Oh! Christmas Tree Quilt

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Oh! Christmas Tree Quilt
Quilt #175
Began January 2016 • Finished December 2016

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It’s finally finished.  I started this once I saw the QuiltMania magazine it was featured in.  It is a pattern from Wendy Williams of Flying Fish Kits.  I had a companion in the making of this, in Wendy Welsh from New Zealand.  She was about a month ahead of me in construction and was such a great help, especially in untangling the borders dilemma.  All of the posts about the making of this quilt are referenced in the Quilt-A-Longs tab, up above.christmas-tree_2

I did finish it by my goal of December 1st, but had to find the right locale accessories, like the lumber-jack looking guy above.  (By the way, the most important man in this photo is unseen, holding up the Christmas Tree quilt.  Thanks, dear!)christmas-tree_3adetail

I had written about how I quilted the center: a meander with tiny stars here and there.

oct_fmq-for-starsAs usual, I printed out my quilt with partial transparency and doodled and doodled, coming into a dead end always.  But finally, inspired by an idea from  *here,* I chose to do swirls around my stars with a spiral in the center, linking them all together.christmas-tree_3detail

I quilted the cream background fabric around the wool felt appliqués, then in around those red triangle points, leaving them unquilted.  I did outline them in a straight stitch, helping them to stand out from the background.

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My husband Dave and I went out for a photo shoot as the sun was dimming, first hitting the tree lot at Teen Challenge (below), a charity near our house.
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And then we went looking for more evergreens for backdrops, a near herculean task in Southern California.  We finally found these pines in the university parking lot.  I told my husband that Marsha, in Vermont, could photograph hers out in the woods amid the snow, but that typical to our climate and locale, we have to pose in an asphalt parking lot.

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The back is a series of panels and fabrics from Cori Dantini from her Merry Stitches line, purchased at Quilt Market this past May and available now.  It’s fun to use them on the back.christmas-tree_front1

This quilt (or parts of it) have gone to Spain, all around my town, and then finally tucked in at home to be finished with the quilting. I took inspiration from all of those who followed along on the Quilt-A-Long and on Instagram, but am indebted to my husband for his love of my quilting and constant support.  Lastly, the design for Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus are found here on the blog. Uusually we say that what’s important about Christmas isn’t found under the tree.

But in this case, it is.

I hope your Christmas season is merry and bright and filled with the love of our Savior.

Making Progress on Oh Christmas Tree Quilt

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

Oh Christmas Tree QAL • Step 7 (Final)

7XmasTreeJuly

Today is Step 7 — the final step — 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.

Wish Upon a StarI’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.

Yes, today we are wishing upon a star, the final part of this quilt.  We started this journey 7 months ago in January 2016, right after the magazine came out, and today we’ll finish it up.

OhChristmasTree6_first border on

Your tree should have the red triangle borders on.  See earlier post for how to get them on.

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Wendy has laid out several fabrics for her stars, above.  I thought I wanted to go with traditional Christmas colors of red and green, but realized quickly that I should go with colors that coordinated with the flowers and birds.  In other words, be bold in your star colors.

WendyStarPoints

With your fabrics chosen, now it’s time to make the stars, but before you start, one issue with wonky stars is getting the star points too close to the edge.As Wendy writes: “Yellow star is what NOT to do.  Points are at the edge and will be cut off during trimming, or lost in seam allowance.  Star points need to finish further down the sides.”  I’ve circled them in red, so you’ll recognize this when it happens.  It happened to Wendy (that’s her block), it happened to me.  Consider that your Training Wheels Block.  Now one way to be aware of this is to cut all your blocks a bit larger than they ask for, and to slice the diagonal a bit differently as well.

First up, here’s my chart of how big I cut things.  It’s a downloadable PDF document:  Oh Christmas Tree wonkystarchart

Wonky StarMapAnd here’s your roadmap/key to the letters.  I put the “f” in lowercase and italicized it, as everything was getting a bit overwhelming with that alphabet floating around.

