Category Archives: update

Tea Time on High Street

And just like that, I have a finished quilt top:

I am loving it with the addition of the borders! I started with a half-inch strip of a print from my stash that is not part of the “High Street” line and then added a six-inch strip from the line that was not intended for the border at all.

Let me explain.

After starting this quilt with a Jelly Roll — 40 2½” strips of the entire “High Street” line of fabric — it occurred to me I might want to add borders. Having no yardage on hand, I did a search of the Internet and came up with one of the large florals that I thought would be perfect. I also found a small-ish floral print on a grey background that I thought would work nicely on the back. (I felt really lucky to find any yardage at all because “High Street” was very popular when it came out several years ago; there’s not much for sale anywhere now.)

Here’s a close-up of the two pieces I found:

Mercy! Given how busy the interior of the quilt turned out to be, can you imagine what it would look like surrounded by that large tangerine floral? Let’s not even go there!

When I auditioned the grey floral, I was amazed to see that it actually calmed down the busy-ness of the interior. At least that’s how it seems to me. Do you agree?

Here’s a close-up of the half-inch accent strip:

It reads as a solid from a distance but up close you can see it adds a subtle touch of texture against the striations in the grey containment border and the blossoms in the outer border.

The quilt top, now measuring 56½” square, is based on the free pattern Tea Time in Bali by Larene Smith. Initially I was toying with the idea of naming my quilt Ice Cream Social because the fabrics remind me of rainbow sherbet and fruit sorbets. They still do but the name doesn’t seem to fit anymore with my revised layout. What do you think of Tea Time on High Street?

 

 

 

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Quick and Easy? Think Again!

Let me start this post by telling you this is not the final layout of my current work-in-progress:

What was supposed to be a quick and easy quilt top has taken me the better part of two weeks — mainly spent in moving blocks around on my design wall. Making the strip sets and cutting them into blocks was indeed quick and easy — and really fun, as this line of fabrics (“High Street” by Lily Ashbury) was quite delightful to work with.

Instead of arranging my blocks like the original design, Larene Smith’s Tea Time in Bali, seen here . . .

. . . I opted for a “streak of lightning” setting, the one you see at the top of this post. After playing around for quite a while with the arrangement, I called in the Dear Husband for a second opinion.

“Well,” he said after a long pause, “it looks very modern.”

“Hmmm, yes. But it looks so . . . busy,” I said. “I’m just hoping the yellow and light grey strips give the eye a place to rest.”

“They don’t,” he replied. “There’s no place in this quilt for the eye to rest.”

He was right, of course. At that moment I knew I had to come up with another plan, one that would include some negative space. The first thing I tried was breaking the blocks into columns:

That seemed like a step in the right direction, giving me chevrons rather than streaks of lightning. When I rotated the photo I liked the effect even better:

But I wasn’t there quite yet. Chatting on the phone with my sister Diane about my setting troubles, she asked me to text her photos and after seeing the one directly above she suggested breaking the blocks up even more. That got me to this point:


I liked where this was going. My blocks were now more like the ones in the pattern layout, with each set of four blocks looking like an X or an O. But those dark purple prints were bothering me. I removed them and added strips from some of the blocks I didn’t use:

Ah, now that’s more like it!

Now on to the sashing. It was easy to envision white sashing just by looking at the blocks up on my design wall but I was leaning toward light grey, thinking it would add to the modern vibe I was going for. Into my stash I dove, coming up with some strips already cut that were originally planned for another project:

The fabric, “Painter’s Canvas” by Laura Gunn for Michael Miller Fabrics, actually looks rather silvery, with random striations going in both directions.

Right now this quilt measures 45″ square. I could declare it a done deal and get it ready to be quilted but there are a couple more things I want to try. . .

I hope you’ll check back to see the outcome.

 

 

 

Posted in family, update | 5 Comments

JBB Accessories

A year ago at this time I had just finished teaching a class at Montavilla Sewing Center on the one and only Junior Billie Bag, which I like to call “the quintessential quilter’s tote.” I wanted to test my idea for a new Junior Billie Bag Accessories class and had offered my students a bonus class on making four accessories to go along with their newly finished totes.

My idea was to have the students do advance work on all four projects and then finish them up in the space of a four-hour class. Good thing the class was a freebie, as it turned out I had vastly underestimated the time it would take to complete each project. Fortunately, by the time class ended the students were well on their way and would be able to complete their projects at home.

I was making accessories along with my students in order to demonstrate some of my tips and techniques so I too went home with unfinished projects. One year later, my accessories are finally finished:

At the top is a 4″ x 4″ x 4″ fabric box, which makes a wonderful threadcatcher. On the bottom left is a tool caddy based on the Travel Case pattern by Pearl Pereira of P3 Designs. In the middle is a little scissors case, and on the right is a rotary cutter coat.

