Category Archives: kaleidoscope quilts

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 | 11 Comments

In Praise of Pink and Green

If you’ve ever wondered about the timeless appeal of pink and green quilts, you have only to look to Mother Nature:

I snapped this photo on May 24, the day the first peony on our three bushes opened up. Since then all three bushes have exploded with blossoms.

This peony is from the darkest of the three bushes:

It’s the Dear Husband’s favorite but it’s the lighter shade I’m swooning over:


The dogwood trees this spring were the loveliest in recent memory. Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees. This shot was taken from our front porch one recent morning when the sun lit up the dogwood belonging to our neighbors two doors down:


Even the lilacs in our backyard, which are actually light purple, looked pink the morning in late April when this photo was taken:


Then there is this unusual succulent growing in a pot in our backyard:

I’m reminded of the most recent pink and green quilt I finished, the one for Baby Isabella . . .


. . . and this kaleidoscope quilt, made for a great niece in 2013 from a fabulous hydrangea print:

This is the back of the quilt, so you can see what the focus fabric looked like before I turned it into kaleidoscope blocks:

And this is my first pink and green quilt, completed 10 years ago, made from my pattern Four-Patch Wonder:

I named the quilt Framboise, the French word for raspberry. You can read more about the making of it here. Here’s another shot of Framboise au naturel, surrounded by even more green:

Speaking of raspberries, the vines in our backyard will be producing those small deep pink edible jewels in a month’s time, adding to my continuing enjoyment of pink and green.

Do you find the combination of pink and green as irresistible as I do? In nature as well as in quilts?

 

 

 

Posted in 4-Patch Wonder, baby quilt, faux-kaleido quilts, kaleidoscope quilts, update | 12 Comments

First Light Designs: Best of 2021

For the sixth consecutive year, Cheryl at Meadowmist Designs is hosting a “Linky Party,” inviting quilt bloggers to share their top five posts of the year. It’s a fun way to look back on the past 12 months and identify some of the high points as well as see what marvelous things other quilters are creating. So thank you, Cheryl. I’m delighted to join the 2021 party!

Clicking on the links below will take you to the original posts where you can read more about the finishes and see more photos.

Number 1. Best Tutorial:  Oven Mitts that Fit

I’m still waiting for the quilting and crafting world to discover my tutorial on quilted oven mitts. I worked really hard on writing this tutorial and loading it with pictures. So much so that the tutorial is in two parts with a prequel!

Oven Mitts that Fit: the Prequel gives the background for my taking on this project and shows you how to make your own pattern based on the size of your hand.

Part 1 covers fabric requirements, instructions for downloading and printing the pattern, assembling the layers, and quilting the resulting “quilt sandwich.”

Part 2 covers the sewing of the mitt and contrasting band around the cuff edge as well as the final step of tacking the band down before turning the mitt right side out.

These mitts make great gifts for friends and family. I invite you to take a look!

 

Number 2. Best UFO Finish

Okay, I confess:  This is the only UFO (UnFinished Object) I busted this year. It’s an updated version of the traditional pattern Grandma’s Surprise. I started working on this quilt in 2015 in a class taught by Joyce Gieszler. Her book Then and Now Quilts (Kansas City Star Quilts, 2014) had come out the year before and Grandma’s Surprise was one of the quilts featured in the book. My version of this design is called Currant Affairs (there’s a pun in that name).

 

Number 3. Best Quilt Made for a Car

You read that right. I made this quilt for my 2019 Subaru Forester aka the Green Goddess. I’d been wanting to make a car quilt for some time and was prompted to do so when I discovered the line of “Jungle Paradise” fabric designed by Stacy Iest Hsu and the free (and very easy) pattern State Fair by Melissa Corry. This is my Green Goddess Car Quilt.

 

Number 4. Best Quilt Made from a Jelly Roll

I don’t use precuts very much, mainly because I like to prewash my fabrics. But in my stash was a Jelly Roll (2½” strips) of “High Street,” a line of fabrics by Lily Ashbury for Moda Fabrics. I used the Jelly Roll in a free pattern called Tea Time in Bali and wound up with a quilt I named Tea Time on High Street.

 

Number 5. Best Red and Green Quilt

It’s a tie! I made two quilts this year using red and green fabrics. First up is ‘Tis the Season:

It’s actually my first quilt finish of 2021 but I saved it for the fifth slot because we’re still celebrating the season. ‘Tis the Season was made using the Missouri Star Company’s pattern Quatrefoil and Corey Yoder’s fabric line called “Holliberry.”