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You’ll notice on the chart I mention to cut the f-triangles “skewed.”  Cut them like the above shows, so there is a chunky bit on one end.  If you haven’t made wonky stars before, you can try it first by cutting it on a strict diagonal, and after some construction, see which one you like.  I like this way because I feel like it gives me a good angle and I’m less inclined to get the star points too close to the edge.

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Find the narrower center piece, “E” and lay them out.  Layer four f-triangles on top, with the chunky top down from the top edge, as shown.  Try to have the lower pointy edge near the middle of the lower bottom edge of the E piece.  I often finger-crease a little mark in that bottom edge of the E-rectangle so I know what I’m aiming for.  See the next photo.OhChristmasTree7_2aOn this piece, I’ve got a pretty good start. What counts is the seam line.  So at the top right, it’s down about 1″ to 1-1/2″ and the seamline is about midline, or just a bit to the side of it.  As long as you are in the ballpark of the red X at the bottom, you’re fine.

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Fold it back to check.  Press.  Trim off that wedge underneath the star point fabric, as shown below (I’m doing a stack here.)OhChristmasTree7_2c OhChristmasTree7_2d

Now line up the next set.  Yes, they are all upside down, as that’s how I’m going to sew them.  Again, the chunky tip is near the top edge, and the pointy edge overlaps the first wonky start point.OhChristmasTree7_3

Stitch, press and turn.  If you are worried, check it before you stitch it by folding it back to make sure your star point fabric covers the background E piece all the way on those two lower corners.OhChristmasTree7_3a

Now trim it up to 2 -1/2″ by 4.” In the photo above, I laid my ruler on the outline of the E piece for placement.OhChristmasTree7_3b

Now trim off that underneath piece.OhChristmasTree7_3c OhChristmasTree7_3d

Done with one!  Repeat three more times for one star block.  Don’t try to get all the points the same–let them be different lengths and placement, as your block will be more interesting.  DO make sure you are not too close to the outer edge–you’ll need that extra space for trimming.OhChristmasTree7_4

Now line them up as shown, with the H-piece in the center and the four corner G-pieces in their place.

Now you are going to make a “web” of thread, as you sew the pieces into rows.  Keep reading.

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  1. Unit #1: I stitched G-1 to E-2.  Without cutting the thread, I slipped the next pair under the needle and kept stitching:
  2. Unit #2: I stitched E-4 to H-5. Without cutting the thread, I slipped the next pair under the needle and kept stitching:
  3. Unit #3: I stitched G-7 to E-8.

Sew onto a leader/ender piece (mine are just scrap, even though I always think I should be piecing another quilt or something.)

  1. Now to Unit #1 above, stitch on G-3. Without cutting the thread, I kept stitching:
  2. Stitch Unit #2 to E-6. Without cutting the thread, I kept stitching:
  3. Stitch Unit #3 to G-9.

If you can get the hang of this, you can keep all your star points together and really crank through them.

OhChristmasTree7_4aWEbThreads

Here, I’ve circled the bit of connecting “web” threads.  Press as shown: the center row has the seams pressed to the center, and the top/bottom rows have the seams pressed towards the G-piece (outer corner block).

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I’ve sewn them, pressed them, and now I can stack them, ready to sew the rows together.  Because of the thread-web, I won’t get a piece turned around, or upside down.
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There’s no magic, just press them how you like them, but I do always believe a seam will generally indicate which is the easiest way for it to fall.  In this case, it was away from the center.

OhChristmasTree7_7arrange

Arrange your stars around the tree how you think you’ll like them.  Take a photo, re-arrange if you want.   In my case, I ended up making some brighter, bolder stars, and shuffling several times.  It also helps if you go get some lunch, or fold a batch of laundry, or maybe snack on some chocolate.  Anything to take a break so you can bring some fresh eyes to the process.   Do this until you are happy with how they look.OhChristmasTree7_5trimmingNow for some measuring fun.  You know that each corner of this quilt will have a star.  And generally, the finished measurement is 8″, or trimmed to 8-1/2.”  Both Wendy and I caution that you need to make VERY SURE that your H-block is centered in your trimming.  Pay attention to the diagonal line and make sure it’s running through the center of the H-piece.
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Trim FOUR blocks only, and set aside.  What you see above is me making sure that the middle row of my stars would line up when they were placed next to each other.  I took my time trimming.  If you don’t have the middle of the star lined up, you can fudge it a bit, but not by much.

