I’ve already finished two this year, one for myself and one for a friend. Now I’m making a third one. The reason? I’m teaching a class that begins tomorrow at the Pine Needle. I made my first Billie Bag, designed by Billie Mahorney, about 10 years ago, and found it very challenging. It’s definitely not for beginners.
Now that I am teaching Billie’s design (in a slightly smaller version), I find that the easiest way to give my students the confidence to make their own totes is to demystify the process by showing how the individual components go together. I call it a “deconstructed Billie Bag” but in truth it’s a Billie Bag under construction.
I guess every time I teach this class I will wind up with a new Junior Billie Bag. This one is going to a friend as a surprise.
What you are seeing in the photo above are the front and back panels, the side panels/bottom unit, two sizes of straps, and some of the interior pockets. In a few weeks’ time, you will see a finished quilter’s tote measuring 14″ x 17″, with a generous 7½” depth to accommodate a 6″ x 24″ acrylic ruler.
I started out with two 12½” blocks to which strips were added to make two panels that will be trimmed to the proper size after quilting:
The panel on the left is yet another version of the Spinners block, from the book On the Run Again by Heather Peterson of Anka’s Treasures, that I’ve used in some other projects this year. The one on the right is a traditional star block that I jazzed up with a four-patch kaleidoscope (what I call a 4-Patch Wonder block).
Isn’t that a great black-white-yellow floral print? I found it last summer at a quilt shop in Central Oregon and bought the end of the bolt. It’s by Studio 8 for Quilting Treasures. I paired it with one of Cotton + Steel’s Basics from 2015: “Sprinkle,” designed by Sarah Watts. (I love the Sprinkle design so much I bought it in two other colors.)
My biggest challenge in making this Junior Billie Bag will be keeping Coco out of my sewing room:
My “kaleido-spinner” runner, based on Heather Peterson’s Spinners block, is back from longarm quilter Debbie Scroggy of All Quilted LLC. Once again I marvel at how much depth quilting adds to a pieced top:
Debbie used a combination of computerized quilting (center hexagons and triangles), ruler work (white strips), and free motion quilting (dark blue background) on my quilt. Look how cleverly the quilting in one corner of each triangle echoes the floral quilting motif in the center hexagon:
You really have to look for that little blossom. I appreciate the way the quilting adds texture and interest to the quilt without overwhelming it.
Debbie quilted spirals, one of my favorite motifs, in the dark blue background. I added some fill light to this photo to give you a better look:
I call this quilt a “kaleido-spinner” because of the effect created by using repeats of the floral fabric in the triangles that spin around the center hexagons.
In my last post, I showed you the five-block bed runner I made using the same block design and the same floral fabric. This is a different shot of the runner:
I named the quilt WanderLust as a nod to the floral fabric, from the Free Spirit line “Wander” by Joel Dewberry. The runner was given to my sister in Idaho, which is why my previous post is titled “WanderLust, at Home in Idaho.”
I like the name so much I’m going to call this runner WanderLust, too. It’s staying here in Oregon. Coco has already staked a claim on it:
One of my friends wondered why I chose green for the binding over black. Black would have provided a strong dramatic frame for the quilt, it’s true. So why green?
First, I wanted to draw attention to the playful nature of the focus fabric used in the rings. That fabric (from the Doodle line by Alice Kennedy for Timeless Treasures) is mostly black and white with touches of lime green and light blue. The overlapping circles in the fabric remind me of ferris wheels and fireworks. A bright color seemed more appropriate than black for the happy mood I wanted to emphasize.
Second, instead of piecing a backing for the quilt with different fabrics, as I usually do, I used one piece, the same print used on the front. From a distance, the fabric reads primarily as black and white. If I had pieced the back I would have added quite a bit of lime green to liven it up. Since I wanted the quilt to be bright and cheerful from both sides, green binding was the obvious choice.
Oh, and then there is that third reason, which I think I’ve mentioned a few times before: green is my favorite color.
In keeping with the block design, fabric design, and quilt name, the label features — what else? — a double ring:
Ring Toss, my little quilt made from Sew Kind of Wonderful’sMini Rings pattern, is back from the quilter already. Take a look:
I asked Karlee Sandell of SewInspired2Day.com to quilt this for me, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I had been thinking of Karlee as an up-and-coming longarm quilter because she is quite new to the field, but it’s quite clear she has already arrived.
Here are some close-ups of her lovely quilting, first on an X block . . .
. . . and then on an O block:
The acanthus motif fills the center of the O block beautifully. And don’t you love the quilted “pearls” in the elongated oval between the rings?