My second red and green quilt of 2021 is the very recently finished Winterwood, based on my pattern Season to Taste:

It can be a wall hanging or a table runner. I gave it to my sister Diane for Christmas so now we know: it’s a table runner:


With five days left in the year, there’s a good chance I’ll be able to add a third red and green quilt to the mix. (You may see it in next year’s Linky Party.)

Be sure to check out the top five posts of the other quilting/blogging partygoers. If you’re a quilter, you can join Cheryl’s Best of 2021 Linky Party, too. The link is open until January 2. Thank you for visiting First Light Designs. All the best in 2022!

 

 

 

Posted in home dec, kaleidoscope quilts, oven mitts, Quatrefoil, single-fold binding, State Fair quilt pattern, table runner, tutorial, update, wall hanging | 8 Comments

An Early Christmas Present

Winterwood, the winter version of my Season to Taste table runner/wall hanging series, has a new home:

My sister Diane seemed quite taken with it when she read my previous posts about it so I decided to surprise her and send it to her for Christmas, with instructions to open the package upon arrival rather than waiting till Dec. 25. It arrived yesterday and Diane has already found the perfect place for it. The runner fits the table in the main entry hall perfectly. It was meant to be!

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, kaleidoscope quilts, table runner, update, wall hanging | 7 Comments

Cue Vivaldi

Imagine you are hearing the strains of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” as you view all four versions of my Season to Taste table runner/wall hanging design:

Four versions of Dawn’s pattern Season to Taste

Aligning with Vivaldi’s concerti, the presentation begins with spring, followed by summer, fall, and winter. The winter version, named Winterwood, was the last one to be made:

Winterwood (2021)

When I started working on this quilt using fabrics with a holiday vibe (red and green prints, though not overtly Christmas-y), I thought about making a second winter version that is weather-related, i.e. not associated specifically with the holidays. The other day I found a piece of fabric in my stash that may just fill the bill. I’m not sure when work will begin on it but I’m giving myself until winter 2022 to finish it. (Do you think that’s enough lead time??)

The 45-degree triangles in the spring and winter versions were made with a selection of fabrics while the summer and fall versions, seen below, were each made with one focus fabric for a true kaleidoscopic effect:

Sun Flowers (2015) and Autumn Reflections (2014)

The fabric I have in mind for the second winter version would yield this kind of design.

I’m happy with the way all of of these turned out but I confess I have a favorite. It’s my spring version, Under Paris Skies:

Under Paris Skies (Sous Le Ciel de Paris) (2014)

The quilt contains fussycut images of street scenes of Paris that always make me smile (in addition to which spring is my favorite season). Here are a couple of those street scenes:

So . . . what about you? Of the four quilts pictured here, do you have a favorite?

 

 

 

Posted in free motion quilting, home dec, kaleidoscope quilts, Paris, table runner, update, wall hanging | 6 Comments

Winterwood: Almost a Wrap

With the holidays fast approaching, I decided it was time to finish the winter version of seasonal wall hangings based on my pattern Season to Taste. This is Winterwood:

I finished the top in June and wrote about the making of it here. If you’re curious about where the name Winterwood came from, you’ll find the explanation in that June post.

Winterwood is quilted very simply with horizontal lines. Unfortunately, I forgot to extend the stitching lines across the borders, and now that the binding is on I’m not entirely happy with the result. I’m going to give it a good press and then decide if I need to add some after-the-fact quilting in the borders.

Winterwood was made to be a wall hanging but I decided to piece the back in such a way that it could double as a holiday table runner:

That’s a 7″ inset circle in the middle. I’m going to make a label using a compact disc as a pattern and put the label on the circle, figuring that I can put a candle or plate on top of the label to hide it. Because the tree fabric is directional, I deliberately arranged it so that the trees go in both directions.

Once this winter version is finished, I’ll show you how it looks with the spring, summer, and fall versions. Do I have a favorite? Why yes, I do. Perhaps you will, too!

 

 

 

Posted in home dec, kaleidoscope quilts, quilt labels, single-fold binding, table runner, update, wall hanging | 1 Comment

Presenting “Currant Affairs”

No, that’s not a typo. It’s Currant with an “a,” not Current with an “e” as you might expect. Let me tell you how I came up with the name Currant Affairs for my newly finished quilt.

