Jolly Old St. Nicholas • recap

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I recently received an email from a reader, asking me about the details of my Jolly Old St. Nicholas quilt.  Her simple request pointed up a problem all of us blog writers face: how to find things on our blogs.  I do have an index, but she specifically asked for more information about that quilt, which is NOT on the indexed link.

While it may seem strange to have a post about Christmas in June, I will occasionally be going through some long-term projects, and collecting all the information about that quilt in one post, linking to other posts when necessary.  I can see several that are strung out across several months, that would benefit from this coalescing.  So here it goes for Santa.

Santa's Village Pattern

Pattern: I used Santa’s Village, from Thimblecreek, but with many changes.  See Construction Photos section for more info.

Outside Large Green Blocks: I didn’t like many of the pattern’s original blocks.  So I drafted my own in QuiltPro Software, and asked my Mid-Century Modern Beemates to each make me a block, shown in this post, where there are 14 blocks to choose from.  You can download templates (or pattern pieces) for each block on that page.

Construction Photos

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On the original pattern, you can see the top of the tree and the tips of Santa’s toes being chopped off by the addition of their giant rick-rack.  I decided I wanted a cleaner finish as I wasn’t keen about the “chop-offs” on the original pattern.  I measured carefully, placing everything just so, but in the end, I slimmed down the top of the tree (inset) so everything would fit.

I also added a 1-inch red band around the outside edge.  Be careful in your measuring.  The center Santa block needs to finish at 24″ so if you are going to add a one-inch border, then the center Santa needs to finish at 22 inches (cut the center white square down to 22 1/2″ inches to allow for seam allowances).

The feet were a torture to applique, but they make this guy, so stick with it.

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As mentioned before, the blocks were made by my mates in the Mid-Century Modern Bee; here I audition them for their placement around Santa.

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Then it was time to start on the trees and houses.  The original pattern has a lot of funny pieces at the ends of the trees.  Basically  you make a sort of flying geese block, stretched or regular (depending on where in the tree stack it is), then added a spacer at the end to even it out.  I eliminated those end spacers on the top and middle triangle sections as I thought it was a lot of bother.  You can figure this out.

Truth: My pattern is either lent out to someone, or in a proverbial “safe place.”  Either way I can’t put my hands on it, in order to be more specific about this.

Another Truth: This pattern needed several more rounds of pattern testing.  I did talk to the designer at a quilt show sharing with him some of the problems I had with it.  He wasn’t very happy with me.

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I’m showing you both of these photos, so you can see the types of spacers between the house and the tree.  I had to put one on each end of a house-tree strip in order to make them fit (different from the pattern), so don’t hesitate to make adjustments if needed.  You can see what I’m talking about if you look at the original pattern, where the tips of the trees in the corner are touching the houses.  Mine don’t touch.

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Since my reader asked me about the center Santa, I thought I’d throw in a couple more photos showing how cute he is.  Yes, sir.

And that’s Jolly Old St. Nicholas!

 

Criss-Cross Christmas Quilt Top

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Criss-Cross Christmas Quilt, top finished December 2017
59 ” by 68″

It all started when my friend Leisa gave me a mini-charm pack of Merrily fabrics by Gingiber.  Then the Fat Quarter Shop had the fat-eighth stack, and then when my making dictated more, I scooped up a layer cake of the line, and I was set (and I still have some left).

I added Kona Snow, and got creative.

I’d seen a variation of this quilt in my Instagram feed, but I changed up a few things to use up all my ideas.  Basic construction was to take a 10-inch square, and cut it either way: into four squares or four triangles.

But then I wanted to use the mini-charm pack, so I bordered them in strips, then cut them at an angle.

The “criss-cross” filler strips are cut at 1-1/4″ wide, so they have some presence, but don’t overwhelm the structure.  I seamed two squares or two triangles with the filler strip, then seamed those units together into a block, as I wanted to have the “criss-cross” pieces be random–the best of improv quilting.  I trimmed up the block to 9″ square, making sure to “center” the ruler as much as possible, so they aren’t wonky at all.

