Category Archives: family

In the Christmas Spirit

Isn’t this a sweet holiday scene? My sister Diane sent this photo to me a few days ago. The table runner was made last year by moi from my own pattern, Season to Taste, and gifted to Diane. I think the runner looks sensational on the built-in buffet in her dining room, don’t you? (I still have plans to make a second winter version of Season to Taste using a different color palette. Just haven’t gotten around to it yet.)

Christmas decorations at the Portland White House have become increasingly minimal. The Dear Husband and I have segued in recent years from a live tree decorated with strings of lights and lots of ornaments to a small imitation tree that sits on the sideboard opposite the front door. This year I added my mini quilt made from the pattern Dresden Neighborhood by Persimon Dreams:


The little scene looks lovely at night. I struggled to get a photo that would do it justice. This was the best I could do:

The tree and quilt can be seen from the street through the glass in our front door. I especially like how the icicle lights on the curved arch on our front porch are reflected in the door and windows:

Now I just need to find a wreath of fresh greens to hang above the house numbers.

There’s something irresistible about the combination of red and green, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s no coincidence that red and green figure prominently in my stash of quilt fabrics!

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, table runner, table topper, update, wall hanging, wonky Dresden neighborhood | 7 Comments

Satisfying Sewing

During my recent two-week stay at sister Diane’s home in Georgia last month, the only sewing I did other than new valances for her garage was this pair of napkins with machine-mitered corners:

The days leading up to our departure were so busy I didn’t take the time to organize a quilt project as I usually do, so I wound up throwing this fabric in my suitcase with the idea of making napkins. We use only cloth napkins at the Portland White House, and some of the older ones are pretty faded. This fleur de lis print will go very well with my blue and white transferware dishes.

I usually make my napkins with a 1/4″-wide hem using a method involving folding the fabric at the corners to form the miters. In fact, one of my very first tutorials — from 10 years ago! — describes this method. Folded miters work very well with narrow hems — say 1/4″ to 3/8″ wide. For anything wider, a miter stitched by machine is a better choice.

Because I had decided to finish these napkins with a 1/2″-wide hem, I looked for tutorials online to refresh my memory on how to machine-stitch mitered corners. I found a few that described the process with photos but every tutorial was lacking what I consider important information.

I want to make a couple more napkins now that I’m back home, and this time I’m going to take process shots so I’ll have them on hand the next time I decide to make some.

Is there interest out there in a tutorial? Let me know!

 

 

 

Posted in family, mitered corners, table napkins, tutorial, update | 17 Comments

Valancing Act, Part 2

The simple tailored valances I made for my sister Diane’s garage are in place:

They were put up with spring tension rods because we knew the white trim around the windows would offer a crisp contrast with the blue floral valance fabric. (And you already know how I love blue and white.)

Here’s a close-up of one window:

Diane is horrified that I’m posting these pictures before she spackled the holes from the old curtain rod and touched up the paint. I assured her my readers would use their imaginations and pretend not to see them.

She loves the new valances, in no small part because of what she calls the “happy fabric.” We are definitely on the same page in that regard.

We both loved the valances I made last year:

It sure is a shame the ruffles got all floppy from the humidity (described in my last post).

Perhaps you are wondering what’s going to happen to those valances. Let me reassure you they will be repurposed in some fashion. The fabric really is beautiful:

I’ve already cut off the ruffled tops and rod pockets, leaving two rectangles measuring roughly 16″ x 66″. There’s enough there to make a couple of beautiful pillows or some other home dec or crafty item. If you have any suggestions, feel free to direct them my way.

And for those of you who saw my pictures from a year ago and thought Diane and Ed’s garage looked pristine and unused, here’s proof that they actually park their cars in it:

I hope those of you who celebrate American Thanksgiving had a delicious repast yesterday. We sure did, and now we get to enjoy the next best thing:  leftovers!

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, update, valance | 2 Comments

Valancing Act

No, that’s not a typo. I’m in the valance-making business again! Just a few weeks after finishing valances for my stepmother’s living room windows, I’m here in Georgia at my twin sister’s home making valances for her garage windows.

