The Kimberbell Challenge

I have worked on Kimberbell machine embroidery design projects in the past, but most were small and I just used a design or two to incorporate into my own pattern.

Not this time. This time I decided to try her holiday quilt “We Whisk You a Merry Christmas”. It’s such a cute pattern it almost hurts.

I’d like to offer a few tips to you for working with Kimberbell in the future. I was in a rush to get this sample done to hang in the shop, and I learned a lot along the way. If I were ever to teach this as a quilt along, I would at least make an effort to start in August. As it happened, I started a couple weeks before Thanksgiving. Not a particularly good idea. This quilt became my life’s work for those two weeks. Give yourself a realistic timeline.

A few other tips:

  • Read the Instructions.

I’ve never been a fan of instructions. Usually for me , they are just a suggestion to get started. But I do know when to review them and exactly where and when I can go rogue. If the quilting world gave Pulitzer prizes for instructions, Kimberbell would win. They are thorough, cleanly presented, and extensive. They can take you through the whole project with very little riffing. You won’t have to re-interpret the pattern

  • Use their fabric or a kit with the fabric already cut.

The one place where I diverged from the pattern was in the fabric I used. We had a fabric picked out for the border, and from that I chose all the other fabrics from lines we had at the shop. This is not an easy task as Kimberbell recommends a LOT of different coordinating fabric patterns. My suggestions if you are picking out your own fabric: Start with the border, and background fabrics, then choose around 10 different coordinating fabrics and cut them up as you go along.

Also, if you are using your own fabric selections, create a guide for yourself. Here’s a scrappy little sheet I used which was a page from the pattern that I copied so I could write all over it.

It’s hard to see in the image, but before I started any of the actual work, I had organized my fabric choices and decided what I was going to use in each section. This allowed me to think through the presentation and fill in any fabrics I might be missing.

  • Use fusible woven interfacing on every background piece.

Purchase enough interfacing that you can cut it up and fuse it to every piece that gets embroidered. This sounds laborious. It is. Take your time and do it right…you will like the results. This step is recommended in the general instructions. Kimberbell recommends Shape-Flex which might be the best interfacing on the planet. I have loved it for many other projects and it works well on t-shirt quilts too. But OESD makes a fusible woven which has the same consistency and I had some of that on hand when I ran out of Shape-Flex. It worked just as well.

  • Lay out a row at a time.

Each embroidery design requires more than one piece of fabric. The background needs to be fused to the interfacing. Have each embroidery in a row laid out with all its fabric pieces cut and ready to go. That way you can get them stitched out efficiently. Once the row is stitched out, cut the finished embroidery design to size. I kept a table at home reserved to lay out the whole thing and did not begin assembly until all the embroidery was complete.

  • Keep reading the instructions.

When you think you know exactly how something will be cut or sewn, READ THE INSTRUCTIONS ANYWAY. Ask me how I know.

  • Enjoy the process!

When working on a large project like this, it’s easy to get caught up in how long everything is taking. Let me say this (and I’ve said it many times in the past), don’t ever start a project thinking about the hours of your life you will spend doing it. Things take time, and at least at the end of a quilt journey, you have a finished product to enjoy.

Would I change anything? You bet. I would have started months earlier. But now at the end, I find it to be impossibly cute. In the pic, it’s hard to see the little sparkly embellishments, which just make it magical.

And just in time for the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! And don’t forget to visit your local quilt shop on Small Business Saturday. May you find time to stitch during this busy season.

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