As you may have seen from a post in December, I have finally completed my 12 times 12″ by 12″ quilt project, in which I made a 12″ by 12″ quilt for each month of the year. During its month, each quilt hangs on the little Ackfeld wire quilt stand in our entry hall, topped with a seasonal header. I thought it would be fun to look back briefly at the project as a whole, and share some insights!
My initial aim was to make a quilt a month, but that proved to be too optimistic: combining making these quilts with a full-time job, other quilting projects, travel and the ups and downs of daily life meant that in some months I just didn’t get one finished, and that quickly put me behind schedule. I never considered giving up though, it just took much longer than I thought it would!
In retrospect, it would have been more realistic to aim for a quilt every two months, or even every three, and if I had done say, January, March, May and so on, and then gone back to do February, April, June and so on, then the finished quilts would have fitted better with the time of year I was actually making them! Some of the quilts also came together much more quickly than others because they differed in complexity: February was a snap, but September was a huge amount of work!
I also wanted to use the series to experiment with materials and techniques: that worked very well! I used a number of techniques and materials for the first time. I felt I could experiment with ease, as the quilts are so small that the investment of time and material each month was minimal, compared to a bigger project.
I pieced, appliquéd, embroidered, embellished and quilted. I used different types of battings (waddings) and experimented with threads and fabrics: batiks, quilting cottons, dress goods, shot cottons, flannel and prints with metallics. I adapted existing patterns and also designed my own patterns. In short, I played and had fun!
I decided in January that, to tie the series together, I would bind every quilt with a batik and I am pleased with that choice: it gives a subtle bit of cohesion to a very varied assortment. Other than that, I just made what I wanted to, to represent the month. I tried to vary the techniques month to month, and try at least one new thing each month. In the posts about each quilt, I explain what was new and why I made what I made.
I also made each month personal to me in my choice of what to depict or make: for instance the April quilt has a hedgehog, as April is when the wild hedgehogs in our garden wake from their winter hibernation, and the July quilt has barn swallows, because they are my favourite bird and July is my birthday, and the October quilt has an autumn leaf because I love autumn colour and so on. I am really glad I did that: every month when I change out the quilts I have a little moment when I think about something that is special, and related to the month ahead. Small things, that you otherwise mightn’t remember to think about and treasure.
So what did I learn and discover? First of all, that I love wool batting, and next after that cotton. I had used cotton, blends and poly battings before, but this project was my first try of wool. I am using it in bigger projects now too.
Secondly that it is great fun to experiment: I now have a wider range of skills, use more of the stitch possibilities on my machine and am confident in how to use a wider range of fabrics and threads. I had never added embellishments like decorative buttons to my quilts before, but as these were wall-hangings anything was possible. I even found myself embellishing the labels on the backs!
Thirdly, that there is a real sense of accomplishment in having made a complete series, even though the quilts are small. It took a while, but I actually now have a different small quilt for every month of the year!
So my advice in a nutshell: if you want to do a series, go for it! Allow yourself a generous amount time to do it in, so that you don’t feel rushed or stressed by self imposed deadlines. Small size keeps things manageable, and allows you to take risks if you want, without ruining weeks of work. Keep it personal: that keeps you engaged. Enjoy the journey, the exploration and the experimentation, and when you are finished, enjoy your quilts! I enjoy mine!