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Saturday, 9 December 2017

Free Pattern/Tutorial: Hanging Christmas Tree

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
A DIY Christmas tree for small — and flat — spaces!
Almost bang on four years into my blogging adventure and today I present my first holiday themed project.

It's a Christmas tree for those who lack the physical space for either a real or fake one. Or for those who can't be bothered to put up a tree for a myriad other reasons.

For example, several years ago, my hubby and I were bogged down by various things and we ended up just stringing lights on our fig tree. I suppose since it was still a tree, it wasn't a total cop-out, but what I'm saying that I totally understand that for some folks, it's a matter of time, priorities, and state of mind. For people in certain circumstances, putting up a tree and then taking it down may not be the most pleasant thing to do. (In fact, count me among them. We put up our tree this past week and I can confirm that increasingly, it's become a chore.)

Therefore, my suggestion is to take a couple of hours to craft this easy to sew (and store) hanging Christmas tree and you're covered for years to come. It also makes a good gift for college students living in dorm rooms.

Your first thought might be that this is merely a wall hanging, but this tree is currently displayed in the front window of my house for viewing from both sides.


Here's what you need to make yourself a hanging Christmas tree:
  • 1 yard of fabric (quilting cotton weight)
  • 20" of 1" wide ribbon (cut into ten 2" pieces)
  • medium weight fusible interfacing (enough to cover all of the fabric, which works out to be about half a yard)
  • 1/2" grommet
  • 1 hair elastic (or thick elastic band)
  • some decorations
  • basic sewing notions & tools (thread, clips, pins, scissors, iron, etc.)
By the way, this project would be great to practice some basic quilting on, so if you want to try it, add some batting to the above list.

My fabric — from a Craftsy Robert Kaufman mystery box — is a rich print of brown and green shades that seemed perfect for a tree.

fabric from Robert Kaufman's Imperial Fusions Katsumi collection
Fabric from Robert Kaufman's Imperial Fusions Katsumi collection...

Which is not to say that you can't make an eclectic tree from rainbow-hued fabric... the choice is obviously yours. (Speaking of fabric, though, if you make yourself a paper template and cut it up per the upcoming instructions, you then have the option to use an assortment of different fabrics to make this, which can also produce a fun result.)

The ribbon is from my stash of Dollarama ribbon.

Red ribbon with polka dots...

Finished project is approximately 37" high x 20.5" wide (depends on your fabric and how you space out the segments).

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Square up your yard of fabric so that you have a true rectangle, as close to 44" x 36" as possible.

Take your piece of fabric and fold it in half, selvage to selvage...

... so that it measures about 22" x 36". After folding, the wrong side should be showing.

Fold it in half again so that it is now approximately 11" x 36". The first fold and the two selvage edges should be together along the bottom. (You might want to fold just to the inside of the selvages.)

Next, measure and draw a line for subsequent cutting, or just measure and cut in one step. A yardstick is helpful to guide your way from one corner of the folded fabric to the opposite corner, as shown below. (Again, avoid cutting into the selvages.)

Unfold the top part of this (labelled "keep" in the above graphic) to get two layers of an isosceles triangle; i.e., your tree shape. (You won't need the bottom part, although you can make yourself a second tree if you sew a couple of the pieces together and adjust the size a bit.)

The next step is to divide this into six segments, at 5" intervals.

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
Divide your triangle into six segments...

Pin the two layers together if required and make your cuts.

While you've got your slicing tools handy, cut your ribbon into ten (10) pieces, each 2" long.


Using the cut segments of fabric as a guide, cut out matching pieces of a medium weight fusible interfacing for each piece of fabric. (I used Décor Bond.)

If you can manage it, cut the interfacing a 1/4" smaller than the fabric to keep the bulk out of the seams.

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
Cut interfacing for all twelve fabric pieces... (the tip of my tree is missing from this picture!)

Fuse the interfacing to each corresponding piece of fabric. (I like to use pins to ensure that the interfacing doesn't slide out of place. Once I make a first pass with the iron, I remove the pins.)

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
Fuse interfacing onto all fabric pieces... 

Pin all of the interfaced paired pieces with right sides together. If there is a print on the fabric that you want to match up from segment to segment, check to see that they are stacked together properly.

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As you can see, each segment is connected to the next via two strips of ribbon. (I will refer to the top triangle piece as segment #1, the next one as segment #2, etc.)

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
The sewing part of this project consists of straight lines only...

To accomplish this, each segment is sewn individually, with the bottom seam encasing the top end of the ribbon pieces. (When the segments are turned right side out through a gap left across the top seam, the bottom ends of the ribbons from the previous segment are then slipped between the fabric pieces and joined together during a topstitching process.)

Let's do this assembly line style and start with segment #1.

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
Position the ribbon pieces...

