Pinwheel Palooza

I’ve been spending a lot of time in front of my design wall over the last week arranging (and rearranging) the blocks of my current project. If you’ve been following my progress, you know I’m making the pattern State Fair using a whimsical line of jungle-inspired fabrics. Today I finally stitched the first of nine blocks. Have a look-see:

I started with one block, essentially a nine-patch with a pinwheel in the center. After deciding the pinwheel should feature two animal prints, I filled out the rest of the block trying to find just the right balance of prints, colors, and values.

Every day I would station myself in front of my design wall and, beginning with the pinwheel in the center of each block, start playing with fabric combinations. The goal was to make the combos look spontaneous and random but for me it was a painstaking process. (I knew it would be; I love scrappy quilts but making them is not my strong suit.)

Working initially just with the prints in the fabric line, I wound up limiting the number of dark prints and eliminating the lightest ones because the latter looked washed out against the light green background fabric. Dipping into my stash I pulled out four medium blenders — two oranges, a green, and a fuchsia — to make replacement HSTs (half-square triangles).

Here’s what the design wall looks like right now:

Oho! I just spotted two HSTs turned the wrong way. It is sooo easy to do. I’m going to be extra watchful when sewing these blocks together to keep them properly oriented.




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Fair Play

That’s “fair” as in State Fair, a new — and free! — pattern from Melissa Corry of Happy Quilting, paired with “Jungle Paradise,” Stacy Iest Hsu’s new fabric line for Moda Fabrics:

Seriously, is this not a match made in Quilt Heaven? Just look at those animals — exotic birds, frogs, monkeys, tigers, elephants, and more — frolicking in the jungle against vivid backdrops of fuchsia, turquoise, orange, green, and magenta. Can’t you just see them frolicking across the surface of a quilt?

Just a few more pairs of Half-Square Triangles (HSTs) to make and trim . . .

. . . and then I’ll be ready to start arranging them on my design wall. Truth be told, I’ve already been playing with these blocks, sorting them by color family and arranging them from medium dark to medium light in value:

I started with a set of 10″ squares of the entire line (called a Layer Cake by Moda) and cut two 5″ squares from almost every fabric. That yielded around 120 HSTs. Combined with other squares of background fabric, I only need 48 of these HSTs to make a 48″ square baby quilt. But I’m going for a larger size because I have a bigger kid in mind for this quilt. (That would be moi.)

Best of all, I still have a whole set of 5″ x 10″ strips left over (plus a few 10″ squares I didn’t use) so I can still make a baby quilt if the need arises. Back to playing — er, sewing!




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Stepping into the Jungle

Step 1: Spot a new line of fabric, “Jungle Paradise,” by Stacy Iest Hsu for Moda:

Think to yourself: “I must make something with these fabrics!” Even though you rarely buy pre-cuts, order a layer cake — 42 10″ squares representing every fabric in the line.

Step 2: Spot a free pattern on Instagram called State Fair by Melissa Corry:

Think to yourself: “Wouldn’t those jungle fabrics look great in this pattern?” Decide then and there to make this quilt using those fabrics. Download and print the pattern.

Step 3: Find the perfect background fabric, a pale grassy green blender (“Cotton Shot” by Amanda Murphy for Benartex Fabrics).

Step 4: Make a few test half-square triangles (HSTs), which will finish at 4″ square . . .

. . . and play with possible pinwheel combinations:

Step 5: Conclude that this was a good idea all around and prepare to launch into major HST (half-square triangle) production mode, knowing that playing with these whimsical animal prints and vibrant colors and textures will be making you smile the entire time.




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Sea Sampler Block Revision(s)

I’m much happier with this block in my Sea Sampler project after replacing the lower left corner of the block. If you read my previous post, you know that vertical seam was angling to the right. It’s straight now. Funny thing, though:  it was sewn straight the first time. Turns out it was the seam directly to the right, the one connecting the bottom left and bottom center sections, that was off.

I made one more change to the block: the seam of the inset circle is now pressed toward the center of the circle:

It was originally pressed away from the circle, making the circle lie very flat within the square. When the seams of an inset circle are pressed toward the center, it raises the edges of the circle slightly, making it look appliquéd.

Here’s the photo from my previous post:

Can you see the difference?




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Labors of Love on Labor Day

Monday of this week was Labor Day in the U.S., a federal holiday that celebrates the achievements and contributions of American workers. I was working on a little labor of love on Labor Day:  a block in my ongoing Sea Sampler project. But I wasn’t happy with my fabric selections so today I remade the block with all different fabrics. This is the result:

The block’s a keeper. It doesn’t have a name that I know of. (If you recognize it, please let me know.) I think of it as my Nebraska Star block because it’s on this coffee mug that I brought home a couple of decades ago from a trip to Nebraska:

If you look above the capital N of Nebraska, you’ll see the block. It’s very striking as a two-color block but also lends itself to other color combinations.

