Oh Christmas Tree QAL • STEP 3

4XmasTreeApr

Here we are again, gathering together for the next step of the Oh Christmas Tree Quilt-A-Long (#ohchristmastreeqal), using the pattern found in Quiltmania’s Simply Moderne, issue #3, designed by Wendy Williams of Flying Fish Kits.

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At this point, you’ve been working on your flowers for a month, and if you are like me, that first one was like jumping off a high dive, and thinking the pool was empty and you’d go splat.  But you didn’t, and your flower circles are looking wonderful and you are actually having a great time.  Keep working on them, you’ll need 21 of them in the various sizes shown on the pattern.  I have to admit that all of mine are not the “perfect” size, as some are larger than what is called for.  I mocked up the tree the other day (I’ll show you this at the end) and it was okay.  So no fretting.  Just #startyourneedles and keep creating and stitching.

But. . . this month we’re adding two easy tasks: leaves and birds.  First up, birds.

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Remember all that tracing you did of the birds, and how you labeled them and marked the dashed overlap lines on a folded piece of freezer paper, so you’d be making two copies of the bird (one regular, and one reversed) and you stapled it together to keep the pieces from shifting? Now’s the time to get them out.  Hold them up to the light and transfer the dashed overlap marking on the wing to the wing piece on the other side, then cut them out and start picking your colors.ohchristmastree3_birdsB

Be bold!  Red beaks! purple bodies! wild wings!  I ironed down the freezer paper patterns, using a wool setting (NOT your regular cotton setting–or you’ll scorch the wool), and then cut them out.  I tucked the beaks under the body, guesstimating where they’d go (hint: NOT even with the top of the body) and pinned them.  Then I place the wing on the bird, using the dashed overlap line to place them, then pinned that in place.ohchristmastree3_birdsC

(No worries…I fixed that purple bird’s wing before I pinned it down!)ohchristmastree3_birds1

Wendy of Wendy’s Quilts and More gave me a tip to sew on the beak first.  I just used a few overcast stitches to get it on securely.  I’d never qualify for a bird plastic surgeon, that’s for sure.ohchristmastree3_birds2 Then attach the wing by blanket stitches (or overcast stitches, or a back stitch or a running stitch), beginning where it attaches to the body and work your way around the lower edge and back up again. ohchristmastree3_birds3

Now do the floaty part of the wing, and tie it off.
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Add a few French knots, or seed stitches, or whatever small decorative stitch.  Cut a teensy circle of white, then an even teensier circle of black and secure them both with a French knot, done with white thread.  I started by cutting 1/2″ squares of white felt, then rounded them off, and then cut smaller squares of black and just kept going around and around, cutting, until it was the right size.  Be prepared to sacrifice a couple of eyeballs until you get the hang of it.ohchristmastree3_birds4a

Ta-DONE!ohchristmastree3_birds4b ohchristmastree3_birds5

I got fancy with that red bird, attaching the wing with running stitches, and doing a zig-zag stitch across the wing.

ohchristmastree3_63birdsallI took them with me on my trip to Portugal and Spain (pictures of that trip are on my Instagram, to the right and on a previous post) and was able to get them sewn without too much trouble on the [long] flight out there.  These go MUCH more quickly than do the flowers, so I’m also adding LEAVES to this month’s tasks.

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Okay, that wasn’t hard!  I traced half of all the leaves I’d need onto freezer paper, doubled it over to get two layers, then cut them out.  Iron on to your felt using a wool setting, and cut out.  Repeat for the inner, smaller, leaves.  I cut a few out of a different green just to give some variety.  Place the smaller leaves as shown, setting them closer to one end.  Using a backstitch, sew them down.  It’s tricky near the tip, but you can see how wobbly mine are and how it really doesn’t matter.  (Last time I checked, The Creator didn’t use a ruler to create his leaves either, and our world is the more beautiful for that variation.)

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So I was curious as to how I was doing at this point, so I smoothed my tree up on the design wall, and stabbed pins through all the flowers and the four birds I’d finished.  Then, ACK! I was stuck.  What number flowers were where?  What had I sewn and cut and what was I lacking?  I got out all the baggies of labeled flowers and set up a little station on my ironing board, right below the tree.  I wrote out post-it notes labeling the flowers as in the pattern, and then a master list of where they were supposed to go.  I then lined up the circles from the pattern, drawn out on freezer paper below each sticky note, so I could see the relative sizes.ohchristmastree3_mockup2

Now that I was organized, I could figure it out.  I had enough of certain flowers and needed more of others.  Some of the directions in the pattern were wrong, so I corrected for those:

