“Open Sesame”

I’m always tempted to utter those magic words when my Junior Billie Bag (#12) goes 3-D. With the side panels/bottom unit pinned to one of the front/back panels, it’s easier to envision what the finished bag is going to look like.

And what about those pockets?! I count 14 in the photo above. When the other front/back panel is added, the inside pockets will number 19. And then there are four outer pockets. All of the pockets are sized to hold my essential tools. Anything that won’t fit in the pockets will go in the middle of the bag.

(If you’re new to my blog, you may not know what a finished Junior Billie Bag looks like, inside and out. Click here to see photos of JBB #9, finished in May 2019.)

I still need to make the binding but right now I’m going to head up to my sewing room and spend the afternoon working on a project I set aside several weeks ago. Bye for now!





Posted in Billie Bag, Junior Billie Bag, tote bags, update | 3 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

Whale Watching

This might just be the world’s smallest valance! The window it’s made for — the guest bathroom in my stepmother Shirley’s home — is only 12¼” wide so the spring tension rod inside the valance is set for that width. The valance itself is 8¾” long.

I just mailed the valance off to Shirley in Bend, Oregon and will wait for her to send me a photo of how it looks before I make valances (out of a different fabric) for the two windows in her master bath. The fabric for this one is from the “Icy World” line designed by Gareth Lucas for Windham Fabrics.

Other fabrics from “Icy World” starred (literally!) in my Arctic Stars quilt finished last December. I’d not seen this particular print from the line until my sister Diane and I spotted it at the Quilt Basket on our trip to Bend in August and decided it would be perfect for Shirley’s guest bath.

We’ve gone quite a bit inland for whale watching!




Posted in family, home dec, update, vintage quilts | 2 Comments

Apron Love

That smile on my face reflects my delight in this darling apron my friend and fellow quiltmaker Nancy S. surprised me with recently. It’s called a crossback reversible apron. You’ll understand why when you see the back:

Did you notice I said it’s reversible? Look at the fabric Nancy chose for the reverse side:

As someone who likes to cook and sew, these fabrics are right up my alley. The two prints are a supple blend of cotton and flax designed by Sevenberry for Robert Kaufman Fabrics.

A quick search of the internet shows numerous patterns available for crossback reversible aprons. Nancy used this pattern by Indygo Junction:

The apron is beautifully made. Thank you, Nancy, for this lovely gift! You can be sure it will be treasured and used.

As usual, Coco the Photobomb gets the last word:





Posted in aprons, cats, garment sewing, update | 4 Comments

Playing with Pockets

As promised, I’m popping back in to show you the pockets I’m making for Junior Billie Bag #12. Call me crazy but I make a new bag every time I teach a class. It really helps my students to see the individual components of this wonderful quilter’s tote before they take on the challenge of making their own.

Here are the exterior pockets attached to the quilted side panels:

Here’s  close-up of that wonderful text print with lyrics to “What a Wonderful World”:

Students are free to design their own pockets sized for the tools they favor but I like to provide a few options. Over the 13 years I’ve been making Junior Billie Bags I’ve experimented with pockets for the exteriors side panels but I keep coming back to this combination because it works so well for me.

To provide context, take a look at the same pocket design added to JBB #11 made last year, first under construction . . .

. . . and then in the finished product:

Now for a look at the interior pockets for #12’s side panels:

You can see that I’m using the text print on the outside and inside of this JBB.

The gold fabric with striations is directional; I deliberately had the striations go horizontal in one pocket and vertical in the other. I’m probably the only one that would notice that when peeking inside the bag. Just a little example of having fun while playing with pockets!

Here’s a sneak peek at the inside pockets for the front and back panels:

The gold floral at the top is the lining fabric; all the fabrics below it are pockets. I’m loving that vintage blue and white floral print (so old there is no information on the selvedge other than “Springs, Ind., Inc.”) next to the gold and white chevron print.

My class starts a week from today. I’ll be ready for it!




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

JBB #12 — Can You Believe It? — Is Under Construction

I’ve been gearing up to teach my Junior Billie Bag class that begins at Montavilla Sewing Center next week by creating the components that make up a completed bag. This is one of two front/back panels and it gives you a good sense of my color scheme: navy, gold, and white with just a touch of dusty blue. An elegant combo, yes?

My inspiration came from these fabrics I bought at Montavilla a couple of years ago:

At the time I wasn’t sure what I would make with them but I knew I would come up with something. The line is called “Gingham Foundry” and was designed for Riley Blake Designs by My Mind’s Eye. It features a large floral print on a navy background and several companion prints, including the text design you see above right. In case you can’t make out the words, they are the lyrics for “What a Wonderful World” — one of my all-time favorite songs.

