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!

The Thread in Spain Stays Mainly on the Train

ThreadonTrainin SpainThe title of this post came from Cathy, one of my Instagram readers, after I posted the above photo.  I was on a train, in Spain, wrapping thread onto a little organizer.  It totally cracked me up, so I thought I would write a bit about my trip, and the hunt for threads.  In an interesting ironic twist, it rained all that afternoon.

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It all started here, with me packing a few of my Oh Christmas Tree hand-sewing pieces along on our trip to Spain and Portugal.  I crammed everything into a wee bag and am so glad I did.

Stitching on Airplane2It helped keep my sanity while on the long flight over and on our various ground travel segments while in Spain and Portugal.  Like a train (above).

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Or a bus from Antequera-Santa Ana Train Station to Granada (they were working on the rails so we had to be bussed in).

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We first went to Lisbon, and I thought I’d brought enough threads for what I needed, but when my husband spotted this little shop, I couldn’t resist going in and buying a couple of more.

Threads_Lisbona5I definitely needed some purple threads. Check out those larger organizers, which is what they called them.  Nice big tabs so the threads don’t fall off.

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This shop was next door, and to buy threads, she pulled out her color card, scurried to the back room, and brought back a flat box of DMC, from which she selected one for me.  The first shop I went into, I had a hard time communicating what I wanted because they spoke Portuguese and I didn’t.  I mimed a sewing action, and somehow they figured out what I wanted.Threads_lisbon1 Pearl Cotton Lisbon1

This was from another shop next door to that one, and I chose a couple of skeins. I found out they had metallic embroidery floss in colors–something I’d never seen in the States–so purchased some purple. It’s a bit like sewing with rods of steel, but I split the floss apart into 3 threads; it makes a fun accent on my flowers and birds. Pearl Cotton Lisbon2

Fabric Shops Madrid 2016

The next city I went hunting for thread was Madrid.  In case you ever go there, here’s a map.  I needed regular thread for the appliqué centers of the Oh Christmas Tree flowers, and had left my spool of thread at home (or else it had already gotten lost, which is entirely possible).

POint Zero for MadridIt’s all near the Puerta del Sol, which is the center beginning point of All Points in Spain, which of course, is where the fabric shops are located.  Fabric Shops Madrid 2016_2

As I joked on Instagram, we quilters need a sultry babe like the Maja to be our pitchwoman.  (This comes from a famous painting in the Prado Museum, which is in Madrid.) So this time I had looked up how to say “pearl cotton” in Spanish, tried it out, and even though I’m no slouch in the accent department (having lived in Peru when I was a teenager and having progressed through 7 years of Spanish), they had no clue what I was asking for.

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This lovely woman came to my rescue.  Stephanie is an ex-pat American who has lived more years in Spain than in the US, and took me around to three other shops, all in the same block, helping me find my thread and of course, I bought another couple of balls of pearl cotton.  The selection is amazing there!Threads_spain10 Threads_spain11patchworkfabrics

I was excited when I saw the signs for “patchwork.”  This selection on the shelves. . .is it. Threads_spain13

In the photo, one woman is doing embroidery, one is doing lace making, one is making a log cabin and the rest are just sort of looking busy for the camera.  Stephanie told me that lace making, with all the bobbins, is big there, and that she’d made an entire tablecloth.Threads_spainBCN

And then we went to Barcelona, where Anna of @annaorduna, met me.  She and I had corresponded on IG, and she was teaching a class here at BCN Patchwork.  Notice the interesting flower tiles in front of the shop.  That’s the emblem of Barcelona and I saw it everywhere (check my IG feed, to the right).

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She was lovely, and she and her class of two women, the shop owner and another employee gave us great suggestions for places to go and see and to eat dinner.  I also asked if she had pearl cotton (this seems to be an obsession with me right now) and they did!  The shop employee asked me what color and when I said “all colors,” she brought down from their storage room 7 different trays of pearl cottons.  I selected a few for the giveaway for my Oh Christmas Tree post (coming on Saturday), and then one more luscious golden orange color for me.