I selected the fabrics you see above because they go so well with a Junior Billie Bag I made a couple of years ago for my dear friend Vickie R.:


Naturally these latest accessories were made with Vickie in mind, and I am happy to say they are now in her possession.

Here’s a look at the inside of Vickie’s tool caddy:


I made some modifications to the original pattern, adding a fourth pocket and making the case a little less wide (I’ll explain why in just a bit). The 6″ x 8″ mini cutting mat made by Olfa fits perfectly inside the case. Vickie will choose which of her tools she wants to put in her case; I put some of my own in just for this photo shoot:

As you can see, it holds a lot! Mine is loaded with even more.

The reason I made the travel caddy a bit narrower than the pattern calls for is to make it fit better in this hard plastic brochure holder:

With the flap turned back, all of Vickie’s favorite tools will be right at her fingertips and easy to see. (A huge “thank you” to my guildmate Becky B. for introducing me to the brochure holder.)

That class in February 2020 was one of the last ones I taught before the coronavirus pandemic brought a screeching halt to in-person classes. I miss teaching so much and will savor the day when classes resume. There’s a list of quilters who want to make their own Junior Billie Bag, and I trust some of them will want their own suite of accessories to go with it. If so, I will be ready for them!

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, rotary cutter case, tote bags, tutorial, update | 8 Comments

A Happy Surprise

A few weeks ago I came across this vintage needle case that had been tucked away for years in a project bag in my sewing room closet:

Finding it was a happy surprise because I had completely forgotten about it. I’m pretty sure it was an estate sale find, maybe dating back to the 1990s.

I don’t know if the needle case is knitted or crocheted (maybe both?) but I can tell it was skillfully crafted. It’s about 4¾” wide and 4¾” long, not counting the loop. You can see how beautifully made it is. Take a peek inside:

The fabric on the back is a very finely woven cotton, perhaps a sateen, in a geometric print:

Boy, would I love to have a piece of that in my stash.

At first glance my needle case may look like a strawberry but you know what I saw when I came across it? A heart! That’s why I decided to wait till Valentine’s Day to write a post about it.

And now Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. We’re snowed in, as it happens. Not to worry. Knowing that snowfall was expected this week, I made my weekly grocery run earlier than usual and laid in a small supply of champagne and chocolate caramels which I will happily share with the DH:

I’m ready!

 

 

 

 

Posted in family, update | 7 Comments

A Couple of “Aha” Moments

After sewing the second of eight strip sets for my current Work-in-Progress, I had a small “aha!” moment (although maybe it should be called a “duh!” moment). You’ll remember from my last post that I’m working with a Jelly Roll, in this case 40 2½”-wide strips of fabric from Lily Ashbury’s “High Street” line . . .

. . . to make a quilt called Tea Time. The pattern by Larene Smith describes a clever way of sewing strip sets into tubes and cutting the tubes into triangles which open up to yield squares. The squares are then joined together to make a scrappy quilt.

Each strip set is made with five fabrics. Because of the manner in which the triangles are cut after being sewn into a tube, the blocks come out in one of two ways. The first way is a block containing (predictably) five strips, with the middle strip running through the center of the block, like this one . . .

I’m calling the ones cut this way the A blocks.

The B blocks contain six strips, because the middle strip gets cut in half and each half ends up on the outer edges of the block. There’s a seam bisecting the block, like this one:

Initially I had been quite spontaneous in choosing my strip sets, just wanting to make sure each set had a pink, yellow, orange, green, and grey strip. I assumed that the strip in the number 3 position would be in the middle of the block. It is — but as you can see from the photos above, that applies to only half the blocks. It didn’t dawn on me right away that the fabrics in the 1 and 5 positions would wind up in the middle of the block in the other half. Hello!

Armed with this new knowledge, I took a second look at my arrangement of remaining strip sets — in particular the fabrics in the 1 and 5 positions — and wound up rearranging them. Several times. So much for spontaneity!

Here are my final fabric combinations:

(These strips were cut from the end of the tubes after the triangles were cut and I had opened up the last seam.)

This is such a delicious combination of fabrics. You know what comes to mind when I look at these colors? Rainbow sherbet. Blackberry sorbet. Green tea ice cream. That led to my second “aha” moment: I’m going to name this quilt Ice Cream Social.

 

 

 

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A New Project!

