Category Archives: tutorial

Off to the Quilter!

The borders are on my cherry blossom quilt . . .

. . . and it’s ready to be delivered to my longarm quilter.

Don’t you love the freshness of the cherry blossom fabrics against the two spring green tone-on-tone prints? I sure do. The simplicity of the pattern (Town Square by Fabric Cafe) really lets the fabrics take center stage, which is always my goal.

I made a simple pieced backing incorporating two quilt blocks that were too similar to ones on the front. Celebrating Spring is the leading contender for my new quilt’s name but I’m open to other suggestions. Just sayin’.

There was enough of the small focus fabric print left to make a pillowcase for a loved one to go with her new bed linens:

It was made with my own tutorial, which you can see here.

I like this pillowcase so much that I’m sorely tempted to order more fabric to make a pair for the Portland White House. But seriously, the Dear Husband and I have enough other cases to sleep on. If I made pillowcases for every line of fabrics I fall in love with, we’d be sleeping on different cases every night.

Anyway, I’ve embarked on yet another new project that I’m eagerly looking forward to showing you. I hope you’ll stop by to see what it is!

 

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, pillowcases, roll-it-up pillowcases, tutorial, update | 3 Comments

Accessorizing the Home

I’ve been spending a wee bit of time in my sewing room over the last week. It could have been more but I had my nose in a book. A big book:  715 pages, to be exact. It’s Abraham Verghese’s bestselling novel The Covenant of Water. I actually bought it last summer but was reluctant to begin such a lengthy tome until after my cataract surgeries in June and August. Reading is once again a great pleasure, and this freezing cold snap in the Pacific Northwest over the last several days presented an ideal opportunity to curl up with a good book with either a cat or a quilt (sometimes both) on my lap.

I did venture into my sewing room from time to time, working around the schedules of the workmen repairing the walls and ceiling in the upstairs hallway following water damage from a rain storm. The hallway now looks brand new — a touch of irony in a house that’s 111 years old — but the texture on the walls beautfully mimics the original lath and plaster so you’ll hear no complaints from me. All the hallway needs now is a coat of primer and two coats of color.

I’ve been working on some small things:

This is a quilter’s tool caddy, using the pattern Travel Case by Pearl Pereira of P3 Designs. I’ve made several versions over the years, modifying the design in a few ways but most importantly by adding a fourth pocket so the caddy holds more:

The tool caddy is one of four accessories to go with my current Junior Billie Bag-in-progress. I’ll finish it soon along with three other accessories that go with it — a rotary cutter coat, a scissors case, and a fabric box that I use as a threadcatcher. I’m so enjoying the fabrics — most of them from the Gingham Foundry line by Riley Blake that came out in 2021.

You may remember I used the same fabric last October in a pair of pillowcases made for the Portland White House. I just finished a second pair for my twin Diane, who arrives on Saturday for a two-week visit. Ordinarily she would be surprised by seeing them wrapped up with a ribbon in the guest bedroom but she reads my blog so as soon as she sees this post she’ll know they await.

I couldn’t resist fussycutting the text print on the band so that the refrain “I think to myself what a wonderful world” appears on the top and bottom lines of the band:

A bit obessive-compulsive? Umm, yes.

I also made myself a new oven mitt (from my own tutorial) but got two in the bargain:

I had cut out the fabric and batting weeks ago for the mitt on the right; the materials were stacked in my sewing room closet just waiting for me. I can’t remember why I got out the tub that my oven mitt supplies are stored in but when I did I was surprised to find there was a mitt inside that was almost finished! All I needed to do was tack the red band down and turn the mitt right side out. I adore that tomato print and thought I had used the last of it. Now I well and truly have.

So much for accessories. What about quilts? Well, I have two quilts I started last year that I really need to finish but I’m already dreaming about starting a new one. . .

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, cats, family, home dec, Junior Billie Bag, oven mitts, pillowcases, roll-it-up pillowcases, rotary cutter case, sewing tool caddy, tote bags, tutorial, update | 4 Comments

Auntie Claus?

