Jenny Kae Parks, veteran teacher of Block-of-the-Month videos, had only ever made one Christmas quilt. “It’s a mystery quilt I made from Bonnie Hunter’s Christmas Lights mystery years ago,” she says. “I picked the wrong color for the red—a fuchsia—but I didn’t realize how off it was it until I laid it all out on the floor. I sent a picture to my husband, and he texted back, ‘It looks like a Muppet Christmas massacre.’”
Mmm, maybe not what you want to hear from your spouse.
She laughed it off, and ripped out all the fuchsia and replaced it with a Christmas red, and named it Don’t Weep for Me, Bonnie Hunter. “That was the most stitches I’ve ever had to rip out,” Jenny says. “But every project is a learning experience, and I certainly learned something with that one!”
With a Block-of-the-Month project like Winter Cheer, of course, using the wrong fabric is not a problem. The quilt, designed and made by Denise Russell, combines two Christmas fabric lines from Riley Blake, Merry and Bright by Dani Mogstad for Echo Park Paper Company and Winterberry by My Mind’s Eye. And they team up wonderfully in Denise’s design.
Jenny says, “I love how the classic blocks pair with the more modern colors. It’s kinda’ modern, but also a little retro.”
We’re on the set of the Winter Cheer taping, both of us with our noses right up to the quilt, picking out fun features in the prints.
“Those ornaments take me back to when I was a kid,” says Jenny. “Oh, and I love the little cars with the Christmas trees on top.”
I tell her that my favorite prints are the plaids, and my favorite block is Number 6 (from Month 4). That quilt block looks exactly like a Christmas gift!
Getting those monthly shipments is just like receiving a happy gift, says Jenny, which makes the Block of the Month quilts so much fun.
Except when Jenny gets the fabric in order to teach the project, it all comes in one big box. So it’s a big present.
When she got her box of fabric, Jenny dove in, figuring out how to best teach this quilt. Most of the time, she has teaches the Block of the Month videos block-by-block, but she decided a different approach for Winter Cheer. Each video focuses on a single technique that is used in the quilt. So rather than watching the entire block video, you can skip around to learn the specific techniques needed.
The continuous bias technique was probably the most fun to film, she says. “It’s maybe 360-some inches of bias,” she says.
“It was thirty-two point three feet!” calls out Evan Rutherford, one of the film crew members.
“That’s right! Thirty-two point three feet!” Jenny laughs.
The appliqué border that uses all that bias is stunning, with its curving Christmas vine. Jenny has a few time-saving suggestions. “I strongly encourage quilters to use little buttons for the berries,” she says. Die-cutting those little circles would also help.
“And I’d rebel against the pattern,” she admits, “and appliqué the shapes before sewing the border to the quilt, to make it more maneuverable.”
“What about the corners?” I ask. “It seems tricky to get the placement just right if you’re adding the shapes when the borders are separate pieces.”
“Yeah, maybe, but you could appliqué the corners later.”
We debate the approaches and techniques used, which is interesting. Jenny has so much experience quilting, and teaching people to quilt, that she knows there’s more than one way to construct a quilt, and that some techniques are a matter of personal preference.
We spent a lot of time looking at the quilt, talking about the different quilt blocks and the prints, debating the techniques used to make it, and generally enjoyed a good quilt gab. When I left the studio so that Jenny could wrap up her filming, I was feeling pretty Winter Cheer-ful, and I can’t wait for my first Block-of-the-Month “gift”!