In the works: a new Junior Billie Bag, based on Billie Mahorney’s original design. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching this fabulous quilter’s tote for the last three years and will be heading to the Oregon coast next week to teach a two-day workshop for a quilt guild.
A new class necessitates a new Junior Billie Bag, and here’s a preview of the one I’m working on right now:
(My celadon green carpet isn’t the best backdrop to show off the front and back panels but it will have to do for now.)
My starting point was this gorgeous print from In the Beginning Fabrics that came out last spring. Designed by Jason Yenter, it’s called “Ajisai Hydrangea:”
For one of the front/back panels I made a windmill block, inserting a fussy cut blossom in the center with narrow trim around it:
For the other panel I made a kaleidoscope block of eight 45° degree triangles, converting it into a double inset circle:
I just happened to have the perfect button in my collection to put in the center of the circle. The button went on after the panel was quilted:
Now I’m preparing to make a plethora of pockets. Here’s my fabric pull, a pleasing mix of woven cottons and batiks — all from my stash:
Does anyone else love the combination of green and purple as much as I do?
Cheryl at Meadow Mist Designs is hosting a Best of 2017 Linky Party, inviting bloggers to highlight their top five posts of the year. It’s a fun way to look back over the last 12 months and identify some of the high points.
My top five are below, in reverse order. Clicking on the links will take you to the original posts.
5. Dutch Treat. Although I didn’t finish this quilt till June, I started it in January during an epic snowstorm that kept me and many Portlanders indoors for several days.
4. NYC and VFW. A trip to New York City with my twin sister in March combined many of the things I love in life: family, travel, theater, museums, and quilting. The quilting part? A visit to the Manhattan shop of Victoria Findlay Wolfe:
Victoria didn’t happen to be there that day but I had the pleasure of meeting her the following month in Paducah, Kentucky during AQS Quilt Week:
Designed over 20 years ago by Billie Mahorney, it’s a fabulous quilter’s tote personalized by each maker, starting with the design on the front and back panels and ending with the pockets inside and out. Two years ago Billie turned the teaching of her design over to me, and I make a bag every time I teach a class. This may be my favorite of the eight I have made so far.
Without consciously planning to, I wound up making a suite of accessories to go with my Junior Billie Bag:
(See the rotary cutter coat in the lower left corner? I wrote directions for it in 2014 and it remains my most popular tutorial. Every now and then when I see a huge spike in the number of views on my website/blog, I know it’s because someone provided a link to the tutorial.)
1 . Where It’s @. Much to my surprise and delight, this quilt won a second place ribbon at the Northwest Quilting Expo in Portland, Oregon in September:
The design is Rewind by Karla Alexander of Saginaw Street Quilts. I started the quilt in a class with Karla in Sisters, Oregon in July 2016. Getting a ribbon was honor enough but the award came with a check for $500. My first reaction? “Think how many yards of fabric I can buy with that!”
Well, this has been a nice little trip down memory lane. Do you want to join Cheryl’s party, too? The link is open until January 2. Be sure to check out the top five posts of the other quilting/blogging partygoers. And thank you for checking out mine!
. . . (see my last post), I have another finished one to show you, the one I made alongside my students fall term at the Pine Needle. The class ended a few weeks ago but I didn’t put the last touches on the bag until today. It’s for my friend Vickie, who has a late November birthday, but she won’t get it for several more weeks because she’s traveling. You get to see it before she does.
Here are the front and back panels:
I decided early on to cut the binding fabric on the bias because I figured the striped fabric would provide a dramatic frame for the panels. Good call, don’t you think?
These pictures don’t give a sense of the depth of the bag — 7½” — so here’s a partial side view that also shows you the pockets I put on the outside:
That side has two pockets and the other side has one taller pocket cut from the same wavy stripe I used for the binding:
Coco is busy investigating the interior pockets, of which there are many.
A look inside:
It’s really hard to get a good shot of the interior of a finished Junior Billie Bag. This earlier photo should give you a notion of how many pockets there can be (totally up to the whim of the maker):
You can also see there’s a shorter set of handles. Those are tucked out of sight in the photos at the top of this post.
To sum up:
The Billie Bag was designed by Billie Mahorney, who taught for many years at the Pine Needle. The junior version measures 14″ wide, 17″ tall, and 7½” deep.
The panel with Friendship Star blocks was based on a design by Thelma Childers of Cupcakes’n’Daisies. Read here how I modified it for this project. The windmill block is a variation of one designed by Deb Eggers of the Cottage Rose for her pattern A Mid-Winter’s Night.
I started with fabrics from the “Dance of the Dragonfly” line by Benartex and Kanvas Fabrics, adding several batiks from my stash and one blender from P&B Textiles. There can be no doubt what the birthday girl’s favorite color is!
