Category Archives: Billie Bag

A New Leaf

Ah, as in turning over a new leaf? No no. As in making a leaf block. As in starting a new project. And this is happening during the first month of the New Year, when many quilters are going through their bins of Unfinished Objects (UFOs) and Works in Progress (WIPs), making charts and even joining challenges to tick those projects off their list.

Alas, I am not one of those quilters. I do have a few (ahem) UFOs I plan to tackle this year but this particular project has been percolating in my mind since last August, when I first saw Forest Floor, a new pattern from Margot Languedoc of the Pattern Basket, on Instagram. The very same day I saw a picture on Instagram of a quilt by Kim Diehl called Maple Stars featured in her new book, Simple Double-Dipped Quilts, published by Martingale Publishing. Both designers inserted a Sawtooth Star in the center of a Maple Leaf block. The settings are different but the idea is the same.

A few weeks later two fabrics from unrelated lines caught my eye at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego, where I teach. Yielding to impulse — oh, how good I am at that! — I bought some yardage without a clue as to what I would do with it:

I looked at the two prints frequently, waiting for inspiration. A couple of weeks ago my musings on combining these fabrics in a quilt of leaves finally coalesced. I pulled some golds and oranges out of my stash to audition them with the two focus fabrics:

Then I realized I had some barn reds and rusts that might work, too:

For the background I pulled a creamy yellow from my stash that I’ve had for years and years. So far I’ve made only two blocks. Here’s the second one:

(I’ve cropped the seam allowances to show you what the blocks will look like finished.)

I haven’t used the second focus fabric yet. But I have a plan.

After buying a pdf copy of Forest Floor, I decided to buy the Kim Diehl book as well because I wanted to compare the patterns and instructions of the two designers. Martingale has recently ceased publication and print versions on the website are sold out but I was able to purchase an eBook version of Kim Diehl’s book for $9 and printed only the pages I needed to get her instructions for Maple Stars.

Both designers created their blocks to finish at 10″ square. I resized my blocks to finish at 12½” square. That may seem an odd size until you consider that the Maple Leaf block is on a 5 x 5 grid, which means that the finished size must be easily divisible by five. I have a fondness for blocks that finish at 12″ square — neither too large nor too small. It just so happens that a 12″ block is perfect for the front/back panels on a Junior Billie Bag — and 12½” blocks work, too.

Could my blocks be making an appearance on a future Junior Billie Bag (JBB)? Probably not these blocks, because I have a quilt in mind. But I do love the idea of this block design appearing on a future JBB. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I am trying to carve time from what has turned out to be a very busy month to make a couple more blocks before February arrives. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, update | 2 Comments

First Light Designs: Best of 2022

It’s that time of year again. Cheryl Brickey of Meadow Mist Designs is inviting bloggers to share their top five posts of the year in her “Best of 2022 Linky Party.” This is the eighth consecutive year Cheryl has hosted this linky party and my fifth year participating.

Clicking on the links will take you to the original posts where you can see more photos and read about my creative process.

Number 1. Isabella’s Quilt

Isabella’s Quilt, 40″ x 44″ (2022)

Isabella’s Quilt, made for a new great grandchild, was adapted from the pattern Star Stream Quilt by Sally Davies of Chasing Tigers.  I chose to make only a portion of the original design, using just two stars and enlarging them for maximum graphic effect. Instead of using one fabric for the background, I used several greens from my ample stash to create a low volume effect.

Number 2. Arctic Stars  (I liked Isabella’s Quilt so much I made a second version!)

Arctic Stars, 50″ x 63″ (2022)

Made to be a throw size, the quilt features two additional stars, with each star containing a fussycut image from the “Icy World” line by Gareth Lucas for Windham Fabrics. Here are a couple of close-ups:

8″ Star Block in Arctic Stars
16″ Star Block in Arctic Stars

 

Number 3. My Eleventh (!) Junior Billie Bag (JBB)

Dawn’s Latest Junior Billie Bag, the Essential Quilter’s Tote (2022)

I teach other quilters how to make this tote, making one myself in the process. That’s why I’ve made so many. To see earlier versions, click here.