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Diagram of how to get the Wonky Star borders attached

Now comes the hard part.

Take a measurement across the top of Border #1 (triangle-border).  Mine was just over 39.” I called it close enough to 40″ as that would fit five star blocks nicely (8″ blocks x 5= 40″); I can also sew a seam or two with a bit bigger seam allowance to get it closer to my measurement (yes, there are all sorts of ways to make our Zen Quilt behave).  In my case, I trimmed them to 8 1/2″ so they finish at 8″ when they are sewn in.

Once you get that figured it, trim up TEN blocks. Use the trimming trick above to make sure the star blocks will line up.

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See how that trimmed edge is away from those star points?  (And yes, I’ve re-done a couple of blocks in my lifetime of wonky star blocks when I trimmed them off.)  Sew the FIVE top star blocks together in a row. DO NOT SEW THE CORNER BLOCKS ON YET.

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Press the seams to one side, and stitch that row of Border #2 (wonky star) on to your Border #1 (red triangles).  Repeat with the bottom row of star blocks.  Press seam toward the red triangles border.  Your quilt should now look like this.

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Before you start on the sides, get more chocolate.

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Here comes the part where Wendy says it is kind of like childbirth: you’ll forget about it once it’s over with.  I measured the side border, counted up how many blocks were shown in the pattern, and divided that into the border measurement.  That was a scary number, so I subtracted one block, and did the dividing again.  I ended up needing SIX blocks of just about 7 3/4.”  This is the same as the pattern.
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Because the measurements were kind of weird, I decided to cheat.

OhChristmasTree7_6trimming2AI kept my blocks at 8-inches finished “north-to-south” but cut them to be 7-3/4 inches finished “east-to-west.”  Which means I was trimming them to 8-1/2″ and 8-1/4″ as shown above by the blue tape.  The “West Side” tape is at 8 1/4″ whereas the “South Side” tape is at 8 1/2.”

I just wanted to make sure that I had at least 3/8″ to 1/2″ away from the pointy edges (blue ovals).  Most of the time I succeeded.

Go Zen QuilterTrim up your blocks.  Now rotate them so the 7-3/4″ finished dimension is running north-south, and the 8″ finished dimension is running East-West.  (This is an update from the original post.) Then sew them together.  Press and hold them up against the border.  Chances are they won’t fit–they’ll be too big.  So. . . cheat again.

Take a bit bigger seams between all the blocks: from 1/4″ inch to 5/16ths of an inch.  Check your sewn row again.  If they are still too large (and can’t be eased in), choose the two stars that have the most room between the tips of their star points and the seam, and make another teeny bit bigger seam.  Now you should be fine.

Breathe Deeply.  Go Zen.

NOW sew the star corner blocks to each side border strip–two to each side strip of stars–one on the top and one on the bottom.  Press all seams on the strip towards one side.  Stitch these borders to the existing quilt.
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I then pressed all seams toward that red triangle seam, even if it didn’t want to go there.  Now, in looking at it, can you tell that the side blocks are sized a tiny bit differently than the top/bottom blocks?  Didn’t think so, and no one else will be able to tell either.  I think the solution to the challenging measurements was a success.

As Gwen Marston said, “Nobody ever said, ‘I need a little more stress in my life–think I’ll make a quilt.’ ”  Quilting should be fun, even if it’s challenging (and this was definitely a challenging quilt).
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Here’s Wendy’s…

Betty OCT

…and Betty’s.

Now let’s see yours.  Shoot me an email when you get yours done, with a photo of your quilt, and if (I mean, when–I’m thinking positively) I get a few, I’ll put up a post showing off your hard work.

Happy DanceTry not to dance, but you are done!  It’s over!  You made your quilt!!
(Click *here* for a fun dance scene from On the Town, a favorite movie of mine.)

