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.

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

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).

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

OhChristmasTree7_7arrange

Arrange your stars around the tree how you think you’ll like them.  Take a photo, re-arrange if you want.   In my case, I ended up making some brighter, bolder stars, and shuffling several times.  It also helps if you go get some lunch, or fold a batch of laundry, or maybe snack on some chocolate.  Anything to take a break so you can bring some fresh eyes to the process.   Do this until you are happy with how they look.OhChristmasTree7_5trimmingNow for some measuring fun.  You know that each corner of this quilt will have a star.  And generally, the finished measurement is 8″, or trimmed to 8-1/2.”  Both Wendy and I caution that you need to make VERY SURE that your H-block is centered in your trimming.  Pay attention to the diagonal line and make sure it’s running through the center of the H-piece.
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!

Hallowe’en 1904 QAL–Step Five • Giveaway

Step 5 halloweenQAL

ATTENTION!!  THE LAST TWELVE REMAINING PATTERNS OF HALLOWE’EN-1904 IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD ARE NOW AVAILABLE FOR SALE AT PRIMITIVE GATHERINGS ONLINE.  

ONCE THEY ARE GONE. . . THEY ARE GONE!!!

Okay, see the rest of the post for the backstory.

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When I was at Quilt Market, I stopped to see Alma Allen of Blackbird designs in her booth in the Moda section and asked her if she had any remaining Hallowe’en-1904 patterns.  Because I’m running this QAL, I get a lot of questions like, “Where can I get the pattern?” for as you know, they’ve been rather elusive.  Downright scarce, actually.QMarket_ModaDesigner4

 (Alma is shown above with her newest quilt, The Raven.)

“Well, actually,” she said (and I paraphrase), “I was going through the warehouse and found the last box of those–didn’t know I had them.  There’s twelve.  Would you like them?”  Gulp, golly. . . YES! for I knew that a lot of people had been looking for them.  I walked over to Lisa Bongean’s Primitive Gatherings Booth across the way (Lisa is the nicest person ever), and since it was the last day of Quilt Market stammered out my request asked her if she would buy them and get them for us?  Yes, she said.  And she has.

So here’s a link to the LAST REMAINING 12 PATTERNS ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH that you can buy.  Get over there right now and get them.  Alma does not intend to make this available as a PDF file after these are sold, so if you want one, you know what to do.  Well. . . actually there’s only 11 now.  (I just bought one.)

 

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And yes, I do have a giveaway today, but it’s not the pattern (go and get one, NOW, before they sell out).  Read through to the end to find out what our giveaway is for today. Now, on to the business of our Quilt-A-Long.

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If you remember, I left you with the instructions to get your wonky/appliqued stars done and get them assembled into a block, and add those corner triangles.  This month, you are going to make half-square triangles (HSTs) until your rotary cutter falls apart.  I’ve updated the previous post about making wonky stars, as I refined the method as I went.

After making all these wonky stars, I just have to say it’s probably about similar the work in terms of appliqué vs. wonky.  You’ll be sick of either method by the time you are done, but you’ll also be an expert in that method, too.  (Making gives, and making takes.)

Halloween4_2 laid out

I laid all the blocks on my kitchen floor to motivate me to get going again.  Notice that three of the “starry” blocks have orange stars, one has black stars and one is a mix.  The big triangle borders are varied; I used deep green triangles on that one in the second row to the far right, but it’s so dark, it reads as blackish.
Halloween4_3

Now it’s time to make half-square triangles until your hand falls off. . .or your rotary blade needs changing.  I use Bloc-Loc rulers to make my life easier in trimming, as it has a groove in the underside that nestles onto that fold of your seam, keeping it from moving around while you trim.  I can do a whole bunch at one sitting and I think they are more accurate.Halloween4_5

Now commandeer the guest bedroom, and lay out your star blocks.  Lay out your HSTs around the edges.  Because we use the 8-at-a-time method (talked about in an earlier post) I have multiple sets of 8 identical HSTs.  I used three sets per block, swapping out a few here and there to keep the eye moving around my quilt.Halloween4_4

Sew them on, as discussed in Step Three (that earlier post I keep referring to).  Halloween4_6

Because I had four appliquéd blocks, it was a no-brainer to put them in the position above for the initial run-through of placement.  One by one, I put up the star blocks, auditioning them.  Of course, I could have planned out where the dark triangles were and the HST color placement, but I didn’t.Halloween4_ninesquares

This is how I ended up, complete with a whoops: Halloween4_7ooops

I’ll fix that today.  But now I’m caught up with our QAL, and getting ready for the last step (yes!!) in our quilt making: the borders.