I know, I know. Why on earth am I starting something new when I have a sewing room full of UFOs? Well, I have my friend Char to blame — er, thank — for this one. Char, who blogs at The Quilted “Q,” wrote a post recently about a video tutorial she found online to create a quick but dramatic quilt made from 2½” strips of fabric. Fabric manufacturers have found a ready market for packages of these pre-cut strips that feature an entire line of fabric. The packages are popularly known as Jelly Rolls, although that name is trademarked by Moda Fabrics.

Intrigued, I clicked on the link Char provided. After watching the video I decided on the spot to make a quilt using a Jelly Roll that’s been in my stash for a few years. The quilt pattern, Tea Time, was designed by Larene Smith of the Quilted Button. The tutorial is by Donna Jordan of Jordan Fabrics and includes a pdf handout:

(Clicking here will take you to the video and the pdf handout.)

In doing a little research I found that Larene Smith’s design first appeared in 2009 as a free pattern called Tea Time in Bali and was offered to promote Bali Pops, the name Hoffman Fabrics gave to its packages of 2½” batik strips. You can see Larene Smith’s striking version here.

The fabrics in my version are very different. I’m using the one and only Jelly Roll in my stash, “High Street” by Lily Ashbury for Moda:

It was an impulse purchase. I really don’t use pre-cuts much (mainly because I like to wash and iron my fabrics before using them) but for some reason this one spoke to me. I do remember buying this while on a quilt shop hop with good friends; no doubt they influenced my decision to purchase it!

The pattern calls for 40 strips, from which you make eight strip sets of five fabrics. This Jelly Roll has five main colors — pink, orange, yellow, green, and grey . . .

. . . and with one exception each color is represented with eight strips. All I had to do was lay out the strips on my ironing board and combine them into eight piles of five strips each:

I tried not to think too much about choosing the piles, just making sure I had one of each color and looking for contrast in value and scale in the strips that will be next to each other. Because of the unique way the strip sets are cut and arranged, each fabric is going to wind up in different places in the blocks for a very scrappy look.

You see only seven piles above because I had already sewn one strip set together. Actually, you sew the strips into a tube and then cut the tube into triangles which open up to reveal blocks measuring 7″ square. Each tube yields seven blocks. Here are the blocks from my first strip set:

They went together really fast, and I’m eager to move on to the next set. Truth be told, I’m in a bit of a winter funk (and darn it, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow yesterday on Groundhog Day so we’re looking at six more weeks of winter). Being able to finish a quilt top quickly is sure to be a mood-lifter, and I will certainly enjoy working with these colorful and cheerful fabrics.

 

 

 

Posted in tutorial, update | 12 Comments

Giveaway Winners!

Are you ready to learn who the winners are of my Oven Mitt Giveaway? If you entered, the odds were in your favor: 1 in 13. That’s good for the winners but bad for my hundreds of blog subscribers who may not have seen recent posts. I learned a few days ago that subscribers to First Light Designs have not been receiving email notifications of my posts since early January. I’m still working behind the scenes with my blog platform folks to figure out why. I may need to offer another Giveaway just for my subscribers when the issue has been rectified.

But let’s move on to find out who the lucky winners are of this Giveaway. After counting the valid entries (39 — two family members were taken out of contention), I used a Random Number Generator to draw the numbers 17, 2, and 23 in that order.

Number 17 is Elizabeth H., who won these mitts:

Number 2 is Amy M., who won these mitts:

And Number 23 is Pam B., who won these mitts:

Congratulations, ladies! I will email you to find out your mailing addresses. The mitts will come with washing instructions and additional info. Remember, if the mitts are totally the wrong color for your kitchen, let me know. I’ll make you a custom pair in the color of your choice and we’ll throw the mitts you won back into the drawing pool.

My thanks to all who entered!

 

 

 

Posted in Giveaway, home dec, Oven Mitts, update | 7 Comments

Oven Mitt Giveaway!

That’s right, friends. I’m giving away a set of oven mitts to three lucky winners. Will you be one of them?

I made these oven mitts in preparation for writing a tutorial. The shape of the mitts is the same on all of them — it’s the binding I’ve been tinkering with. I’ve been trying different widths and finishing techniques. Now that I’m finally satisfied, I can get to the tutorial — but now I have to make one more set of mitts to photograph for the tutorial!

The mitts you see above were made of four layers:
⦁ the outer fabric is 100% cotton
⦁ the second layer is 100% cotton batting
⦁ the third layer is Insul-bright, an insulated lining material specifically made for hot pads and oven mitts
⦁ the fourth layer (the inside of the mitt) is cotton with an aluminized coating, commonly used to cover ironing boards. This fabric is not essential but I had some on hand and decided to use it because one of my old oven mitts happened to be lined with it.