You’ve heard of Santa Claus, of course. But have you heard of Auntie Claus? That’s me! I made a pair of pillowcases this week as a surprise Christmas gift for my 20-something great-niece Megan:

Megan still has the pillowcases I made for her when she was a little girl. It was her mother’s clever idea to have these pillowcases be from “Auntie Claus.” Megan will be puzzled when she reads the tag but will know as soon as she opens the package that the pillowcases were made by her Auntie Dawn. These pillowcases are finished with French seams — no raw edges in sight. You can find the free tutorial for my roll-it-up or burrito-style pillowcases right here.

And don’t you just love the fabrics? They’re from the “Icy World” line by Gareth Lucas for Windham Fabrics. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve already seen these delightful folk art fabrics in a quilt I made a year ago called Arctic Stars as well as a simple ruffled valance I made just a few weeks ago for my stepmother’s guest bathroom. When I fall in love with a fabric line, it tends to make appearances in multiple projects.

It seems especially appropriate to be looking at Arctic scenes today as it happens to be the first day of winter and the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Each day after the Winter Solstice brings more daylight. Bring it on, I say!

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, pillowcases, roll-it-up pillowcases, tutorial, update, valance | 4 Comments

Going Places

Happy first day of December! I’m just popping in to tell you that Diane’s Car Quilt has a new and improved name:

After seeing my post of November 25 with pictures of Diane’s finished quilt, I heard from Sandy P., a mutual friend of Diane’s and mine. Sandy said she liked the way the Flying Geese look like arrows pointing in different directions and suggested Going Places as a possible name. How clever of Sandy! It’s the perfect name for a car quilt, yes?

 

 

 

Posted in family, quilt labels, tutorial, update | 4 Comments

It’s A Wrap: Diane’s Car Quilt

Finally! My sister Diane’s car quilt is bound and labeled. I wasn’t able to come up with a clever name for the quilt but Diane is quite content to have it identified as her car quilt. Here’s a look at the front so you can see how nicely the ½”-wide binding frames the quilt:

Diane’s Car Quilt, 42″ Square (2023)

Here’s a look at the back:

The blue and yellow prints pulled from my stash work very well with the French provincial border fabric on the front.

Here’s a close-up of my signature round label:

It was made using a compact disc as a pattern. You can find my picture-heavy tutorial on that method right here.

A couple of you asked about the pattern. I didn’t use a pattern; I designed this very simple quilt for a beginning quiltmaking class and it became my class sample. I started with alternating Nine-Patch and Rail Fence blocks. The blocks finish at 6″ square so the strips were cut 2½” wide for both blocks. Then, to give my students some additional options, I replaced some of the blocks with Flying Geese units; two units make a block that finishes at 6″ square.

This is the initial design rendered in the software program EQ7 and colored to match the palette of Diane’s quilt:

If you look carefully at the center of the quilt, you’ll see that the center block is a simple Nine-Patch. Notice that the corners of the block are navy blue. The addition of navy and yellow Flying Geese units around the center block creates the illusion of a navy diamond. I really like the effect and feel that it adds visual interest. With the right combination of fabrics, even a simple design like this can make a quilt sing.

If there is interest, I will write up my measurements and directions in a future post. The priority now, though, is to pop Diane’s Car Quilt into the washing machine and dryer for that wonderful crinkly effect.

 

 

 

Posted in family, quilt labels, Quiltmaking 101, tutorial, update | 4 Comments

One of These Days . . .

. . . I’ll get back to the business of quiltmaking. For now I seem to be in an extended home dec phase. Between making valances for my stepmother’s home and continuing my construction of Junior Billie Bag #12 for the class I am teaching, the quilt blocks on my design wall have been unattended for weeks. I will get back to them. All in good time.

It was work on my current Junior Billie Bag that interrupted quilt progress. When I posted about the JBB, I included a link to the Gingham Foundry fabric line I was using. Little did I know the link would lead me down a rabbit hole! You see, Montavilla Sewing Center, where I teach the JBB class, carried part but not all of the Gingham Foundry line. When I included a link to the entire line, I spied a fabric I could not live without. (You know what I mean, right?)

It was the main focus fabric in a background called “mist,” a pale blue gray. I knew in a heartbeat that I needed to get some of that fabric to make a pair of pillowcases for the Portland White House. Why? Because I could so clearly see the text print with lyrics to the song “What a Wonderful World” as the band at the bottom of the cases and the “mist” focus print as the body of the cases. Surely you agree!