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I ended up not liking that seamed-up business in the solid portion of my mini–charm square block, visible in the upper right block.  I discarded all those triangles, and just went with the ones shown in the lower-left, with no visible seams in the solid.

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Still wanting to use up more of the mini-charm pack, I made my own “squares” of fabric and let them stand in.

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I just started making…and putting them up..and making…and deciding to enlarge it…

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Then I moved around the blocks, making sure the light of the mini-charm-square blocks were balanced against the heavier “filled-in” blocks.  At some point I decided I was done.

I sewed them together, stopping mid-way to celebrate Christmas and get the flu. Because the flu shot is only partially effective this year, more people will probably get the bug.  The good news, though, that by having had the flu shot, the duration and intensity will be lessened.  I hope so.

I’ve got some year-end sewing to do!

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.

Oh Christmas Tree QAL –STEP 4

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Today is Step 4 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.

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Here’s the twist: instead of creating the under-the-tree scene this month, I’ve gotten so many queries about sewing these things on to the background and the tree, that I think we’ll head that direction instead.  Go with the flow, right?  Above is my tree, everything sewn on.  I’m heading this direction because a lot of those questions have to deal with the idea of how much embroidery to put on that outer edge?  Should you leave a space for attaching and more embroidery?  Should you go right to the edge?

The basic idea for attaching is this: lay out your circles, birds, and leaves to your liking, using the pattern and photos as a guide.   As I go through the rest of the flower photos, I’ll have some tips, so please read through to the end.  But first! Wendy has some tips for us about what’s ON the tree:

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She writes: “I thought I had too much white space in certain areas.  I’ve added 4 more small leaves and 4 more small circles, keeping the additions symmetrical because the gaps were symmetrical.  I just felt some areas were less densely filled than others and I didn’t want gaps in the middle of my tree.  That’s probably because I didn’t exactly follow the pattern for the size of my leaves and flowers, but also because things move slightly as you sew them on.”  She sent me two photos.  The “before” is above.

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This is the after.  You can see extra circles and extra leaves.  (And yes, I love her under-the-tree scene!  Next month, next month.).  In addition to adding these extras, she attaches them differently than I do.  First she lays them all out, takes a photo so she can remember where they are, and then takes all off but the items closest to the tree trunk.  She sews those down first then adds in the decorations bit by bit, moving from the center to the outside, because she said she got tired of being stuck by pins.

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I couldn’t face the thought of re-attaching the flowers after I’d gotten them arranged, so I used appliqué pins (shorter than usual) and sewed on the decorations moving from the outside toward the center. Since I use really small pins, and put my hand around the flowers and birds as I sew, I didn’t have too much trouble.  One IG reader said she used a bit of glue to secure the decorations and from her photo it looks like she’s attaching them from the inside to the outside. Again, try what works for you.ohchristmastree4_11

You can see me scrunching things up in my hand.  Since I worked from the outside in, I had very few pin pokes.  I attached the leaves by using the same stitch I used on the trunk: a separated back-stitch (refer to this post for more info).

ohchristmastree4_14I was intent on getting them all on, and doing it quickly.  You could take more time than I, adding an extra embroidery stitch, if you wanted, for it’s YOUR tree.ohchristmastree4_12

I also learned to put a regular pin right in the middle of my decorations just before I started sewing them on, so they wouldn’t buckle.  I have one bird who looks like she is expecting, as the wool can shift as you are attaching, bubbling up.  I’ll show the Mama Bird to you later.