To be entered in the giveaway, all you have to do is write a comment at the bottom of this post responding to the question, “What is your favorite kind of food?” If you wish, name a dish you especially like in your favored cuisine. How simple is that? No need for you to subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram (though I would be delighted if you chose to do either).

One entry per person. I will mail anywhere in the world so international readers are welcome to enter.

Family members are invited to leave comments but are not eligible to win. (Don’t feel too sorry for them; all they have to do is let me know they want a set and they’ll get one!)

The giveaway will remain open through Friday, January 29. On Saturday, January 30, I’ll use a random number generator to pick three winners. Winner #1 gets the red mitts on the left with the flowers; winner #2 gets the set in the middle with the cherries; and winner #3 gets the set on the right with the poodles.

But wait — there’s more! It it happens that you are a winner and the mitts are totally the wrong color for your kitchen, you can let me know when I contact you and I’ll make you a custom set in the color of your choice. If that happens, I’ll draw a fourth winner for the set that didn’t work for you.

Good luck, everyone!

 

 

 

Posted in family, Giveaway, home dec, Oven Mitts, tutorial, update | 46 Comments

The Oven Mitt Quilt

Is this not the oddest looking quilt you’ve ever seen?

Actually, it’s not a quilt at all.

I’m gearing up to make a few sets of oven mitts as gifts and I didn’t want to take the time myself to quilt the four layers needed for a well insulated mitt. So . . . I made a “quilt top” using three suitable prints from my stash that could all be quilted with the same color thread and asked Karlee of SewInspired2Day to quilt it for me. The result is what you see above. The quilt motif is “Modern Waves,” one that Karlee has used on another of my quilts, Where It’s @.

Here’s a closer look at those three fabrics, pictured with my oven mitt pattern to give you an idea of the scale of the prints:

I think they’re going to make pretty cute oven mitts!

You may remember the mitts I made last month for my sister Diane. I quilted the fabric for those using a cross-hatch design:

After I published the post I had a few requests for a tutorial. Good news! A tutorial is coming.

And maybe even a giveaway. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Posted in family, Giveaway, home dec, tutorial, update | 3 Comments

A Gift Beyond Compare

I received the most wonderful gift in the mail last month, this striking quilt made in 2004  by Lee Fowler:

Lee was an incredibly talented quilter and crafter who was only 54 when she died of cancer in 2013. I didn’t meet her until 2009 so I had the pleasure of knowing her for only four years but she touched my life in many ways. I greatly admired her intellect and talent, and I loved her goofy sense of humor.

The quilt you see above is named Rolling Star Revisited. It was designed, pieced, appliquéd, and quilted by Lee. Here are a few detail shots, starting with a single rolling star:

Each star measures 15″ from point to point; the entire quilt measures 58″ square.

Lee was an accomplished longarm quilter. She did hand-guided quilting without a stitch regulator. Here you can see some of her beautiful free-motion quilted feathers:

The circles in the center of each star are hand-appliquéd using the needleturn method as is the reverse-appliquéd border:

You must be wondering how I came into possession of this treasure. Well, in early December I received an email from Lee’s husband Rick, now remarried and living in another part of the state. Rick wrote that he and his daughter Liz were on a mission to send Lee’s quilts out into the world where they could be “loved, cherished, and above all used,” and asked if I would like to have one. He included photos of 16 quilts. I replied immediately, telling Rick I would be thrilled to own one of Lee’s creations and that it had taken me all of two seconds to identify the quilt I would love to have.

Rolling Star Revisited arrived a few days later. Doesn’t it look wonderful on the back of my couch?

This is actually the second quilt Lee made using the Rolling Star block (hence the Revisited part of this quilt’s name). Her first version, made with Depression-era reproduction fabrics, was featured as a pattern in the September 2005 issue of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine:

Lee had found a circa-1930s newspaper clipping of the block and drafted her own pattern. It’s a challenging project with curves and set-in seams; the directions include sewing the curved pieces by hand or by machine. One of these days I might make a single block just to test my skills.

By the way, this isn’t the first time one of Lee’s quilts has graced my couch. I was one of  two dozen friends who helped Lee complete her last quilt, a magnificent version of Pickle Dish. I wrote about that here. Rick dubbed us “the Pickle Dish Gang.” The quilt was displayed at Lee’s memorial service and afterward it was circulated to each member of the group to have in her own home for a month. It was my turn in 2015:

2015-08-07 13.20.25

I wrote about that here. It was such an honor to have one of Lee’s creations in my home, however temporarily. And now! Now to have one of her quilts as my very own . . . You can understand why I consider Rolling Star Revisited a gift beyond compare. It will be loved, it will be cherished, and it will be used.

 

 

 

Posted in appliqué, free motion quilting, home dec, needleturn appliqué, update | 5 Comments