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 5

STEP5XmasTree

Today is Step 5 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.

Giveaway Banner

And because of the nice people at National Non-Wovens, we also have a giveaway of 100% wool felt, and their new colors of their rayon/wool felt. Read through all the way to the end to find the giveaway. Giveaway is now closed.

This month we’ll look at possible under-the-tree scenes; there are four:

(1) the reindeer cavorting, as shown in the original pattern,

Wendy Full Tree

(2) Wendy’s packages,

(3) nothing, or

OhChristmasTree_Full Tree

(4) a nativity scene.

First, Wendy’s packages.

WendyPackages1

She has included photos, with a tape measure so you can see the overall length.  Remember, also, that she added a few extra flowers and leaves on her tree, as described in our last post. WendyPackages2

When I asked her about the packages, she wrote:

“You’ll see the boxes range from 2” to 3” and were really just cut from scraps of felt.  So whatever is left over.  I used threads to make them look like presents (including my Wonderfil Dazzle – which has bult in sparkle). And added a few novelty buttons from my button box.  I’m even going to add bows from ribbons once it’s quilted.”WendyPackages3

“So total length of presents = about 14”.  I just fiddled around until I was happy with the layout.  Sort the layout before stitching, because then you don’t need to stitch on the bits that will be covered up by another present.  I went for a range of colours and stitched a variety of patterns on them, just like real presents would appear under a tree.  I didn’t attempt balls or bikes, just kept it very simple.  You can imagine what might be in them.”
WendyPackages3 WendyPackages4back

I also asked her if she had embroidered them before, or after, she’d attached them to the backing:

“I had to check if I embroidered before or after I attached them.  The back view shows it was after.  I tend to take things cautiously and add more if I think it needs more.  Feel free to include that back view photo – sometimes it’s easier to remember if you’ve seen a photo.”

Thanks, Wendy–this is a great alternative!

Secondly, if you are going to do the reindeer, just follow the directions on the pattern, embroidering them before you put them on, then attaching them as we did the flowers and birds.

Third, do nothing.  I’ve heard from some of you, and there seems to be an ambivalence about whether or not to put anything.  You may want to hold off until you get your borders on, then decide.

OhChristmasTree_Undertree1Full Scene

Fourth, the nativity scene.  I looked and looked for something that might work, finally adapting a folk-style couple with Baby Jesus between them, found on an Eastern-European art site.  I had thought about a silhouette of Mary and Joseph, but it just didn’t look right with our folk art flowers and birds.  I tried making them larger, as I realize it looks now as if the birds could put Baby Jesus into their nests, but I would have had to adjust the background placement about 3 months ago, and there was no way I was going unpick everything and re-do that.  So I decided that they would just look like one of those Nativity Scenes we put up around our house: smaller, a replica of the Holy Family.  In  the end, I am happy with how they turned out, but I always try to give you an idea of what I was thinking.  If you are doing options 1, 2, or 3, we’ll see you next month when we’ll do the sawtooth border (border #1).  But keep reading for the Nativity Scene how-tos.

Holy Family

First up, the pattern, free of charge, no cost, no frills, and yes, you’ll have to improvise the manger and Joseph’s beard.  But the price is right.  Click this link in blue to download a PDF file of the pattern: Holy Family_OPQuilt  (Don’t click on the illustration.)  Print this out at 100% or larger (I used 100%).

JOSEPH

OhChristmasTree_0JosephPattern

Here is Joseph’s pattern, all cut out.

Basic steps:
1. Cut paper pattern pieces out; I cut a slit up Joseph’s robe pattern to get at the face and the under-robe.  I left the headscarf section on top in place for now.
2. Cut out the robe out of felt (don’t cut a slit up the center of the felt), then snip a slash in the middle to cut out triangle-shaped center, following the cut out of the paper pattern.  After doing that, cut pattern, freeing up the head scarf piece.  (I show it above all together, but really the paper pattern is in three parts.)
3. Cut face out of interfacing, and bond to face fabric–don’t make the face fabric too pink.  Joseph lived in the Mediterranean.
4. Cut under-robe, by tracing around the triangle-shape with a marking pencil, then cutting 1/4″ away from that tracing.  I tried to use stripes for both Mary and Joseph’s under-robes.
5. Cut out head scarf, by the same tracing method described above.
6. Cut out deep background out of black felt.  SEE BELOW.

