Advent Calendar

I finished the binding of this the other day and finally got around to taking some photos for you to see.  The pattern is a tutorial by Elizabeth Hartman on the Sew Mama Sew blog. I saw the Brrr range of fabrics when they came out a few months back and fell in love with the polar bears but refused to buy any until I knew what I wanted to do with it and in my searching came across the pattern.  I’ve actually wanted a calendar like this for the boys for ages as the chocolate calendars aren’t vegan (plus why would you feed your kids chocolate every single day anyway?) and the non-chocolate ones aren’t very interesting.

Basically you make little pockets and then attach strips around them before joining it all together.  The squares are trimmed so that they sit at different heights rather than in straight lines which is a nice touch.

I bought a bundle of the fabrics (I have probably a quarter of a yard left of the prints except the stripes and bits of the plains) and then added Kona solids in white, red and jade green.  The numbers are appliquéd on which was a real bitch to be honest, mine aren’t all that neat but unless you study them closely you can’t tell (or so I keep telling myself!).  I could only do four pockets a day as it really hurt my eyes to stare at those little numbers, I almost had my nose on the sewing machine at times!  I found that I actually own an appliqué foot about half way through which did make things a lot easier.

I tried to mix up the fabrics as much as I could, to begin with I followed the chart in the pattern as to where the numbers should go but I ended up with all the red on one side and the green on the other so once I was done making them I moved everything around again trying to get a good mix and not have consecutive numbers right next to each other.  I did really well except for one row which I noticed, after I’d sewn it all together, that I have 2 pockets with the same front fabric, but they aren’t right next to each other so hopefully it won’t stand out too much!  I had fun picking how things would go together and have managed to get little bears peeking out here and there.

The back has two triangles of fabric that you put something in so you can hang it on the wall.  I’m actually having trouble figuring out where I’ll put this as we don’t have many blank spaces big enough on our walls!

This was my first attempt at free motion quilting.  I felt like I was terrible at it while I was doing it but coming back and looking at it later I realised that for my first time it’s actually not such a bad attempt.  This was a really stupid project to pick as my first free motion one as it involved filling small spaces that change shape rather than working on a large quilt which would be more of a blank page.  I also apparently have very high standards for myself and expect that as I can sew I should be able to do everything at the same level even if I’ve never done it before.  Practising the quilting was a humbling experience as I was absolutely dreadful at the start, but it did become easier as I went along and I’m very pleased with the end result.  I wish I’d thought about using a patterned fabric on the back to hide the stitching a bit but I figured as it hangs on the wall why waste pretty fabric, which also means that the stitching will be hidden anyway so it doesn’t matter what it looks like!  I didn’t use red thread on the back as I was worried that if my tension wasn’t right I’d have little red dots all over the front, plus I didn’t have any red quilting cotton so I’d have been mixing thread types making the tension issues worse.  I love the way the pockets puff up a bit from the quilting around them, it’s a lovely effect.

So, here are a few things I’ve learnt about free motion quilting:

  1. Practice, practice, practice.  I used up tons of scraps and bits of batting until I felt confident enough to move onto my quilt and next I will do it again to make sure I’ve got the hang of it.
  2. I watched a tutorial that said to set your machine’s upper tension really high, doing this on my machine resulted in the thread breaking every few inches so I just returned it to its regular setting and it was fine.
  3. Take regular breaks otherwise you’ll find yourself doing the same pattern over and over rather than being random.
  4. Whilst taking these breaks you will find yourself swaying in the pattern you have been using as it will be stuck in your brain.
  5. Try to think ahead a little where you’re going or you’ll quilt yourself into a corner you can’t get out of without cutting the thread and starting again!
  6. I apparently quilt the way I drive, throwing it around corners keeping my foot on the accelerator.  In the car this results in a small child throwing up, in quilting it results in little ‘teeth’ on the back of the quilt where the top thread is pulled through.  I need to work on keeping my speed on the pedal and the motion of my hands consistent.
  7. Don’t wear shoes, I was absolutely awful to begin with until I saw this tip online and realised I was wearing platform trainers and couldn’t feel the pedal that well under my foot!
  8. Using my fingertips to move the quilt around didn’t work, I grabbed it in a stranglehold each side of where I was working and moved it that way instead, stopping regularly to adjust my grip.
  9. I need to keep checking the back to make sure everything is ok there as I had to unpick a long section where the backing fabric had creased really badly.
  10. A needle down setting on my sewing machine would be a wonderful thing, remembering to make sure the needle was down before moving my hands is still something I need to work on, it will result in less swearing.
  11. My machine doesn’t like the method of pulling the bobbin thread through to the top of the quilt at the start, it just throws a fit and ends up with thread everywhere.  Instead I will just have to live with slightly messy knots on the back which will be more hidden on patterned fabric.
  12. Free motion quilting is fun and I’m looking forward to doing more of it.

So now I need to start collecting 48 small things to fill the pockets.  There will be some chocolate but I’m also thinking pencils, small toys etc, anything fun that won’t lead to an argument over who gets what!



5 thoughts on “Advent Calendar

  1. This is beautiful! I’m really impressed with your free-motion quilting, and it’s giving me a little more courage to go ahead with mine!

  2. Margaret says:

    I too am impressed with your free-motion quilting! I can relate to the feelings of “I know how to sew. I should be able to do this.” I am enjoying your quilt posts. I have just started a part time job at a fabric store and being around fabric is giving me the itch to sew something!

  3. Jo says:

    I have these calendars for my kids too, they love them but I have to say finding 96 small things and randomly distributing them gets a bit mind blowing!! The youngest got a Christmas tree decoration each day last year, she loved it.

  4. This is beautiful, I love it! I made 2 last year, one for my daughter and one for the nieces, and I drew little pictures and the numbers on using fabric pens- festive stuff like snowmen, christmas trees etc. I was so over it by the time i’d finished, I wished I’d used cool fabrics instead!! Ange x
    Oh, and hello from the small blog meet at Lilys Quilts.

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