Giveaway · Oh Christmas Tree QAL · Quilts

Oh Christmas Tree QAL • STEP 6 and Giveaway


Today is Step 6 of our Oh Christmas Tree Quilt-a-Long (#ohchristmastreeqal), following a pattern by Wendy of FlyingFishKits and which was published in Simply Moderne issue #3, by QuiltMania. As always, we have an assist from Wendy of  Wendy’s Quilts and More (blog) and wendyquiltsandmore (IG).  Our hashtag on Instagram is #ohchristmastreeqal so look there for more ideas.

I’ve been keeping a log of the steps in the tab above, Oh Christmas Tree Quilt-A-Long, so consult that page when you need to find a post.

And yes, there is a giveaway at the end of this post, so have fun reading through the maze of red triangles.

great wall of china1

Today is the Dreaded Border Problem. No, not that kind of border problem, but a QUILT border problem. To guide you through all the blather this longish post, I’ve broken it into 5 parts: 1) The Pattern and the Problem, 2) The Fix, 3) Construction, 4) Fitting it to the Tree, and 5) More Ideas.

The Pattern and the Problem

As SuggestedThese were the inner red/background fabric border blocks, drawn to the measurements listed on the pattern in Simply Moderne.  You can see the troubles already, right?  None of them can play nicely together (that last shape is the dimension of the half-triangle, minus its diagonal line).

MetricImperial Stormtrooper(from here)

Maybe the Metric vs. Imperial measuring system may have something to do with it?  but I don’t know (and to be truthful, I just really wanted to use that image).

As Re-drawn

When I tried to subtract the seam allowances, and create the wedge piece for use at each end of the borders, it just got messier.

But never fear!  Wendy informed me that the seam allowances were left off the triangle and the wedge piece, EVEN THOUGH IT SAYS THE SEAM ALLOWANCES ARE INCLUDED.  She sent me photos showing a difference in the base of about 3/4″ across.

Which explains. . . a lot.  Like a lot of you have gone ahead and cut out the triangles then got to a place like where Gwen did, when she noticed that they were too small!  She eventually made more triangles to fit across the area needed.  Leslie, another friend who was trying to make this at a retreat, emailed me with the same problem; she decided to stop until I figured it out.

The Fix

But before I knew about the news from Wendy,  I had scrapped their templates entirely and made my own, which work fine (free templates for download are below). I compared my triangles to the revised pattern (now including) seam allowances, and mine are slightly larger by about 1/4″ total on the large triangle (1/8″ each side), but interestingly enough, perfect for the wedge triangle.  So you have a choice: do theirs in their imperfections — first adding seam allowances — or, forget theirs and go with mine.  You should know, however, using my templates will change the number of wonky stars you’ll make for the border, if that matters to you.  The finished quilt photo is at the very end of this post, if you want to compare how mine turned out with the magazine’s photo.  And Simpy Moderne’s  link for the errata; it simply says “add seam allowances.” Okey, dokey.

I figured out my templates by starting with their lower border measurement, which just happened to be one that I could evenly divide by 3.  So I redrew my triangles to measure 3″ across the bottom. Then I had to change the side border measurement to also allow division by 3.  Here’s my working snapshots from my QuiltPro software.

OCT6_Side border1

These images show the measurements without seam allowances.  The templates that you’ll print off (at 100%) include those pesky seam allowances.  OCT6_TopBorder

So here is that link to a PDF file that has templates for the new triangles and corner block: OCT New Border Templates.  To make sure you are printing it out correctly, the inside measurement of the cornerstone (w/o seam allowances) is 3.5 inches (or the entire square is 4″).  Please print out only one copy for yourself.  If your mother or friend want the pattern, please send them here to get it.  Many thanks.  