OhChristmasTree_Joseph's underlay

I realized, after doing Mary, that the under-robe needed much more support than just cloth.  So I laid the pieces as shown above onto some black felt, and cut 1/4″ around everything.  That larger black felt piece (deep background) will be largely invisible, but is needed so the center section doesn’t become too floppy.
OhChristmasTree_1Joseph

7. Trim the face to 1/4″ around the interfacing.OhChristmasTree_2Joseph

8. Pinch around the lower edge to establish a fold line for appliqué.  No need to do the top as it will be hidden by the head scarf.OhChristmasTree_2aJoseph

9. Find the center, fold up the “chin” and pin in place.  OhChristmasTree_3Joseph

9 (cont’d.) Appliqué down the face lower edge (see above photo for details) to the black (deep background).  Fold under the top edge of the under-robe and appliqué that just under the face.  They need to touch. Place head scarf onto felt robe piece.  Fold under lower edge and attach to face opening in the felt with tiny stitches.  Then fold to the back and tack down everywhere.OhChristmasTree_4Joseph

This is how things looked from the back.OhChristmasTree_5Joseph

10. Center the under-robe/face piece behind the robe/head-scarf piece; pin.OhChristmasTree_6Joseph

Lifting up the edge, trim away the excess.OhChristmasTree_7Joseph OhChristmasTree_8Joseph

Tack into place from behind.  It will really be anchored by the embroidery stitches you do, but you don’t want it slipping around while you handle it.  All of the above steps took about 30 minutes; it looks longer because I’m describing them to you, but since this is smaller, the stitching goes quickly.

MARY

OhChristmasTree_Mary1pattern

Repeat basic steps with Mary, but there is no separate step for the head scarf.  Make a (deep background) piece out of black felt for Mary as you did for Joseph.  (I didn’t, and I wish I had, so ignore that tiny deep background piece above (and below) and create one as large as Joseph’s.)OhChristmasTree_Mary3pieces

In addition, DON’T trim the upper edge of Mary’s face piece until nearly the last step, as you need all that extra.  DO trim the “chin” area to 1/4″ seam allowance, then pinch along the fold line, as you did for Joseph’sOhChristmasTree_Mary2bfacefront

Pretend this is all on a (deep background) black felt piece, as is Joseph’s. It should be.  Construct in the same fashion, turning up lower edge of face and appliqué onto black felt piece, then do the under-robe the same as Joseph’s.  OhChristmasTree_Mary5assembled

Mary doesn’t have a head scarf that is a different piece of fabric.  Women in her day and religion didn’t show their hair, so I purposely didn’t make hair for her; you be the judge of what you want.OhChristmasTree_Mary4pinned

Pin the under-robe/face piece in place and tack down from the back, as you did for Joseph.  Sorry for the nighttime-on-the-sofa-cushions photo.OhChristmasTree_Mary6embroidered

Now add the embroidery.  I put several lines of “scarf” on her, alternating navy and red threads, then another line of “braid,” closer to her face, to lower her forehead (foreheads shouldn’t be too large otherwise they’ll look funny).  I used blue slightly slanted stem stitches, to give texture.  I did a back stitch to outline the fold of her robe, then up around her head, mostly to anchor the robe/face/deep background piece in place.  I did a backstitch about 1/3″ away at the hem, narrowing as it came near her face, then around the lower edge.  I added small flowers and decorative French knots.

OhChristmasTree_1Couple

Time to add some embroidery to Joseph.

OhChristmasTree_Undertree6

I did two lines of stem stitch on the scarf, acting as a braid holding it on.  Then I figured out his beard by tracing a shape off the pattern about 1/2″ long, as wide as the opening, and in a wide arc at the top on his face.  I used felted wool to get the right texture.  Tack that on.  Then start adding embroidery to the robe: back stitch, seed stitch, building up layers of design.

I actually gave some thought to the colors I used.  Knowing that red is for the Savior’s robes after He’s resurrected, I tried to incorporate that in.  Purple in my mind is for royalty, so Mary got some of that.  Of course, Mary has to be in blue–she just does.  I always think green is about life and living things, so Joseph got that color.  You decide what colors matter to you, and where to put them.  I stitched Joseph’s decorative lines in a variegated thread, so they have some depth to them.

OhChristmasTree_Undertree4

In stitching the vertical lines, be sure to get narrower near his face, and farther apart nearing the hem of his robe.  Add eyes.  They are not French knots, but merely a tiny stitch.  Set Mary and Joseph aside.

BABY JESUS

OhChristmasTree_Jesus1

Here are the pieces cut apart, with wool felt.  DON’T CUT THE YELLOW LIKE THIS.  I learned my lesson from Mary and Joseph and re-cut the lower yellow to be sort of a large oval; see below.OhChristmasTree_Jesus3

And here’s another DON’T DO.  Don’t appliqué the face ON the white.  I’ll show you a better way in a minute.OhChristmasTree_Jesus4

Here’s the face appliquéd on like his parents.

