Blue Christmas

Blue Christmas quilt

Size: 137 x 170 cm (54″ x 67″)
Design: Robert Kaufman panels in my own arrangement
Fabric: 100% cotton
Batting: Matilda’s Own 100% cotton
Machine: Janome Horizon MemoryCraft 9400 QCP
Pieced: September 2019
Quilted: 2019 and 2022
Bound: September 2022

This began life as a Finish-A-Long project back in June 2019. After finishing En Bourgogne I wanted a smallish project and decided on a Christmas Tree wall quilt. I didn’t really care for most of the tree panels I saw — too garish or too cutesy or too plain — but then I saw a couple of blue and silver tree panels and I realised that blue is a much better colour for Australia, being cooler and lighter. I also found two sets of small panels and some coordinating silver and grey fabrics.
Blue Christmas fabrics
It took me six weeks to get a layout finalised. My initial plan was to use all 16 small panels around the tree, in pairs to cut down on the number of seams. That plan was soon discarded because the spacing between the panels was 3/4″ between horizontal pairs and and 2″ between vertical pairs and it would have looked bizarre.
Blue Christmas layout long version
The second plan was to use the small panels with sashing between them. The small panels are 9.75″ and the tree panel was 23″ across (22.5″ finished) so I needed 3″ vertical sashing to make the measurements fit. With four panels across the top and six down the sides, 3″ sashing made the whole quilt 54 x 79″ — the width was acceptable but the length was too long, and it would require an extra few inches be added to the panel. Reducing the horizontal sashing to 2.5″ and then 2″ didn’t help much and made the quilt look unbalanced.
Blue Christmas layout short version
In the end I decided to discard two of the small panels down the sides and use 3″ sashing both vertically and horizontally. This brought the measurements to 54″ x 67″ — a little bigger than I wanted at the start, but manageable.
Blue Christmas cut pieces
When I finally got around to cutting out the panels and the sashing strips I was disappointed to find that not a single one of the panels was actually square — if you look closely at the finished quilt you can see some slivers of blue and silver panel sashing visible around the edges.
Blue Christmas backing fabric
Once I actually started sewing, the top was put together in a single day and then I procrastinated again while trying to find a fabric to use as a backing. Because this was destined to be a wall hanging the backing fabric had to be on the warp grain, which meant I needed at least 142″ (3.6 metres) of fabric. I didn’t have enough for two complete lengths in any blue or grey print fabrics so I ended up using a 2.5 metre length of a navy print and piecing the extension — not ideal, but it was better than going out to buy more fabric just for a backing.

Quilting started out well. I completed the walking foot lines along the sashes and the silver-on-white panels and started free-motion quilting on the main panel but then for some reason it stalled — it’s so long ago I can’t remember why. The quilt was set aside for three years until I picked it up again last week. My FMQ skills had deteriorated in the interval but I was in a “get it finished any way you can” mood so I completed the quilting around the ornaments and did pseudo-pebbles in the blue panels.
Blue Christmas sleeve and binding
For the sleeve I used an offcut from the backing and for the binding I used a medium grey Kona solid which went better with the quilt than any of my blues.
Blue Christmas quilt
All in all I’m fairly happy with how it turned out — the ornaments on the tree look amazingly three-dimensional (they’re not, really) and it will look great on the wall in December. I wasn’t going to add quilting in the background because it’s not a bed quilt and won’t be handled much, but having seen the wrinkles in the centre panel I think I’ll add a few five-pointed stars to hold the layers in place.

Lessons Learned:
1. Panels are weird sizes and never, ever square.
2. No matter how much fabric you have, you never have exactly what you need.
3. I need to do more FMQ practice.