Here’s our schedule:

Step 1 (Preparation): February 13, 2016–buy all the fabrics and find the pattern.  Mine was purchased from Common Threads in Waxahachie, TX (www.commonthreadsquilting.com).  The quilt measures 90 by 90, which is too large for me, so I’m only doing nine blocks.  Each block is 20″ square, and with the outer borders, that should come to roughly  65″ square.  I may change my mind, but this looks good from here.

Step 2: March 13, 2016–Cut out the quilt: the tan backgrounds of the squares, the border triangles, the smaller half-square triangles, strips for the wonky stars, but save the piano key border for later.

Step 3: April 13, 2016–Assemble four blocks and add large appliques; use Thelma’s method (of Cupcakes and Daisies) for adding the curlicue stem. Make and add half-square triangeles (HSTs) around these blocks, using the 8-at-a-time method of HSTs.

Step 4: May 13,  2016–Cut and make the wonky star blocks from templates and strips.  I’m doing five blocks, so will need to make twenty wonky stars and true them up.  Add on the large outside triangles.

Step 5: June 13, 2016–Assemble the rest of the star blocks, by adding their HST borders. In the pattern, they are mixed up and varied, but also harmonized (some have a mix of orange and black, some have just black, some have just orange.)  Make your own rules and go with it.

Step 6: July 13,  2016–Arrange the blocks on your design wall and stitch together.  Cut the pieces for your borders.  Make the four corner pinwheels.  Sew borders together and attach them to the quilt.

Yes, I combined the last two months, so we’ll be done early–so you can get it quilted!

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Steam-A-Seam 2 giveaway

When I was at Market, I talked the people at the Steam-A-Seam booth (The Warm Company, who also make Warm and Natural Quilt Batting) telling them how much I liked their fusible product for the quilt I’ve been making (I used it on all the appliqué parts). I also used it on my Christmas Tree Skirt and really am a fan. Next thing I know she’s handed me some packages for a giveaway, so here I am, giving it away.  There are two packages of Steam-A-Seam 2 sheets (5 sheets, 9 x 12 inches in size) and two packages of Lite Steam A Seam 2 (8 sheets of 9 x 12 inches).  The Lite Steam A Seam 2 has upper and lower case letters printed on the the release sheet, so when you fuse them down, then cut them out, they’ll be going the correct direction.  They also include one blank sheet for your design. Very cool product.

To win all FOUR packages (share with a friend), please leave a comment telling me if you think Halloween should be a kids’ holiday (candy, traditional costumes and pumpkin carving) or an adult holiday (more sophisticated, more zombies, blood and gore, fewer pumpkins).  I’ll pick a winner and announce it on the next post. UPDATE: Giveaway now closed.

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Hallowe’en 1904 QAL–Step Four

Step 4 halloweenQAL

It’s the WONKY STARS step!

If you are appliquéing your stars onto your smaller background blocks, go for it and we’ll see you next month.  For the rest of you, even those not making this quilt, I’ll walk you through a stack and slash version of a star, pioneered by Thelma of Cupcakes and Daisies.

HalloweeenQuilt 1008dollars

You’ve seen this before; this is an image I found on the web some time ago of the quilt we are making, Hallowe’en 1904 by Blackbird Designs.  Yes, we are again hard at it for the Hallowe’en 1904 Quilt-A-Long.  All of four of us will have quilts ready for Halloween, so I’m excited about that prospect. Well, maybe it’s more than four of you out there in the Internets, but at least two of us — Leisa and I — will be among those finished in time for that fall celebration.

Again, Leisa and I are making NINE blocks, down from the original twelve in the pattern.  I posted a version of smaller quilt *here,* using all twelve blocks and formulated by Mary Burton.  But we’re doing nine, with four appliqué and five star blocks.