I drew the block in EQ7, the quilt software program . . .

. . . and colored it with fabrics similar to the ones I actually used:

Instead of using a simple square in the center of the block, I made an inset circle of little fishies (from the “Kaikoura” line by Jessica Zhao for Cotton + Steel):

I cut the fabric a little on the bias so the fishies are swimming slightly upstream.

Because I wanted to lead your eye to the center of the block where those little fishies are, I opted not to include the blue triangles in the outer corners of the block, although they can be added later if need be.

I really hate to draw your attention to a problem but I’m going to remake the lower left section of the block. It wasn’t obvious until I saw my photo:  that vertical line between the two small squares is not truly vertical; it’s definitely slanting to the right. How did that happen? No idea but it’s going to bother me no end until it’s fixed.

Labor Day 2021 also marked my return to the quilt classroom after 18 long months. All in-person classes at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego came to a screeching halt in March of 2020 when the the coronavirus pandemic reached Oregon and we started to fully realize its impact. Monday evening was the first of four “Sew with Dawn” classes that will meet during fall term, September-December.

To say I was thrilled is an understatement. It was so good to see my friends and fellow quiltmakers in person again! We are all fully vaccinated — students, staff at Montavilla, and myself. Of course we were fully masked the entire time but even with masks on we could see everyone was smiling.




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Another Sea Sampler Block

Here’s the latest block in what I have started to think of as my “Sea Sampler” quilt:

The block is basically an Ohio Star with half-square triangles (HSTs) in the corners. I’ve been finding fabrics in my stash with a watery vibe that go really well with my other fabrics in this Block of the Month project through Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego.

Take a look at this close-up of my block:

The white on white fabric reminds me of bubbles and that light periwinkle print looks like waves and whitecaps. And could those shapes swimming in the waves possibly be turtles? I like to think so.

Look again at the first picture. If you really use your imagination, the green swirls against the dark blue in the center of the block could be floating algae or seaweed. Ferns, maybe? Pondering this will lead me to a name for my quilt eventually.

I now have these four blocks that will finish at 12″ square:

They play together very nicely, don’t you think?

For the layout I am envisioning, I need to make four more 12″ blocks, three more 18″ blocks, and a few more of these 6″ atomic star blocks:

Thanks to my dear friend Vickie R., I don’t have to worry about using up the last of this precious aqua print from a line that came out over a decade ago. It’s so hard for me to use up fabrics I love. Vickie knows this about me and she also knows I was running low on this fabric because I had mentioned it in an earlier blog post. Miraculously, she found a yard of it for sale on Etsy and surprised me with it last week. (Thanks, Vickie!)

It’s time to start another block and I’ve already decided what it will be. I seem to be moving at a snail’s pace on this project (make that a sea snail) but I am enjoying the process so much.




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Brace Yourself

When I launched my First Light Designs website in May of 2012 (you can see my very first post here), this was the photo on my “About Dawn” page:

It was taken by graphic designer Deb Hollister, who also designed my website, setting it up to serve as both website and blog.

Years passed. Nine years, in fact. Occasionally I would think about updating the photo but found it easy to procrastinate. I finally contacted Deb a couple of weeks ago to ask about getting a new photo taken, only to find out that she had retired in 2019. Lucky for me, Deb graciously agreed to take my photo anyway, and this is the result:

The ensuing years have brought more gray hair and more wrinkles, and I’m fine with that. Notice anything else, though?

My teeth! At the age of 70, I did something I’ve thought about doing for decades:  I got braces.

Ironically, the retirement of my longtime dentist was the catalyst. My new dentist suggested I consider Invisalign braces, offering a free consultation with computer modeling to show what my teeth would look like during and after treatment. In addition to straightening my teeth (including my very crooked bottom teeth which don’t show up in photos), the braces would correct my significant overbite.

I decided to go for it. I got my braces in December 2020 and am now near the end of treatment. I’m very happy with the results and glad to get that page on my website updated.




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“Something more.” That’s what one of my sampler blocks needed. Here’s the “before” shot:

I started with Cluck Cluck Sew’s No Point Star design (a free pattern!) and set it on point. I really like this block but as I pointed out in my last post, it wasn’t quite holding its own with the other sampler blocks made to date:

I decided to embellish the block with a flower fussy-cut from my focus fabric, seen here:

Now take a look at the block with the flower appliquéd in the center:

Better, yes? I’m especially liking that touch of green in the very middle of the blossom.