Thanks for joining us on this journey, from January to July, of making the Oh Christmas Tree quilt.  I’ve appreciated all your enthusiasm, your comments, and seeing photos on Instagram.

My_Place_Or_Yours

Here’s one of Wendy’s new patterns, My Place or Yours, if you want to feast your eyes on something new.  Pattern can be purchased *here.*

Pieces O My Heart Williams

Another one of hers is Pieces O My Heart, which just won a blue ribbon at the Sydney Quilt Show.  Visit her Instagram feed for more inspiration.

Lastly, if you are not a follower of my blog and you’ve enjoyed this quilt-a-long, I’d like to invite you to become an email follower. Just enter your email in the box above.  I generally post about twice a week, with occasional longer gaps. I try to post worthy and interesting content with an occasional “friends and me doing quilty stuff.”  I think by building communities and sharing discussions about issues and happenings in our world, we shorten the distance between us, forming strong links of like-minded quilters.

Happy Quilting!

Oh Christmas Tree QAL • STEP 6 and Giveaway

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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.

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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.  

Construction

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.

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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:

BettyOCT_redborders

(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!)

SusanHolmanOCT

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.

OCT6_beigetriangles

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.
OCT6_RedTriangles

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:

OhChristmasTreeFinalToplabeled

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

ChristmasTreeLogoSM

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.

UPDATE:

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.

Oh Christmas Tree QAL–STEP 5

STEP5XmasTree

Today is Step 5 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), as she is slightly ahead of us in her creating.

Giveaway Banner

And because of the nice people at National Non-Wovens, we also have a giveaway of 100% wool felt, and their new colors of their rayon/wool felt. Read through all the way to the end to find the giveaway. Giveaway is now closed.

This month we’ll look at possible under-the-tree scenes; there are four:

(1) the reindeer cavorting, as shown in the original pattern,

Wendy Full Tree

(2) Wendy’s packages,

(3) nothing, or

OhChristmasTree_Full Tree

(4) a nativity scene.

First, Wendy’s packages.

WendyPackages1

She has included photos, with a tape measure so you can see the overall length.  Remember, also, that she added a few extra flowers and leaves on her tree, as described in our last post. WendyPackages2

When I asked her about the packages, she wrote:

“You’ll see the boxes range from 2” to 3” and were really just cut from scraps of felt.  So whatever is left over.  I used threads to make them look like presents (including my Wonderfil Dazzle – which has bult in sparkle). And added a few novelty buttons from my button box.  I’m even going to add bows from ribbons once it’s quilted.”WendyPackages3

“So total length of presents = about 14”.  I just fiddled around until I was happy with the layout.  Sort the layout before stitching, because then you don’t need to stitch on the bits that will be covered up by another present.  I went for a range of colours and stitched a variety of patterns on them, just like real presents would appear under a tree.  I didn’t attempt balls or bikes, just kept it very simple.  You can imagine what might be in them.”
WendyPackages3 WendyPackages4back

I also asked her if she had embroidered them before, or after, she’d attached them to the backing:

“I had to check if I embroidered before or after I attached them.  The back view shows it was after.  I tend to take things cautiously and add more if I think it needs more.  Feel free to include that back view photo – sometimes it’s easier to remember if you’ve seen a photo.”

Thanks, Wendy–this is a great alternative!

Secondly, if you are going to do the reindeer, just follow the directions on the pattern, embroidering them before you put them on, then attaching them as we did the flowers and birds.

Third, do nothing.  I’ve heard from some of you, and there seems to be an ambivalence about whether or not to put anything.  You may want to hold off until you get your borders on, then decide.

OhChristmasTree_Undertree1Full Scene

Fourth, the nativity scene.  I looked and looked for something that might work, finally adapting a folk-style couple with Baby Jesus between them, found on an Eastern-European art site.  I had thought about a silhouette of Mary and Joseph, but it just didn’t look right with our folk art flowers and birds.  I tried making them larger, as I realize it looks now as if the birds could put Baby Jesus into their nests, but I would have had to adjust the background placement about 3 months ago, and there was no way I was going unpick everything and re-do that.  So I decided that they would just look like one of those Nativity Scenes we put up around our house: smaller, a replica of the Holy Family.  In  the end, I am happy with how they turned out, but I always try to give you an idea of what I was thinking.  If you are doing options 1, 2, or 3, we’ll see you next month when we’ll do the sawtooth border (border #1).  But keep reading for the Nativity Scene how-tos.