A recap of last month’s sewing:

halloweenqal3_60 halloweenqal3_61 halloweenqal3_62 halloweenqal3_63

Yes, all four are done, even the one with the weird-o leaf.  It’s staying put for now.

touching up stitching

Here’s my tip for touching up those stray bobbin threads that work their way up if you are doing satin stitch: get out a Sharpie marker in the color of your thread and color it in.  I also use it for errant free-motion-quilting oopsies.

And this time, we’re heading right into How to Make A Wonky Star.  If you want to go the traditional route, of cutting and appliquéing your stars down to your background, go ahead and get going, and we’ll see you next time, on June 13th.  Anyone else who wants to learn this technique, stick around.

crazy nine patch block

(from here)

It’s not a new technique as we used to use it to make things like nine-patch blocks: stack up a bunch of fabrics, cut, swap out the fabrics and sew.  I also found a version of this stack-and-slash used in a star block, and the copyright on the page says it’s from 2000-2005. And Bethany Reynolds is credited with the first national use of the technique known as Stack-N-Whack.  I tell you all of this to say there is nothing new under the sun, especially in quilting, but only new turns at an old technique or form or idea.

Halloweenqal4_0

We’ll get this far this month, but will do five of these blocks, saving the points around the outside for next month (although you are free to move forward if you want). Halloweenqal4_1

Get out your strips of fabrics, cut according to the chart.

halloweenqal2_wonkystar1Halloweenqal4_5

Different versions of the Stack & Slash Star pattern. Halloweenqal4_2I drafted and revised this star block multiple times, trying to get the proportions of the Stack & Slash pattern correct. For this reason, please print off only enough for your own use.  Please don’t print off enough for your mother or your girlfriend; send them here to get their own.   Download the PDF file here: Stack&Slash StarEastmond  Print off two: one to use for a template for your star patterns, and one to use as a map for when you are piecing.Halloweenqal4_2a

You’ll notice on the pattern that there are lots of little diamonds and slashes.  (These are your notches to help you get the thing back together.  It doesn’t matter if you use mine, or make up some marking system of your own, but please do this!)  Lay some clear template plastic over the pattern and trace.  Looks like mine got reversed somehow, but really it just doesn’t matter one way or the other.  Now pay attention to what is the center of the star (A1, B1, B2 and C1) and what is the background (all the rest).
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Working with a single layer of fabric (yes, you can stack them up, but don’t put the fabrics back-to-back unless you want to have some “regular” stars and some “reversed” stars.  It will drive you a bit crazy, but it’s do-able, in case you forgot), lay out the background templates. (See example below)

Halloweenqal4_10

If you do the usual cut of WOF, you’ll have part of the fabric facing you and part of it will be facing down to the cutting table, because of that fold.  Unfold it before cutting and you’ll avoid this problem.  I just had to go back in and cut some parts “backwards” and I made enough for a star or two.  So  you’ll notice that some of my stars are wonky to the left, and some are wonky to the right.  It just doesn’t matter.  Really.

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Cut around them.Halloweenqal4_8

Start stacking up your pieces underneath the templates as you cut them

VERY IMPORTANT:  To get the appropriate amount of wonkiness, you’ll need at least FIVE different background fabrics, because there are 5 different pieces to the background.  If you want to have the star pieces all different, you’ll need FOUR different star fabrics, because there are 4 different pieces to the star. But so you don’t lose your marbles in construction, cut FIVE different background fabrics and FIVE different star fabrics.
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You’ll need to do some shuffling as you sew.

Halloween wonky star1a

This is the “map” of the Stack-and-Slash Star (another printed copy) so I could use it as a way to keep all the pieces straight.  Here you see five different star fabrics.
Halloween wonky star1b

I cut, then laid out the five different background fabrics, too.

StackSlashMap

First we’ll do the BACKGROUND fabrics.  Leave the star fabrics along.

1–Leave background stack A3 (upper left in this photo) alone.  Starting with stack A2 (upper right), take the top fabric and move it to the bottom of the stack. Now move around the star in a clockwise fashion (or refer to the photo to the left which has the pieces listed).

2–Take C2: Take the top TWO fabrics and move them to the bottom.

3–C3: Take the top THREE fabrics and move them to the bottom.