But wait, you must be thinking. Didn’t I make valances for Diane’s garage windows last year at this time? Yes, I did. Alas, our noble effort (captured in this post) did not stand the test of time. We think the humidity in Georgia caused the ruffles at the top of the softly gathered valances, made out of a linen-like decorator fabric, to flop over. Most unseemly! Diane coped by tucking the ruffle out of sight behind the valances, which was definitely not the look either one of us was going for.

Chatting several months ago about what our options were for replacements, Diane mentioned how much she loved the valances I had made for my own kitchen windows:

She was wild about the fabric (from the “A Breath of Avignon” line by Sandy Klop for Moda) but I was sure I didn’t have enough left to make more valances. So that was that.

Then, while surveying my stash last week to see what project of my own I might work on during the Dear Husband’s and my annual two-week visit in November, I spotted another piece of that very fabric. I tossed it into my suitcase, and Diane was beyond delighted to learn there was enough for valances.

So . . . I brought a project for me (more on that later) and a project for her. What’s with the projects? Well, my sister and our husbands like to watch college football. It’s definitely not my thing so I am perfectly content to be working away on a sewing project in the kitchen dining area while the three of them are ensconced in the living room watching grown men hurtling themselves at each other in the pursuit of making or preventing touchdowns.

Diane really liked the design of my tailored kitchen valances, which feature a flange of yellow fabric just under the rod pocket:We didn’t have suitable fabric at her house so she ordered a spool of ⅝” grosgrain ribbon in a bright yellow gold to take the place of a flange. We had a good laugh when the ribbon arrived:


Diane thought she had ordered 10 yards. Turns out she ordered 100 yards — roughly the length of a football field!

I got started by making a rough sketch of the valance . . .

. . . followed by a freezer paper pattern:

In this next photo the grosgrain ribbon is ready to be stitched to the first valance:

It will be lined with blackout fabric, a necessity to keep the valance fabric from fading from light hitting it from the outside.

As home dec projects go, this is a simple one. Please stop by again soon to see the result!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, update, valance | 7 Comments

Back from the Quilter: Arctic Stars

My latest quilt is back from the quilter and I can’t wait to show you how lovely the quilting is on it!

As you can see, there’s a huge amount of negative space on my Arctic Stars quilt. I supersized a block from the original pattern — Star Stream Quilt by Chasing Tigers — and added three smaller star blocks. That’s it! The rest is background fabric with a subtle design that reminds me of crushed ice. The challenge was to find a quilting motif that adds texture to the quilt without overpowering it.

When I make a quilt with a lot of straight or diagonal lines, I often search for a quilting motif with curves to add a softening effect. I initially considered a cloud motif but changed my mind when my longarm quilter, Karlee of SewInspired2Day, suggested bubbles. Oh, yes! It was totally the right call. Here are close-ups of the three small star blocks finishing at 9″ square . . .

. . . and the single large star block finishing at 18″ square:


Finally, here’s a peek at the back of the quilt, featuring one of the more colorful companion prints in the fabric line (“Icy World” by Gareth Lucas for Windham Fabrics) as well as the original focus fabric I used to fussycut the centers of my stars:

The quilted top has been trimmed to 50″ x 64″ and is now ready for the binding. I thought about using the background fabric for binding, allowing the stars to float completely, but then decided I wanted to frame the quilt, so to speak, using the same navy fabric used for the star points. It may look like a solid navy but it’s actually a mottled tone-on-tone. I like and use this fabric so much that I actually buy it by the bolt (“Shadowplay” by Maywood).

I doubt that I’ll get the binding and label done before we leave on Tuesday for our annual two-week Thanksgiving trip to Georgia so be on the lookout for my “It’s a Wrap!” post in early December.

 

 

 

Posted in family, update | 4 Comments

Ugly Oven Mitts?

