the project but . . . well, let’s just say I have miles to go before I sleep.

And one month from today is the first session of a three-part workshop at Montavilla Sewing on the Junior Billie Bag, the quintessential quilter’s tote designed years ago by my quilt teacher and mentor Billie Mahorney. I always make a JBB in advance of the workshop to demonstrate each step of its construction. I need to get started on that pronto!

Here’s a look at one I made in 2019 . . .

. . . and here’s a peek of the inside of it while it was under construction:

By the way, a few spots in the class are still open, if there are any quilters in the Portland metropolitan area who have been thinking about making a Junior Billie Bag for themselves. Clicking on this link will take you to the Montavilla website where you can find registration info and my class supply list. Class dates are Oct. 6, Oct. 20, and Nov. 3. There are two weeks between sessions so students can work on their Junior Billie Bags without feeling rushed.

It’s good to be back!




Posted in update | 4 Comments

Serging (Not Surging) Forward

The shirt I started back in June is finally finished. I got off to a great start using a vintage “Fast & Easy” Butterick pattern and a summery cotton print from my stash:

What should have been an afternoon project came to a screeching halt when I decided to serge the side seams. The last time I used my serger was in 2020, when I made myself this bathrobe.

For the uninitiated, a serger is a specialty type of machine that sews seams, trims off seam allowances, and finishes raw fabric edges — all at the same time. The serger requires four spools of thread, each of which has an intricate threading process. The four threads work together to give a lovely finished edge to a seam.

Almost immediately one of the four threads broke. Now most people would simply rethread the one that broke and carry on. Not me! Here comes a confession:  I never learned how to thread my serger. I found the diagrams that came with my manual impossible to follow so every time a thread broke I would pack my serger in its original box, return to the Montavilla Sewing store where I purchased it back in 2004, and ask the nice people there to “show me one more time how to thread it.”

This time I took my serger in to Montavilla to be serviced because it was way overdue. When I got it back a couple weeks later other things in my life took precedence and it wasn’t until yesterday that I got back to finish the job.

I’m pretty pleased with the result. My summer top is casual like a camp shirt but a wee bit dressier. If you look at the pattern cover you will see that the shirt was designed to be tucked in at the waist. I wanted mine to be an overblouse so I added a second button at the waist. I also lengthened the bodice by one inch and took in the side seams an inch. The fit is a bit boxy but I like it:

Even though my heart remains in quilting, I’d like to make myself a few more short-sleeved shirts. I even have another vintage pattern in mind:

Can you guess how old this pattern is? Hint: big hair and broad shoulders! This pattern dates back to 1985.

As for my serger, it was a lower end model when I bought it almost 20 years ago. Most of the sergers sold today are called “self-threading” or “air-threading” sergers, taking all of the hard work and frustration out of trying to thread them yourself. I think it’s time I upgraded my serger, don’t you?

Posted in garment sewing, update | 7 Comments

Another Home Dec Project Completed . . .

. . . and would you believe it took two years? I’m rather embarrassed to admit it took so long but the posts on my blog detailing the process leave no doubt. It was in the fall of 2021 that my stepmother Shirley asked if I would make valances for the three living room windows in her home in Bend. She had just bought new furniture and was looking for valances that would complement her upholstered couch. Here’s a look at one of the completed valances against the couch fabric:

Back in 2021 Shirley and I looked at valances online and I sketched out our shared vision: tailored valances with inverted pleats in the center and each end, to be mounted on wide-pocket wraparound curtain rods:

By the fall of 2022 the valances were made and ready to hang , , ,

. . . but the trip from Portland to Bend to install them was postponed when the Dear Husband and I came down with Covid. Our cases were mild and we recovered quickly but by then road conditions between western and central Oregon — snow and ice in the passes — forced the decision to wait until spring. Due to a scheduling snafu on my part, the spring trip to Bend didn’t happen until summer (as in last week). Shirley’s grandson Scott (my nephew) drove up from southern Oregon to install the curtain rods; that guy is a keeper!

This is the valance on the front window . . .

. . . and these are the ones on the other side of the room:

Underneath the valances are cellular shades, also called accordion blinds, that can be lowered depending on the location of the sun. This next shot shows the front window with the shade lowered against the morning sun:

Did you happen to notice that my original sketch didn’t include buttons at the top of each pleat? They were an afterthought — and they were by far the hardest part of the project! The buttons are curved metal discs with teeth on the inside to grip the valance fabric, which is cut in circles and then wrapped tightly and smoothly around the discs:

The decorator fabric is quite stiff and also ravels easily so I used pinking shears to cut out the circles. It was a battle getting each fabric circle neatly around a disc. I’m afraid I used some unpardonable language getting those buttons covered. (The DH was in earshot and can attest to that.) Each valance has three buttons. That makes nine of them (eleven if you count the two I ruined).

