It might seem too hot outside to be dreaming of woolen mittens, snowmen, and twinkling lights, but if you're a planner – now is the time to start your holiday décor and gift sewing. You still have plenty of time to finish without working 'round the clock (the normal option when the woolen mittens, snowmen, and twinkling lights are actually here!) and it's also the time of year when fabric manufacturers debut their new holiday collections. So selection is at its best. Starting today, we have four of our favorite holiday projects plus a fabric giveaway at week's end. Crank up the AC and put Frosty the Snowman on repeat, it's time for Christmas in July. Let's start things off with a tree skirt! Our color wheel design features a vibrant patchwork of fabrics set off with bold binding and bows. Plus, the triangle wedges secretly remind us of pie, and we love pie. In fact, now that we've mentioned it, perhaps it's time for a slice of pie. But first... a project!
Wedges are wonderful, especially when you piece them together to create a kaleidoscope of color and design. These eight different tree skirt panels could be a wonderful holiday tradition in the making. Why not have each wedge tell a story? Or designate each section for a particular family member, placing a special gift within his/her wedge each year.
All our pieces are carefully fussy cut to make the best use of each fabric's beautiful motifs. If you are new to this technique, check out our step-by-step tutorial on How To Fussy Cut.
In our supply list, we indicate that you need ¾ of a yard of each fabric or a total of eight ¾ yard cuts. This will work great even if you have a strong directional print. You'll have enough width and length to run your pattern piece either horizontally or vertically. However, you do end up with leftovers. To conserve fabric, you could reduce your pattern from eight unique triangles to four, see the Hints and Tips section below for more details about that option.
The skirt finishes at approximately 48" in diameter. We made one skirt in Heather Bailey's delightful Pop Garden & Bijoux collection, which is a vibrant alternative to classic holiday tones. This version featured our own custom-made binding and bows.
Our second skirt was done in the Starflakes and Glitter collection by Tina Givens for FreeSpirit Fabrics with more traditional colors and motifs. We used packaged binding and velvet ribbon to save time.
For a slightly different spin on the wonderful wedges of these two designs, take a look at our Crazy Patch Tree Skirt. There's a bit more time requried for this pretty patchwork and the decorative stitch accents. But, that's not a problem... because you're getting started early!
Even more so than traditional fabric collections, holiday prints come and go faster than Frosty on a sunny day. Right now it the best time to shop for new Christmas collections. Below is a new collection we found at Fat Quarter Shop by Alison Glass for Andover Fabrics: Holiday. It's a perfect selection for a colorful tree skirt and is availabe in half yard and fat quarter bundles. See all the lovely Christmas Fabrics at Fat Quarter Shop.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing Machine and standard presser foot
- Walking or Even Feed foot; optional but best for thicker layers – or use your machine's built-in fabric feeding system, such as the Janome AcuFeed Flex™ system
Fabric and Other Supplies
- ¾ yard of 44"+ wide quilting weight cotton for EACH triangle (eight total)
- 1 yard of 44"+ wide fabric mid-weight cotton (although quilting weight cotton could work as well) for the skirt binding and opening ties: we used a red cotton sateen
NOTE: You could also use packaged binding (you'll need approxiamtely 9 yards) or velvet or satin ribbon (you'll need approxiamtely 3 yards of wider width ribbon; 2" would be good).
- 1½ yards of 54"+ wide cotton muslin for the tree skirt back (you could use a higher quality fabric than muslin, but this is for the side that sits on the floor and isn't seen, so an inexpensive choice seems more logical)
- 1½ yards of 54"+ wide lightweight quilt batting; optional - we used it because we liked the soft dimension, but it isn't necessary if you prefer a flatter look)
- All purpose thread to match fabric
- See-through ruler, at least 24" long
- Large sheet of lightweight paper, at least 26" x 26" square, to make triangle wedge pattern
- 1 yard of string or thick thread
- Regular pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Iron and ironing board
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Straight pins
Make your triangle wedge pattern
- On your large sheet of lightweight paper, draw a 24" vertical line close to one edge.
- Draw another line, also 24" long, perpendicular to the first line. Reach back to your geometry days and make sure your lines are straight and form a 90˚angle at the corner.
- Cut a piece of string 25-27" long. Pin one end to the 90˚ corner of your two drawn lines. Tie the other end to a pencil. Make sure after you've tied the string to the pencil and pinned the opposite end in place that the string measures 24" from corner to pencil point. In essence, you've just made a little compass. You are so smart!
- Draw an arc from the end of the horizontal line to the end of the vertical line. Ta-da ... perfect quarter circle. Cut this out along your drawn lines - the two straight lines and the curved line.
- Fold your quarter circle in half and crease the folded edge. Open it back up and cut along the crease. Ta-da #2 ... perfect triangle wedge.
- Using this spiffy pattern you just created, fussy cut eight triangle wedges, one from each of your various fabrics.
- Lay out your eight wedges on a flat surface. For something like this, the floor probably works best. Besides, that's where this tree skirt will eventually end up, right? Arrange your eight wedges, mixing and matching the order until you have a pattern that's pleasing to your eye.
The rest of the cutting
- Cut a 49" x 49" square out of your cotton muslin. Set aside.
- Cut a 49" x 49" square out of your lightweight quilt batting. Set aside.
- From the binding/ribbon fabric, cut SEVEN 2" x 44" strips for the binding and FOUR 4" x 22" strips for the ribbon closure. Set aside. Skip this step if using packaged binding or pre-made ribbon.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
Make the eight-panel skirt sandwich
- Pick up your first pair of triangle wedges. With right sides together, pin the pieces together and stitch, using a ½" seam allowance, along one long edge. Press the seam allowance open.
