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.

Wendy_choosingcolorsborder

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.

OhChristmasTree7_1splitsquare

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.

OhChristmasTree7_2

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.

OhChristmasTree7_2b

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.

Wonky StarMapSewing

  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).

OhChristmasTree7_4b

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.
OhChristmasTree7_4c

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.
OhChristmasTree7_5trimming2

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.

confusing diagram

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.

OhChristmasTree7_5trimming3

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.

Border2_stepone

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.

chocolate

Before you start on the sides, get more chocolate.

OhChristmasTree7_6trimming

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.
OhChristmasTree7_6trimming2

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.
OhChristmasTree7_Final

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).
Wendy_finished quilt OCT

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

6XmasTreeJune

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

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

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

great wall of china1

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

The Pattern and the Problem

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

MetricImperial Stormtrooper(from here)

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

As Re-drawn

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

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

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

The Fix

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

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

OCT6_Side border1

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

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

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.

OhChristmasTree6_4bb

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 4

5XmasTreeMay4

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.

ohchristmastree4_0treejpg

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 3

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Here we are again, gathering together for the next step of the Oh Christmas Tree Quilt-A-Long (#ohchristmastreeqal), using the pattern found in Quiltmania’s Simply Moderne, issue #3, designed by Wendy Williams of Flying Fish Kits.

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At this point, you’ve been working on your flowers for a month, and if you are like me, that first one was like jumping off a high dive, and thinking the pool was empty and you’d go splat.  But you didn’t, and your flower circles are looking wonderful and you are actually having a great time.  Keep working on them, you’ll need 21 of them in the various sizes shown on the pattern.  I have to admit that all of mine are not the “perfect” size, as some are larger than what is called for.  I mocked up the tree the other day (I’ll show you this at the end) and it was okay.  So no fretting.  Just #startyourneedles and keep creating and stitching.

But. . . this month we’re adding two easy tasks: leaves and birds.  First up, birds.

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Remember all that tracing you did of the birds, and how you labeled them and marked the dashed overlap lines on a folded piece of freezer paper, so you’d be making two copies of the bird (one regular, and one reversed) and you stapled it together to keep the pieces from shifting? Now’s the time to get them out.  Hold them up to the light and transfer the dashed overlap marking on the wing to the wing piece on the other side, then cut them out and start picking your colors.ohchristmastree3_birdsB

Be bold!  Red beaks! purple bodies! wild wings!  I ironed down the freezer paper patterns, using a wool setting (NOT your regular cotton setting–or you’ll scorch the wool), and then cut them out.  I tucked the beaks under the body, guesstimating where they’d go (hint: NOT even with the top of the body) and pinned them.  Then I place the wing on the bird, using the dashed overlap line to place them, then pinned that in place.ohchristmastree3_birdsC

(No worries…I fixed that purple bird’s wing before I pinned it down!)ohchristmastree3_birds1

Wendy of Wendy’s Quilts and More gave me a tip to sew on the beak first.  I just used a few overcast stitches to get it on securely.  I’d never qualify for a bird plastic surgeon, that’s for sure.ohchristmastree3_birds2 Then attach the wing by blanket stitches (or overcast stitches, or a back stitch or a running stitch), beginning where it attaches to the body and work your way around the lower edge and back up again. ohchristmastree3_birds3

Now do the floaty part of the wing, and tie it off.
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Add a few French knots, or seed stitches, or whatever small decorative stitch.  Cut a teensy circle of white, then an even teensier circle of black and secure them both with a French knot, done with white thread.  I started by cutting 1/2″ squares of white felt, then rounded them off, and then cut smaller squares of black and just kept going around and around, cutting, until it was the right size.  Be prepared to sacrifice a couple of eyeballs until you get the hang of it.ohchristmastree3_birds4a

Ta-DONE!ohchristmastree3_birds4b ohchristmastree3_birds5

I got fancy with that red bird, attaching the wing with running stitches, and doing a zig-zag stitch across the wing.

ohchristmastree3_63birdsallI took them with me on my trip to Portugal and Spain (pictures of that trip are on my Instagram, to the right and on a previous post) and was able to get them sewn without too much trouble on the [long] flight out there.  These go MUCH more quickly than do the flowers, so I’m also adding LEAVES to this month’s tasks.