OhChristmasTree6_1 cutting triangles

I cut three 4″ strips WOF: as you can see, the strips were big enough to accommodate the triangle pattern.  I did flip it back and forth so was able to get about 10-12 triangles out of that folded cut per strip (I forgot to count).  So, from three strips I had plenty.  You’ll need 11 red triangles each for the top/bottom border, and 13 red triangles each for the side borders.  Cut 12 whole background triangles and 2 smaller wedge triangles for each side border; top/bottom borders require 10 full background triangles and 2 smaller wedge triangles.  [NOTE: I do show you two different ways to think about your placement; read all the way to the end before cutting.]OhChristmasTree6_2

I put a double loop of painter’s tape on the back of my template so it wouldn’t shift while I was cutting.OhChristmasTree6_2a

I also don’t really worry about the outside edge of the template so much, instead focusing on lining up my ruler with the actual dimensions of the triangle.  That way, if I accidentally trim off a bit of the template while cutting, the world doesn’t end.  I’m paying more attention to the inside “actual triangle” shape when I cut, than to the triangle’s outer seam allowance line.OhChristmasTree6_2b OhChristmasTree6_3 cutting arrangement

I’ve also learned to shift the fabric going up away from me (north-south direction) when I cut angles, shifting it slightly left or right as needed, so it’s easier cutting with less stress on my hands.

OhChristmasTree6_4 sewing

All lined up, ready to sew. OhChristmasTree6_4a

Since I cut three strips at once, I work with a stack of six red triangles and six background triangles, laying them out like this.


Line up the tip like this, then sew along the top edge with an accurate 1/4″ seam, shown here by the dotted line.  Do your best to get that seam as accurate as you can, as you are working with a ton of seams here, and a little scoonch off at this point can yield big differences later.  Having said that, I wouldn’t worry about it too much, as there are lots of ways to adjust these borders.OhChristmasTree6_5 pressing

I stitched them in pairs, then pressed to the dark side.OhChristmasTree6_6

Then I seamed two together, pressed again to the dark side, then built out my four different borders by combining these sets.  Watch out–you will have an odd number so you’ll need to sew on just one red triangle at the end of each border, then sew on the smaller half-triangle shapes to make your borders.  To reiterate, you should then have:
•  two borders with 11 red triangles
•  two borders with 13 red triangles

This is different than the pattern in the magazine.  Sew a corner block on the ends of the 13-triangle (side) borders and iron all the seams to the dark side, as before.

Fitting It to the Tree

Find yourself a nice big flat surface, preferably with a grid.

OhChristmasTree6_7 squaring quiltLike a cutting board, or something (Why yes, I do work on my guest bed all the time).  I smoothed out my tree, aligning the tree trunk on one of the lines (north-south) but quickly realized that even though I thought I had sewn the tree on straight on my background, it was slightly off (see the slope of the lower edge).  You’ll cut the background 33 1/2″ by 39 1/2″ if you are using my templates.  Please follow the measurements in the magazine if you are using theirs.

OhChristmasTree6_7 squaring quilt1

I was more concerned that the tree be upright and straight, so I continued lining up the tree trunk and the limbs with the grid underneath, then putting pins to anchor them straight.
OhChristmasTree6_7 squaring quilt2

Since I want the background to be cut to 33 1/2″ inches wide, I put the 16-3/4″ inch line in the middle of my tree.OhChristmasTree6_7 squaring quilt2b

If you have one of these hanging around the house, that’s even better.  They are nifty rulers that allow you to find the center easily.  Just line up the similar measurements on the outside (in this case, the 1-inch marks on the top edge of the Center-Finding Rule) and you’ll instantly find the center.  OhChristmasTree6_7 squaring quilt3

Mark the outside edges.OhChristmasTree6_7 squaring quilt4

Now connect the marks.  I also used the grid underneath to aid me, deferring to those lines, if I thought my marks were a little wonky.  I measured the height of this rectangle (39-1/2″) and it turned out to be almost exactly two inches above the big circle at the top of the tree and the lower edge of my manger in my scene.  (Lucky me!)  I then used the grid underneath and the right angles of my big ruler to draw the top and bottom lines.

The idea is to draw yourself a squared-up rectangle.  If you draw the lines at 33 1/2″ and 39 1/2″ then you can align the raw edges of your borders with those lines as you pin them on.  BUT DON’T TRIM THE BACKGROUND YET!!OhChristmasTree6_8 sewing borders1

Of course, the best-laid plans often go awry.  I’m a bit short here, but instead of stretching the border to fit (which I could do, since it’s mostly on the bias), I let it be a bit short.  I’ll adjust the outside wonky star borders as needed.  Sew on the top and bottom borders first.OhChristmasTree6_8 sewing borders2

While ironing this seam, I just realized that the red triangles should be pointing TOWARDS the Christmas Tree. I un-sewed, then re-sewed, all the while listening to this (30 hour!) book:

Alexander Hamilton

In this season of political intrigues, constitutional fights and jockeying for power, it’s been interesting to revisit the original story of political intrigue, constitutional fights and jockeying for power.  Okay, back to the triangles.