- Pick up the next triangle wedge in your sequence and pin it, right sides together, to the two-piece section you just created. Stitch along one long edge, creating a three-piece section. Continue in this same manner with all the triangle wedges. LEAVE THE FINAL SIDE SECTION UNSTITCHED. This will be the skirt opening.
NOTE: As you sew, you'll notice that the points where all the triangles come together in the middle may get a bit messy and wild. Don't worry about that at all. Remember, we have to cut out a hole in the middle for the tree trunk, so all that wild mess will be cut away.
- Lay your 49" x 49" muslin square, right side down (although for most muslin there isn't really a right and wrong side, but if you use another type of fabric, place it right side down). Make sure it is flat and smooth.
- Place the 49" x 49" quilt batting square on top of the muslin. Make sure it is flat and smooth.
- Place your eight-panel tree skirt, right side up, on top of the batting. Make sure it is flat and smooth. You now have a three layer tree skirt sandwich.
- Pin all layers together along outside edge of the skirt.
Trim and quilt the sandwich
- With your fabric pencil, draw a 7" circle in the center of your tree skirt sandwich. You can make a template from cardboard or use a salad plate or pot lid to trace around. We found 6" - 7" was a pretty standard size for the center hole. If you think your tree is going to have a bigger trunk than that (holiday-lumberjack that you are), you'll need a much bigger skirt and this isn't the project for you. If you are planning on a smaller tree, the overall diameter of the skirt should still be fine (more room for present piling), but you might want to cut the center hole an inch or two smaller.
- Cut through all layers around this center circle's perimeter. You can insert the scissors at the skirt opening, then cut around the center circle. If you feel your skirt is not laying as perfectly flat as you'd like, you can also slightly trim along the raw edges of the skirt opening to get a perfect match. You want a smooth and even circle, and you want the edges of the opening to butt together nicely. All the raw edges will be bound, so any trimming adjustments you make will be covered up.
- If possible for the next steps, attach a Walking or Even Feed foot or use your machine's built-in fabric feeding system.
- Edgestitch around all the raw edges: the inner center circle, both sides of the skirt opening, and all around the outside perimeter. "Hey," you say. "It's not right sides together! What's up?!" You don't need to stitch right sides together and turn this project. Instead, you're building a fabric sandwich right sides out and leaving the edges raw. You'll be applying binding around the whole thing, covering up all those raw edges. This is similar to how a quilt goes together.
- To quilt your tree skirt and secure all the layers, stitch in the ditch of each triangle seam, which means to stitch directly along the previously sewn seam, then sew another row of stitches straight down the middle of each triangle piece. You can use either coordinating or contrasting thread to quilt, depending on how visible you want your quilting stitches to be. In the drawing below, the edgestitching is shown in yellow and the quilting stitches are shown in pink. We recommend lengthening your stitch for the quilting.
- Switch back to a standard presser foot.
- Take your seven 2" x 44" red sateen strips and sew them together end to end, using a ½" seam allowance, to make one continuous 2" band.
- Fold your strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and press well to set a crease.
- Open the strip wrong side up so the crease line is visible.
- Fold each side towards the center crease and press. Fold one side nearly all the way to the center fold mark – so it is almost touching the fold; fold the other side almost but not quite all the way to the fold line – so there is a bit of space between the raw edge and the center crease.
- Fold again along your first crease, right sides together, so your two folded edges are together. Press. Ta-da #3 ... double fold bias tape.
NOTE: This is actually not real bias tape, because we did not cut our fabric on the bias. However, the curves of this particular project are fairly gentle, and so the straight-cut method described above should work fine – besides, it uses a lot less fabric than bias cut fabric. If you'd like to make REAL bias tape, read our tutorial on making and attaching bias binding.
- Thread the machine with thread to best match the binding in the top and bobbin.
- Attach your binding to all edges of your tree skirt in the following order:
Cut a length and attach it around the center circle.
Cut a length and attach to one side of the skirt opening.
Cut a matching length and attach to the other side of the skirt opening.
Use the remaining binding to go all around the outer perimeter of the skirt.
- Sew slowly, adjusting the binding to the curves as you go, and remembering to tuck under the raw edges of your binding at the beginning and end of each section. Again, if you are new to making or attaching bias binding, read our tutorial on Figuring and Cutting as well as our additional tutorial on Binding Quilts and Throws.
Make the ties and finish
- Find the four 4" x 22" strips.
- Fold each strip in half lengthwise, right sides together. Press and pin.
- Sew a ½" seam along the long edge, pivot at the corner, and stitch at an angle to the opposite corner.
- Clip the corner.
- Turn the tie right side out through the unstitched end.
- Press flat, tucking in the raw edges of the square end to create a finished edge.
- Edgestitch around all four sides.
- If using ribbon, simply cut four 22" lengths and nicely finish each end. One end of each should be square (a tiny narrow hem would work well). The opposite end could have the same type of tiny hem or could be cut into traditional ribbon points and finished with seam sealant.
- Lay the finished tree skirt out right side up and pin the four ties to each side opening approximately 1" down and 11" down from center top opening.
- Stitch the ends of the ties to the edge of the side openings, following along the seam of the binding's stitching.
Hints and Tips
How to use less fabric
The ¾ yard of fabric we list above for each different triangle does allow you complete cutting flexibility, but it also leaves waste. You can always save the leftover fabric for other projects, but if you want to conserve money and fabric, reduce the number of different triangles from eight to four. Buy ¾ yard of each of your four fabrics and cut TWO triangle wedges horizontally. You'll need to make sure to select fabrics that will work if cut horizontally. In other words, you can't choose something with a strong vertical directional print. But, you can get away with buying just four ¾ yard cuts instead of eight ¾ yard cuts.
Project Design: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation: Dianne LeBlanc