OhChristmasTree_pattern errataIf you want it to look like the one in the magazine, Flowers 6: should read “floating above branch 2” and Flowers 7: should read “on branch 3.”  I say, just squinch them all in where they’ll look good.  This is just a test run, but later we’ll do it for real.
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After a while, I could pin up what I’d cut out, fabric medallions, layered felts and all, and was pretty pleased with how it was coming along!  I’d encourage you to do this interim step, if only to give yourself a little pat on the back that you’ve come this far.  After taking the photo, I put everything away in the proper baggies, and planned to keep stitching flowers and finish up the birds.

ohchristmastree3_64stitchingAt the last minute, I decided to take a bunch of the flowers with me on our trip, squeezing them into a cute bag made by Sherri of A Quilting Life.  I snapped a photo of my stitching on the airplane tray table.  I kept stitching until I had nearly all of the flowers done:

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And after getting home, I did another mockup. I didn’t pay too much attention as to what number flower should go where, but instead put my largest one on top, then the next two largest on the lowest limbs, moving on up the tree and thinking more about size and color placement. I’ll let this stay up on the design wall for a few days while I move things around.  I did have one dud–a flower I ended up not liking, but that’s pretty good, I think.  I only had three flowers left to finish, which I did yesterday, so I’m ready to move on to the next phase.

A recap of where we are:

January, Step “prepare”: buy the magazine, books, gather your fabrics, buy the felt/wool, buy/find the pearl cotton. 

February, Step 1: Make the tree on the background and stitch it down.  

March, Step 2: Make 21 flowers.Keep stitching, keep stitching!

April, Step 3: Make 10 birds and the leaves.  Keep stitching, keep stitching!

May, Step 4: Scene at bottom of tree.

June, Step 5: Appliqué down the flowers.  (Wendy gave me some tips for this last week, which I’ll pass along.)

July, Step 6: Appliqué down the birds and the scene.

August, Step 7: Sawtooth border (reds); sew together and attach.

September, Step 8 (finish up Quilt-A-Long): Make wonky star blocks, sew them together and attach border #2.

See you May 2nd for the next step: scene at the bottom of the tree.  Wendy’s done one scene, the pattern shows one, and I’m cooking up another.  See below for the giveaway.

#startyourneedles for the #ohchristmastreeqal

Giveaway Banner

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Initially I wasn’t going to do a giveaway, but after visiting with Anna in Barcelona, I thought it would be fun to have a Spanish connection from our trip.  In Barcelona, I purchased five balls of size 8 pearl cotton (my favorite size) and will send that to the lucky person who is chosen from comments left below.  I’m also including a 1 yard piece of metallic purple embroidery floss that I purchased in Lisbon.  Even though it is a little like sewing with tensile steel, it makes fun accents on our flowers (I used mine for some back stitching here and there, and also for some French knots on another flower).

Please leave a comment below, telling me either where you’d like to go a a trip outside the US and why, or the place where you had your favorite trip (outside the US) and why.  I love to read about other people’s trips, or their hoped-for travels!  I’ll let this run for a few days, then will close it off and chose a winner.

UPDATE: Comments are closed now.  Thanks for writing!

24 thoughts on “Oh Christmas Tree QAL • STEP 3

  1. I am loving this QAL. My favorite place to visit was Stockholm. I went many years ago to visit family there and see where my family was from. It was wonderful to see many generations of births and deaths recorded in the family church. It is a beautiful country

  2. I love this project you are working on. I like that you are putting them on the design wall now in a manner that is pleasing to YOUR eye. Removing the “1” flower that doesn’t work is why this is YOUR project, not the pattern designers. I am traveling this month from Delaware to California, then on a cruise to Hawaii for 1 5 days. I plan on taking my 1″ hexi project and hoping I can get some “double diamonds” stitched. I need to get myself “organized” before I go. I haven’t worked on that project in 6 months and things have gotten “messy”. I stitch on airplane trays, and will find a quiet spot on the ship to do some stitching too.

  3. Thank you for making this QAL so approachable and yes, it is a bit like jumping off a cliff to work on the flowers! Your pictures and hints are perfect!!!! The trip I’ve dreamed of since childhood is Switzerland, based totally on Heidi (I’m sure!). It may or may not happen in this lifetime, but I remain optimistic!! Until such time, I’ll remember fondly our trip to Paris.

  4. My favorite trip outside the US was to Bologna, Italy. My husband was busy with work and walked the city for three wonderful days!

  5. Thank you for the quilt-a-long. Love how you are showing great detail. Loved our trip through the Panama Canal.

  6. OMGosh….I’m in love! Your work looks amazing, Elizabeth. Those flowers are beautiful and those little birds are just darling too. It looks so good already on the design wall. I definitely need to do this one.