The design on the front/back panel is one that I came up with a few Junior Billie Bags ago. It features a large bloom from the main print set into a circle and framed with a narrow flange.

I returned to another favorite design for the other front/back panel:

It’s a Churn Dash block set into the center of a Sawtooth Star block. I call it a Churning Star block as a nod to Jenifer Gaston, who designed a quilt front this block that she named Churning Stars. Her blocks are set on point in her charming version:

I found several fabrics in my stash that play nicely with the “Gingham Foundry” fabrics you see on the left and right sides of this photo:

You’ll see these fabrics in supporting roles in the JBB: they will appear on the inside and outside of the bag as pockets. Oops, I see I forgot the white and gold dot fabric that’s one of the “Seasonal Basics” by Lori Holt for Riley Blake dating back to 2019. I have that dot in a few different colorways.

Please check back soon. I’ll have a preview of those pockets — and you’ll be amazed how many pockets there are in this tote bag I call “the quintessential quilter’s tote.”




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

Back in the Saddle Again

Four weeks without a blog post! That’s a record for me. I take the month of August off from teaching my quilt classes at Montavilla Sewing Center in Lake Oswego. I didn’t intend to take a month off from my blog but this past August was not a typical month. The latter half was filled with several mini family reunions, although the occasion that brought us together was a sad one: a memorial service in Portland for my beloved brother-in-law Ed, who died in June following a lengthy battle with cancer. Ed and my twin sister Diane were married for 52 years, 41 of which were spent in the Atlanta area.

Diane flew out to Portland in July to make arrangements for the service and then came back in August for the service itself. Ed grew up in Portland, one of eight children, so we knew there would be a large number of his family members in attendance (spanning three generations) as well as several from ours. It was a lovely service. I had the honor of reading a beautiful eulogy written by Ed and Diane’s dear friend Lisa, who was not able to attend. An equally lovely reception followed.

Diane stayed two weeks after that. We went for long walks in the neighborhood and played a lot of Scrabble. And we made a quick trip to Bend to see our stepmother Shirley, just home from an unexpected stay in the hospital. When I was in Bend in late July delivering Shirley’s living room valances, which I wrote about here, Shirley asked if I would make simple valances for the windows in the master bath and guest bathroom. I gladly said “yes” and we talked about fabric ideas.

On this most recent trip to Bend, Diane and I made a visit to the Quilt Basket quilt shop and came back with fabric for two valances plus a third piece for simple café-style curtains for Shirley’s office. These are our fabric selections:

Shirley has a beach theme going in both bathrooms. The top fabric is for the guest bath, the middle fabric is for the master bath, and the bottom fabric, a batik, is for the office. Shirley waited patiently for well over a year for me to get her tailored living room valances completed and installed. I have promised her she won’t have to wait nearly as long for these next ones!

But here’s the thing:  one week from today is my high school’s 55 + 1 reunion. As a member of the planning committee, I volunteered to make a continuously looping slide show based on hundreds of photos from four past reunions. I’m well into the project but . . . well, let’s just say I have miles to go before I sleep.

And one month from today is the first session of a three-part workshop at Montavilla Sewing on the Junior Billie Bag, the quintessential quilter’s tote designed years ago by my quilt teacher and mentor Billie Mahorney. I always make a JBB in advance of the workshop to demonstrate each step of its construction. I need to get started on that pronto!

Here’s a look at one I made in 2019 . . .

. . . and here’s a peek of the inside of it while it was under construction:

By the way, a few spots in the class are still open, if there are any quilters in the Portland metropolitan area who have been thinking about making a Junior Billie Bag for themselves. Clicking on this link will take you to the Montavilla website where you can find registration info and my class supply list. Class dates are Oct. 6, Oct. 20, and Nov. 3. There are two weeks between sessions so students can work on their Junior Billie Bags without feeling rushed.

It’s good to be back!




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Serging (Not Surging) Forward

The shirt I started back in June is finally finished. I got off to a great start using a vintage “Fast & Easy” Butterick pattern and a summery cotton print from my stash:

What should have been an afternoon project came to a screeching halt when I decided to serge the side seams. The last time I used my serger was in 2020, when I made myself this bathrobe.

For the uninitiated, a serger is a specialty type of machine that sews seams, trims off seam allowances, and finishes raw fabric edges — all at the same time. The serger requires four spools of thread, each of which has an intricate threading process. The four threads work together to give a lovely finished edge to a seam.

Almost immediately one of the four threads broke. Now most people would simply rethread the one that broke and carry on. Not me! Here comes a confession:  I never learned how to thread my serger. I found the diagrams that came with my manual impossible to follow so every time a thread broke I would pack my serger in its original box, return to the Montavilla Sewing store where I purchased it back in 2004, and ask the nice people there to “show me one more time how to thread it.”