OhChristmasTree6_8 sewing borders3

Sew on the top/bottom borders first.  Then sew the two sides, leaving the corner block seam areas unsewn.  Press, then check them, THEN TRIM THE BACKGROUND FABRIC.  After that, stitch the corner block seams.OhChristmasTree6_first border on

Ta-Done!!  It changes the look of everything to have this first border on, and now I can’t wait until I can get sewing the Wonky Blocks for the outside.  I’ll cover that on our last installment of the QAL, including how to adjust in case your borders aren’t quite what you thought.

Betty, another friend who is doing this, was working parallel with me that day, and we talked back and forth as we worked. The big take-away is that I think this quilt is jinxed, has a spell on it.  Or maybe it was because it was too hot:
113 degrees_toohot

At one point, nearly in tears, I called my husband and told him this pattern had gotten the better of me, and I wanted to chuck it through the window.  So if you have this reaction, you are not alone.  But carry on, it gets better.  Betty’s quilt turned out like this:


(Isn’t that background fabulous?)

Here’s the kicker: she had to eliminate the wedge triangles from the two sides at the lower edge, where it joins the square.  In fact, she had to cut those triangles in half.  Her measurements are only 1/2″ different than mine, so that’s when I decided that with this pattern you have to:

Go Zen Quilter

Go Zen.

Oh yeah, that’s totally me up there, but only after I got the red borders on.  Just let go of trying to make this pattern be a precise, precision-cut and sewn quilt, and just work with it.  And by the way, Wendy from NZ was working with the “good measurements” from the original pattern and she still had a hard time getting the red border sewn.  But like me and Betty — and soon, you — she did it.

Wendy OCT with first border

Yes, she reversed her triangles, but when I commented on it, told me that she was all finished so they were staying that direction.  I mention this to fit in with the theme of Go Zen.  There are many ways to complete this pattern, and they are all charming.  Keep reading for another.

Once you get here, you’re going to want to keep going and get the whole dang quilt finished off.  So, instead of waiting a month for the next installment, I’ll give you roughly a week to get it on (and to get the cursing out of your system) and then I’ll pop up with the the final installment, where we Finish This Thing.

tiny nine patches

More Ideas

OhChristmasTree alternateborder

I first saw this on IG.  She did it all in Kaffe Fasset fabrics (apparently, no wools anywhere), with a red/white checkerboard border and that she plans to hang it up all year long.  This photo is from the IG feed from Linderella’s Quilt Works in North Carolina.  (This is the advantage of tagging your photos!)


And then Janice of french75too (and a huge EPP enthusiast) sent me this picture that was posted on the Kaffe Fasset FB group.  The quilt is by Susan Holman, who gave me permission to post it here.  She also mentioned that she “had to cut the inner section a bit smaller” and also “re-drafted the stars to finish at 7.5,” as the depth of the border changed the dimensions.

Just to torture myself further for fun, I decided to think about how the quilt top would look if I used different end wedge triangle colors. Here are two pictures to illustrate what I mean.


This is how the pattern goes: small half-triangles made of the background fabric sit next to the corner blocks.  The center triangle, in the top and bottom borders, is pointing exactly at the tree trunk.

In this one, the small wedge-shaped triangles are red, which means that the numbers are slightly inverted (10 full red triangles, instead of 11) and the points of the center triangles are on either side of the tree trunk.  You get to choose.  And because I promised you, here’s a look at my completed top:


This photo is showing number of triangles and the number of wonky stars (which we’ll do next time).


Here’s our updated schedule (can you believe we’ve been working on this since January??):

January 2nd, Step “prepare”: buy the magazine, books, gather your fabrics, buy the felt/wool, buy/find the pearl cotton.
February 2nd, Step 1: Make the tree on the background and stitch it down.
March 2nd, Step 2: Make 21 flowers.
April 2nd, Step 3: Make 10 birds and all the leaves.
May 2nd, Step 4: Appliqué down the flowers and birds.
June 2nd, Step 5:  Scene at bottom of tree–make, then appliqué onto background.
July 2nd, Step 6: Sawtooth border (reds); sew together and attach. 