It started with the name of the fabric line: “Black White and Currant 5” by Color Principle for Henry Glass & Co Fabrics. The fabric company came out with four previous versions of “Black White and Currant,” all featuring beautiful prints in black and white accented with the deep currant red you see above. I’m not sure how I missed the first four lines but when #5 came out I scooped up the border print and a larger Jacobean floral that has already found its way into another quilt top (still a Work-in-Progress).

The black and white and red fabric reminded me of a riddle from my childhood, which you may recognize if you are Of A Certain Age:

Question:  What’s black and white and red all over?

Answer:  A newspaper.

The real question, you see, is “What’s black and white and read all over?”

It’s just the kind of wordplay that appeals to this English major. When I was a kid, black and white were the only colors of a newspaper. Colored ink didn’t start appearing in newspapers until the 1970s.

In one of those thought progressions that begin with one image and end with a different one, my brain traveled from a newspaper to Current Affairs, a regular part of the social studies curriculum in my youth in which my classmates and I delved into the stories behind the headlines in the local newspaper. “Current” morphed into “Currant” (I can’t resist a good pun) and I had my quilt name.

Nowadays many young people don’t pick up a newspaper to find out what’s happening in the world. The latest news (or some version of it) is available on their smartphones with the tap of a button or swipe of a finger. Me? I’m old fashioned. I want to hold a newspaper in my hands when I read the news in the morning. I want to read a book by turning real pages and I want to smell the ink on those pages.

But I digress (and I’m sounding like an old fogey in the process, aren’t I?). So let’s get back to my quilt. Here are a few pictures of Currant Affairs taken in lovely Laurelhurst Park this afternoon:

The back is very simple: two pieces of a subtle light grey floral print sewn together and a light grey with white polka dots added along the bottom. It wasn’t necessary but I matched the seams of the floral print. Can you spot the seam?

It’s really hard to see in that photo. Here’s a close-up of the backing before it was quilted:

The seam is about two-thirds of the way over running vertically. Can you see it now?

Here’s a close-up of the label:

This quilt was started six years ago in a class taught by Joyce Gieszler. Her book Then and Now Quilts (Kansas City Star Quilts, 2014) had come out the year before and this design, Grandma’s Surprise, was one of the quilts featured in the book. On the left is Joyce’s traditional version and on the right is one of her updated versions that inspired my fabric choices:

I added a border to make my quilt a bit larger, and then I decided to add a flange and binding treatment that visually extends the outer border:

With the addition of the border, Currant Affairs finishes at 66″ square.

 

 

 

Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 6 Comments

Grandma’s Surprise, Revisited

It’s been two months since I worked on my kaleidoscope quilt based on the pattern Grandma’s Surprise. The quilt top was finished in 2015 but not quilted until this May. When I got it back from the quilter, I decided to add a narrow red flange to the outer border before binding the quilt. My thought was to add a wider than usual binding using the outer border fabric so the red flange would float.

Trouble was, I didn’t have enough of the red fabric left, a paisley tone-on-tone print from P&B Textiles. The search was on for a few extra inches of that print. In my last post about this project I was eagerly awaiting the delivery by USPS of the very fabric I needed, offered by a very kind quilter in Pennsylvania named Nancy. The coveted piece of fabric arrived quickly. Alas! Although it was a red paisley tone-on-tone print from P&B textiles, it wasn’t the correct shade of red.

So near yet so far . . . Nancy and I were both philosophical about it. As she wrote, “The story made us smile for a few days so it was well worth it.” The only choice left was to find a solid red that was a good match. Happily, I found it a few days later at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego: “Scarlet” from the ColorWorks Premium Solid 9000 line by Northcott Studios. In the shot below you can see how close the solid red is to the red paisley and how well it goes with the border fabric:

Instead of getting right to work on the flange and binding, I put the project on the back burner while working on other things. Now I’m back at it, eager for a finish. Here’s a shot of the flange strips attached to the quilt:

The flanges will finish at ⅜” so the strips were cut 1¼” wide. When I trimmed the quilt I allowed for a ¾” finished binding. After attaching the flanges I decided to go with single-fold binding (rather than the more traditional double-fold or French binding) to reduce bulk at the corners. I’m in the process of tacking the binding now. Here’s a sneak peek at the first corner:

Just as I envisioned!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in kaleidoscope quilts, update | 7 Comments

“Just So”

In my last post I promised to explain my method of getting the narrow accent strips on my kaleidoscope blocks to line up just so:


In this example I’m starting with a 45˚ triangle cut from a 6½” strip of fabric using the Marti Michell Kaleido-Ruler . . .