I made my twin Diane a pair of oven mitts almost two years ago that she hasn’t used:

Her reason? “They are too beautiful.” I threatened to make her a pair of ugly ones but she said it’s not in my DNA to make anything ugly. I have to admit she’s right. Here’s the thing: Diane really needs a pair of oven mitts. So I decided to make her another set that she will actually use.

Here are the mitts I just made for her:

She’s going to receive them next week as a hostess gift when the Dear Husband and I make our annual two-week trip to Georgia. We’ll celebrate our birthday together as well as Thanksgiving in the company of both our Dear Husbands.

Red is a prominent accent color in Diane’s kitchen (hence my fabric choice in her first set of mitts) so I made sure the lining of the new mitts included a touch of red. The mitt on the left is ready to be turned right side out:

The lining fabric ups the cuteness factor but you can’t really see it unless you peek inside the mitts:

I’ll be taking over Diane’s kitchen to make a few meals so you can be sure these oven mitts will get broken in. Then she’ll have to use them, right?

Her first set of mitts provided the inspiration for my tutorial “Oven Mitts that Fit,” introduced on my website in April of 2021. You might want to make a pair for yourself. They also make great gifts, something to consider with the holidays coming up. Here are the links to the three-part tutorial:

Oven Mitts that Fit: Prequel to the Tutorial (April 13, 2021)
Oven Mitt Tutorial from First Light Designs, Part 1 (April 18, 2021)
Oven Mitt Tutorial from First Light Designs, Part 2 (April 19, 2021)

By the way, these oven mitts launder beautifully! They’re made with 100% cotton fabrics, 100% cotton batting, and Insul-bright, an insulated heat-resistant batting.

The ones I made for myself two years ago are still in great shape despite being used every single day and making several trips through the washer and dryer. And yet . . . I’m tempted to make myself a pair like Diane’s because I really love the fabrics.

 

 

 

Posted in family, oven mitts, tutorial, update | 4 Comments

The Best Laid Plans . . .

Here’s a sneak peek of one of three valances I made for my stepmother Shirley’s living room windows:

You’re looking at a little over half of the shortest valance, which measures 62″ wide. The finished width is actually 54″ because the rod has brackets that come out from the wall 4″ on each end and the valance wraps around the brackets. The pleat near the end is close to where the valance wraps around the bracket.

I’m looking pretty pleased, aren’t I? The valances turned out just as I had envisioned them: understated and elegant. The simple design — flat valances with inverted pleats at the center and ends — allows the subtle herringbone decorator fabric to be the star of the show.

So about those best laid plans . . . The idea was to head over to Bend in Central Oregon this coming weekend to install the valances with the help of my nephew Scott, coming to Bend from another part of the state. We’ve all been keeping our eyes on the weather forecast, knowing this may be one of the last weekends to travel across the state before ice and snow make driving conditions dangerous.

The forecast is still looking good but I’m not going anywhere. Why? Because the Dear Husband has a rebound case of Covid! You may recall from my last post that he got Covid from me and was prescribed the antiviral medication Paxlovid, which helped him bounce back from Covid almost immediately. Four days after testing negative, he started exhibiting cold symptoms again and subsequently tested positive. It turns out about four percent of Covid patients who take Paxlovid come down with Covid again within a very few days. It’s known as “Paxlovid rebound.”

So here we are . . . back in isolation. Not going to Bend this weekend. If by some stroke of luck the weather the following weekend looks decent, and provided the DH is recovered (which I expect to be the case), we’ll make the trip over the mountain. If not, we’ll all have to wait till spring to see the valances installed in Shirley’s home.

The valances were more challenging to make than I expected. I quickly realized that the decorator fabric was quite thick and heavy, which would make traditional inverted pleats bulky, especially because the fabric needed to be lined. So I made faux pleats!

Let me show you what I mean. Here’s a picture of a pleat at one end of the valance:

Here’s what that pleat really looks like:

Do you see what I did? Each “pleat” is actually a separate piece of fabric lined to the edge, layered underneath the main fabric pieces, and attached to the rod pocket. (The lining fabric is a 100% quilting cotton from my stash.) Each valance is made of seven lined rectangles, three of which are faux pleats, plus the rod pocket.