Now for some general tips about attaching the flowers and birds.  Before we talk about different ways to sew them to your tree, here’s a couple of photos of circles before attaching, showing various state of “close-to-the-edgeness” of the embroidery.ohchristmastree4_1flowers

After I pinned these to the tree, I went in and added another circle under the red one, giving it a bit bigger presence.  Ditto on the purple circle below.  You may find yourself making small alternations after you get everything pinned down, either adding leaves and circles as Wendy did, or giving another border to a too-small/wrong-color flower, like I did.ohchristmastree4_1flowers2

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I group the way I sewed these down into two categories: A) snuggle a stitch in or around the existing embroidery, or B) adding another ring of decorative embroidery to affix it to the background.  Let’s do the A-category first.  You saw the flower medallion above; I attached it with tiny stitches at right angles to the outer edge in a matching thread.
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Wendy often leaves the wings undecorated, using the “attachment phase” to put the stitches on, but I’d already embroidered them when she told me this, so I sewed it down to the background by using a small matching (green) thread in between the existing decorative (pink) stitch.

ohchristmastree4_5eI used the small perpendicular stitch again here in matching (blue) thread, but varied the length of them slightly, so the longest are between the yellow stitches and the shorter stitches are near the yellow.

ohchristmastree4_15I also decided to keep some flowers simpler, and did a simple backstitch around the outside edge.  Keep it smallish and even, and you’ll get questions like I do: “Did you do it on the machine?”  No, and if you look closely, you’ll find the bobbly places.  Remember, this is folk art and we aim to enjoy ourselves!  More backstitching:ohchristmastree4_6 ohchristmastree4_6aohchristmastree4_6bohchristmastree4_6c

Now for some B-categories: adding another bit of embroidery to attach them.ohchristmastree4_5b

This is a slanted buttonhole stitch.  It’s done exactly the same as a regular buttonhole, but instead of keeping the needle perpendicular to the outside edge, you slant it.  I like the look of this one a lot.ohchristmastree4_5c

Regular buttonhole.  I used matching thread if I thought the flower was busy enough.ohchristmastree4_5d

Here’s where I used the backstitch (on the small yellow flower, left) and then used a different color of thread in a buttonhole stitch (magenta flower, right).ohchristmastree4_5f

Here’s an “un-even” buttonhole stitch, with shorter and longer “legs” of the stitch, co-ordinating with the existing embroidery.
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This bird was sewn on with a matching yellow thread, buttonhole stitch.  But I slipped a smaller seed (or regular) stitch in between the existing red buttonhole stitch on the yellow bird’s wing to sew that down.  ohchristmastree4_7a

Photography of women depends on flattering angles, but I dropped the camera down low so you could see my pregnant bird.  She didn’t start out that way, but the wool shifted.  The bubbling up is exaggerated from this angle–it’s not really noticeable from the front, but now you know why I started putting that pin in the center of my birds and flowers as I stitched them down.  Didn’t have that trouble with the leaves, for some reason. She’s attached to the background with a simple backstitch.  I also did a line on the birds’ beaks.  I tried to make them happy birds (It’s Christmas, remember?) by the slight curve of the stitching, but some of the birds turned out a bit moody.ohchristmastree4_8

This is another where I snuck a small stitch in between the existing embroidery (A-category), and below, the last photo (!) where you can also see detail on the bird’s beak.ohchristmastree4_9

We are definitely getting closer to the end, now, and I’m pretty excited.  Next month (June 2nd), I’ll have an alternate scene for you for under the tree, and then we’ll roll out from there.

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No giveaway this month, but 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.

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.

Yes, we cut a month off our sewing, so you’ll have plenty of time to finish your quilt before December.

Happy Stitching and we’ll see you in June!

Oh Christmas Tree-QAL–Step 2

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I’ve been haunting the IG feed #ohchristmastreeqal and love seeing all the progress of where the trees are and how things are coming along.  We’ll finish this tree up in no time flat, but I think I’d like to keep sticking to the schedule (below).

Giveaway BannerWe also have a giveaway at the end of this post, so please read all the way through, and then follow the steps to enter.