Sandwich the ribbon pieces between the two fabric pieces as shown above, each one 1.5" in from the left and right sides. (By the way, your actual pieces of fabric may be a little wider or narrower than mine, depending on how it was cut.)
NOTE: Just an FYI... when the ribbon is placed right side up as shown, the fabric directly underneath it will be the back side of the finished tree. If you want to be able to display the finished tree on either side, double the length of the ribbons (i.e., to 4") and fold them in half before pinning here (with raw edges of ribbon matching the raw edge of the fabric).
I often find it helpful to colour-code my pins. In the picture below, the turning gap is marked off with orange pins and the ribbon pieces are held together by green pins.

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
My orange pins mark where I start and end my stitching...

Retrieve the fabric for segment #2. For this one, the ribbons should be located 2" in from the left and right sides, as shown below.

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
Place the ribbon 2" in from the outside on both edges for segment #2...

For segments #3, #4 and #5 (note that segment #6 has no ribbons along the bottom), locate the ribbons 3" in from each side.

Once the ribbons are properly pinned in place, arrange the stacked segments back into the original triangular shape to determine the location of the turning gaps across the top. Each opening needs to be wide enough to accommodate the bottom ends of both ribbons from the previous piece. (The turning gap will therefore be quite wide on segment #6.)

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
Include sufficient room to accommodate the ribbon ends when you mark the turning gap...

Once again, the orange pins mark the beginning and end of the turning gap, and the green pins indicate where the ribbons are located.

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
All pinned and ready for sewing!

Once you have all of the important locations marked, add any other pins necessary so you can start sewing. Stitch around the perimeter of each stacked segment (apart from the turning gap, of course), using a 1/4" seam allowance.


Before turning anything right side out, clip the excess fabric from the corners as shown here. Cut away the tip from each corner, as well as some of the seam allowance on either side approaching the corner. Be careful not to cut into your stitching.

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
Carefully clip away the excess fabric from the corners...

One last thing before you turn these right side out: go to your iron and press open the seam allowances for all of the turning gaps. (This will make it easier to keep a straight edge once it's turned.)

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
Press open the seam allowance at the turning gap...

Okay, now you can turn everything right side out.

Use a dull implement like a chopstick to help you with the corners. (Be careful... I was overly enthusiastic and poked a hole through one of them!) For best results, slide whatever tool you're using along the straight edge of the seam first before heading into the corner.

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
One step closer to the finish line...

Press all of the pieces after they've been turned right side out. (Careful not to scorch the ribbons.)


This final step will be the most challenging, because you have to manage these large connected pieces as you go.

Let's begin with segment #1 again: pin the opening closed and topstitch right around at about 1/8".

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
There — the top of the tree is done!

Slip the ends of the ribbon from segment #1 into the turning gap of segment #2 — leaving 1.25" to 1.5" of the ribbon exposed — and pin securely. Topstitch all the way around to close the gap and secure the first two segments together.

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
Leave a gap of 1.25" to 1.5" between each segment...

Whatever gap you choose to leave between each segment, be consistent all the way through. (I ultimately went with 1.25".)

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
The gap here is 1.25"...

Now join segment #3 to this assembly in the same way.

I went to the other end of the tree next and joined together segments #5 and #6. Because they're so big, they might be tricky to move around if left until the very end. Then I added segment #4 to the top of it.

Lastly, I joined #3 and #4 together.

Of course, it's strictly your preference as to how you do this; I'm not sure that any one method is better than any other.

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
Add a grommet...
All that's left now is to install a grommet for hanging at the very tip of the tree and loop an elastic through it. (If you don't have a grommet or don't want to bother with a grommet, you can make do with a push pin or thumb tack if the intent is simply to hang it on a wall.)

The tree is now ready for trimming!

In terms of decorations, I literally found what I needed around the house.

These red and brown stretchy ribbons — tied up in a bow attached to a small bell — were sitting on top of a ceramic candy jar on an end table in our living room. The remains of my snacking over the past year, they used to adorn the necks of those marvelously smooth chocolate bunnies from Lindt.

Recycling some Lindt bunny collars...

The two larger red bows had been looped around our front closet door knobs for some time... I don't recall where they originally came from.

Hanging Christmas Tree by eSheep Designs
Used as a wall hanging...

All together, they easily raise the level of cheer on my hanging Christmas tree by one hundred percent!

Other suggestions for decorations include buttons that can be sewn directly onto the fabric. Actual small Christmas tree decorations can be attached with safety pins for easy removal. You might even go all out and make small envelopes out of felt, number them and turn this into an advent calendar using hook and loop tape.

Maybe get adventurous by using totally different pieces of fabric. Or try variegated fabric. Or maybe start with relatively plain fabric and embellish with ric-rac trim or Christmas themed appliqués. I'm sure you can think of all sorts of ideas for turning this into a work of art.

Hope you enjoy!

Like it? Want to keep it? For a copy of this tutorial in PDF format, go to my Craftsy shop and download it for free!