Isn’t it nice when a home dec vision is realized?

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, update, valance | 8 Comments

Good News, Bad News

The good news:  the test valance I made for my stepmother Shirley’s living room windows last month was a great success. You’ll recall from my last post that I’m helping her update her living room by making bespoke valances out of an elegant furnishing fabric. The Dear Husband and I enjoyed a quick trip to Central Oregon at the end of September to visit her and test out the valance and drapery rod in her home.

The bad news:  at some point during that trip I was exposed to Covid-19. I woke up at home on Friday, Oct. 7, with mild cold symptoms, took a Covid test, and looked in dismay at the second pink line on the home test. The DH and I immediately went into isolation mode per CDC guidelines.

The good news:  my bout with Covid hasn’t been bad. My cold symptoms never worsened although I did experience three days of fatigue. Neither my stepmother nor a dear friend I had lunch with in Bend came down with Covid. The DH tested negative five days in a row.

The bad news:  on the sixth day the DH tested positive. I arranged a video conference the next day with a physician who prescribed the anti-viral drug Paxlovid. By then I was one day beyond my five-day isolation period and was able to mask up and get that prescription for him.

The good news:  within 24 hours of taking the first dose, my husband was feeling remarkably better.

More good news: yesterday I got the borders sewn onto the ’30s reproduction quilt top found at my guild’s silent auction in August. This is the block in the upper left corner:


Here’s a look at the top on a double bed:

Isn’t that pretty? I’m very happy with my choice of fabric for the outer border. The top measures 81½” x 93½” right now; it will shrink a bit from quilting and laundering.

It sure felt good hearing the sewing machine in my sewing room humming again! I’m now primed to cut into that gorgeous decorator fabric with the goal of heading over to Central Oregon before the end of the month with the finished valances.

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, update, valance, vintage quilts | 7 Comments

Home Dec Project in the Works

It’s been more than a minute since my last post, that’s for sure. The year has flown by but September flew by faster than usual. Between working alongside the Dear Husband in the garden (and harvesting the results), resuming classes at Montavilla Sewing Center after a break during August, taking visiting relatives around Portland and through the Columbia Gorge, and continuing my usual everyday pursuits of reading, trying new recipes, and playing Scrabble, very little time has been spent in my sewing room.

I thought for sure I’d have the borders added by now to the 1930s reproduction quilt started by my friend Vivienne years ago but all I’ve managed to do is cut the strips. I can claim only one accomplishment: a prototype of the tailored valances I’m making for my stepmother. Here’s a look at the beautiful furnishing fabric and a rough sketch:

This home dec project was actually launched a year ago. My stepmother bought new upholstered furniture for her living room and asked if I would make valances for the three windows plus one in the hallway. This is just the kind of home dec challenge I love so of course I said yes. Then, during my annual November trip last year to my twin sister’s home in Georgia, we found this lovely tweedy herringbone fabric.

Finding the proper drapery hardware after I got home proved unsuccessful. Good thing my stepmother is a patient soul because I dithered for months before finding the right curtain rods online. I ordered only one so I could test it first with the valance design.

The math indicates we have enough furnishing fabric for four valances but not enough to cover a mistake, hence the need for a prototype. I used some old fabric I had on hand from a home dec project years ago. It was important to test my sketch because I’m departing from the usual way of making inverted pleats. I’ll fill you in later on my plan. At the moment, the DH and I are getting ready to head over to my stepmother’s home in Central Oregon to test the mock valance in place along with the drapery hardware.

More anon!

Posted in family, home dec, Scrabble, update, valance, vintage quilts | 2 Comments

More Mitts

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:

21, Oven Mitts that Fit: Prequel to the Tutorial (April 13, 2021)
21, Oven Mitt Tutorial from First Light Designs, Part 1 (April 18, 2021)
21, Oven Mitt Tutorial from First Light Designs, Part 2 (April 19, 2021)

 

 

 

Posted in family, oven mitts, tutorial, update | 7 Comments