Oh Christmas Tree QAL–Step 1

2XmasTreeFeb

I’ve been busy shopping for wools, wool felts, felted wools and all combos in between.  See below for an explanation of what they all are, although you’ve probably figured it out by now.  For those of us just joining in, the first step we did was to prepare by purchasing the Simply Moderne issue #3, which has the pattern we’ll be using; we also purchased all our supplies of wools, threads and fabrics.  It’s never too late to join, just look for the Oh Christmas Tree QAL tag at the bottom and click to locate all the posts on this blog (plus a wee giveaway to reward you for wading through all this).  We are also on Instagram with the tag #ohchristmastreeqal.

Let’s talk about wool, specifically FELTED WOOL and WOOL FELT:

Wool sweaters felted_1 Wool sweaters felted_2

I found some 100% wool sweaters at the thrift store, threw them in the washer with three tennis balls and an old tennis shoe, then dried them.  This process — using hot water, soap and agitation — is called fulling, with the result of felted wool.  I did that twice.  You can see in the top the difference between the two sweaters (they were originally the same size); however, one is called a “washable wool” so it won’t felt.  Some felted more evenly and better than others, but all of them looked like they could fit a toddler, even though they started out as an adult-sized sweater. I plan to use some of this newly felted wool with my flowers and birds.

You can also do this with 100% wool woven fabric.  You want it to felt down evenly so it is dense and won’t ravel.  Many of you purchased already felted wool and are ready to go.  Primitive Gatherings recommends using Steam A Steam 2 on the back to really stabilize the woven felted wool when you are working with it.  If you have tips on working with felted wool, please leave comments on this post, where others can find the info.  Many comments have already been left on the initial post on IG, if you want to look there.

I’m using what Wendy Williams recommended: 100% wool felt, which is that flat stuff your grandmother used to buy in the dime store to make toys, but is now available only in specialty shops (see previous Oh Christmas Tree post and the links below).  Felt does not fray when cut and is extremely stable, although it does shed a bit on first cutting.  It is wool fibers that have been felted together, and is not woven, nor knitted (as in the two examples above).

Try to keep these two terms separate in your mind: wool felt (which is what I’m using) and felted wool. There’s a few more links at the bottom of this post for more reading.ohchristmastree1_supplies ohchristmastree1_supplies2

So these are my supplies (top) and some medallion fabrics (bottom).  These fabrics have a circle pattern in them with fairly ornate decorative motifs inside.  Wendy uses them with her wools to add some flair, especially when creating the circles.

ohchristmastree1_2basefabric

I cut my background fabric, and I added about 1 1/2 inches to the measurements because I’m a chicken about these sorts of things.

ohchristmastree1_2csoftcrease

I took the fabric to the ironing board and ironed in a soft crease.  Don’t overdo it.

ohchristmastree1_2bmeasuring

 

I labeled the crosswise branches on the feather tree in the right margin of the first diagram, which you can see in the red box, and following their directions, and put pins along that soft center crease to know where to place things.

ohchristmastree1_1deciding

I cut first one strip of blue (lighter) and then the dark one, and couldn’t decide between the two for my tree.  So I laid out all my supplies on top of the strips.  I liked the country French blue, but decided, finally, that the darker would bring more contrast to the finished quilt.

ohchristmastree1_3acuttingI cut the long center strip, using the measurements in the pattern.  She asks you to taper the wool at the top, so I put a pin in the middle, then measured and placed others.  I angled my 24″ ruler from that middle pin to the outer edge of the center and cut away that wedge.  I didn’t cut enough on the first time, so did it again.  I also cut the top a wee bit larger than she asked –just a bit–as I like the look of it.

ohchristmastree1_3bcutting ohchristmastree1_3ccutting

I also cut these crosswise branches a scant 1/8″ larger, especially on the top branches (I have one more set to go up above) and I’m glad I did.
ohchristmastree1_4apinning

I laid them out on my fabric, using the soft crease and my rulers, in order to get them on the fabric straight.  You don’t want a tipping Christmas tree!  I also used the 24″ ruler as I pinned each set, as the wool will bump up against it, helping you get it on perpendicular to your tree trunk.  I was able to get it on fairly straight that way.ohchristmastree1_4bpinning ohchristmastree1_4cpins

Although I initially pinned them by putting the pins parallel to the crosswise branch, I soon found that it made the wool and the fabric buckle, so I shifted to this method of pinning.  Pin a LOT if you are using felt.  If you’ve used the wool backed with Steam-A-Seam, it will be tacky on the back and it will be easily positioned.  The felted wool people will then go to their ironing board after the first pinning step and press it down.  As Primitive Gatherings notes: “Keep your iron moving at all times so you will not scorch your wools.”  Wool is a natural fiber and can burn and scorch, but you might try using a lightweight pressing cloth in order to protect the wool and not give it a “shine” from too much pressing.  (That’s my college Clothing and Textiles degree being put to good use–thank you, Mrs. Dimas, for your tailoring class.)