Here are two more accessories I just made to tuck into my Junior Billie Bag when I’m heading out for a class: a case for my 5″ Gingher scissors and a 4″ x 4″ fabric box used primarily as a thread catcher:
The pattern for the tool caddy is Travel Case by Pearl Pereira of p3designs.com. I’ve made it several times, modifying it the last few times by adding an extra pocket. I keep my tool caddy in an acrylic brochure holder one of my students gave me:
With the flap turned back, all of my smaller tools are right at my fingertips. At the end of a sewing session the tools go back in the caddy. It really does help me keep my sewing room organized.
The Junior Billie Bag I am currently working on is slowly taking shape. I’m pacing myself on the construction so I can show my current group of students at the Pine Needle how this quilter’s tote goes together step by step. The bag is a gift for a friend with a November birthday so the timing is perfect.
In the photo below you see most of the individual elements — front and back panels, handles, side panels, inner and outer pockets:
This particular bag is going to have plenty of pockets — 21 to be exact. The pockets have been carefully sized to hold everything a quilter might need, from file folders to acrylic rulers to rotary cutters. The Junior Billie Bag was designed by Billie Mahorney to be customized — makers of the bag decide how many pockets they want and what size they will be.
Now that the second panel on this bag has been quilted and the handles attached, you can see what the bag is going to look like from front and back:
Which is the front and which is the back? It doesn’t matter! The front/back panels are totally interchangeable. The front of the bag is whichever side the owner turns to the outside on any given day.
And you can quilt the panels very simply or be very creative with free motion quilting. I’ve done both on previous bags. On this one I opted to stitch in the ditch in the central part of the panels and to use a serpentine stitch on the strips around the center blocks. I used the same decorative stitch on the handles:
The next step is sewing the front/back panels to the side panels and bottom unit. I’ll demonstrate this in Friday’s class. My students are almost ready for the third dimension!
The first week of October already! September came and went in a flash. It was a very busy month, just not one devoted to much sewing. I’m finally back at work on that wonderful quilter’s tote designed by Billie Mahorney known as the Junior Billie Bag. I’m teaching an upcoming class at the Pine Needle so I need to get a move on.
Here’s the second of two panels in my JBB-in-progress:
The block you see above was inspired by a block in a quilt called Christmas in July designed by Thelma Childers of Cupcakes’n’Daisies:
Click here to read Thelma’s post about the making of this quilt. In July Carrie Nelson of Moda wrote about Thelma’s quilt on the Moda Cutting Table blog and created a pattern for it called Hometown Stars, available as a free download.
Thelma’s quilt is very scrappy. Working with far fewer fabrics, I simplified the block somewhat and made one change that made a big difference in the outcome. Here is my block as it was first laid out . . .
. . . and here it is ready to be sewn:
Do you see the difference? Turning that center square on point reinforced the angles in the Friendship Star blocks in the four corners. Had I made an entire quilt, I would have followed Thelma’s design to a T because the square in the center of the block is central to her overall design:
To minimize the seam lines I opted to construct the center section like a classic bow-tie block using Y-seams:
Thelma’s original finished block size is 17½” square. Carrie resized it to finish at 14″ square, although she included directions for both sizes in the pattern. I had to resize the block to 12¾” square to get it to fit my panel size. That means the half-square triangles finish at 1¾” square and the center bow-tie block finishes at 5¼” square. Good thing I like the challenge of quilt math!
Here are the front and back panels side by side:
Since this Junior Billie Bag is being made for a friend, incorporating the Friendship Star block is a meaningful addition. Thank you, Thelma and Carrie, for the inspiration!
Ladies and gents, I have another finish to report: Here is my latest version of the quintessential quilter’s tote known as the Junior Billie Bag:
I just finished teaching a class at the Pine Needle on making a JBB. I started the class (and this bag) in January; you can read about my fabric choices here.
In the photo above, you see the longer of two sets of handles; these are worn over the shoulder. In the photo below you see the shorter set of handles, allowing the bag to be carried like a satchel:
Notice the custom outside pockets in both photos.
Now look inside the Junior Billie Bag, where you’ll find many more pockets, all sized with specific items in mind:
After those pockets are filled, there’s still room to tuck in bundles of fabric or batting — or even a sack lunch. Now you know why I call the Junior Billie Bag “the quintessential quilter’s tote.”
The original Billie Bag was designed by Billie Mahorney and measured 21″ x 21″ x 7½”. This version is smaller, measuring 14″ x 17″ x 7½”. Billie never wanted to write a pattern, preferring to teach her design in a classroom setting. Now that she has retired from teaching, I have the pleasure of teaching the class. How glad I am! It’s been so much fun sharing her design with other quilters, and in the process I have made myself a JBB or two and given others as gifts.