Holy Family

First up, the pattern, free of charge, no cost, no frills, and yes, you’ll have to improvise the manger and Joseph’s beard.  But the price is right.  Click this link in blue to download a PDF file of the pattern: Holy Family_OPQuilt  (Don’t click on the illustration.)  Print this out at 100% or larger (I used 100%).

JOSEPH

OhChristmasTree_0JosephPattern

Here is Joseph’s pattern, all cut out.

Basic steps:
1. Cut paper pattern pieces out; I cut a slit up Joseph’s robe pattern to get at the face and the under-robe.  I left the headscarf section on top in place for now.
2. Cut out the robe out of felt (don’t cut a slit up the center of the felt), then snip a slash in the middle to cut out triangle-shaped center, following the cut out of the paper pattern.  After doing that, cut pattern, freeing up the head scarf piece.  (I show it above all together, but really the paper pattern is in three parts.)
3. Cut face out of interfacing, and bond to face fabric–don’t make the face fabric too pink.  Joseph lived in the Mediterranean.
4. Cut under-robe, by tracing around the triangle-shape with a marking pencil, then cutting 1/4″ away from that tracing.  I tried to use stripes for both Mary and Joseph’s under-robes.
5. Cut out head scarf, by the same tracing method described above.
6. Cut out deep background out of black felt.  SEE BELOW.

OhChristmasTree_Joseph's underlay

I realized, after doing Mary, that the under-robe needed much more support than just cloth.  So I laid the pieces as shown above onto some black felt, and cut 1/4″ around everything.  That larger black felt piece (deep background) will be largely invisible, but is needed so the center section doesn’t become too floppy.
OhChristmasTree_1Joseph

7. Trim the face to 1/4″ around the interfacing.OhChristmasTree_2Joseph

8. Pinch around the lower edge to establish a fold line for appliqué.  No need to do the top as it will be hidden by the head scarf.OhChristmasTree_2aJoseph

9. Find the center, fold up the “chin” and pin in place.  OhChristmasTree_3Joseph

9 (cont’d.) Appliqué down the face lower edge (see above photo for details) to the black (deep background).  Fold under the top edge of the under-robe and appliqué that just under the face.  They need to touch. Place head scarf onto felt robe piece.  Fold under lower edge and attach to face opening in the felt with tiny stitches.  Then fold to the back and tack down everywhere.OhChristmasTree_4Joseph

This is how things looked from the back.OhChristmasTree_5Joseph

10. Center the under-robe/face piece behind the robe/head-scarf piece; pin.OhChristmasTree_6Joseph

Lifting up the edge, trim away the excess.OhChristmasTree_7Joseph OhChristmasTree_8Joseph

Tack into place from behind.  It will really be anchored by the embroidery stitches you do, but you don’t want it slipping around while you handle it.  All of the above steps took about 30 minutes; it looks longer because I’m describing them to you, but since this is smaller, the stitching goes quickly.

MARY

OhChristmasTree_Mary1pattern

Repeat basic steps with Mary, but there is no separate step for the head scarf.  Make a (deep background) piece out of black felt for Mary as you did for Joseph.  (I didn’t, and I wish I had, so ignore that tiny deep background piece above (and below) and create one as large as Joseph’s.)OhChristmasTree_Mary3pieces

In addition, DON’T trim the upper edge of Mary’s face piece until nearly the last step, as you need all that extra.  DO trim the “chin” area to 1/4″ seam allowance, then pinch along the fold line, as you did for Joseph’sOhChristmasTree_Mary2bfacefront

Pretend this is all on a (deep background) black felt piece, as is Joseph’s. It should be.  Construct in the same fashion, turning up lower edge of face and appliqué onto black felt piece, then do the under-robe the same as Joseph’s.  OhChristmasTree_Mary5assembled