Lucky for me, I found what I was looking for at an online quilt shop in Texas. The fabric arrived a few days ago, and this is what I have to show for it:

“What a Wonderful World” is one of my favorite songs. I am especially fond of the renditions by Louis Armstrong and Israel Kamakawiwo’ole but I also love the duet by Tony Bennett and k.d. lang. Is there another version I should know about?

 

 

 

Posted in Billie Bag, home dec, Junior Billie Bag, pillowcases, roll-it-up pillowcases, tutorial, update | 2 Comments

This Time the Dream’s On Me

What’s with the title of my blog post? It’s the name of a 1941 song written by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. You’ll understand as you read on . . .

I gave myself the day off today from working in the yard to play in my sewing room.  What do you think of my new pillowcases for the Portland White House?

The main body, accent strip, and flange are from the “Mindscape” line of fabric designed by Katarina Roccella for Art Gallery Fabrics. The apricot-colored band at the bottom of the cases is a treasured piece of “Gypsy Girl” designed by Joanna Figueroa of Fig Tree & Company. If these four fabrics look familiar, it’s because I’m using them in my current Work-in-Progress, which I wrote about here.

That WIP has been on the back burner for most of May because the Dear Husband and I have been taking advantage of an unusually long stretch of warm dry weather to work outside. In a perverse sort of way, I’m wishing for a little rain to come our way so I can spend more time in my sewing room. Kidding! (Well, maybe not . . .)

It feels so good to finish a project. Pillowcases provide a fast way to achieve sewing satisfaction. Not instant gratification but pretty darn close. By the way, I followed my own tutorial to make what I call “Perfect Pillowcases.”

I’ll bet you can guess what the DH and I are sleeping on tonight! I predict sweet dreams.

 

 

 

Posted in family, home dec, pillowcases, roll-it-up pillowcases, tutorial, update | 9 Comments

Addendum: Hanging Quilts with 3M Command Strips

After seeing my last post on using 3M Command Strips to hang quilts, one of my readers asked an excellent question: “Can you successfully remove the strip from the back of the quilt?”

The answer is “yes” — but there’s a surprise involved. When you take a quilt off the wall that was hung with Command Strips, the strips stay on the wall — not the quilt! And there is no residue whatsoever on the back of the quilt.

I discovered something else quite by accident: if you’re planning to take one quilt down and put up another one of the same or slightly wider width, you can reuse the strips that are already attached to the wall. Serendipity!

On one wall in our main floor bath I took down Uptown Funk (now on loan to a quilt guild for an upcoming workshop) . . .

Uptown Funk, 24″ x 26″ (2020)

. . . in order to hang Loose Leaf:

Loose Leaf, 24 1/2″ square (2015)

I saw that I had hung Uptown Funk using Medium-size Command Strips, which measure ¾” x 2¾”. All I had to do was separate the top strip from the bottom strip of each pair on the wall. You will remember from my previous post that the strips work in pairs, with the Velcro-like textured sides coming together with an audible click. It’s quite easy to separate them, leaving one half of the pair on the wall with the Velcro-like side exposed:

I took three new strips from the package (each strip is half of a pair) . . .

. . . and pressed each Velcro-like side to its mate on the wall. Then I peeled off the paper backing to expose the adhesive and pressed Loose Leaf into place. Easy as pie! It took less than two minutes.

If you’re the least bit apprehensive about attaching adhesive strips to either your wall or your quilt, I have a suggestion. Start with one pair of Command Strips. Remove the paper backing from one strip and attach it to the back of one of your quilts. Remove the paper backing from the other strip and attach it to a wall in an inconspicuous place — perhaps behind a door or a piece of furniture. Leave both strips in place for a week or two. Then remove the strips, remembering to pull straight down and very slowly on the rounded tab . . .

. . . until the strips completely separate from the fabric and the wall.

Pulling slowly and straight down on the tab is what loosens the bond between the adhesive and whatever it is attached to (fabric or wall). If you pull the tab out from the wall instead of straight down, you run the risk of pulling part of the wall or paper off with the tab. (This has never happened to me, by the way). If you pull too fast, the strip will snap you like a rubber band when it comes off. (This has happened to me but it won’t ever again, I assure you.)