When Coco saw me taking photos of the JBB this morning, she trotted right over to investigate. Before I knew it, she had crawled inside and made herself very much at home:
It seems the Junior Billie Bag is perfectly sized for a cat. Who knew?!
Here’s to 2017! Specifically, here’s to lots of sewing and quilting in 2017. I’m already looking forward to several projects — and not just new ones. There’s a stack of UFOs beckoning that I am actually enthusiastic about tackling. But not today.
On this fresh new day of the year, I’m looking back on what I created in 2016. Rather than going in chronological order, I’m grouping my finishes by categories.
This was the year of the Junior Billie Bag, the quintessential quilter’s tote designed by Billie Mahorney. I made a bag for myself . . .
. . . and one for my friend Deborah . . .
. . . and one for my friend Miriam:
Next category: baby quilts. This is the first of two incorporating a charming giraffe-themed fabric panel:
Here’s the second one, using the same fabrics in a slightly different setting:
I didn’t use a pattern for these quilts, preferring to play with simple shapes (squares and rectangles) so that the giraffes on the fabric panels would be the focal point.
My third baby quilt of the year was this one using the pattern Just Can’t Cut It from All Washed Up Quilts:
All three were quilted by longarmer Sherry Wadley.
All by itself in the mini quilt category is Ring Toss, based on the pattern Mini Rings by Sew Kind of Wonderful:
Mini Rings was quilted by Karlee Sandell of SewInspired2Day. Oh, and that’s our new rescue kitty Princess Cordelia (Coco for short).
Lap quilts is the next category. Once again I used a Sew Kind of Wonderful design, adapting the pattern Chic Diamonds into this quilt I named Dragonfly Kisses:
It was quilted by Sherry Wadley.
The next quilt, Where It’s @, was started in July in a class with Karla Alexander of Saginaw Street Quilts. It’s based on her pattern Rewind. I really stepped outside my comfort zone with this quilt, and I absolutely love the result:
The last quilt in this category is Stella by Starlight, a “kaleido-spinner” using the Spinners block by Heather Peterson of Anka’s Treasures:
I call it a “kaleido-spinner” because the six equilateral triangles in each block were cut from identical repeats of the focus fabric, creating a kaleidoscope effect of sorts. The four small hexagon blocks are true kaleidoscope blocks.
Both Where It’s @ and Stella by Starlight were quilted by Karlee Sandell.
The next category is runners, both bed and table. I made one of each, using the same focus fabric in each (Wander by Joel Dewberry) and the same block design (Spinners by Anka’s Treasures) with completely different outcomes. Here is WanderLust I, the king size bed runner made with five blocks:
I liked the focus fabric so much I made the bed runner reversible:
The final category is a bit of a hodgepodge. I made a quilted cover for my stepmother’s new iPad Pro . . .
. . . and a cardholder for her bridge hands:
For my friend and fellow Quister (Quilt Sister) Vickie I made an iron caddy that doubles as a pressing mat . . .
. . . plus a matching 4″ x 4″ fabric box that she can use as a threadcatcher:
For myself I made some accessories to match my Junior Billie Bag: a rotary cutter coat made from my tutorial . . .
. . . and a scissors case . . .
. . . and a sewing caddy that sits upright in a Lucite stand:
A 4″ x 4″ fabric box (yes, it’s a threadcatcher) completes the ensemble:
As you have surmised, I’m crazy in love with that fabric line (Paradise by Alisse Coulter for Camelot Cottons). I expect you’ll see more of it in 2017, as I bought a lot when it was released a couple years ago.
I’m sending a shout out to the talented longarm quilters who transformed my 2016 quilt tops into beautiful quilts — Coleen Barnhardt, Karlee Sandell, Debbie Scroggy, and Sherry Wadley — and to you, my loyal blog readers, for your continuing interest and support of First Light Designs.
It’s Thanksgiving Day and I am thankful to be here in Georgia at the home of my twin sister, Diane, celebrating with her family and my own DH. After six days away from my sewing machine, however, I am eager to get back behind the wheel. (A sewing machine has a flywheel, after all.)
Many years ago I brought my old Elna sewing machine (purchased in 1975) to Diane’s home, and I have worked on many a quilt and home dec project since then. This year I brought a few small projects from home to work on, including a new sewing tool caddy using some favorite fabrics I have used on other quilting accessories:
The pattern (Travel Case by Pearl P. Pereira of p3designs.com) calls for three pockets on the inside to hold tools but I am adding a fourth pocket:
My fabrics are cut and ready to sew but I am putting everything away for now to help Diane with Thanksgiving Dinner. The air is already redolent with the smell of pumpkin pie, which just came out of the oven. The turkey goes in next!
For those of you who celebrate American Thanksgiving, I hope the same good smells are permeating your home and that you too are spending the day with loved ones.