But all’s well that ends well. Shirley and I are both delighted with how well the valances turned out. It makes me so happy I could fulfill her wish for new window treatments.




Posted in family, home dec, update, valance | 6 Comments

Home Dec Duo

I’m taking advantage of my twin sister’s visit to spruce up the Portland White House. A few years ago I helped Diane recover her dining room chairs and now she’s returning the favor. I actually found the perfect fabric on my last trip to Georgia to visit her: a four-yard remnant of a beautiful “high performance” fabric, more than enough to cover six chairs. The beauty of having extra fabric is that there’s plenty to make new covers should the need arise.

In the photo above you can see a piece of the new fabric artfully draped over a chair to cover the stains and worn spots. Here’s a close-up of the fabric:

Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the subtle diamond design.

The chairs are part of an antique dining room set the Dear Husband and I bought 25 or 30 years ago. I had the chairs recovered professionally at the time. The upholsterer did such a good job that all Diane and I needed to do was cover the existing chair pads — no need to remove the old covers and dig out all those staples. An excellent DIY project but a two-person job for sure.

I started by making a freezer paper pattern, tracing around an existing chair pad for the shape and adding about 3½” extra to wrap the fabric around to the back:

Five of the six chairs have no arms; the sixth is the one in the first picture, the one I think of as the Papa Bear chair because it’s a couple inches wider and an inch longer than the other ones. After cutting fabric for the five armless chairs, I sliced the pattern to add the extra width and length for the Papa Bear chair:

Now take a look at the finished product:

Pretty nice, eh?

Here’s a look at one of the armless chairs:

I really loved the old fabric on the chairs but I must confess the new fabric looks a bit more luxurious:

As Diane would say, “Simply elegant and elegantly simple!”




Posted in family, home dec, update | 8 Comments

Diamonds in the Rough

Progress is continuing (albeit very slowly) on my current Work-in-Progress, a second version of Chic Diamonds by Sew Kind of Wonderful. Here are 10 blocks representing 40 of  the 100 blades I need to make the top:

The blades will be arranged in a scrappy layout, I hasten to add. I’ve been putting four identical blades together up on my design wall just to keep track of how many blades I have of each combination. None of the blades have been sewn together.

Now I get to pair up my fabrics in different combinations to make the next set of strips. These are the fabrics I’m using:

I may introduce a few more from my stash. No need to decide till I see what I wind up with in the next group.

Some quilters do all of the cutting of their fabrics at once and then they’re ready to do all of the sewing at once. I much prefer to make a few blocks at a time. Why? Because I am so eager to see what they’re going to look like! That’s not a very productive way to make a quilt top but I’m okay with that. It’s not a race and I’m enjoying the leisurely pace, especially this month.

It’s summer, after all. The weather has been beautiful lately, which means I’ve been spending a lot of time in the garden with the Dear Husband. The weeds have not been entirely vanquished but we’re making steady progress and are already enjoying the fruit of our labors — mostly herbs and raspberries, though the tomatoes and beans are almost ready to sample and everything else is coming along nicely except the zucchini, which the squirrels attacked.

I was out of town for a few days at the beginning of July, and now my twin sister Diane is here in Portland for an extended visit. (She and the DH are playing Scrabble as I work on this post.)

I thought you might enjoy a couple of process shots. In the first one, my background fabric is being cut into curves using the Quick Curve Ruler:

After attaching two background pieces to one of the blades, the resulting unit is being squared up:

It’s such a pleasure working with these gorgeous fabrics.




Posted in Quick Curve Ruler, update | 5 Comments

Chic Diamonds Revisited

What have we here? Another new project, I rather sheepishly confess. Even though I don’t gravitate toward pre-cuts, I recently bought a set of 40 2½” strips of Northcott’s new fabric line called “Morning Light” and started casting around for a good pattern to show off the line’s vivid greens, turquoises, and blues.

Then it occurred to me I already had the perfect pattern! Back in 2016 I made a quilt I named Dragonfly Kisses:

The quilt is a simplified version of the pattern Chic Diamonds by Sew Kind of Wonderful, creator of the Quick Curve Ruler:

Here’s how I described my pared down approach in 2016 to Sew Kind of Wonderful’s design:

“Chic Diamonds was designed as a jelly-roll friendly pattern, since the pointed pieces (I call them blades) are made from 2½” strips that are sewn in pairs and then trimmed using the Quick Curve Ruler. Triangles cut from the strip pairs are saved and used in each block. Six blocks in the design are intentionally left blank as a design element, perhaps to give the eye a place to rest.

“I decided early on not to use all the triangles, wanting to make my quilt less busy so a viewer’s eyes would be drawn to the X blocks (the kisses). I used only 20 triangles rather than the 240 called for in the pattern. And I put my triangles in the middle of the blank blocks rather than in the blocks with the blades. (Thanks to my friend Deborah for giving me that idea.) I like to think those triangles form the “chic diamonds” in my quilt.