First up, this post is co-authored by Wendy of Wendy’s Quilts and More (blog) and wendyquiltsandmore (IG).  Wendy has been a great partner in this Oh Christmas Tree QAL.  Because she is about 4 months ahead of us, and I can send her different questions and she is unfailingly helpful.  I asked her if we could use a lot of her photos for this particular post about the flowers, and she was happy to allow me to post them, so get ready for a photo-heavy post.

This month is the flowers.  The basic idea is to layer up felt circles, or use a piece of medallion-style fabric appliquéd to a felt circle, then embellish it with embroidery stitches, using pearl cotton.  I originally started cutting out a lot of circles, from the prepped up freezer paper circles in my numbered baggies (see previous Oh Christmas Tree QAL post on tab above), but realized that it might be better to be more of a one-by-one process.  So let’s do one circle and you’ll see what I mean.

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I cut out a medallion print (meaning that it’s a design that is self-contained in a circle), and pinched the edge under all the way around the outside, to set the edge for turning under (a Becky Goldsmith tip for appliqué). Here are some examples of medallion fabrics, from Wendy:

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And here are some of mine (above).  After writing back and forth with Wendy, I went through all my fabric stash and found even more than this.  It’s surprising how many I’d overlooked.  We do have some the same. Okay, back to the stitching.OhChristmasTree2_flowers2

Placing the circle on a larger piece of felt, I sewed down the edge, stitch by stitch, scooping the raw edge under with my needle, sometimes swishing the needle tip left and right under that edge if there was a tuck/sharp point (above).  Often it’s what’s happening underneath that bumpy edge which determines the smoothness of your appliqué, so pay attention to what your seam allowances are doing, even trimming them further to a scant 1/4″ inch if you need to. I also try to have my needle come out the “center” of that folded edge, not on the top.  That way the stitches won’t be too obvious, and then I don’t pull it too tightly.  I want my circle to float.
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As I mentioned, I am appliquéing this medallion to a larger piece of felt.  Wendy picked up this tip from Wendy Williams, the author of this pattern (and found on IG at Flying Fish Kits–also a resource for stitching ideas), and this tip is also found in Williams’ book, Wild Blooms and Colorful Creatures.
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Then just cut around the circle evenly, and you have your first completed appliquéd medallion. Wendy of Quilts and More recommends a medium-blade scissor (although I used a lightweight pair of larger shears, shown in the photo, but they are SHARP).  Her scissors are below:

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She writes “Once the fabric flowers are on, Wendy just cuts the felt circle free hand, keeping an even margin around the fabric.  She says it’s meant to look hand made, and the circle doesn’t need to be perfect.  Keep the scissors in the same position and turn the felt with the other hand, rather than cutting around corners. Use very sharp scissors with medium length blades. Not tiny embroidery scissors, not huge dress making scissors. I use the orange ones in this photo.”
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Layer it up, and save it for a good TV program (Wendy of Quilts and More has a great shot of herself stitching while she watched a cricket match) when you can stitch away.  This is circle #1, and is the largest circle of the bunch.

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Next up is my auditioning another fabric medallion against several colors of wool felt.  I added more info about where to buy wool felt to the original “Prepare” post, and yes, you can mix the felted wools and the wool felt, without any Quilt Police coming after you, if you want to purchase some.  I am using Kaye Buckley’s scissors, which have one serrated edge that grips the fabric and helps me trim them evenly. OhChristmasTree2_flowers7 OhChristmasTree2_flowers8

Being the Nervous Nelly that I am (it took me weeks to screw up the courage to start the flowers), I layered  the circle over one of the smaller appliquéd flowers to kind of get the size I needed, then cut halfway around.  I took off the freezer paper, and finished up the job.OhChristmasTree2_flowers9

So here is my first batch of prepped-up circles; some have fabric and one doesn’t.