. . . but this technique will work with other sizes of triangles and strips.

Eight of these triangles (from a 6½” strip) sewn together result in a 12″ kaleidoscope block. With the addition of the narrow and wide accent strips, the block will finish at 15″ square:


The narrow accent strips finish at ⅜”. This calls for ⅞”-wide strips, to allow for ¼” seams on either side but I find it difficult dealing with strips less than an inch wide, especially when it comes to pressing. For this reason I cut my strips a quarter of an inch wider — 1⅛” — and trim them to size after sewing them on to the wider accent strip.

So:  my narrow accent strips are cut 1⅛” x WOF (width of fabric). The wide accent strips are cut 1¾” x WOF. The narrow and wide accent strips are sewn together with a scant ¼” seam:

Before pressing the seam open, the strip is subcut into five 8″ lengths:

(I need eight of these strips for one kaleido block so a second strip set is needed.)

Why do I subcut the strip set before pressing? Because it’s extremely difficult to press a seam on a 45″ length of fabric without creating a curve. By cutting my long strip into shorter pieces, I can carefully press the seam on each piece open using just the tip of my iron without much distortion:


The next step is to trim a quarter inch off the narrow strip. I do this by aligning the ⅝” line on my ruler with the seamline . . .

. . . and trimming the excess quarter inch:

Now I can chain piece the triangles to the trim pieces, centering each triangle on its trim strip:

 

I press this seam open as well, taking care to use the point of the iron (no steam) and not letting the iron touch the bias edges of the triangle:

Note that with both seams pressed open, the seam allowances on the narrow trim overlap each other slightly.

Now I can lay the Kaleido-Ruler over the triangle and trim the right side:

I’m cutting this one on a rotating mat, which means I can turn it around and trim the other side just by moving the mat. If you don’t have a rotating mat, it’s very easy to butt up a second ruler right next to the Kaleido-Ruler . . .

. . . slide the Kaleido-Ruler out of the way, and make the second cut.

Here’s the trimmed triangle:


Now to sew it to another triangle! Here’s how I pin the two triangles:

After lining up the seams on the two triangles, I place pins to hold the seams in place. Note that the points of my pins are toward the outside edge. When I flip the triangles over and pull one side back from the edge, I can clearly see that the trim seams on my triangles match exactly:


I can repin if necessary (and sometimes must) to make sure the seams are properly aligned.

When I’m ready to sew the seam — starting from the wide end and going toward the point — I can pull each pin back slightly so that the point is not in the seam allowance, leaving the pins in place until the seam is completely sewn.

The seams are pressed open — again without steam and again using just the tip of the iron to nudge the seams open:


Once the block is complete and I’m satisfied my center points match, that’s when I move the iron setting to steam! I sometimes use a bit of starch or starch alternative (like Mary Ellen’s Best Press) to make sure my finished block lies nice and flat.

I hope you found this post helpful! I’m going to add it to my Tutorials page as a companion piece for my Season to Taste pattern.

Thanks for stopping by — and happy first day of summer!

 

 

 

Posted in home dec, kaleidoscope quilts, table runner, tutorial, update | 5 Comments

Winterwood

Here’s the completed quilt top of my winter version of Season to Taste:

It measures 18½” x 55½”.

Season to Taste is a kaleidoscope quilt pattern I created in 2014 with the idea of making one wall hanging or table runner representing each of the four seasons. You’ve seen my spring, summer, and fall versions before on the pages of this blog. I’ll post a photo of all four when I get this last one quilted.

My winter version will be called Winterwood in a nod to one of my favorite songs, written by Don McLean. You may be more familiar with his blockbuster hit “American Pie” from the album of the same name. “Winterwood” is from the same album which was released in 1971. Oh my! That means it’s 50 years old this year.

In my next post I’ll explain my method of getting the narrow accent strips (they finish at ⅜”) on my triangles to line up just so:

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in home dec, kaleidoscope quilts, table runner, update, wall hanging | 3 Comments