This time I took my serger in to Montavilla to be serviced because it was way overdue. When I got it back a couple weeks later other things in my life took precedence and it wasn’t until yesterday that I got back to finish the job.

I’m pretty pleased with the result. My summer top is casual like a camp shirt but a wee bit dressier. If you look at the pattern cover you will see that the shirt was designed to be tucked in at the waist. I wanted mine to be an overblouse so I added a second button at the waist. I also lengthened the bodice by one inch and took in the side seams an inch. The fit is a bit boxy but I like it:


Even though my heart remains in quilting, I’d like to make myself a few more short-sleeved shirts. I even have another vintage pattern in mind:

Can you guess how old this pattern is? Hint: big hair and broad shoulders! This pattern dates back to 1985.

As for my serger, it was a lower end model when I bought it almost 20 years ago. Most of the sergers sold today are called “self-threading” or “air-threading” sergers, taking all of the hard work and frustration out of trying to thread them yourself. I think it’s time I upgraded my serger, don’t you?

Posted in garment sewing, update | 7 Comments

Another Home Dec Project Completed . . .

. . . and would you believe it took two years? I’m rather embarrassed to admit it took so long but the posts on my blog detailing the process leave no doubt. It was in the fall of 2021 that my stepmother Shirley asked if I would make valances for the three living room windows in her home in Bend. She had just bought new furniture and was looking for valances that would complement her upholstered couch. Here’s a look at one of the completed valances against the couch fabric:

Back in 2021 Shirley and I looked at valances online and I sketched out our shared vision: tailored valances with inverted pleats in the center and each end, to be mounted on wide-pocket wraparound curtain rods:

By the fall of 2022 the valances were made and ready to hang , , ,

. . . but the trip from Portland to Bend to install them was postponed when the Dear Husband and I came down with Covid. Our cases were mild and we recovered quickly but by then road conditions between western and central Oregon — snow and ice in the passes — forced the decision to wait until spring. Due to a scheduling snafu on my part, the spring trip to Bend didn’t happen until summer (as in last week). Shirley’s grandson Scott (my nephew) drove up from southern Oregon to install the curtain rods; that guy is a keeper!

This is the valance on the front window . . .

. . . and these are the ones on the other side of the room:

Underneath the valances are cellular shades, also called accordion blinds, that can be lowered depending on the location of the sun. This next shot shows the front window with the shade lowered against the morning sun:

Did you happen to notice that my original sketch didn’t include buttons at the top of each pleat? They were an afterthought — and they were by far the hardest part of the project! The buttons are curved metal discs with teeth on the inside to grip the valance fabric, which is cut in circles and then wrapped tightly and smoothly around the discs:

The decorator fabric is quite stiff and also ravels easily so I used pinking shears to cut out the circles. It was a battle getting each fabric circle neatly around a disc. I’m afraid I used some unpardonable language getting those buttons covered. (The DH was in earshot and can attest to that.) Each valance has three buttons. That makes nine of them (eleven if you count the two I ruined).

But all’s well that ends well. Shirley and I are both delighted with how well the valances turned out. It makes me so happy I could fulfill her wish for new window treatments.




Posted in family, home dec, update, valance | 6 Comments

Home Dec Duo

I’m taking advantage of my twin sister’s visit to spruce up the Portland White House. A few years ago I helped Diane recover her dining room chairs and now she’s returning the favor. I actually found the perfect fabric on my last trip to Georgia to visit her: a four-yard remnant of a beautiful “high performance” fabric, more than enough to cover six chairs. The beauty of having extra fabric is that there’s plenty to make new covers should the need arise.

In the photo above you can see a piece of the new fabric artfully draped over a chair to cover the stains and worn spots. Here’s a close-up of the fabric:

Isn’t it gorgeous? I love the subtle diamond design.

The chairs are part of an antique dining room set the Dear Husband and I bought 25 or 30 years ago. I had the chairs recovered professionally at the time. The upholsterer did such a good job that all Diane and I needed to do was cover the existing chair pads — no need to remove the old covers and dig out all those staples. An excellent DIY project but a two-person job for sure.

I started by making a freezer paper pattern, tracing around an existing chair pad for the shape and adding about 3½” extra to wrap the fabric around to the back:

Five of the six chairs have no arms; the sixth is the one in the first picture, the one I think of as the Papa Bear chair because it’s a couple inches wider and an inch longer than the other ones. After cutting fabric for the five armless chairs, I sliced the pattern to add the extra width and length for the Papa Bear chair:

Now take a look at the finished product:

Pretty nice, eh?

Here’s a look at one of the armless chairs:

I really loved the old fabric on the chairs but I must confess the new fabric looks a bit more luxurious:

As Diane would say, “Simply elegant and elegantly simple!”




Posted in family, home dec, update | 8 Comments