I’ve also been making accessories to accompany each JBB. Here’s my latest suite:

Dawn’s Junior Billie Bag Accessories (2022)

You’ll find tutorials for the rotary cutter coat and scissors case at these links to my website:
 Rotary Cutter Coat (Oct. 10, 2014)
 Scissors Case from First Light Designs (Sept. 5, 2018)

Number 4. Pillowcases to Make You Dream of Italy

Pillowcases for the Portland White House (2022)

I love sleeping on pillowcases made from beautiful cottons. These cases were made using the “Capri” line designed by Katarina Roccella for Art Gallery Fabrics. (I used the burrito or roll-it-up method for the pillowcases, using my own tutorial which you can find here.)

Number 5. Holliberry Circle

Holliberry Circle, 25″ in diameter (2022)

My very first finish of 2022 was this mini quilt using the delightfully whimsical pattern Dresden Neighborhood by Kim Lapacek of Persimon Dreams. I used scraps from Corey Yoder’s “Holliberry” line from 2021 plus a few other red and green fabrics culled from my stash. I embellished the quilt with a few strategically placed vintage buttons. The link above the photo will take you to the post in which I explained (with lots of photos) how I converted my little quilt from a square to a circle.

Thank you so much for visiting First Light Designs. And thank you, Cheryl, for getting the party going. 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 2022 Linky Party, too. The link is open until January 2.

All the best in 2023!

 

 

 

Posted in baby quilt, Billie Bag, home dec, Junior Billie Bag, roll-it-up pillowcases, rotary cutter case, sewing tool caddy, tote bags, tutorial, update, wall hanging, wonky Dresden neighborhood | 7 Comments

It Was Inevitable

Having recently finished my 11th Junior Billie Bag, it was inevitable that I would make a suite of accessories to go with it:

In clockwise order starting at the top, you can see a 4 x 4 fabric box (which I use as a threadcatcher), a quilter’s tool caddy (an embellished version of P3 Designs’ Travel Case pattern), a rotary cutter coat, and a scissors case. Directions for the rotary cutter coat and scissors case are on my Tutorials page.

It was also inevitable that Princess Cordelia aka Coco would photobomb my picture-taking efforts:

I shooed her off the ironing board so I could take a photo of the quilter’s tool caddy in its open position . . .

. . . and she returned to photobomb that as well. Notice the proprietary paw placed firmly on the tool caddy:

Here’s a better look at the threadcatcher:

I’ve devised a way to attach the binding that does not involve sewing!

This fall I’ll be teaching a class at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego on how to make all four of these accessories. The class, called “Quilter’s Tote Accessories,” is intended as a companion to my Junior Billie Bag class but these accessories would be welcome additions to any quilter’s tote.

If you’re in the Portland metropolitan area and would like to treat yourself to some useful accessories or perhaps make gifts for your best quilting buddies, this may be the class for you. Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, cats, Junior Billie Bag, rotary cutter case, sewing tool caddy, tote bags, tutorial, update | 5 Comments

It’s a Wrap: Junior Billie Bag #11

Officially finished and ready to load! Here ’tis, my eleventh Junior Billie Bag (JBB):

The block in the left photo above features an inset circle. Rather than make a different block for the other side (right photo), I used an uncut piece of the focus fabric because I wanted to showcase that gorgeous poppy border print. I really like how nicely the binding fabric — a metallic silver and black leaf print — sets off the grey, red, and black fabrics as well as the poppy print.

The bag is 14″ wide, 17″ tall, and 7″ deep. The depth of the bag is sufficient to hold a 6″ x 24″ acrylic ruler, which is only one of the terrific features of Billie’s design.

It’s always rather difficult to get good photos of the JBB with both sets of straps in plain sight. Here you see both sides flattened out, with the short and long handles in view:

Why two sets of handles? It’s so handy being able to choose when to carry the bag as a satchel using the short straps or when to carry it over your shoulder using the long straps.