Mary doesn’t have a head scarf that is a different piece of fabric.  Women in her day and religion didn’t show their hair, so I purposely didn’t make hair for her; you be the judge of what you want.OhChristmasTree_Mary4pinned

Pin the under-robe/face piece in place and tack down from the back, as you did for Joseph.  Sorry for the nighttime-on-the-sofa-cushions photo.OhChristmasTree_Mary6embroidered

Now add the embroidery.  I put several lines of “scarf” on her, alternating navy and red threads, then another line of “braid,” closer to her face, to lower her forehead (foreheads shouldn’t be too large otherwise they’ll look funny).  I used blue slightly slanted stem stitches, to give texture.  I did a back stitch to outline the fold of her robe, then up around her head, mostly to anchor the robe/face/deep background piece in place.  I did a backstitch about 1/3″ away at the hem, narrowing as it came near her face, then around the lower edge.  I added small flowers and decorative French knots.

OhChristmasTree_1Couple

Time to add some embroidery to Joseph.

OhChristmasTree_Undertree6

I did two lines of stem stitch on the scarf, acting as a braid holding it on.  Then I figured out his beard by tracing a shape off the pattern about 1/2″ long, as wide as the opening, and in a wide arc at the top on his face.  I used felted wool to get the right texture.  Tack that on.  Then start adding embroidery to the robe: back stitch, seed stitch, building up layers of design.

I actually gave some thought to the colors I used.  Knowing that red is for the Savior’s robes after He’s resurrected, I tried to incorporate that in.  Purple in my mind is for royalty, so Mary got some of that.  Of course, Mary has to be in blue–she just does.  I always think green is about life and living things, so Joseph got that color.  You decide what colors matter to you, and where to put them.  I stitched Joseph’s decorative lines in a variegated thread, so they have some depth to them.

OhChristmasTree_Undertree4

In stitching the vertical lines, be sure to get narrower near his face, and farther apart nearing the hem of his robe.  Add eyes.  They are not French knots, but merely a tiny stitch.  Set Mary and Joseph aside.

BABY JESUS

OhChristmasTree_Jesus1

Here are the pieces cut apart, with wool felt.  DON’T CUT THE YELLOW LIKE THIS.  I learned my lesson from Mary and Joseph and re-cut the lower yellow to be sort of a large oval; see below.OhChristmasTree_Jesus3

And here’s another DON’T DO.  Don’t appliqué the face ON the white.  I’ll show you a better way in a minute.OhChristmasTree_Jesus4

Here’s the face appliquéd on like his parents.

OhChristmasTree_Jesus5

Yes, he does resemble a Cabbage Patch Doll. OhChristmasTree_Jesus6

 So, instead, CUT OUT that oval-ish slit.  Tack the baby’s face in BEHIND the slit (easier to do at the beginning).  Stitch the swaddling cloth lines in blue around the face.  Then layer him on the yellow felt, with the red felt nestling in just below the white (see above, for the colors I chose).  Start anchoring everything down with stitches.  You can’t really see, but behind those purple cross-stitches is a small overcast stitch anchoring the white to the red to the yellow.OhChristmasTree_Jesus7

Now, doesn’t Baby Jesus’ face look better peeking out from behind the swaddling cloths?OhChristmasTree_Jesus8

I did the angled buttonhole stitch on his blanket, using yellow thread on the red, then tried to make a red fringe-looking stitch, as if there were fringe dangling down over the yellow (which becomes hay).  I did the hay stitches at the end.

Manger

The manger was a half circle of blue, into which I cut legs then straightened out the bottom edge, so it looks sort of like a pot with legs.  Or a step stool with a thick seat.  It’s slightly less than the width of the baby’s assembly.

All of the decorative wood-grain stitching was done as before I tacked it onto the background.  That is simply a stem stitch, done loosely and jaggedly, in a thinner thread (size 16 pearl cotton, but 12 would be fine), trying to imitate wood.  The small buttonhole stitch is how I sewed it to the background, and that happens when attaching all of the Baby Jesus’ unit.