Threads_spaintiles1 Threads_spaintiles2 Threads_spainpatchwork Threads_spaincliniqueOther quilts-related things I saw were hexagonal tiles, designed by Guadi for one of his houses, a sweet little ceramic bin with a simple checkerboard-on-point in the historic La Pedrera house, a series of Patchwork Magazines in El Cortes Ingles department store and lastly, a Clinique Giveaway.  Oh, how I wanted that one (why do we always get the flowery Clinique pouches–I want this one!), but with the prices for American cosmetics roughly double what I would pay here, I had to leave it in the store.  But now I’m determined to make one for myself, in just those colors.  Actually I saw tons and tons of tile designs, all over Lisbon and Spain, giving me lots of inspiration for future quilts.

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Still stitching.  I hated this yellow chain stitch, so I took it out.  Below is what finished up with, then sewed to another larger felt circle when I got home (I didn’t carry any felt with me, and although I saw lots of felt in Madrid, it was all acrylic–yuch).Threads_spain5 SpanishInspiration

Another place I got inspiration from was the costumes of the participants in the Procession in Barcelona.  See that gridded lace-like background?  Why couldn’t I try that on one of my circles?xmastreeflowerX_1

I started by marking the divisions of the circle with pins, then stitched it, as shown, moving from a lower point on the inside to a shifted-over point on the outside.xmastreeflowerX_2

Went back in and subdivided those.xmastreeflowerX_3

Now I’m working going the other way, so that it makes an intersection.xmastreeflowerX_4

All done.xmastreeflowerX_5

Now I went in and put little French knots at each intersection.  I started out with three-wraps of thread, but it was too big, so went down to two-wraps of thread.  And no, I didn’t take out the first few.  There is so much going on in these flowers, I didn’t worry about being perfect, and I’m guessing you didn’t notice at first that some knots were bigger and some were smaller.  Now you can.  This is another reason NOT to point out flaws in our quilts to anyone else.xmastreeflowerX_6

Now for another type of border, one that I learned when I was 12 years old.  (Thank you, Mom, for teaching me how to embroider.)  Begin by doing a simple backstitch around the circle, shown here in red.xmastreeflowerX_7Bring up your needle in a different color just in the middle and using the eye of the needle, weave your thread in and out those stitches, as shown.
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Don’t pull them too tight–you want a lovely little serpentine loop to show.xmastreeflowerX_9

I chose a slightly different color (because I had tons to choose from) but you could use the same.  Bring up your needle where you did in the first one, then weave in the opposite direction, completing the loopy design.  Or you could just stop with one thread. xmastreeflowerX_10

I was worried that I was supposed to do an even number of backstitches. . . or an odd number of backstitches, but decided not to worry about it and just make it work.  Can you see where the problem was?  Yes, now that I’ve told you, but you couldn’t see it before.  Just make it work, and don’t worry about it.

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Here’s another stitch: the herringbone, my style.  (I’m sure there’s an official name for this.)  I numbered the sequence for you.  Start by bring your needle out at 1, then poke it to the back at 2, then before you’ve pulled the thread all the way through, bring your needle up at 3, right in between 1 and 2.  Now tighten up the thread.Herringbone_2

Go up to the outside edge, and poke your needle down at 4, then out at 5.Herringbone_3

Complete the stitch by poking it to the back at 6, then bringing it back out before you’ve drawn it completely through, at 7.

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We’re repeating now, but I’m showing you how I catch the two points with one slide of the needle.  Go through at 8 and come out at 9.Herringbone_5

Then over to 10 and out at 11.Herringbone_6

You can start to see the completed stitch here.  I don’t mind the little gap at “x” but if you don’t like it, close it up by taking bigger “bites” of your needle.Herringbone_7

Here’s the completed stitch all the way around this circle.  I worked this in size 5 pearl cotton–big and fat.

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Finished!
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On the way home, a ten-plus hour flight from Frankfurt to LAX, I couldn’t sleep.  So I watched movies I’d already watched before, flicked on my overhead light and kept stitching and stitching.  I finished all of these on the plane home.ohchristmastree_plane flowers all

Here, posing in all their beauty on an airplane tray table, are all the flowers I finished on our trip.  I hope you are posting them on IG with the hashtag of #startyourneedles or #ohchristmastreeqal so we can all borrow ideas from each other.  Keep stitching–don’t worry if yours are not finished.  We still have a couple of months to go, so just take them with you and add another round wherever you can.  I’ll show the completed set of circles and the tree, all mocked up (again) on my next post on April 2nd, plus I’ll be hosting a giveaway for those Barcelona size 8 threads.

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(posing here with metro tickets from our trip)

I’m glad to be home, and looking forward to our next part of the Oh Christmas Tree Quilt-A-Long!

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