July (sometime mid-month), Step 7: (finish up Quilt-A-Long): Make wonky star blocks, sew them together and attach border #2.

September, Step 8 Show and Tell, just in time for school starting again.  Please send pictures of whatever state your Christmas Tree is in–whether it’s just the bones of the tree, of a completed top–we want to see it!


Giveaway Banner

Dresden Giveaway

Since we are now winding down our Oh Christmas Tree QAL, I thought you’d like to have another project to start.  How about some Dresdens?  This lovely book, Dresden Carnival, written by Marian Gillian and Yvette Marie Jones, has sixteen different quilt projects using the Dresden Plate block in ways you never thought of.  The color pairings are bright and fun and the settings will have you thinking about Dresdens in a whole new way.

To win a copy of this book, please leave a comment telling me what your best Dresden Plate block memory is–from that vintage quilt you saw in an antique store to inheriting a set of blocks from your aunt, to the colorful Dresdens now flying around on the internet (including the free EPP pattern on this blog).  I’ll activate the Husband Random Name Generator and we’ll pick a winner.


Well, my husband was reading intently, so I fired up the Random Number Generator and it picked a winner.  See next post for more info.

Flag waving

Happy Independence Day!
After listening to Hamilton, this whole process has a new meaning for me.  I owe a great debt to those early patriots.

24 thoughts on “Oh Christmas Tree QAL • STEP 6 and Giveaway

  1. Elizabeth, you crack me up with your interjections of humor! Thank you for putting so much tíme into fixing this pattern for all of us! I love Dresden plate designs. I have a Dresden plate quilt made by my late grandmother. I have many fond memories of her teaching me how to sew.

  2. What a marathon you have run here Elizabeth! From storm troopers to Zen chicks…you have covered all bases, then some!
    Best Dresden block memory- it was one of the first blocks I made in a sampler quilt back in 1983! But don’t feel you need to include a “Susan” in your draw, I know how much postage costs! Besides, you have been more than generous just writing this post AND ironing out the wrinkles in this pattern!

  3. Wow,wow! Your quilt is amazing. I have a hand quilted Dresden wall hanging from crescents from 1950 made a friends mother in Canada. It still hangs on my wall since it is too precious to change out

  4. Having so much fun following along on your tree journey! As for Dresden memories, I guess it would be Dresden blocks for a bee where the Queen made a fabulous randomly placed blocks on her quilt.

  5. My very next project was to be a Dresdan variation “Vintage Spin” and may I add my first Dresdan pattern. I feel the love of your project Inspiring me, so here begins a lot of firsts; a Dresdan, a blog pattern and following along with a cyberspace teacher.

  6. I can see why you nearly lost your mind in this process. Thank you for doing all the homework for everyone else making the tree. It is on my LIST! I really like that center ruler. I think I need one of those as I am constantly measuring and remeasuring things.

    I am one of those who inherited a bag of Dresdan wedges. They are poorly cut, but I am sure that someday I will get it sorted out and make something of them.

    Have a great weekend.

  7. Beautiful quilt you are making. Very nice instructions on you blog. I have been following the other blog too and think that is the wonderful Dresdan wedges. Yes I would just love to have the book. Somewhere I have stored away a stack of sunflowers (Dresdan wedges) that need to be finished into a quilt.

  8. I have made a few small Dresden Plate projects, but would love to make more. I really want to make something for our round kitchen table and I am thinking a Dresden would be great for that. Don’t really have any Dresden memories though.

  9. I’ve never heard of a centre finding ruler, so I looked it up. And then realized my 2″ dressmaker’s ruler I’ve been using since 1996 is a centre finding ruler [on one side]. Head/palm!

    And your quilt looks smashing!

  10. The only thing I remember is a pattern in a book of miniature quilts that intrigued me. Would like to win this book, though.

  11. My favorite is Anelie Belden. When she speaks she talks about how a Dresden plat can Poof in the middle. She opens her jacket, , and she has turned them into a bra

  12. I have (somewhere in my treasures) three or four vintage Dresden Plate blocks without centers. I also have some very similar vintage fabric swatches, and I think all of this deserves to be a finished quilt sometime soon.