I predict that trying this experiment will give you the confidence to hang your own quilts with Command Strips.

 

 

 

Posted in home dec, New Big Leaf, tutorial, update, wall hanging, wonky Dresden neighborhood | 2 Comments

Practical Magic: Hanging Quilts with 3M Command Strips

Happy New Year!! I’m starting the year with a bit of practical magic:  using Command Picture Hanging Strips from 3M to change out the wall hanging in my master bath. Command Strips have a sticky Velcro-like texture on one side and adhesive on the other side covered by paper backing. The strips are assembled in pairs, with adhesive facing out on both sides and the Velcro-like sides in the middle, like a sandwich. When the paper backings are removed, one adhesive side attaches to the wall and the other side to the back of the quilt — without leaving a trace on either when they are removed. Seriously!

I have several wall hangings that I like to rotate more or less according to the seasons. Dark Moon, pictured on the left below, went up in December as my choice for winter but as the New Year rang in I was longing for something brighter. It took fewer than five minutes to swap out Dark Moon for Hip Hop:

Hip Hop features five different kangaroos gamboling on an Australian aboriginal print background. The playful ‘roos and bright colors are definitely lightening my mood during these gray and rainy days in Portland:

But I digress. Let me show you how very easy it is to hang quilts using these Command Picture Hanging Strips.

Packaging varies. I bought a “value pack” containing four small and eight medium pairs of command strips:

The strips come in Small (holding up to four pounds), Medium (up to 12 pounds) and Large (up to 16 pounds). As mentioned above, the strips are geared for picture frames but they are eminently suitable for quilts. The size Small is more than sufficient for my wall hanging, which weighs much less than four pounds. FYI, Hip Hop measures 16″ x 59″.

These are the four pairs of small Command Strips, front and back:

The strips are separated by pulling them apart (very easy). I’m using three pairs for my wall hanging:

Each strip is ¾” wide and 2⅛” long. Before removing the paper backing, I press two sticky sides together to form a pair, causing them to make an audible clicking sound as they connect. This is what they look like from the side:

I peel off one set of paper backing pieces and place the strips sticky side down right next to the binding at the top back of my quilt — one strip on each end and one in the middle:

Then I remove the second set of paper backing pieces . . .

. . . turn the quilt around, and place it on the wall, pressing firmly from the right side of the quilt. I actually run my fingers up and down where the Command Strips are for a good 30 seconds, pressing the runner firmly against the strips for good adhesion. Note: this wall hanging is going on a painted sheetrock wall. I have also used the strips successfully on wallpapered walls (although the instructions say not to do this with picture frames) and on lath and plaster walls in my 1913 home.

Oh, and one more thing: I want to show you how to remove the strips from the wall after you’ve taken the wall hanging down. This shot was taken after I took Dark Moon off the wall:

All you do is grasp the rounded tab at the bottom and pull gently, firmly and — this is important! — slowly straight down from the strip. That tab will stretch a good 12″ or more before the entire strip releases from the wall, leaving no trace behind of the adhesive. If you pull too fast or too hard, the strip snaps like a rubber band. Ouch! You only do that once, believe me.

Note: I have no affiliation with 3M, the maker of Command Strips. I’m strictly a consumer, recommending this product based on personal experience. As far as I know, there is no other comparable product on the market. Using this method to display quilts on my walls has eliminated the need to mar the surface of the walls with nails or screws in order to hang rods or other hardware.

About the wall hangings: both are original designs. Hip Hop was made using my first pattern, Full Moon Rising. Dark Moon was made from my second pattern, Full Moon Rising II. If interested, you can look at the front and back of the patterns on the Patterns page on my website.

A final thought:  I think this post qualifies as a tutorial. I’m adding it to the Tutorials page on my website. It’s Tutorial #23. Maybe you should check out the other ones!

Update posted Jan. 23, 2023:  Be sure to read the follow-up post to this one! It’s called Addendum: Hanging Quilts with 3M Command Picture Hanging Strips. Clicking on the link will take you right to the post.

 

 

 

Posted in home dec, tutorial, update, wall hanging | 8 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