The Making of Holiday Gifts

Like many makers, I spend the weeks before the major holidays feverishly hand making as many gifts as I can. I know it would be much easier on me, and take a fraction of the time, to simply purchase my gifts from the stores. Even easier I could shop from the comfort of my pajamas, still in bed on Amazon. (Did you know they will even wrap your gifts for you now?!) But my heart finds joy in gifting something made by my own two hands. Just like a small child gets excited giving their mom a messily painted macaroni necklace on Mother’s Day. I made it with my own two hands, so it comes with a fragment of my heart.

This Christmas was no different. Including the regret of not starting my gift making until November. I promise next year I will start in October and will spend less time in December staying up late to finish projects to make shipping deadlines.

Today I’m going to share the Tail Feather’s Quilt that I made and gifted to my sister-in-law. I refer to her as “The Other Erin Grogan.” That’s right, until she gets married one day and chooses to change her last name, we’re both Erin Grogan.

When I’m making a gift for a friend or family member I like to imagine where I see them using the gift, and this is how I select the color palette. My sister-in-law recently moved into a new apartment and is still working to make her mark on the place. Her living room is mostly a blank canvas, in standard builder’s white and gray. The only splash of color she’s been able to add so far to the room is three pillows on the couch, one red and two blue. My sister-in-law is not a drab person. She’s young, full of life, and goes out on adventures exploring the world. This space does not reflect her, she needs a bold quilt to infuse color into the room.

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I drove down to one of my favorite local quilt shops in Leesburg, VA, Finch Knitting and Sewing Studio, where I found a fat quarter bundle of Cotton + Steels’ Once Upon a Time Collection. Once Upon a Time was designed by Emi Oka from Tokoname, Japan. This collection is full of water color prints, and floras bursting with color. The fabric was screaming to me to turn it into the Tail Feather Quilt, which was a collaborated design by Suzy Quilts and Wren Collective.

After cutting out my pieces per the pattern I laid them all out on my design wall. I spent days looking at them and moving them around. My design wall is next to the door in my sewing room, so as family members barged in and out of my space rectangles of tie-dyed fabrics kept falling to the floor. When I’m piecing a quilt for myself I don’t find layout decisions to be so difficult. I just go with my gut, typically on the first try. When I’m gifting a quilt I always take twice as long (at least) to make it and second guess everything.

After many days of changing my mind and sewing blocks together the top was done. I had sandwiched my quilt and it was time to quilt it together. I don’t have a preferred method of quilting. I send quilts off to longarmers, roll them up and quilt them on my domestic machine, or curl up with them on the couch and quilt them by hand with some 8-weight thread.

I started quilting with my domestic machine and then felt at a loss on how to continue quilting it. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of straight line, or grid quilting, and I just didn’t want to do it again. So, I pulled out my little of Wonderfil 8-weight Eleganza thread, snuggled up on the couch and started hand quilting. Alright, I think I lied before. Hand quilting is my favorite method. I feel so much more in control and I get to appreciate the warmth of the quilt while I work.

I was still putting in the last stitches on Christmas Eve with my daughter snuggled up next to me, playing with her dolls. In the end it was all worth it to see the smile on my sister-in-law’s face Christmas morning. She was even kind enough to go out to the battlefields (we have a lot of those in Northern VA) and take some pictures with me.

My sister-in-law holding up her Tailfeather quilt.

I hope all you other makers out there felt this same sense of pride on Christmas morning.

Happy Holidays,



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