It’s also difficult to get a good look at the pockets inside a Junior Billie Bag:

Here’s a photo of the interior (from a previous post) taken before the fourth side was added:

If you’re new to my blog, you may be wondering why on earth I’ve made so many Junior Billie Bags. The short answer is that I’ve been teaching this scaled down version of Billie Mahorney’s original design since 2015, and every time I teach the class, I make a bag because I’ve found that the best way for me to demonstrate construction techniques is to build a bag alongside my students.

Because of the pandemic, quilt classes came to a halt early in 2020. The last JBB I made was in 2019. When I started working on this one I realized how rusty I had gotten. As I tell my students, “This is a challenging bag to make but so worth the effort!”

You can see all of my Junior Billie Bags on the Gallery page of firstlightdesigns.com or by clicking here.

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, tote bags, update | 10 Comments

Afternoon Delight

I can’t remember the last time I spent the entire afternoon in my sewing room. Despite the fact that it was really hot upstairs — the temperature in Portland reached 100 degrees at 6:00 pm today — I was in heaven. Fortunately, my ironing board is positioned right under the ceiling fan; the circulating air helped. I still got hot and sticky but it was totally worth it.

First I worked on Junior Billie Bag #11, the one I am making as a teaching tool for my students at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego. I could have finished the bag today but I needed to leave the final steps undone so I can demonstrate them for my students at our third and final class on Friday. Look for the final reveal of this ultimate quilter’s tote next week!

Then I finally got the blocks sewn together on my Sea Star Sampler quilt. Because the blocks are of different sizes — finishing at 6, 12, and 18 inches — I knew I’d be sewing the top together in sections. You can see the four sections here:

What’s missing? The 18″ Chicago Star block, which goes in the center:

The Chicago Star was the first block I made way back in May of last year, when Kristin at Montavilla Sewing introduced it in a Block of the Month program via Zoom. Once in-person classes resumed at the Lake Oswego store in the fall of 2021, the BOM project faded away but I carried on, not really knowing what I would end up with. By the time I finished making blocks, I had used only two of the ones in Kristin’s design — but I feel sure she would approve.

The Chicago Star block needed to be added to my top with partial seams . . . and here it is in its rightful place:

I did wind up making one last-minute swap of two blocks and am pleased with the decision. Right now the top measures 48½” square but there are two borders to come. Maybe tomorrow?!

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Block of the Month (BOM), Churning Stars quilt block, Junior Billie Bag, sampler quilt, tote bags, update | 6 Comments

That Magic Moment . . .

. . . when a Junior Billie Bag becomes three-dimensional:

It makes all the work that goes into a JBB totally worth it! You’re looking at the inside of my current Junior Billie Bag-in-progress. You can’t see them all but there are 14 pockets in the three sides in the photo above. The other front/back panel has four pockets, bringing the number of inside pockets to 18.

But wait — there’s more! The side panels on the outside of the bag also have pockets. There are three in the photo below . . .

. . . and one more in this next photo, bringing the total number of pockets to 22:

The size of each pocket was carefully measured and made to hold the tools I use most often when I go to take — or teach — a quilt class.

Here’s a look at the side panels/bottom unit on the outside . . .

. . . and on the inside:

I’m absolutely loving the bold poppy prints, all of which have touches of silver. I also used two other silver metallic fabrics in other parts of the bag. I’ve loved every single Junior Billie Bag I’ve made, all of which have been bright and colorful, but this one — #11 — is probably the most elegant.

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, tote bags, update | 6 Comments

In the Works: Junior Billie Bag #11

Because of the pandemic, it’s been almost three years since I taught a Junior Billie Bag class. That changes tomorrow, when I teach the first of three sessions to a new group of students. I’m pretty pumped!

Here’s a look at one of the front/back panels of my current bag:

Isn’t that a gorgeous poppy? I’m using several fabrics from the “Poppy Promenade” line designed by Greta Lynn for Kanvas in association with Benartex Fabrics. The line was released a year ago (or was it two?) and I bought a few yards of the main focus fabric, a stunning border print:

My thought was to make myself a sundress (which hasn’t happened yet) but I also purchased a few of the other prints in the line in smaller quantities in case I decided to make a quilt. That hasn’t happened yet, either.

