My quilting journey takes me into Holiday projects

I love every season of the year. I embrace the changing seasons from crocuses and seedlings in the spring, to the heat of summer, right through the cool weather, falling leaves and pumpkin pies of fall, to cold winter days with snow to shovel and soup on the stove. My quilting hobby works in every season – rainy spring days and summer thunderstorms, cool autumn nights and winter snowstorms all draw me inside to my sewing room and another project. I was thinking about whether I actually have a favorite project…I did love the finished product of last month’s birds and thankfully, so did my friend. It makes me feel warm inside to think that babies snuggle in the baby quilts I made and that my friend and mentor has her Dresden plate table runner on her dining room table. The joy that quilting brings to me and others and the purpose it gives to a day is worth all the ripping one has to do when mismatching a seam or making a seam too wide…or in my case, don’t quite read the instructions and I have to recut all the logs for my log cabin squares. My journey continues with a Christmas Tree Table Runner, I found this pattern at Mine will, as usual be an adaptation of color; I’m using reds and greens for my trees. As for the orientation, I want my trees to face each other, and who knows what else!

My selection of fabrics was a fun process, pinecones, solid red and red snowflakes, a white and gray Christmas tree background and some brown vine-covered fabric from my stash for the trunks. The other fabric was a find at my local fabric store at 30% off!

The completed Christmas tree table runner

Fabric for my fall hibernation Christmas tree table runner

When you find yourself getting absorbed in the hobby of quilting, you’ll find some indispensable tools to make your journey easier. With this in mind, my friend recommended a log cabin ruler. I’ll never regret this purchase, as it made making the strips so much easier. I discovered that the cutting was very precise when I started sewing the log cabin block together. I ended up with two: the Quilt in a Day Log Cabin Ruler and the My Favorite Log Cabin Ruler. Both rulers have different measurements on them, one for 1½” or 2½” logs and one for both 1¾” and 1⅛” logs. I needed this one for my sampler quilt I’m making for my bed. I learned this the hard way when I cut all the logs for my quilt 2½” and, upon further reading and studying, found I needed 1¾” in logs. It cost me a bit of time recutting my logs but, lesson learned…read at least three times before you cut.

Completed log cabin for my bedroom sampler quilt.

I used the other ruler to cut the strips for my Christmas tree table runner, these are 2½” strips – don’t worry, I checked 3 times to make sure I read it properly.

The log cabin ruler measuring strips for the Christmas tree table runner

The layout for the tree on the Christmas tree table runner.

All the pieces are cut and ready to sew! I cut out enough pieces to make four tree blocks even though the pattern calls for two. Will I still make a table runner or will I make placemats? Who knows? I also swapped out the red-patterned fabric on the top for a mottled Christmas and dark red fabric. I didn’t like the snowflake effect on the top of the tree – it was too difficult to fussy cut the pieces and it didn’t give the desired effect. It’s so important to lay things out and consider your options from a variety of perspectives – a good lesson for life in general.

All the strips are ready to be sewn into a Christmas tree block.

I’ve completed one block. This pattern is definitely for beginners, so don’t feel afraid to jump right in and give it a try. I managed to sew one strip on upside down and I had to learn to make sure that the small Christmas trees on the background pattern were sewn on the right way up but, other than that this is a simple quilting experience that builds confidence and leaves you with options – placements, table runner, lots of possibilities.

Tree #1 is assembled.

I’m definitely developing a personal style when I quilt. When I first started quilting, I did everything in a very similar way to my mentors. Although, I still get lots of advice from them (especially on my sampler quilt for the bedroom), I now have the confidence to branch out and find my own way of assembling projects by trying things that they’ve not yet done and I’m always learning, learning, learning. One of the tips for putting together the layers of the tree is to ensure that the background trees are facing the right direction when you make the triangle shape. I used the iron to create the fold, made sure it was correct on the tree fabric and then sewed it together, pressing and cutting the extra triangle off. Sewing the long pieces together once assembled is best to do after you’ve pressed everything carefully. I find that the fabric works best when I press it together as I’m pinning, using steam to seal it before I actually sew it – this is definitely a mentor tip.

In my retirement, I think a lot about how I want to live. At this stage in my life, I’m so happy that I found quilting, not only because of the pandemic but, it has added a dimension to my life that allows me to think about myself while giving to others. I can thumb my nose at convention and bring everything that life has taught me to the table when I’m planning a project. I love the feeling of being a novice. There’s nothing like being bad at something (at first) to wake you up, shake you out of your complacency and energize you and get your synapses firing. Quilting has helped me keep good company with smart, engaged, curious, loving, funny and kind people who inspire me every day – not only with quilting but, with how they live with purpose, freedom, fulfillment and honesty. Being able to lose myself in a quilting project helps me feel smarter, healthier, more vital, creative, and more open than I ever thought I’d feel in retirement.   

I’m now working on assembling my trees into a table runner. This means that I’m creating the pieces that will join my trees together. I like to take my own path, so I inverted the triangles and made the main part red instead of white. I like my result. We’ve talked many times as a quilting group about how one of our favorite parts of quilting is the fabrics. I don’t usually buy kits, as I like to see what I have in the sewing room and then browse to find things that compliment and add to my project. I’m growing a collection of fabrics and now I keep containers of various sizes of fabric, from very tiny to medium to large pieces stacked on shelves. Completing my paper piecing projects has taught me that no fabric piece is too small and tiny pieces can actually be shared with birds to build their nests.

Joining the blocks.

Adding the red strip to the table runner.

Completing the runner made me realize that I needed a border. In my stash, I found some beautiful, shiny silver that worked. So, I added a 1½” border to the entire quilt, cut the batting and I’ll use the red as the backing. Once I’ve pinned everything in place, I’ll decide what machine quilting to add to enhance my finished product.

Ready to add the backing.

As I write this, Christmas is about 2 months away so, that gives you lots of time to try this project and lots of others that you’ll find on I machine quilted with stitch-in-the-ditch around the trees and traced small trees on the joined red strips and machine quilted those as well. I felt extremely brave this time when I quilted in a contrasting color that would actually show up vividly on the fabric (white thread on red). I’ve never done this because I was never very confident in my work…. you grow every day as a quilter. I used the extra fabric around the edges method for creating the border. I was very close on my fabric so, the edging was only 1¼” but, it worked out great.

Contrasting white on red machine quilting on the back.

Another project complete and ready to present to my friend (the same that received the Dresden plate table runner) for her Holiday Table. Life has changed so much for me when I retired two year ago. I was taken into the fold by two very remarkable women who’ve shown me friendship, laughter and introduced me to my quilting life. I’m always thinking about my next project and I have lots of projects on the go.

My husband bought me a hexagon book for Christmas last year (52 blocks to English paper piece) so, I’ll make some table centers next month. In addition, I’ll show you some sampler blocks I’m working on for my bedroom quilt, and remember those birds of a feather? Well, I’m making some of those for a friend for a Christmas gift. Once you start down the quilting path, a whole new world opens up. Life can be challenging, we certainly live in strange times right now but, if you open yourself up to trying something new, you can spend hours on a rainy or snowy, or isolating day. When negative thoughts creep in, I can pick up some beautiful fabrics and a challenging, or easy, quilting project and away I go creating; pushing myself and thinking of ways I can brighten up someone’s life. Getting outside yourself and your own thoughts and focusing on a worthwhile project is always a healthy choice. So, dig into quilting and remember, you’ll be better tomorrow than you are today – you just have to set goals, practice and never give up.

The finished product ready for your Holiday table.

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1 comment

Ryan November 2, 2020 - 8:29 pm
I love it, so much math in it!
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