OhChristmasTree_Jesus5

Yes, he does resemble a Cabbage Patch Doll. OhChristmasTree_Jesus6

 So, instead, CUT OUT that oval-ish slit.  Tack the baby’s face in BEHIND the slit (easier to do at the beginning).  Stitch the swaddling cloth lines in blue around the face.  Then layer him on the yellow felt, with the red felt nestling in just below the white (see above, for the colors I chose).  Start anchoring everything down with stitches.  You can’t really see, but behind those purple cross-stitches is a small overcast stitch anchoring the white to the red to the yellow.OhChristmasTree_Jesus7

Now, doesn’t Baby Jesus’ face look better peeking out from behind the swaddling cloths?OhChristmasTree_Jesus8

I did the angled buttonhole stitch on his blanket, using yellow thread on the red, then tried to make a red fringe-looking stitch, as if there were fringe dangling down over the yellow (which becomes hay).  I did the hay stitches at the end.

Manger

The manger was a half circle of blue, into which I cut legs then straightened out the bottom edge, so it looks sort of like a pot with legs.  Or a step stool with a thick seat.  It’s slightly less than the width of the baby’s assembly.

All of the decorative wood-grain stitching was done as before I tacked it onto the background.  That is simply a stem stitch, done loosely and jaggedly, in a thinner thread (size 16 pearl cotton, but 12 would be fine), trying to imitate wood.  The small buttonhole stitch is how I sewed it to the background, and that happens when attaching all of the Baby Jesus’ unit.

Star and Star Trails

OhChristmasTree_UndertreeStarCut a 1 -1/2″ circle of yellow felt, and a 1 -1/4″ circle of light orange felt.  Embroider them as shown (omitting the outside small yellow stitches–that’s added when you tack it onto your background).

The star trails are about 7 ” long, about a fat quarter-inch wide, and are slightly wavy lines.  Sometimes they are a bit thicker.  Don’t be too precise with them, as you are making folk art.  In addition, make gradual waves — not sharp curves.  You can shape them into the slight curving shape when you attach them, largely because of their gradual waves.  I used a backstitch to put them on.  I did not attach them to the star, but stitched them on, making sure they all ended in one place, then stitched down the star over that.

OhChristmasTree_Undertree8 OhChristmasTree_Undertree9

Here’s a ruler showing the approximate placement of things.  The end of the tree is about even with the top of the blue manger.  I pinned and checked several times, moving things by quarter-inches until I got them the way I wanted them.  Notice that Joseph is closer to the tree, and Jesus overlaps both their robes.  It just looked better that way to me: you decide what you like.

I used a buttonhole stitch to attach Mary all the way around, but only did Joseph’s robe.  I switched to sewing thread and simply tacked down Joseph’s head scarf, without decorative stitches around it.
OhChristmasTree_UndertreeSewing

Now I’m starting on the hay for Baby Jesus. Notice that I completed the zig-zagging buttonhole stitch along the sides of his red blanket.  If you have yellow felt peeking out, trim it slightly smaller than the red and finish the stitching down.  In the photo above, Mary, Joseph, the manger and the upper half of Baby Jesus are all stitched to the background.  For the hay, I used a variegated light brown–golden yellow–med. yellow thread.

OhChristmasTree_Manger2WoodStitches

I started by making “hay” stitches all over, crossing each other, going over the edge like real hay would.

OhChristmasTree_Manger1Straw

I turned the needle around and “threaded” it through the fringe on his blanket, when I needed to stitch hay behind the fringes.  The thread colors in variegated run in long sections.  Above you can see that I went quite wide with the med. brown section, then when the golden yellow section came up, I went over that section again.  Some stitches are long, some are short.  Some are perpendicular to the lower edge (I did that at the beginning, to anchor it to the background). Some stitches are at a 45-degree angle.OhChristmasTree_Manger3FallenHay

I even put a few strands of hay on the ground, and had them fall over the yellow onto the manger and onto Joseph’s and Mary’s robes.  It has to look slightly dis-organized, like, well. . . hay.

Here are some more pictures of the Nativity, showing detail.OhChristmasTree_Undertree5 OhChristmasTree_Undertree4 OhChristmasTree_Undertree3

Mary was stitched down with a variegated blue thread; I like how it went lighter around her head.  Totally random.OhChristmasTree_Undertree2b OhChristmasTree_Undertree1Full Scene

Whatever you choose to do, please keep tagging your photos on Instagram with #ohchristmastreeqal, so we can all share in your progress.

Giveaway Banner

As I was wandering the aisles of Quilt Market, I found the National Nonwovens Company, who deals online with retail at Commonwealth Felt.  After seeing my enthusiasm for wool felt — I don’t think they’d had that much excitement in the whole time they manned their booth — they happily donated some samples both of their 100% wool felt as well as their wool/rayon felt blend in their new colors.

Felt Giveaway2

The packet on the left is a mix of fall/summer colors, including medium blue, yellow, red, white, green and black:

Felt giveaway 4

To win, leave a comment below telling me why you don’t think it’s crazy that we’re making Christmas things in JUNE (sometimes I think I’m crazy!).  I’ll activate the Husband Random Name Generator and pick a winner.  Good luck!

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.  I’ll have another idea for you to try, as well.

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.  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!

Happy Stitching and we’ll see you in July!

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!