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Okay, that wasn’t hard!  I traced half of all the leaves I’d need onto freezer paper, doubled it over to get two layers, then cut them out.  Iron on to your felt using a wool setting, and cut out.  Repeat for the inner, smaller, leaves.  I cut a few out of a different green just to give some variety.  Place the smaller leaves as shown, setting them closer to one end.  Using a backstitch, sew them down.  It’s tricky near the tip, but you can see how wobbly mine are and how it really doesn’t matter.  (Last time I checked, The Creator didn’t use a ruler to create his leaves either, and our world is the more beautiful for that variation.)

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So I was curious as to how I was doing at this point, so I smoothed my tree up on the design wall, and stabbed pins through all the flowers and the four birds I’d finished.  Then, ACK! I was stuck.  What number flowers were where?  What had I sewn and cut and what was I lacking?  I got out all the baggies of labeled flowers and set up a little station on my ironing board, right below the tree.  I wrote out post-it notes labeling the flowers as in the pattern, and then a master list of where they were supposed to go.  I then lined up the circles from the pattern, drawn out on freezer paper below each sticky note, so I could see the relative sizes.ohchristmastree3_mockup2

Now that I was organized, I could figure it out.  I had enough of certain flowers and needed more of others.  Some of the directions in the pattern were wrong, so I corrected for those:

OhChristmasTree_pattern errataIf you want it to look like the one in the magazine, Flowers 6: should read “floating above branch 2” and Flowers 7: should read “on branch 3.”  I say, just squinch them all in where they’ll look good.  This is just a test run, but later we’ll do it for real.
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After a while, I could pin up what I’d cut out, fabric medallions, layered felts and all, and was pretty pleased with how it was coming along!  I’d encourage you to do this interim step, if only to give yourself a little pat on the back that you’ve come this far.  After taking the photo, I put everything away in the proper baggies, and planned to keep stitching flowers and finish up the birds.

ohchristmastree3_64stitchingAt the last minute, I decided to take a bunch of the flowers with me on our trip, squeezing them into a cute bag made by Sherri of A Quilting Life.  I snapped a photo of my stitching on the airplane tray table.  I kept stitching until I had nearly all of the flowers done:

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And after getting home, I did another mockup. I didn’t pay too much attention as to what number flower should go where, but instead put my largest one on top, then the next two largest on the lowest limbs, moving on up the tree and thinking more about size and color placement. I’ll let this stay up on the design wall for a few days while I move things around.  I did have one dud–a flower I ended up not liking, but that’s pretty good, I think.  I only had three flowers left to finish, which I did yesterday, so I’m ready to move on to the next phase.

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.Keep stitching, keep stitching!

April, Step 3: Make 10 birds and the leaves.  Keep stitching, keep stitching!

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 May 2nd for the next step: scene at the bottom of the tree.  Wendy’s done one scene, the pattern shows one, and I’m cooking up another.  See below for the giveaway.

#startyourneedles for the #ohchristmastreeqal

Giveaway Banner

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Initially I wasn’t going to do a giveaway, but after visiting with Anna in Barcelona, I thought it would be fun to have a Spanish connection from our trip.  In Barcelona, I purchased five balls of size 8 pearl cotton (my favorite size) and will send that to the lucky person who is chosen from comments left below.  I’m also including a 1 yard piece of metallic purple embroidery floss that I purchased in Lisbon.  Even though it is a little like sewing with tensile steel, it makes fun accents on our flowers (I used mine for some back stitching here and there, and also for some French knots on another flower).

Please leave a comment below, telling me either where you’d like to go a a trip outside the US and why, or the place where you had your favorite trip (outside the US) and why.  I love to read about other people’s trips, or their hoped-for travels!  I’ll let this run for a few days, then will close it off and chose a winner.

UPDATE: Comments are closed now.  Thanks for writing!

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:

OhChristmasTree2_Wendyscissors

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:

OhChristmasTree2_Wendyflowers6 OhChristmasTree2_Wendyflowers9 OhChristmasTree2_Wendyflowers8 OhChristmasTree2_Wendyflowers7 OhChristmasTree2_Wendyflowers5 OhChristmasTree2_Wendyflowers4 OhChristmasTree2_Wendyflowers11 OhChristmasTree2_Wendyflowers3 OhChristmasTree2_Wendyflowers2

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:

Embroidery Stitches101 embroidery-stitches-29dmwg9

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)

Oh Christmas Tree QAL–Step 1

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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!