“The original design uses a 6 x 6 setting, finishing 54″ square. I went with a 5 x 6 setting using five blank blocks instead of six. I like the asymmetry of the look. And I added a narrow border of background fabric to float the outer blocks a bit, giving a bit more airiness to the design and making the top slightly bigger.”

The fabric line in my first version featured dragonflies and the X of the block made the kisses, hence the name. I gave Dragonfly Kisses to a family member during our holiday gift exchange in 2016. At the time I wrote on my blog that I enjoyed making the quilt so much I would make it again if the right fabrics came along. I wasn’t planning on using the same fabric palette but you can see that I gravitated right back to it with these Northcott prints. I even sourced the same background fabric, “Shadowplay” by Maywood in pale mint.

I predict I will enjoy making this second version every bit as much as I did the first.




Posted in family, Quick Curve Ruler, update | 3 Comments

Back, As Promised . . .

. . . with a few photos of Vintage Vignettes, all soft and puckery after being laundered:

The quilt measured 80″ x 92″ after being quilted and trimmed. Now, after laundering, it measures 75″ x 89″ — a little more shrinkage than I was expecting but there’s a reason. When I bought the quilt top I could tell the fabrics hadn’t been washed so I didn’t wash the fabric I bought for the outer border and backing either. (Yes, I’m one of those quiltmakers who washes, dries, and irons her quilting cottons before cutting into them.)

Here’s Coco lending a helping hand — er, paw — as I measured the quilt:

It’s very challenging getting the light right when photographing fabrics indoors — especially pastels. Depending on the time of day and amount of light coming in the windows, the colors can look completely different. This is pretty close, though:

No chance for outdoor photos today: it’s raining in Portland! You know what that means, don’t you? No gardening today! I’m heading right back up to my sewing room.

P.S. I’ve already added Vintage Vignettes to the Gallery page on my website, which you can visit here. It includes a link to additional photos taken during the quilt’s construction.





Posted in '30s reproduction fabrics, cats, update, vintage quilts | 10 Comments

It’s a Wrap: Vintage Vignettes

Hooray, my Vintage Vignettes quilt is done. I finished binding it last week on a short but sweet road trip with the Dear Husband to Walla Walla, Washington (and added the label yesterday).

These next few photos were taken in Walla Walla’s tranquil Pioneer Park:

Doesn’t that dappled sunlight give the quilt a lovely glow?

You may remember I acquired the unfinished quilt top by an unknown maker last August at my quilt guild’s annual silent auction . . .

. . . only to discover later that my dear friend Vivienne Moore had pieced these blocks about 20 years ago. She donated the top to the Metropolitan Patchwork Society auction through a friend who also belongs to the guild.

Lucky for me, Viv had a piece of that lavender sashing fabric in her stash that enabled me to complete the first border as it would have been impossible to match. I added a wide floral border using a ’30s reproduction fabric that played very nicely with the fabrics in Viv’s blocks. Here’s a photo of the finished quilt taken in the same spot:

Another friend who had inherited a large stash of ’30s repro fabric gave me a piece of solid medium blue to use for the binding after I had visited several local quilt shops without finding a suitable shade.

The label, outlined in the same blue, identifies Vivienne as the maker of the blocks:

It wouldn’t be a photoshoot without Coco the Photobomber making an appearance, right?

I’ll be back with a few more photos after Vintage Vignettes takes a trip through the washer and dryer. You know how I love the puckery softness that laundering gives a quilt!




Posted in '30s reproduction fabrics, cats, family, Metropolitan Patchwork Society, quilt labels, update, vintage quilts | 7 Comments

In the Home Stretch

I’ve rounded third base and am headed for home on the binding of my Vintage Vignettes quilt:

A few minutes here, a few minutes there. It adds up. You may be able to tell from the photo that my binding is wider than usual. I typically make my binding to finish at 1/4″ but I went for 1/2″ finished on this one.

Check out this sweet treat, a little macaron holding my needle in its magnetic grip:

I have a terrible time keeping track of my needle between binding sprints as I tend to set it down on a flat surface or insert it in the border of the quilt and then lose it somehow. The macaron is so cute it makes me want to reach for it instead.

Made by Clover, the macaron is a needle sharpener as well as a magnet. The “filling” is some substance that sharpens the tip of the needle when it’s inserted between the top and bottom of the macaron. I never knew hand-sewing needles needed to be sharpened; did you?

I found this little gem at my local quilt shop but if yours doesn’t carry it you can google “clover sweet n sharp macaron” and be able to find it online. It comes in two flavors: raspberry, which is what I have, and pistachio, which is more aqua than green. Get one for yourself and one for a friend or family member who sews. That’s what I did. Sweet treats are meant to be shared.




Posted in '30s reproduction fabrics, family, update, vintage quilts | 9 Comments