  13. I love vintage dresdens. Years ago I purchased many beautiful, orphan, vintage 20’s-30’s unfinished plates. I made a quilt with them – graphic red and white. When it won a blue ribbon at our county fair I was offered a hefty sum for it….but I had to keep it! I have enough plates to make another quilt…maybe graphic blue and white this time!

  14. Vintage Dresdens bring back my memory of the first one I remember – my great grandmother made for me for my 10th birthday. I have it still but do not use it as is 48 yrs old! thanks!

  15. I wasn’t following along, but thank you for giving those who did this project a solution to the triangles. Things like this just irk me. This is one reason there are so many UFOs – incorrect patterns. I find that just unacceptable when I’m paying for a product. I know we are all human and make mistakes, but please, if this were bought a finished product, we would return it for a refund. Think of all the fabric that has been wasted because it was cut to specs in the pattern. That’s why pattern designers are supposed to have several people make products from their specs. I was a website tester and the designers and programmers did not like me because I was thorough – they didn’t like the fact that I even checked spelling. Yet, when the site went into production, they sure took credit for it and gave me zero credit for any of it. That’s just the life of a tester. You have to stand for what you believe makes a better product and be as pleasant as possible. I learned to ask a question instead of just blatantly saying something was wrong. I had one person who would say that it was correct and we’d have to have a little meeting and some proof that it was incorrect. All in all at the end of the project, I was respected. It was stressful, yet I loved it. Again, thank you for saving many quilts from the permanent UFO pile.

  16. Curious… did you listen to Hamilton the book? Or Hamilton the musical? My sis has been gushing about how great the music soundtrack is. I think Hamilton is going to be on the History channel, or something, in the next few weeks.

    Thanks for the chance to win your giveaway! Would you believe that I have no – zero – Dresden stories? Well, I made a block once for the MQM bee, for René, and mine didn’t turn out the size she requested! But then I bought a Dresden ruler and have never used it! Didn’t like the Dresden block the first time I saw it, but it’s growing on me. Would love a chance to explore it through that book!

    Hope you have a super Independence weekend. I’ll bet you’re spending it with family. It will be quiet here, as family left on Saturday. Enjoy yourself!

  17. OH, I’m dreading getting to that point, Elizabeth. You worked so hard and yet, I feel like I may have to work as hard again to assure my triangles fit properly. I’m loving all the stitching of the flowers and now the birds (yes, I’m that far behind now) but not looking forward to that step at all! I will fight through it and do it, and thank you for doing so much to decrease the horrors of poor measurements. You are a gem! I found a pattern somewhere (too long ago to remember) that I used to make Dresden flower placemats. They look so cheery on the picnic table. I’ve also made very small Dresden coasters that I love but haven’t attempted a Dresden quilt yet.

  18. i have always loved the vintage looking blocks and the Dresden Plate is among them. Most likely the first Dresden Plate quilt that I saw was at a quilt show. I have not made one of my own yet, but funny thing is that just this past Monday, I bought the Easy Dresden Tool by Darlene Zimmerman! Time to make one of my own! Your quilt is really beautiful! Thanks for the giveaway!

  19. Thank you! You keep me motivated with your blog and all the quilts you work on. I am so motivated I end up starting way too many projects and having UFO’s but I will keep plugging along. I have a Dresden plate quilt that my mother made in 1945.

  20. I always loved the Dresden Plate quilts of old 30’s fabrics. They just remind me of my Grandmother and her flower garden. Sweet memories for me.

  21. Oh you make me laugh thinking about another quilt already. Some people say I’m too obsessed with finishing things, but I just like everything neat and tidy and organised, so I refuse to start anything big for a while yet. Don’t you have a Halloween quilt to finish? and Chuck Nohara? and, and, and…. Anyway, as for Dresdens, I can’t really remember my first sighting, but I do have a cushion (pillow) with a Dresden appliqued onto it that I made about 7 years ago. I still like it, probably because I used Kaffe Fassett fabrics for it.

  22. My best Dresden Plate memory was when I realized that I could make a sassy, somewhat unconventional Dresden Plate-squared quilt for our funny, spunky 3 year old niece and finally have come up with a pattern that would fit her to a T. What a relief, after months of rejecting one “sweet” pattern after another!

  23. I love to look at Dresden Plate designs, but I only remember making a single block. And that was to be used in a group quilt to raise funds for breast cancer.

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