Post by Andrea Paden
When Kim Shaefer's Calendar Quilts first arrived in the shop, I thought it looked like a really neat project. It's a set of 12 different wall hangings to make with a new theme for each month of the year. But like most of you, I already had too many projects waiting at home, so I put it on my "wish list" for later. This year, Calendar Quilts was chosen as the project for Cozy Breakfast Club (formerly Thimbleberries) and Jan and Kara started making the samples. They turned out so cute and looked like a lot of fun to make! These wall hangings are a fairly small size and seemed like something I could manage to get done pretty fast, so I had to get my own and get to work!
I realized right away that the really nice thing about Calendar Quilts is that you get a good amount of practice on many basic quilting skills when making each banner. Yes, there are 12 quilts, but they are small (about 20 x 28) and you only have to make the ones you like. However, I would suggest trying them all and adding your own personal touches, or even varying the color palette here and there to really make it your own. I thought I would skip a couple, but when I saw our shop samples, I decided I liked them after all! When you tweak the colors or fabric style to match it to your decor and personal preference, you will enjoy it so much more. Or if you are giving it to someone as a gift (great idea!) use their favorite color or style. Every version I have seen so far has looked great.
The same basic format is used for each month with 15 - 4 1/2" squares framed by another 20 - 4 1/2" squares. Then you use fused applique to apply that month's design to the background. I have stuck to the directions, but a quilter with a larger stash might want to make things easy and just use 5" charm squares - it all works out just fine! In fact, just about everything about in these patterns is flexible, which makes them more fun to work with.
My favorite part of the process is picking the fabric for each part of the wall hanging, then cutting out the pieces. Who doesn't like playing with fabric? I had a real dilemma when I was working with my birds on this one. The color instructions show red birds perched on the birdhouse, but I really thought they should be yellow. I asked my friends at Friday Night Fever (my favorite sit-n-sew group), and most of them agreed on red. They just weren't seeing the "yellow vision". Hmmm? Well, I knew red birds would bug me for some reason because I had just decided that wasn't right. I wanted them to stand out and celebrate Spring! So I found the perfect bright yellow fabric and made my own sunny yellow birds, darn it! Cutting out my applique pieces was a breeze. I just got a pair of Karen Kay Buckley's Perfect Scissors at our recent "West Wing" sale and I love 'em! The micro-serrated blades were specifically designed for applique and they do the job well. In fact, they have become my favorite scissors. And since I lost my multi-tasking little snips that I usually keep at my machine, I have been using them for just about everything that doesn't require a rotary cutter!
Calendar Quilts directions call for ironing all of your applique pieces down to the background, then quilting over the whole project. I did that on the first banner I made (February, because I got a late start), but I decided to follow Maureen's sample for April (with the umbrella and bright yellow rain boots) and did some free-motion quilting on the background before adding the applique. This was a great way to practice what I learned in Sarah Vedeler's Free Motion Quilting class without worrying about what I might do to a large quilt as I am learning. Again, this project is such a great size for practicing different quilting skills and nice for trying out different quilting designs. I wanted to mimic the flower shape in my quilting, so I made a template a bit larger than the flowers and traced around it on the background with a Chaco Liner. Then I just did continuous-line quilting over my markings connecting the flowers to each other with a little curly-que. And, hey! Sarah's class must have paid off because they turned out pretty good!
To stitch the applique in place, I used my zig-zag stitch on the branches and birdhouse and double blanket stitch around the birds to help them "pop". I even used variegated thread (a really forgiving tool!) on the flowers to soften the look of the stitches. On my leaves, I just used a longer straight stitch 1/4" inside the edge and up the center to give the look of veins. I lifted the edges off the background to help the leaves look like they are fluttering in a breeze. See, you can do all kinds of things with these "fabric pictures" to make them uniquely yours!
To finish off my wall hanging, I dug through my now unused boxes of scrapbooking supplies and found some metal elements that added a few nice little details to the birdhouse. I used a loopy brad to "hang" my birdhouse (see below) from the branch and a large grommet to frame the bird's front door (see above in the yellow birds photo).
I am so happy with my completed March quilt (even though I finished it in April!). Better late than never, right? I had fun making the design, enjoyed using scraps from some of my favorite fabrics, and loved adding my own personal touches (like bright yellow birds). I took a couple of evenings and part of a weekend to make my banner (two kids cause for a lot of interruptions!), but most quilters could easily finish each project in a day. The wall hanging is now up near our front door to welcome guests when they arrive. And the little yellow birds make me feel very cheerful every time I walk by.
This project is great for beginners, but fun for everyone. You can pick up your own Calendar Quilts pattern is our shop, or find Calendar Quilts online if you are one of our Far-Away Friends.
Friday Night Fever Sit and Sew takes place at Cozy Quilt Shop on the fourth Friday of every month. The cost is $20 and includes your dinner, a place to sew, and a whole lot of fun. You can sign up anytime.
Cozy Breakfast Club is full for the current year, but keep an eye out this winter about next year's projects and for sign ups.