Free Motion Quilting

The Finish – Christmas Countdown Quilt-A-Long with Helen Godden

January 7, 2023


At the start of December 2022 our friend, Helen Godden, started her annual Christmas Countdown Quilt-a-long. Helen is our Handi Quilter Ambassador who lives in Australia. She’s an accomplished artist and a superb stationary machine quilter. I decided to join in the quilt-a-long and take you all along with me. So today I will share my journey, some things I learned along the way, and the finish.

In the last post about this topic I showed you how I prepared my fabric with Helen’s design by tracing her pattern. I made a few changes (thanks Helen for understanding). Then I colored the design with Inktense pencils and Inktense blocks. The process of coloring and painting, along with  lots of tips and tricks, can be found on multiple videos on Helen’s YouTube channel, @Helen Godden Quilts. After coloring with the pencils, you add water using a paintbrush and the ink-like pigments penetrate the fabric and become permanent.

Pro-tip: One of the things I learned about using the Inktense blocks is that you must not apply them too thickly. If you do, the water will not dissolve all the pigment. So that, even after pressing with a hot iron, the pigments will rub off onto other fabrics (like your quilting machine leaders!). I really wanted some of the colors to be dark, like the belt, the jacket, and the boots, so I pressed hard with the block. Next time I’ll apply less pressure. I did not run into this issue with the pencils. The core of the pencils is harder than the blocks.

I decided to not color the base that the nutcracker stands on in Helen’s design. I was anxious to get going on the quilting! But if you look closely under the boots in the picture above, you can see the tracing done with Frixion pen. It did not disappear after applying heat. I am not sure what caused this to happen. It might have been the water used to set the colors. Or, it may have been the sizing in the fabric. I should have followed the rule that I know to be true: Always test your marking utensil to be sure it will come out. I changed my mind and colored the pedestal after all, just to hide those lines.

There is a small bit of pen marking that still shows near the nutcracker’s hand on the left side of the piece.  Not much I can do about that.

The Quilting

I watched each of Helen’s daily videos and quilted the sections following her suggestions (mostly). The first part started by outlining the image. I like to use a ruler to help keep my quilting lines smooth and steady when outlining. Especially straight lines. I knew there would be lots of outline quilting, with lots of straight lines, so I changed to my Sure foot and added my ruler base to my Infinity.


My favorite ruler for this kind of work is the HQ Peace Out template. It has a nice straight side and various curves to help with outlining. And it fits comfortably in my hand, so it’s easy to control.


I started by outlining the entire image. This stabilized the piece as I quilted different sections. You may have noticed that I did not use the sharpie marker to outline the sections like Helen did. And I am not using black thread like Helen. I wanted a subtler look.


Then I proceeded with the hat, like Helen suggested. Pebbles in the hat band, using Helen’s serpentine technique. Echoing of the crown points. Curved lines giving the top of the hat its shape.


I continued on with the jacket, a tight stipple, echoing, and piano key. Notice how the contrasting shapes (curved stipple and straight piano keys)give depth and dimension. And the hair and facial features. I used swirls in the hair and beard, and S-shapes in the mustache and beard.


And the pants got a long vertical meander. The result looks like corduroy to me and I like the effect!


I did minimal quilting in the boots because my thread was a gold color and I wanted the boots to remain dark. I added some details to the gifts, using variations of Helen’s design ideas.


Lastly, I added background quilting using Pro-Stitcher. The design is from Wasatch Quilting, Snowflake E2E 2013. I resized it to very small, since this is a small piece and I wanted it to be a similar texture to the rest of the quilting.


I mentioned in the previous post that I knew exactly what I was going to do with the finish. Well, I changed my mind!

I was going to make a bag with it, as a re-usable gift bag. But the little issues I ran into with the color rubbing off and the erasable pen not erasing caused a change of purpose.

So, I put on a binding and I will hang it high on the wall at Christmas time. High enough that you can’t see the pen marks. You have to be flexible when you quilt!

I hope everyone is getting started on a great year of quilting!

Remember……Quilt Every Day!


by Mary Beth Krapil







Written by

January 7th, 2023

At the start of December 2022 our friend, Helen Godden, started her annual Christmas Countdown Quilt-a-long. Helen is our Handi Quilter Ambassador who lives in Australia. She’s an accomplished artist […]

One response to “The Finish – Christmas Countdown Quilt-A-Long with Helen Godden”

  1. I absolutely adore this quilt. I collect nutcrackers and if I had the skills this would probably be my chosen project to keep. Usually anything I make goes to another home. I’ll be dreaming of this project for sometime to come. Thank you for sharing it.

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