The Advent Joy Quilt Project

We love a good Holiday story and we’ve been following that of Laurie Russman (of Neon Kitty Quilts) all month. Laurie dove right into an advent stitching project and shared a beautiful stitched scene each and every day. Many featured her cats, Jackson & Loki, who we’ve come to adore. And others featured holiday themes that are sure to resonate with makers worldwide.

We’d started thinking about how to share Laurie’s work… could it be an Instagram feature, something on Facebook? But nothing really seemed to carry the impact we wanted. So, we reached out to Laurie to request a guest post and were delighted that she said yes! We hope you’ll take this pause with us, read a little about Laurie’s inspiration, and come away feeling excited to give your own Joy Quilt Project a try!

HUGE thanks to Laurie for playing along with us. We are honored and still completely enamored with this series!!

Since I was very young, I have adored Advent calendars… chocolate, coffee, animated digital… each brings a dose of daily joy through the most magical month of the year. This year I wondered why I had never seen a quilt-a-day version and decided to create one ✨.

The idea stems from my pandemic project, the #joyquiltproject – create a 6” square each day featuring a joyful moment. A series of small pieces such as these are fun for so many reasons, as they allow you to experiment with different techniques and threads (more about that thread shortly!). It has become my fabric sketchbook – not every piece is perfect, but that is not the point – and many elements in squares appeared in larger pieces in subsequent months.

Speaking of fabric, I LOVE the near-solid batiks called “Lava Solids” by Anthology Batiks for Windham Fabrics ❤️… all of these squares use them!

So, how to begin an Advent series? First, trust that the ideas will come (promise!) as you work your way through the month. Next, cut squares of backing, batting and background fabrics, a little larger than your desired finished size (I cut 6 1/2” squares) and fuse them. (Note, I Mistyfuse every piece of fabric that enters my stash – I recommend this time-saving step!) It’s always helpful to have a studio assistant at this stage ;)…

Now the fun begins! I like to sketch in the Procreate app, then send the shapes to the digital cutter, but you can certainly trace and hand-cut, too. Once fused, the shapes are ready to be stitched. I have fallen head over heels for 28wt thread as a way to emphasize design elements in each piece, with 50wt as the background thread of choice.

Aurifil guard cat 😉

The joy of 28wt Aurifil is that it behaves beautifully as a top thread while making a statement! A few tips: use a size 90 Topstitch needle…ease up on the tension (each machine is different; I dial mine down from 2.75 to 2.50 on my Bernina)…stitch a LITTLE more slowly when free-motion quilting. 

The heft of 28wt is a joy for outlining small details and thread-painting for texture; this square is a great example. I drew the direction of the evergreen boughs with a fabric ink pen, then stitched in each of the needles (very meditative!). 

This thread weight can also stand out as one simple line of stitching if the color is high contrast as seen in the square with my black cat, Jackson, tangled in a strand of lights.

After a month of seasonal treats and feline antics, I opted for a simple, peaceful message for Christmas Eve. Note that when doing smooth curving lines in landscape scenes such as this one, setting the stitch length to a longer stitch allows the thread to shine.

Merry Christmas to all!!


  1. Thank you all 🤗! Yes, Loki is a VERY enthusiastic fiber artist 🤣, he simply launches himself into my lap while I sew…Jackson is more laid-back. Most importantly, try the 28wt thread!!!! I adore it ❤️

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