Creating · Oh Christmas Tree QAL · Quilts · Something to Think About

Making Progress on Oh Christmas Tree Quilt


Remember this?  And did you know there are (at this writing) about  35 days until Christmas?  So I decided I’d better get to it.  counter-pinning_1

Since rolling around on the floor pin basting a quilt is not really something I want to do, I do my pin basting on the counters now.  Some people use ping pong tables or dining room tables, but the principles are all the same:  Tape/clamp the backing to the counter, using the edges of the counter to help locate the center of the backing, and keeping it straight.counter-pinning_2

Lay out the batting, previously cut to size.  Tape down.counter-pinning_3 counter-pinning_4

Drape the quilt over the above, matching centers and getting it on straight to both axis–both North-South and Left-Right.  (Ask me how I know this.)  But I did find out that you can unpin pretty quickly when you find out you neglected to pay attention to the Left-Right axis.  Quilt is all pinned now.


That felt is really thick on some parts, so I used it to help scoot my needle around the disc.  I decided not to quilt through the felt ornaments, but to instead outline them.  I know I may go back in at some point and put in some stitches so that it is not too poofy, but aware of the deadline, I just outlined today.  On the first day of quilting, I did all the way around the tree–all flowers, leaves, birds and the manger scene at the bottom.oct_quilting-background2

Then I had some time left before the next interruption activity, so I had decided to keep going on the background around the tree.  I had chosen a really really really low-key free-motion design for that space, given how much was going on in the rest of the quilt.  I quilted little stars (less than 1″ tall) and loopy lines in between them, using a matching thread: Masterpiece from Superior Threads.  Bisque is my go-to color for nearly everything and it worked well here, too.oct_quilting-background

At the end of the first day I felt like I made great progress: all around the tree stuff and then all the neutral background on the righthand side.


Day Two.  I tackled the lefthand side of the tree, filling in the background with the loopy star path, as before.  I am trying to get better at “puddling” up the quilt all around me so I don’t end up tugging and pulling as I work.  Lots to learn.  I have a Sweet Sixteen Handi-Quilter quilting machine, and I’m amazed at how much more quickly I can stitch a vast amount of quilt, than I could when using my domestic machine.oct-day-2_2

After I completed the center background fill, I outlined the triangles, then stitched in the ditch down the backside of them in a long straight line, outlining them.

Here I am at the end of my quilting session on Day Two.  I’m now stalled at how to quilt the wonky stars and am letting my brain think about it for a while.  I might yet make my deadline of Dec. 1 if I can work out the stars challenge.

I also realized that I shouldn’t do a star-studded-over-the-top quilting job, as it will change the look of the quilt.  Those wool appliqué pieces are rather flat and glob-like, if you want to know the truth, and if I quilt heavily, it will further emphasize that they are “floating” on top of the quilt.  I’m trying to keep everything flat, not puffy, so that the quilting feels integrated with the quilt.

As I reviewed the quilts I’ve made this year, it feels like it’s been the Year of the Tiny.  Some of it is due to group challenges, like Four-in-Art, some of it is due to swaps and collaborations, and a lot of it was due to my being gone a lot from home.  I can’t get the work done if I’m not here.  Writers have a phrase for it, something to the effect of the need to apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair in order to get to the writing.  And unlike writing, with its portable paper and pen (computer?), when quilting, there is a lot of stuff you need, that can only be found in the sewing studio, room, or nook.

Joseph Campbell understood the idea of a place to create, when he noted that

“To have a sacred place is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so, where you do not know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody or what they owe you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. …This is the place of creative incubation. At first, you may find nothing happens there. But, if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen.”

Annie Dillard wrote about the time she had a space upstairs in an office with a window.  She reached over and closed the blinds, even on the Fourth of July so she could keep writing, undistracted by the view, the noise, by anything.  I had a quote of hers taped to my computer when I was in grad school:

“Every morning you climb several flights or stairs, enter your study, open the French doors, and slide your desk and chair out into the middle of the air.  The desk and chair float thirty feet from the ground, between the crowns of maple trees.  The furniture is in place; you go back for your thermos of coffee.  Then, wincing, you step out again through the French doors and sit down on the chair and look over the desktop.  You can see clear to the river from here in the winter.  You pour yourself a cup of coffee.