To make the panel you see at the top of the page, I fussycut the border print to isolate a poppy and made an inset circle in the middle of a 10″ block of pearly grey fabric. The block is surrounded by a narrow red print flange, with solid black strips to finish the panel.

Instead of piecing the second front/back panel, I cut one piece of the border print:

I make a new bag with each class so I can show the students the individual components of the JBB and how they go together. Then I assemble the bag right along with the students so that I have a finished product the same time they do. Actually, I’m always a step or two ahead of them!

If you’re new to my blog, this link will explain the history of the Junior Billie Bag and give you a look at the 10 bags I have made over the last 10 years.

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, update | 7 Comments

A Sea of Stars

I made another 12″ block in my ongoing Sea Sampler project today. Before I show you the finished block, take a look at the fabric I used for the star points:

Is that not swoonworthy? It’s an ombre from Maywood (from a few years ago) that I pulled from my stash when I noticed how much the print looks like phosphorescent waves. While I was checking the proper spelling of “phosphorescence,” I came across another word for it: “bioluminescence.” Water bioluminescence resembles a sea of stars suspended in the waves. Yes, that’s exactly what I see in this fabric!

The block came together in an odd way. Normally I decide what will go in the center of the block and work outward. This time, I started from the outside in, making the star points first:

I used the darker value of the ombre fabric, which is darkest on the selvedge ends, moving to lightest in the center. You can see what I mean here, where the fold line marking the middle of the fabric width is very visible:

While I was pondering what to put in the center, my eyes fell on my current Junior Billie Bag, which sits by the door to my sewing room. As it turns out, both sides of the bag served as inspiration for the center. Here are the two sides during construction so you can see both at once:

The one on the left features a Churn Dash block inside a Sawtooth Star. I was thinking about making a Churn Dash block when it dawned on me that the fabric in the center of this particular Churn Dash has ferns that look like they’re under water. That small square — 2″ finished — is from the same piece of fabric as the circle on the right side.

I had actually auditioned that fabric when I was going through my stash for the Sea Sampler project and had rejected it because it didn’t look watery. But when I pulled out a piece and got a better look at the fern fronds, I saw an image that reminded me of an underwater garden. Even better, the image would fit really nicely in the 6″ x 6″ space I needed to fill.

I fussycut a piece slightly on the bias so the ferns would point toward a corner, as if it were gently undulating under water. This is the result:

See the bubbles?

Behold my finished block:

As you can see, I added small triangles to the corners of the center block as well as the inside corners of the four outer squares. Why? Because I wanted more green in the block and I wanted to add some visual interest to the basic block design. I love how the green triangles form little hourglasses on the diagonal.

Here is the new block (second row, center) with the other five 12″ blocks made thus far:

They join three 18″ blocks, which you can see here, and a smattering of 6″ blocks. This quilt is evolving slowly but surely. My sewing time is somewhat limited these days so I’m just coasting along, making a block here and there. But I do have what I think is a great idea for a layout.

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, sampler quilt, update | 10 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

Suite Stuff

With a new Junior Billie Bag in my sewing room and a coordinating tool caddy, it was just a matter of time before I gave into the temptation to complete the suite of accessories. Pictured with the tool caddy below are a scissors case, a rotary cutter coat, and a fabric box:


I love these fabrics and colors so much!

You can find picture-heavy tutorials for the scissors case and rotary cutter coat under the Tutorials link at the top of my home page . . . or you can just click on this link.

Speaking of Junior Billie Bag accessories, I forgot to show you the tool caddy I made recently to go with the JBB completed last spring for a class I was teaching:

My friend Cheryl S. was the surprise recipient of this JBB and tool caddy when we were together at Quilt Camp earlier this month.

I’m so ready to shift gears! There’s a new-ish project I’m eager to get back to as soon as I finish up a couple of ongoing projects. And as my twin sister Diane keeps reminding me, the newly remodeled kitchen won’t be complete until I make those valances . . .

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, Churning Stars quilt block, Junior Billie Bag, sewing tool caddy, tote bags, tutorial, update | 3 Comments