Here’s a shot of the embellished block with its companions:

I think it’s safe to say it’s holding its own now.




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Dawn’s Star Block

Here’s the latest addition to my current sampler project. It’s basically a glorified Sawtooth Star but I’m calling it Dawn’s Star because I’ve never seen this particular version anywhere before — except in one of my own quilts. I dreamed it up in 2014 to replace a basic Sawtooth Star block in the very first sampler quilt I ever made, Catch a Falling Star, based on Terri Krysan’s Reach for the Stars quilt. (I still get queries almost every month from quilters looking for her pattern; more on that below).

So why did I choose this block for my current project? Happenstance. You see, Catch a Falling Star is arranged on a quilt ladder in the Annex (the room across the hall from my sewing room) in such a way that Dawn’s Star is the only block you see in its entirety. My eye fell on it the other day and made me want to make it again.

This is my first version of the block, the one made for Catch a Falling Star:

It was designed to be set on point:

My current version looks good set on point, too:

Setting it on point is still an option as my current project features blocks that will finish at both 12″ and 18″ square. I could easily convert this 12″ block to an 18″ block by adding triangles at the corners. No need to decide yet. It’s still early days in the making of this quilt.

Here’s a glimpse of the blocks so far, arranged randomly on my design wall in the Annex:

The 18″ block in the upper left (Chicago Star) and the 6″ blocks I call Atomic Stars are part of an optional Block of the Month quilt project organized by the kind folks at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego for my students and me as we participate in monthly Zoom calls till my in-person classes resume next month.

I’m adding other blocks of my own choosing along with the ones Kristin at Montavilla selected when she designed the quilt. Montavilla has a Zoom call scheduled for next week. My plan is to get one or two of Kristin’s other block choices completed before then. And now that I’ve revisited Catch a Falling Star, I’m thinking about making yet another block I swapped out for one in Terri Krysan’s original design.

Speaking of which, here’s a photo of Terri’s beautiful quilt . . .

Reach for the Stars by Terri Krysan

. . . and here is my version:

Catch a Falling Star by Dawn White (2015)

Now on to the PSA for people asking about a pattern for Reach for the Stars. This is what I tell them:

“There is no stand-alone pattern for Reach for the Stars. Instructions for Terri Krysan’s quilt appeared in seven consecutive issues of Quilters Newsletter Magazine (QNM), beginning with Oct/Nov 2013 and ending with Oct/Nov 2014 (issues 436-442). QNM ceased publication a few years ago.

“Occasionally you can find single issues for sale on eBay or Etsy. You might also check with a local quilt guild to see if a member has copies of the magazine to sell or loan.

“Recently I learned that a website called Quilting Daily ( sells digital copies of individual issues of Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine. If you go to, click on the search icon (a magnifying glass) and search for those issues. Good luck! — Dawn”

Now, let’s take another look at my current blocks:

Hmmm. See that block on the upper right side? That’s a 12″ block that I set on point and turned into an 18″ block. I really like the block but it needs something more . . . and I think I know exactly what that “something more” is.

Stay tuned!




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Baby Goose in the Pond Block

The name of this block is really Far West but I saw a version of it online recently and was struck by the notion that it looks like a greatly simplified Goose in the Pond block.

Take a look at this Goose in the Pond block I drew in the EQ7 software program and tell me what you think:

Better yet, take a look at the two blocks side by side:

See what I mean?

Far West is a variation of the traditional Shoo Fly block. It can be made as an equal nine-patch but I think it’s much more interesting the way I made it, as an “unequal nine-patch with a small center square,” a category in Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns.

My block — maybe I should call it Gosling in the Pond? — will finish at 12″ square and be added to the sampler quilt started a few months ago as an optional Block of the Month project offered by Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego. I’m departing from the original quilt design by substituting some blocks of my own choosing. I have no idea how the quilt will ultimately turn out — but that’s part of the fun of it, right?

Here’s my Gosling in the Pond block with the most recent companion blocks:

My plan is to make several more of those “Atomic Star” blocks you see in the middle. They finish at 6″ square and will fill in the spaces nicely when it’s time to start playing with the final arrangement of the 12″ and 18″ blocks. But I’m really getting ahead of myself here. Several more blocks need to be made before I get to that point.

I haven’t been motivated to spend much time in my sewing room lately. It’s just “Too Darn Hot,” as the Cole Porter song goes. Yesterday I managed to produce that one block while dressed in my shortie pajamas with a wet towel draped around my neck. Portland is in the midst of its second major heat wave of the summer, with temperatures hitting triple digits again.

Coco has decided the coolest spot in the house is on the tiles in the master bath shower:

She’s just chilling out here but that’s a typical sleeping pose for her.




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