Birds fly under your chair.  In spring, when the leaves open in the maple’s crown, your view stops in the treetops just beyond the desk; yellow warblers hiss and whisper on the high twigs, and catch flies.  Get to work.  You work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.”

We are the same in our places of creation, whether it be the dining room, the corner of a bedroom, or a big fancy studio.  We need our place to create, we need distraction-free blocks of time.  We need to keep cranking the flywheel, to turn those creative gears.

We need to work.

14 thoughts on “Making Progress on Oh Christmas Tree Quilt

  1. Great post and it’s wonderful to see your progress on this quilt. Mine, thank you, is hanging in a small art gallery locally – they run an exhibit of quilts each year at this time and OCT was the perfect submission! I suppose there are folks who go into their creative space and feel “oh, so (sew) much to do”, but my thought is always, always “what do I want to touch today, what is calling me”. It’s always nice, and essential I think, to take a step away, take a trip, refresh the brain, but once home, I head to the studio first, breathe it all in, and then feel like I’m really home, ready to crank the flywheel again.

  2. Awesome quilt, all of it. Thanks for the articles on the sacred place. I have one of those and it is my creative space. You never know what will appear lol.

  3. Good morning, Elizabeth,
    Oh. My. Goodness. Every time you post a picture, I think,’This is my favorite quilt’. This morning is no different! I have loved the pieces of this quilt as you made them, but the entire quilt is so happy, so vibrant, that it makes my heart sing. Your quilting is perfect-not so busy that it takes away from the lovely piecing, but just enough. The stars add just the right amount of Christmas cheer.
    Just consider me one of your biggest fans. I am always excited to see your emails in my in-box.
    Have a blessed and joy-filled Thanksgiving!

  4. I really love this quilt, Elizabeth. I remember you stitching the backing at the beach. I’m sure the star quilting will be perfect too.

  5. 35 days makes me take a deep breath. Seems like a lot more people have Christmas lights up here already. (Maybe in an attempt to bring some happiness to the end of a year filled with conflict!?) I love the term “engine of belief.” I am going to view my sewing machine as my engine of belief!
    Your “Oh Christmas Tree” quilt looks great!

  6. Elizabeth, glad to see that Oh Christmas Tree is being quilted for the Christmas season. It is looking splendid! The rest of the post, about a dedicated place/time to work, is priceless! I copied it (with credit to you of course) to my daughters in Sweden and NYC. Thanks for your good writing…

  7. The quilting’s lovely, Elizabeth. Just right, as the Bears would say. I am way behind on this project, but have finally started on the last border. I have three Wonky Stars made. Twenty-three to go. Thanks for all your help in guiding us through this project.

  8. Thanks for sharing how you baste a quilt on a smaller surface. If you had one whole surface, would you still tape the batting? I’ve only met one quilter in my lifetime who tapes down her batting, though in your case, it’s probably pretty helpful. I shouldn’t say that I envy you having that Sweet Sixteen, but I do. I am sure you can quilt faster, and that would be a treat! Though my Janome stitches 1600 stitches per minute, it’s fast enough, but the quilter is slow about moving the quilt around! Ha! Hope you make your December 1 deadline. A finish is always a good feeling. Lovely, insightful thoughts from two writers. I appreciate them. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! I bet there’s a big family celebration in your near future.

  9. Your OCT quilt is so lovely! Mine will have to be a 2017 finish since all I have complete is one branch stitched down — lol! At least all my supplies are in one place and ready to go.

  10. Quilting around rather than through the felt seems like a good decision to me.
    Now, I think I will go to my sewing space. I have no idea what I will do for a few hours, but I will start by planting my bum in my chair like a writer. 🙂

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