For the green and black triangles that form an on-point square where the rings meet, Karlee designed her own quilting motif, intertwining rings that reinforce the theme of the quilt:
I have been trying all morning to photograph this quilt. Every time I place the quilt on a flat surface, my new cat Coco photobombs it:
Doesn’t she look innocent?
Ring Toss measures 33¼” square after quilting. Now it’s on to the binding and the label. I’m going to use the same lime green fabric for the binding that’s in the quilt; I think it will frame it nicely.
Just yesterday I showed you pictures of WanderLust, the king-size bed runner I picked up on Wednesday from longarm quilter Coleen Barnhardt of the Quilted Thistle. The bed runner needed to be bound and labeled — and that’s been done.
Are you surprised I got it bound so quickly? It would have taken me hours to stitch down the binding by hand. Confession: I took the easy way out and fused the binding in place in a matter of minutes with Steam-a-Seam-2, a double-stick fusible web.
I use Steam-a-Seam-2 occasionally on wall hangings and other small pieces that won’t get washed. It should be just fine for this bed runner that will be laundered but not as often as, say, a baby quilt. (Actually, a fusible web should never wash out or come undone if applied properly. I used it on this quilt because I was in a hurry to get it done; my preference is for a binding stitched down by hand.)
The label is a bit unconventional. In fact, it’s not a label at all. I mentioned yesterday that this quilt is reversible so I didn’t want to attach a label as I normally do. Here’s what I did instead:
Can you see where I wrote “WANDERLUST, DAWN WHITE, 2016 PORTLAND OR” in permanent ink? It’s hard to see (my plan) but it’s there. I like to include information on my labels about the patterns and designers but I skipped it in this case. Let this post be a permanent record that WanderLust was based on the pattern Spinners by Heather Mulder Peterson. Spinners is one of several delightful designs in her book On the Run Again (Anka’s Treasures, 2014).
My new cat Coco must really like this quilt. She photobombed it:
The baby quilt I sent off to be quilted recently is back, and I’m tickled pink. Make that blue, as this quilt is for a little boy. Longarm quilter Sherry Wadley and I picked a modern swirly edge-to-edge design that echoes the waves in the sea-themed fabric.
Here’s a close-up of the quilting that also shows off some of the prints in the quilt, including a stylish seahorse sporting a bowtie:
On the back, the quilting motif shows up well on the batik stream that flows alongside the jellyfish fabric, part of the Into the Deep collection:
Here’s a close-up of the stream that shows off that organic-looking quilting:
I’m going to bind and label this quilt as quickly as I can so I can deliver it to Baby Stefan. Here’s hoping it will keep him warm and wrapped in love well beyond his toddler years.
In other happy news, there’s a new resident feline in the Portland White House. My husband and I had planned to visit the Oregon Humane Society yesterday but last Friday night I got a call from my friend Colleen, who lives out in the country. A calico cat, obviously hungry, had been hanging around her house all day, and was I interested in taking a look at her? Yes, please!
I picked the kitty up Saturday afternoon, and it was love at first sight. She was thoroughly checked out by our vet on Monday, who thinks she is about one year old. She’s gotten all her shots, been treated for ear mites and fleas, and been microchipped and licensed. She is ours.
And she’s a beauty, don’t you agree?
What a mellow cat she has turned out to be, especially for a stray! Now that she knows there will be a next meal, she is totally relaxed. She absolutely adores my husband. This photo was taken on Sunday, the first full day we had her:
We have named her Cordelia, after the daughter of King Lear. (We name all our cats after royalty and I figure literary royalty counts, too.) We call her Coco for short.
Four of nine blocks for my Mini Rings quilt, made using the QCR Mini (mini Quick Curve Ruler), are done.
I’ve run out of background fabric, a white-on-white Michael Miller pindot. I could make more blocks using one of several other white-on-white prints in my stash but I am holding out for having all my blocks the same. A little obsessive-compulsive, perhaps? Now I have to hope that the fabric I ordered on line is from a similar enough dye lot that no one can see the difference between the old and the new. You would be surprised, even with white and black fabrics, how much dye lots can differ.
Working on these blocks has helped take my mind off the loss of my little cat Theodora, subject of my previous post. Thank you so much to those of you who wrote consoling comments on my blog. I cried the entire time I was writing that post, and I cried while reading the comments.
In the 35 years my husband Charlie and I have lived in this house, we’ve never been without a cat. If one of our cats died, there was at least one still at home to help ease the grief. Not so now, since Theo’s last feline companion, Elfie, died three years ago.