Star and Star Trails

OhChristmasTree_UndertreeStarCut a 1 -1/2″ circle of yellow felt, and a 1 -1/4″ circle of light orange felt.  Embroider them as shown (omitting the outside small yellow stitches–that’s added when you tack it onto your background).

The star trails are about 7 ” long, about a fat quarter-inch wide, and are slightly wavy lines.  Sometimes they are a bit thicker.  Don’t be too precise with them, as you are making folk art.  In addition, make gradual waves — not sharp curves.  You can shape them into the slight curving shape when you attach them, largely because of their gradual waves.  I used a backstitch to put them on.  I did not attach them to the star, but stitched them on, making sure they all ended in one place, then stitched down the star over that.

OhChristmasTree_Undertree8 OhChristmasTree_Undertree9

Here’s a ruler showing the approximate placement of things.  The end of the tree is about even with the top of the blue manger.  I pinned and checked several times, moving things by quarter-inches until I got them the way I wanted them.  Notice that Joseph is closer to the tree, and Jesus overlaps both their robes.  It just looked better that way to me: you decide what you like.

I used a buttonhole stitch to attach Mary all the way around, but only did Joseph’s robe.  I switched to sewing thread and simply tacked down Joseph’s head scarf, without decorative stitches around it.
OhChristmasTree_UndertreeSewing

Now I’m starting on the hay for Baby Jesus. Notice that I completed the zig-zagging buttonhole stitch along the sides of his red blanket.  If you have yellow felt peeking out, trim it slightly smaller than the red and finish the stitching down.  In the photo above, Mary, Joseph, the manger and the upper half of Baby Jesus are all stitched to the background.  For the hay, I used a variegated light brown–golden yellow–med. yellow thread.

OhChristmasTree_Manger2WoodStitches

I started by making “hay” stitches all over, crossing each other, going over the edge like real hay would.

OhChristmasTree_Manger1Straw

I turned the needle around and “threaded” it through the fringe on his blanket, when I needed to stitch hay behind the fringes.  The thread colors in variegated run in long sections.  Above you can see that I went quite wide with the med. brown section, then when the golden yellow section came up, I went over that section again.  Some stitches are long, some are short.  Some are perpendicular to the lower edge (I did that at the beginning, to anchor it to the background). Some stitches are at a 45-degree angle.OhChristmasTree_Manger3FallenHay

I even put a few strands of hay on the ground, and had them fall over the yellow onto the manger and onto Joseph’s and Mary’s robes.  It has to look slightly dis-organized, like, well. . . hay.

Here are some more pictures of the Nativity, showing detail.OhChristmasTree_Undertree5 OhChristmasTree_Undertree4 OhChristmasTree_Undertree3

Mary was stitched down with a variegated blue thread; I like how it went lighter around her head.  Totally random.OhChristmasTree_Undertree2b OhChristmasTree_Undertree1Full Scene

Whatever you choose to do, please keep tagging your photos on Instagram with #ohchristmastreeqal, so we can all share in your progress.

Giveaway Banner

As I was wandering the aisles of Quilt Market, I found the National Nonwovens Company, who deals online with retail at Commonwealth Felt.  After seeing my enthusiasm for wool felt — I don’t think they’d had that much excitement in the whole time they manned their booth — they happily donated some samples both of their 100% wool felt as well as their wool/rayon felt blend in their new colors.

Felt Giveaway2

The packet on the left is a mix of fall/summer colors, including medium blue, yellow, red, white, green and black:

Felt giveaway 4

To win, leave a comment below telling me why you don’t think it’s crazy that we’re making Christmas things in JUNE (sometimes I think I’m crazy!).  I’ll activate the Husband Random Name Generator and pick a winner.  Good luck!

Here’s a recap of our schedule:

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.
April, Step 3: Make 10 birds and all the leaves.
May, Step 4: Appliqué down the flowers and birds.

June, Step 5:  Scene at bottom of tree–make, then appliqué onto background.

July, Step 6: Sawtooth border (reds); sew together and attach.  I’ll have another idea for you to try, as well.

August, 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!

Happy Stitching and we’ll see you in July!