4–B3: Take the top FOUR fabrics and move them to the bottom.

Halloween wonky star1d-backgrounds

All the backgrounds have been switched, but the star’s pieces are still in the same order.  Now we’ll do the STAR fabrics:

1–Referring the map above, start with A1 (leave it untouched).
2–B1: Take the top fabric and move it to the bottom.
3–C1: Take the top TWO fabrics and move them to the bottom of that stack.  Now keep reading.
Halloween wonky star1f-tip

4–Since you have FOUR star pieces, you’ll need to do some switch the the top FOUR fabrics on the piece B2, and move them to the bottom of the stack.  I don’t know why, and no, this isn’t the Gospel Truth, and yes, I could have said it wrong, but that’s what I did to get them all different.  This way, when you sew that last star (star #5), you won’t have two the same on the last one.  If you do it differently, please let us know in the comments.

If this is all too confusing, on YouTube there are multiple videos — just type “stack and slash,” or “stack and whack.”  If you have a lot of time, *this* one is in four parts, but it’s very thorough.

Halloween wonky star2_assemblyNow we start sewing them together.  Sew the A parts together.
Sew B2 and B3 together, then sew them to B1
Sew the C parts together.

Above I show how I’m sewing them in parts, always replacing them back on my “map.”

Halloween wonky star2_trimming

Some sections need straightening up before I sew the next seam.  If they are too out of whack, just even them out.
Halloween wonky star2a_assembly

Now all the B-pieces are sewn together.
Halloween wonky star2b_assembly

Sew them to the C-pieces.
Halloween wonky star6trim

I evened out that edge.  Notice that monster dog ear at the top right.  Don’t even worry about it–just slice it off.

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Join the sections together, pressing the seams to one side.  All the outside edges are skitty-wampus, but it’s all sewn!Halloween wonky star7_true up

Now it’s time to even them up to our Gold Standard Measurement of 5 1/2″.  Find the A1 piece and put that in the upper angle corner and then monkey your ruler around until you have a nice mostly-even space around all the start points.Halloween wonky star7a_true up

I put tape on the 5 1/2″ mark so I could frame it up better.  Now you see better how I laid it on the wonky star.  Repeat this over and over.  You can cut and sew a bunch and it goes much faster, but have chocolate at the ready.

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Add on your outside large triangles, varying them from orange to black, as are your star points.  We’ll save the outside HSTs for next month.  So, get busy making wonky stars and we’ll see you on June 13th!

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Here’s our schedule:

Step 1 (Preparation): February 13,  2016–buy all the fabrics and find the pattern.  Buy your pattern from The Primitive Gatherings Online.  Link is *here.* The quilt measures 90 by 90, which is too large for me, so I’m only doing nine blocks.  Each block is 20″ square, and with the outer borders, that should come to roughly  65″ square.  I may change my mind, but this looks good from here.

Step 2: March 13,  2016–Cut out the quilt: the tan backgrounds of the squares, the border triangles, the smaller half-square triangles, strips for the wonky stars, but save the piano key border for later.

Step 3: April 13, 2016–Assemble four blocks and add large appliques; use Thelma’s method (of Cupcakes and Daisies) for adding the curlicue stem. Make and add half-square triangeles (HSTs) around these blocks, using the 8-at-a-time method of HSTs.

Step 4: May 13,  2016–Cut and make the wonky star blocks from templates and strips.  I’m doing five blocks, so will need to make twenty wonky stars and true them up.  Add on the large outside triangles.

Step 5: June 13, 2016–Assemble the rest of the star blocks, by adding their HST borders. In the pattern, they are mixed up and varied, but also harmonized (some have a mix of orange and black, some have just black, some have just orange.)  Make your own rules and go with it.

Step6: July 13, 2016–Arrange the blocks on your design wall and stitch together.  Cut the pieces for your borders.  Make the four corner pinwheels.

Step 7: August 13, 2016–Sew borders together and attach them to the quilt.