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To make my life easy, I pulled out my Sue Spargo book and leafed through some ideas. OhChristmasTree2_threads

I’m using two weights of pearl cotton: size 12 (recommended) and size 5 (larger, more visible).
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I am using wool appliqué size #22 needles, which have a nice big eye and a sharp point and aren’t too long.  Then I pulled up Wendy’s IG feed (all the photos below) and got a few more ideas, then just put my needle in the center and began. OhChristmasTree2_flowers10I happened to think about what I wanted to do and decided to stitch them all layered up like this.  However, you may, on some circles, choose to embroider one circle, then add it to the next.  I was still trying to gather my courage when I began this, so stabbed my needles into the center of the magenta circle, close to the edge and ran the orange #5 thread all the way out to the edge of the yellow-green circle, working my way around.  Then, I took a small catch stitch over each of those “rays,”  close to the outer edge of the magenta circle.

I switched to the thinner #8 thread and did straight stitches in between the others, then went back and added the yellow French knots at the top of each of those “rays.”  I threaded on the blue thread, and did a few more French knots (odd number) in the center, not really caring how they landed, as I wanted a clustery look to them.  Then I did an open Laisy-Daisy stitch on the outside, creating a row of “petals” with my thread.

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Truth-in-Stitching: the back.

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Here’s another.  On the left, the beginning.  You can see on this flower, I chose to echo the print of the center fabric.  I am doing the first layer of felt by itself.  I then layered it onto the second (gold) layer and kept stitching.  This is the biggest flower, destined for the top of the tree, so I wanted something bright, yet echoed the colors throughout.

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Again, here they are, unadorned.
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After a couple episodes of Downton Abbey, they are embellished. I wrote to Wendy and asked her how long they took her to stitch (hence that hashtag on IG of #startyourneedles), and she replied that she can get two done in an evening.  That’s about my speed, although I think I as get more familiar with stitches, I’ll be faster. Pay attention to your pearl cotton/felt colors.  I loved the fabric in the pink one, upper right, but after I stitched it?  Not so much.  Either I’ll put that one where it’s not really noticed, or stitch another.  I also started with the bigger circles; I’m sure the smaller ones will go faster.

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Okay, now for the photo gallery from Wendy:

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You can see Wendy has a great variety of stitches, and uses the appliquéd fabrics to great effect.

I searched “embroidery stitches” on Google Image and came up with tons, including these two:

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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.

—->  I just have to make a comment here.  We have until June to get our flowers done, as well as the birds (which will go really fast because we’ll be so experienced, right?)  So no panicking, please.  Just #startyourneedles, steadily stitching and by the time it comes to stitch down the flowers, you’ll be ready.

April, Step 3: Make 10 birds.

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 April 2nd for the next step: birds.  I have a few tips on these, too, courtesy of Wendy.  You’ll enjoy visiting both her website and her IG feed for great ideas and to see a master quilter and stitcher at work, and take a look at how far she is on her tree.  Inspiration!  Thank you, Wendy, for all your help.

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Reminder: If you tag your IG photos with #ohchristmastreeqal, we can all help each other out with ideas for stitching, plus it’s just fun to see what you are all doing!

Giveaway Banner

Here we go.  I have two giveaways, and I’ll choose the winners from comments here.

Simply Moderne ScanFirst is another magazine, if you know someone who wants to jump in, or doesn’t have their own copy.  It’s courtesy of QuiltMania, who gave it to me at QuiltCon, when I explained what we were doing.  I’m sure if you wanted to subscribe, they wouldn’t mind a bit, or order the Simply Moderne #4, if you want another eye-popping design (way below).

Second giveaway is an envelope full of fabric medallions, my choice (I’ll cut from my extensive stash of medallions).  You can use some, share some.  There will be at least a dozen to help you get going on your stitching.

I’ll announce the two winners on Friday.  Indicate in your comment which you are most interested in: Simply Moderne #3 magazine (with our tree on it) or medallions.  Yea, you have to choose.

UPDATE: Comments closed.  Winner announced tomorrow mid-morning.

#startyourneedles for the #ohchristmastreeqal

See you April 2nd for Step Three!

SimplyModerne#4

Of course you want to subscribe! (I’m an enabler, for sure)