Charlie and I are going to the Oregon Humane Society next week, hoping to bring home a cat (maybe two) in need of a “forever home.” Although it seems a little disloyal to Theo’s memory, I’ve already been on the OHS website looking at pictures and descriptions of available cats. There are some very sweet looking ones! We’ll choose an adult cat, since the older ones are not considered as adoptable as kittens.
By the time of my next post, there may be a new resident of the Portland White House.
My little cat Theodora – Theo for short – was put to sleep on Sunday.
Anyone who has ever had to say goodbye to a beloved pet knows how I am feeling right now. Pretty low. A wise friend, knowing that Theo’s days were numbered, told me last week, “We don’t own pets. They own us, and they own our hearts.” That has brought me comfort in the last few days, as Charlie and I adjust to life without Theo.
Theo has been part of our lives since the day in May 1998 we found her behind a cyclone fence at an abandoned electric station a few blocks from our home. She was so small we thought she was a kitten. She was cold, dirty, and hungry. Miraculously, she was also purring, riding high on my shoulder as I carried her home. She was coal black, with yellow eyes. She had no tail, just a little stub at the end of her rump.
With two cats at home, we weren’t looking for another cat. But that’s how it goes. We weren’t sure how Elfie and Isabelle would react. Elfie took to Theo right away; Belle simply ignored her.
We took the little black cat to our vet the next day for a checkup. He estimated she was about eight months old and thought she might be a Manx, as she had other characteristics of the breed besides the lack of a tail.
In keeping with our custom of naming our cats after royalty, we named this one Theodora after Empress Theodora, wife of Justinian, who ruled the Byzantine Empire from 527 to 565 AD. (One learns a bit of history being married to a history professor.)
Like her namesake, Theodora was imperious. She regularly demanded – and received — attention. She loved keeping company with Charlie in the study, curled up in the upholstered chair a few feet from his computer. She loved hanging out with me in my sewing room, often usurping my chair when I got up to use the iron:
One of my favorite photos of Theo is this one, peering at me through my sewing machine, willing me to stop sewing and pay attention to her:
In her later years, she liked to crawl under the covers at night and snuggle with us, and she would purr for the longest time before finally drifting off to sleep. The last couple of years she launched a nightly yowling campaign to coax us to bed, usually way before bedtime.
Theo’s coat remained a glossy black as she got older, although late in her life there were a few white hairs among all the black ones. And there was that one white whisker. One time it fell out, and the new whisker that grew in was also white:
As the years passed, we continued to refer to Theo as “the kitten” because she was so petite. At her peak she weighed 7½ pounds. At the end she was a little over 4 pounds. Despite a voracious appetite, she had been steadily losing weight over the last couple of years. She was being treated for thyroid disease and incipient kidney failure. By now she was also completely deaf.
A few weeks ago problems associated with kidney disease began to surface. We could tell she was in some distress. After multiple trips to the vet, we had to face the fact that, while we might try different treatments that would prolong Theo’s life, she was never going to get better. We didn’t want to wait until she was suffering greatly to make the decision about euthanasia.
My twin sister Diane (whose cat Alex lived to be 23) told me the other day, “In my next life I want to come back as a cat and live at the Portland White House.” I know Theo had a good life, and I am glad Charlie and I were able to provide that for her. But it doesn’t lessen the profound sadness we feel at her absence.
Even now, I expect to see her demanding to be fed or given treats every time I walk into the kitchen. I catch myself looking for her in her favored napping spots: the chair in the study, the top of the clothes dryer, the rug on the heated bathroom floor, the mantel in the living room when the sun was just right, and yes, the chair in my sewing room.
When I was in Paris a year ago at this time, I bought a souvenir mug that featured a chat noir (black cat en francais), partly because the cat reminded me of Theo (minus the tail). Theo wasn’t terribly photogenic. Even though she was a happy cat, in photos she always looked like she was scowling. Take a look at the cat on the mug. Doesn’t it look a lot like Theodora?
She was with us for exactly 18 years. RIP, kitten.
The late great Yogi Berra supposedly said that. Even if he never spoke those words, I know what he meant. I’m having a very déjà vu moment. I am in Paris, in the same apartment (Chez Anna) where my husband and I spent three weeks in the spring. This time my twin sister Diane is with me, and we are here for two weeks.
How did this stroke of good fortune come about? Well, Diane was supposed to join my husband and me for several days during our earlier stay. A family emergency (since resolved) kept her from coming. Her ticket was good for a year. Through a combination of luck and good timing, we were able to arrange this visit to coincide with a trip my friend Anna and her beau had scheduled to the United Kingdom.
Part of the deal is that we take care of her cat Buddy, whom I already adore:
Diane and I have a Big Birthday coming up next month (think Medicare). Is this not the perfect way to celebrate turning 65?