ohchristmastree1_7holder

Now start stitching.  I put my ball of pearl cotton in this little holder and boy was that handy.  You can buy one from Bird Brain Designs. (See below for how you can win a couple freebies for yourself.)ohchristmastree1_8stitching

Start with the crosswise branches, and do a close backstitch on them.  I did mine right close together along the branches, like the top example:

backstitch

(from *here*)
You can do a search to find out how to do a backstitch, which is where I found *this* quick YouTube Tutorial.

ohchristmastree1_8astitching

I butted my ends of the crosswise branches together under the main tree trunk and stitched, lifting the “trunk” as I went underneath.  I also tried it with the edges just under the edge of the trunk, leaving a space between them, but felt it was more stable with the wool tucked in further.

ohchristmastree1_9dblthreadsI did an expanded backstitch going up the side of the tree, leaving a space in between each stitch, using two separate threads (one for each side) as I went up.  I decided to sew the tree trunk as I finished each branch, so it would feel quicker to me.  The whole stitching down of branches and trunk took the better part of a morning.

ohchristmastree1_stitches

I have this on high-power magnification on my camera.  I  promise you NO one is going to look at your stitches this closely, so if you make a mistake or it’s not quite right, don’t fret. This whole tree is in the folk/rustic flavor so an imperfection adds to the charm. You can see that I did a closer backstitch on the crosswise branches and an expanded, or open, backstitch on the trunk.  It was easy to stitch.ohchristmastree1_treesewn

Ta-DONE!

ohchristmastree1_tracingSince we always want to prep up for the next step before leaving our project, I’ve also added to this step the tracing-off the patterns for the flowers and the birds.   I’m using freezer paper, as it can be ironed onto my felt and used multiple times.  There are a lot of circles to cut out of your paper in order to prepare.  I’m using Kay Buckley’s Perfect Circles, matching up to what’s on the pattern and tracing around them.  (Yes, I punch holes in my bigger plastic circles so they won’t warp and buckle under the heat of the iron when I use them at the ironing board–the heat and steam can escape through the holes.  I sometimes also mark the center, which is what you see here.)

ohchristmastree1_tracing first steps

I can use the inside of a Perfect Circle to trace those teeny circles in the middle (inside the green square in the first photo), or a spool of thread, if there isn’t a Perfect Circle to match up with what you are doing.  I labeled each circle on my pattern with a master number and an inner number, as in 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, 1-4 so when I cut them apart I know which goes where.  I placed them all in plastic bags.

ohchristmastree1_tracing4

For the birds, I labeled them, drawing a dashed line where it crosses the main pattern piece (or is tucked under), added another piece of freezer paper to it with glossy sides together, and stapled them once in each major piece.  I’m not ready to cut them apart yet, as I’ll do that in April, when we do birds. Pay attention to where she says to reverse the bird patterns.  If you want to, you can also start cutting your circles out of your wools and felts and fabrics (if you are using fabrics).  I realize that things often change as we start stitching the flowers and birds (the under-tree scene will come later), but it’s helpful to get going on this step.

ohchristmastree1_tracing5

It’s all tucked away, waiting for next month’s step.  Here are the steps again:

January, Step “prepare”: buy the magazine, gather your fabrics, buy the felt/wool, buy/find the pearl cotton.  More about that in a minute.

February, Step 1: Make the tree on the background and stitch it down.  If you use wool felt, she has an easy appliqué method. Prep up the circles by tracing them and organizing them together.

March, Step 2: Make 21 flowers.

April, Step 3: Make 10 birds.

May, Step 4: Make the scene at the bottom.  Wendy’s pattern (IG: flyingfishkits) has two cavorting reindeer.  I plan to switch mine out to a simple nativity.  Your choice.  (If I were you, I’d also start haunting her IG site as she has lots of great embroidery ideas for the flowers. I’d also consider buying her book, Wild Blooms and Colorful Creatures, for more tips and helps.)

June, Step 5: Appliqué down the flowers.

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

August, Step 7: Sawtooth border (reds).

September, Step 8 (finish up Quilt-A-Long): Make wonky star blocks, sew them together and attach border #2.  Ta-Done!  I just have to deliver you here.  You are on your own for getting it quilted and bound.

We’ve done:

1Xmas Tree and now2XmasTreeFeb

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll post Step Two on March 2nd.  The second day of the month will be our regular posting day from now until we finish, and I’ll also put a reminder up on Instagram.

3XmasTreeMar

Some blogposts that have tips for working with wool:

Fresh Figs

Black Mountain Needleworks

American Pie Designs

Molly and Mama

To enter the giveaway for TWO perle cotton bubbles, leave a comment below. I’ll choose someone by Friday and get them sent out to you by next Monday, just as you are ready to start sewing your trees!

 

Nice to See You, Christmas Quilts!