    I’d love to make a trip to Sweden to visit my husband’s family roots. Several of his cousins have been here and I would like to see their country. There is always someplace exciting to go…..just so little time!!!

  7. My once in a lifetime trip did not involve fabric or thread. It had been my dream to see Mt Everest and several years ago I stayed at base camp at 17,000 feet Everest was magnificent! Seeing the sun set on her was truly my best memory from any of my travels. My new “must do” is to go to Japan for the quilt show in January I love your blog and have inspired to get out my almost finished Thanksgiving woolwork and finish it up. Thank you for all the beautiful ideas

  8. I think I would enjoy going to Paris or Switzerland. I was in Australia once, but would love to go again. It was probably a good thing I wasn’t quilting back then, or my bags would have been overweight. LOL This project is wonderful, I admit I haven’t started, but am anxious to do so, after seeing what you got done on your trip. Thanks for all that you do. I am in Canada, so don’t know if I qualify for the draw, but thought I would post anyway. Thanks.

  9. I can’t wait to start this quilt! i’ve been a little slow with other things i’m working on. i really want to go to japan, preferably while the international quilt festival is there. last year we went to south africa for our daughter’s wedding and that was amazing.

  10. I love your flowers! The applique centers turned out great. It’s true; I started the first thinking I’d run out of ideas and color combinations, but it’s been all fun, ever since! Maybe I need to look around for some medallion fabrics; my first tries had too much white for my taste.

    • I forgot to say, I loved visiting England several years ago. London, Brighton, York; so much history and beauty! Next year we hope to visit Italy for a big multi birthday and anniversary celebration. I’m looking forward to it!

  11. I would love to visit Ireland as that’s where many of my ancestors came from. Next would be Italy and other countries in Europe. A few years ago when I worked for a company which made half of its profits during the Christmas season and there was no way I could take a vacarion then, I saw a trip where you visited eight European cities at Christmas. You could see how they decorated and participate in a few traditions and shop. It seemed like a wonderful way to see several cities and learn about them.

  12. It’s looking so good Elizabeth! Your flowers, birds and leaves are all lovely. I’m laying mine out now too and have a few gaps, so will just add a couple more smaller flowers to fill those gaps. I don’t need any more Perle 8 thank you, but I would love to travel to Scotland one day. It’s where my ancestors come from.

  13. Love those little birdies! I’ve bought myself some pretty new felt Elizabeth in a little country town in western Victoria! It’s been beautiful cycling and walking in the wonderful Australian bush ( what we call our countryside!) Now to plan for Japan in October!

  14. I really enjoyed stitching along with you on your trip! The beautiful architecture of those old buildings!!! Wow! And all that tile was breathtaking. I have always wanted to take a trip to Europe. My sister spent 4 years in Italy while her husband was in the Navy. Funny story, my sister had a sweet baby girl born on a cargo plane while trying to get her from the naval base in Sicily to the “Storks Nest” in Naples. I wish I could have gone to help her – but I was in Montana having a baby of my own – in a hospital.😉 I would love to visit Italy someday. Thank you for hosting this QAL. It has been a lot of fun – even tho I’m a bit behind.

  15. Thank you for the great tutorial on the birds as it so hard to know how to do them. The pictures you include make making them really easy. Guess I’m a visual person as the pictures help tremendously. Still behind in my tree but am catching up slowly.

  16. I finally managed to get a copy of the magazine with the tree on the cover, and it arrived this week! The flowers definitely scare me, but reading each of your tutorials as they come out is giving me courage and I know that any of my 3 grown-up children would receive this quilt with delight. I have never been outside the U.S. I would love to take a trip to Sweden, where my older daughter lives with her husband and son and daughter, and then take a trip to Kyoto, Japan where my son lives with his wife and daughter. What fun that would be! For the life of me, I cannot believe that we all live on 3 different continents! By the way, your flowers are gorgeous!

  17. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan to do some fabric shopping, among other things. Thanks for the pix of your flowers. I’ve had a creative slump with mine lately so I needed the inspiration.

  18. I’m not doing this QAL, but I’m really enjoying reading the posts and seeing the parts come together.

  19. Your tree is coming along so nicely. The birds are just so cute. Curious as to whether the wool felt is very thick. I recently saw a demo with Sue Spargo’s wool felt which is pretty thick and wondered how the felt you have found compares? Someday I’d like to get some if I could find it locally to see and touch.

  20. Oh gee whiz. There are so many places I’d love to go, but one place I’ve always wanted to visit (and to live there during the Northern Hemisphere winter) is New Zealand. The pictures I see are so beautiful; there aren’t tons of people, and there is just about everything one could want in the way of natural beauty. And I’ve heard the people are pretty great too.

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