Making an improv tree block starts with the right tools [free quilting tutorial]

Over the past two weeks, I saw many posts on social media about Christmas in July and local quilt shops showing new 2022 Christmas fabrics. This gave me the idea to make a simple, easy-to-make Christmas-themed tree quilt. I’m making tree blocks in three different ways. By the time this quilt is finished, I’ll have another quilt ready for the birth of my friend’s next child.

Tree quilt

This quilt measures 34½” x 44½”.

Here are some of the awesome tools I’m using to create this week’s quilt.

·         SCHMETZ needles

·         OLFA 45mm Splash Rotary Cutter in navy blue

·         OLFA 12½″ Square Frosted Acrylic Ruler

·         OLFA 6″ x 12″ Frosted Acrylic Ruler

·         Heirloom 24″ x 36″ Double Sided Cutting Mat

·         Oliso M2Pro Mini Project Iron with Solemate – Orchid

·         UNIQUE Quilting Wool Pressing Mat – 14″ x 14″ – Gray

Tools used for this week’s quilt

Here are other essential materials for this week’s project.

  • 1yd [0.92m] fabric for the first tree
  • 1yd [0.92m] fabric for the second tree
  • 1½” [1.27cm] fabric strip for tree trunks
  • ⅔yd [0.61m] fabric for lattice
  • ⅓yd [0.31m] fabric for binding
  • 1½yds [1.4m] fabric for backing

Before I get to today’s block, I want to talk about sewing needles. What needle should we use for sewing or quilting? The safest bet is to get a variety pack such as the SCHMETZ #1739 Quilting Needles Carded – Assorted Sizes or the SCHMETZ #1856 Piecing and Quilting Needles Pack Carded – Assorted.

As there are no industry standards when it comes to thread weight (wt), needle size is important. Most quilters sew with 50wt threads; therefore size 80/12 or 90/14 needles work best. Why? The small channel on the front of the needle and the needle’s eye are the correct sizes for the 50wt threads.

If the same thread brand and size are always used, then only one size needle is required. But for a quilter like myself, on some projects I switch thread brands, causing me to use multiple-size needles. I often use three to five different brands for one project.

Here are three other reasons why I like assorted packs.

  1. There are two to three needle sizes per card making them great to bring to a workshop or retreat.
  2. The size included in the assorted packs is the most commonly used by quilters.
  3. It’s easier to bring one multi-pack than bring several packs of several sizes.

SCHMETZ needles assorted pack

Now the fun begins.

From each of the two fabrics you selected to make the trees, use the OLFA 12½″ x 12½” square ruler to cut eight 10” x 10” blocks. Once the blocks are cut, pair them, putting the wrong side of one with the right side of the other.

This is the fun part. Place the OLFA 6” x 12” ruler diagonally on a fabric pair.

Place the OLFA 6” x 12” ruler diagonally on a fabric pair.

Note: Don’t start a diagonal line from a corner. It’s better to start at least 1” from the corner.

As you can see in the above photo, the ruler more or less goes to the center.

Once the ruler is where I want it to be, I cut through both layers of fabrics and separate both pairs. I then place the ruler diagonally going in the other direction and cut as shown below.

Make a second cut by placing the ruler diagonally in the other direction.

There are now two tree shape triangles and two sets of background. Use the fabrics you last cut, and with a ¼” seam, sew the tree shapes to the opposite color for both sets.

My iron and ironing board are not in my studio, and I’m ok with this as it gets me off my chair and makes me move. When I know I’ll be pressing a lot in a short period, I set up a small pressing station next to my sewing machine with the UNIQUE quilting wool pressing mat. With my Oliso Pro Mini Project Iron, I’m all set to press. For this project, I press toward the darker fabrics.

Press toward the darker fabric.

If the two pieces don’t perfectly align after sewing and pressing, simply trim.

To ensure there is a straight edge, trim.

After trimming the edge, sew on the other piece of background fabric to the tree fabric.

Now the first of two tree blocks is complete.

Two completed tree blocks.

Normally the next step is to square off the blocks. But, for today they’re staying as they are. I’ll talk about trimming in Thursday’s post.

I enjoyed all the tools I used today, especially setting up my mini sewing station using the UNIQUE quilting wool pressing mat and the Oliso Pro Mini Project Iron. I can’t suggest strongly enough how important it is to have these items in your sewing tools collection. Trust me, they won’t go to waste.

UNIQUE quilting wool pressing mat and an Oliso Pro Mini Project Iron

Tomorrow’s post will be as easy as today’s as I’ll demonstrate another way to make the tree blocks. Make sure to come back to see how I do it.

This is part 1 of 5 in this series

Go to part 2: Marking your fabric to cut duplicate blocks – no pattern required

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