Think Big: 5 BIG Tips for the Holiday Quilt Lover

It’s time, I’ve been told by the marketing gurus that choose the music to blare over the intercom at my local big-box retailer, to start thinking about the holidays. How could that be? The leaves are just starting to change, and the calendar tells me that fall officially started just a few short days ago! Last year at this time I was dreaming about the year to come – attending quilt shows, a hiking vacation, and visiting my kids in college. I could not have guessed what 2020 would bring, and I’m glad that I did not know the future. Those plans changed – drastically – but I am hopeful that my plans to share my passion for quilting with my family and friends will remain constant. I have already started to think BIG about my holiday quilt projects, and that is a much-appreciated distraction from the news.

It usually helps me to set a theme when I’m deciding on holiday gift giving. This year’s theme is to Go Big – and I’m doing it in a big way! I have big plans to make quilted gifts this year… and planning is the key.

Here are 5 tips I’m using to jump start my holiday quilting

  1. Make a list Since my theme is “Big” my list of projects is going to be small. Big projects take more time, more resources, and more fabric. I’ve decided that each of my kids will receive something ‘big’ that I’ve made this year. That’s 4 quilts in 3 months…time to get quilting! Can’t go big? Find some smaller projects that fit the bill like those in Candy Glendening’s pattern collection Create Handmade Gifts for All. These projects are mostly smaller, could “one and done” in a weekend, and many of them are holiday themed.
This eBook had fabulous holiday ideas, like Christmas stockings, a holiday mantel scarf, napkin rings, and décor, plus a lot of fun accessories to make!

2. Supersize Why make tiny blocks when you know that big blocks have more impact? One of my favorite tricks to get a quilt top made quickly is to use a large-scale block. Why not take a block and blow it up to fill the entire quilt? Or how about creating a quilt with oversized traditional blocks and rearranging them? There are several great ideas in the Modern Log Cabin Quilts Pattern Collection using that technique. My personal favorite, King of the Cabin, was designed by my friend and colleague Kristine Lundblad.

3. Simplify the Quilting There are so many quilts in my future, and big quilts are a challenge on a home sewing machines. Because of that, I’ll be simplifying my quilting. Need some good ideas for how to quilt on a domestic machine? Sign up for Catherine Redford’s online workshop Walking Foot Quilting: Beyond the Ditch. I’ve taken this course and it is worth every penny!

I learned so much – so much! from Catherine’s course. It applies to traditional, art, and modern quilters alike!

4. Finish that WIP No matter the size, a quilt top that is finished a gift-in-waiting! However, it is still not a quilt. My mom often wrapped her WIPs and gave me a taste of what was to come… but keep in mind that WIPs are great for practicing. So pull out your machine, baste that quilt top, and practice machine quilting!

This WIP is going to be quilted using walking foot quilting motifs on my home machine. I can’t wait to get started! One big gift out of the WIP pile!

5. Be Good to You As we gear up for the holidays, remember that the best (and biggest) gift you can give to your family is to take care of yourself. Be good to you.  Practice self-care. Make time to exercise, call a friend, and read a book. And let’s also not forget that regular checkups are part of self-care.

Lynn Czaban’s quilt, Overcoming with Grace, was an Honorable Mention winner in the Pieces of the Past competition. “A scalpel cut deep across her breast. The healing process albeit slow, represents a battle between body and brain leaving her forever changed. The scar – a piece of the past – is a constant reminder of her strength, her courage, and her self-worth.

Lastly… a BIG personal ask about my favorite month: October.

Seven years ago, I experienced the October “pink wash” for the first time as a breast cancer survivor. Everywhere I turned, the pink ribbon seemed to follow. Pink, it seemed, was the new orange. As a woman who was healing after a traumatic surgery and just getting my energy back, the support of my friends and family was crucial. I am so thankful that my health has returned, my energy is back, and my life – although changed by having cancer – is not defined by it. And I am very much aware that all of this could change in a day, just as it did on the cold and wet February afternoon when I learned that “pink” would be a color always associated with my medical chart.

Susan Brubaker Knapp’s Heirloom Pumpkins •  Susan Brubaker Knapp • 21” x 15 ½”


Make time for you, be good to yourself, and be sure to keep up with your yearly medical check-ups. Let’s kick pink out of October so orange can once again be the color I associate with my favorite month.

Pure joy in October!


Vivika Hansen DeNegre