Oh Christmas Tree QAL –STEP 4

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Today is Step 4 of our Oh Christmas Tree Quilt-a-Long (#ohchristmastreeqal), following a pattern by Wendy of FlyingFishKits and which was published in Simply Moderne issue #3, by QuiltMania. As always, we have an assist from Wendy of  Wendy’s Quilts and More (blog) and wendyquiltsandmore (IG), as she is slightly ahead of us in her creating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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No giveaway this month, but here’s a recap of our schedule:

January, Step “prepare”: buy the magazine, books, gather your fabrics, buy the felt/wool, buy/find the pearl cotton.
February, Step 1: Make the tree on the background and stitch it down.
March, Step 2: Make 21 flowers.
April, Step 3: Make 10 birds and all the leaves.

May, Step 4: Appliqué down the flowers and birds.

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

July, Step 6: Sawtooth border (reds); sew together and attach.

August, Step 7: (finish up Quilt-A-Long): Make wonky star blocks, sew them together and attach border #2.

September, Step 8 Show and Tell, just in time for school starting again.

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

Happy Stitching and we’ll see you in June!

Oh Christmas Tree QAL • STEP 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!

Halloween 1904 Quilt-A-Long

Halloween Quilt 1904

(Picture borrowed from the amazing Thelma of Cupcakes and Daisies here)

So now that the Spelling Bee is underway for the year, as well as some other quilt-a-longs I’m involved in (Oh Christmas Tree) I thought I’d get going on the Hallowe’en 1904 quilt.  The pattern was found for me by Leslie, a fabulous reader, and I’ve already roped in one friend to do this with me.  The quilt was designed by Barb Adams of Blackbird Designs.  If you want to follow along, I’ve figured out how we’re going to get done by August, leaving you plenty of time to get it quilted and bound by October.  My friend is doing it with me, so you may see some of her work here as well as  mine.

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So here is how I’ve envisioned dividing up the quilt into steps (yes, that’s me up there, conjuring up more time at the sewing machine):

Step 1 halloweenQAL

Step 1: February 2016–buy all the fabrics and find the pattern.  Mine was purchased from Common Threads in Waxahachie, TX (www.commonthreadsquilting.com).  The quilt measures 90 by 90, which is too large for me, so I’m only doing nine blocks.  Each block is 20″ square, and with the outer borders, that should come to roughly  65″ square.  I may change my mind, but this looks good from here.

Step 2: March 2016–Cut out the quilt: the tan backgrounds of the squares, the border triangles, the smaller half-square triangles, and the piano key border

Step 3: April 2016–Assemble three blocks and add pumpkin appliques, using the pumpkin appliqué pattern.  We’ll be adding the HST borders in July, so don’t worry about that now. Because I am not a big believer in re-inventing the wheel, we’ll use Thelma’s method (of Cupcakes and Daisies) for adding the curlicue stem. (NOTE: I’m making a smaller quilt, so will only be doing 2 pumpkins.)

Step 4: May 2016–Assemble two blocks and appliqué one cat, and one owl (refer to Thelma’s quilt).

Step 5: June 2016–Assemble the rest of the blocks.  For me that is five blocks of stars.  We’ll be using Thelma’s method.

Step 6: July 2016–It’s half-square triangle month–HSTs until you can’t see straight, and then you’ll sew them onto your blocks..  There are 24 HST for each block.  In the pattern, and in the photo above from Thelma, they are mixed up and varied, but also harmonized (some have a mix of orange and black, some have just black, some have just orange.)  Make your own rules and go with it.

Step 7: August 2016–Cut piano key borders and the four pinwheels in each corner.  Sew them together and attach them to the quilt.

Ta-done!  My job as a quilt-a-long crazy person is to lay out the steps and to get you (and me) to the end.  From here you’ll do the quilting and the binding.

Hope you decide to join us, and finally have that Halloween quilt you’ve always wanted on October 1st. . . instead of the usual 31st.  To keep in the spirit of things, the Hallowe’en Quilt QAL will post on the 13th of every month. . . whenever that is.

Halloween Greetings

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Update on Oh Christmas Tree QAL:  I’ve updated Step: Prepare to include a couple more places to buy high quality wool felt.  In addition, I’ve been working ahead on the circles, and have a few tips on how to construct them (from Wendy in New Zealand), so you may want to hold off on cutting the circles all out of felt, until you read the next post on March 2nd.  Lastly, today I saw the Simply Moderne magazine at my local JoAnn’s store, if you are still looking for it.