Christmas Quilts on Bed1

We have a tradition that nothing Christmas happens until after the Thanksgiving meal.  In the Old Days, when I had children at home, we’d sing Christmas carols that afternoon, a cluster of us at the piano.  Now, we turn on iTunes and listen to the songs while we do the dishes.  This is Christmas Star, #80 on my 100 Quilts List, in case you want to read more about it.

Christmas Quilts on Bed2

This morning I got out all the Christmas quilts that have been in the cupboard for a year.  It’s nice to see them again.  This is Star Mother’s Youngest Child, #108.

Christmas Quilts2Christmas Treat, #111.

Christmas Quilts1

This was about the first Christmas display quilt I made and I called it Christmas Wall Hanging.  It’s label-less, but is #15 on my 100-Quilts List, having been made twenty-two years ago.  I have made other Christmas quilts, but they’ve been passed on to others.

Wide Mouth Pouch1

I also found time to make a little pouch for a granddaughter, at her mother’s request.  It’s Noodle Head’s Wide Mouth Pouch, but I made it a little bit taller.

Wide Mouth Pouch2

Wide Mouth Pouch3I also added a tab at the zipper closure end so it’s easy to grab.  Her birthday is coming up this week, so I popped it in the mail the day before Thanksgiving.

Hope you enjoy getting reacquainted with your Christmas quilts, too!

 

Santa Claus Has Come To Town!

Santa Claus Quilt_1

Jolly Old St. Nicholas
Finished December 2013

Doesn’t Santa arrive on the 24th?  Well, we just made it in time, over here.

Santa Claus Quilt_2

I started this in late September of this year, and finished it early this morning.  It’s done enough for display, but I want to go in after the rush is over and add some detail quilting here and there.  Okay, and maybe re-do a square or two, but really, I’m pretty happy with how things turned out.

Santa Claus Quilt_Back

The back, with my beemates’ signature blocks along one side.  They made the green/white large patchwork blocks.

Santa Claus Quilting_1

This shot, in the shade, shows some of the quilting.  Each level is slightly different, and each block is different.

Santa Claus Quilting_2

Merry Christmas, everyone!

˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙

This is Quilt #125 on my 200 Quilts List.

FinishALong Button

It’s also one of my Fourth Quarter FAL Finishes, hosted by Leanne, of She Can Quilt.

Star Mother’s Youngest Child quilt

StarMotherQuilt

Here’s my second finish for March: Star Mother’s Youngest Child.  The book, from which the title of this quilt is taken, was about Star Mother’s youngest boy who came to earth to experience Christmas before he was destined to take his place in the heavens, shining brightly forever.  He landed at the home of a cranky old woman, who, childless and alone, just wanted to have one Christmas to celebrate before she died.  And so the two came together.  The illustrations are charming, and the child’s spikey hair and ugly countenance reminded me of the weirdo star in the bottom left corner, the points going the wrong way even though I tried really hard to get them like the picture of this quilt from the Moda Bake shop pattern.  But in the aggregate, I think it all works okay.

StarMotherQuilt_Back

Whenever I’m looking for a back, I usually go for whatever cheap fabric I’ve picked up on sale, or snagged from IKEA or the Marimekko from the Crate & Barrel outlet.  I went to the guest bedroom closet, where these lengths all hang, washed, pressed and waiting and lo-and-behold! I’d purchased some of this Sweetwater Christmas line when I was buying the rest of the fabrics for this quilt.  It had been two years and so I’d forgotten. I pieced it carefully to make the seam as invisible as I could.  I’ve tried doing pieced backs.  I usually fail at that sort of thing because at that point, I’m just so ready to be DONE.

StarMotherQuilt_folded

I had also purchased this black/red stripe for the binding and even if it was on the original, I just didn’t know if it would work for my sensibilities.  When I went to quilt night last week, Laurel told me it was just perfect.  Sometimes you just need that atta’boy to help get these quilts done.  I hand-stitched the binding while 1) watching a movie, 2) attending a baby shower another night, and then 3) coming home and talking to my husband after a long day.

StarMotherQuilt3

My quilter used Superior’s King Tut in a tight red/green variegated color in a medium meander.

StarMotherQuilt_label

Quilt Label Closeup

For the label, I scanned a picture from the book when the little child first knocks on the Old Woman’s door, and included a quote from the last pages of the book.

StarMotherQuilt4

This is #108 on my list of 200 quilts.  Frankly, I can’t keep up this pace of finishes unless I stop sleeping or eating (neither of which is very likely).  The last two quilts have been in the pipeline for a couple of years, and I just had some extra time this semester and was able to get them finished (along with the help of my quilter).  But for today, it’s nice to see this all done, lounging on my sofa.

ChristmasQuilts stack

That makes five Christmas quilts I’ve done in my lifetime: two have been given away, and the other three reside here.  It will be fun to get those out this coming December.

FinishALong Button

This is another one of my Finish-A-Long quilts; original posting showing all my goals is *here.*