Terms of Use

If you are "sew" inclined, feel free to make and sell as many Hanging Christmas Trees as you care to; I only ask that you reference this blog by attaching the following card to the item.

eSheep Designs swing tag

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Fabric Swatch Challenge [FSC Pt 1]

eSheep Designs' Spoonflower Swatches
I've collected a lot of Spoonflower swatches!
I recently dug into the depths of one of the storage boxes under my ironing shelf and found a bunch of Spoonflower swatches.

These are 8" squares of fabric used to proof a design before offering it up for sale. I'd forgotten about these, but in seeing them again, I thought that I should probably put them to use somehow.

Thus begins a personal challenge to find things to make out of Spoonflower swatches.

And as we enter December (where did the year just go?) with gift-giving season just around the corner, these upcoming posts may also give you some last-minute handmade gift ideas for those nearest and dearest to you.

A couple of years ago, I found a perfect project for Spoonflower swatches: Amy Butler's Key Keeper Coin Purse. The problem is, I absolutely do not need any more of those. And since I'm not really in a position to sell the things that I make, it serves no purpose to make a lot of something that I personally can't use.

Luckily, I found a couple of projects from A Spoonful of Sugar that served up the appropriate amount of inspiration (links at end of post).

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The first project is a small drawstring gift pouch (and therefore a great option for wrapping a stocking stuffer), but it's functioning as a container of sorts beside my computer. It also solves a problem that I had been having.

Fabric Gift Pouch crafted by eSheep Designs
My gift pouch "basket"...

You can see a small tin of mints and a Lip Smacker in it; they used to just sit on my desk by themselves. However, I adjust my computer monitor up or down depending on whether I am sitting or standing, and whenever I moved it downwards, the Lip Smacker would invariably catch under the edge of the monitor and go flying off somewhere... or it would jarringly block the monitor entirely.

In any case, it was an annoyance. I figured if put these things in a small container, the problem would be solved. And so it is now solved, by this cute little pouch made out of two swatches from my Paisley Project collection. The drawstring is made out of some ribbon.

Nothing else is required for this little pouch, so it is the essence of simplicity!

The second project is a reversible fabric basket. Construction is similar to my stacking CD baskets, only the top edge is bound with bias tape and finished by hand.

Reversible fabric basket crafted by eSheep Designs
I modified the basket slightly by adding a padded base...

The original specs just call for some batting on one of the fabrics, but I added a 4" circle cut from my blanket remnant and sewed around it in the middle to form a base.

Reversible fabric basket crafted by eSheep Designs
Put to use...
This basket is now a new home for my generic Wonder clips. (Should they just be called clips? What's the proper nomenclature for these when they're not the Clover brand?) In the picture below, it is paired with a hot pad — a third project — made out of similar fabric (all selections from my Inspiration collection).

Spoonflower swatch projects crafted by eSheep Designs
Fabric basket and hot pad...

The hot pad didn't require a pattern or tutorial. I merely sewed two swatches together, inserted a square of the blanket "padding" inside, stitched around the perimeter to close it up and then quilted two diagonal lines across the surface.

Nothing could be simpler... or more boring; I know. A hot pad is probably the default project for a Spoonflower swatch!

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Because Spoonflower fabric comes with borders, each swatch was cut so that it had a 1/4" white border around it, so in fact, I was working with 8.5" squares of fabric.

I also used some of the excess border fabric to create the binding for the top rim of the basket. Having recently purchased a bias tape maker (generic; eBay), I tested it out for the first time here.

bias tape maker
Making my own binding tape...

It really is a handy little tool, once you're able to feed the fabric through. (I did find it odd that the thing itself doesn't come with an easy way of getting the initial bit of fabric through to the other side.)

In terms of my swatch-busting, however, I've only used up six swatches with these projects. Many more are waiting to be turned into something interesting and useful.

Then as I sat fiddling around with the hot pad, I ended up with this configuration... any guesses as to what my next swatch project is going to be??

Spoonflower swatch projects crafted by eSheep Designs
The hot pad gave me an idea to revisit an early freebie of mine...

In the meantime, please share any ideas that you might have for what to do with eight inch squares of fabric.

By the way, here are the two links to the original tutorials from A Spoonful of Sugar: the basket and the gift pouch. Either one of them can be filled with special goodies to complete a gift.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Shedding a Few Tears Over Sears... with a Funny Story

No more Sears...
It's sort of appropriate that this weekend marks the biggest shopping event of the year in the US, because this post — which just happened to be scheduled for this week — relates to shopping.

Unlike the numerous kinds of shopping available to most of us this weekend, I grew up in a couple of very small remote communities with extremely limited shopping options. Both places had a "Bay" (i.e., The Bay, AKA The Hudson's Bay Company) and fortunately enough, they were very much representative of traditional department stores of that era, selling groceries, clothing, hardware and furniture.

And yes, they had a fabric and pattern department that very much sustained my mother's — and later my — sewing efforts.

Therefore, the short story is that all of us were able to clothe and feed our families and generally maintain a household even without thirty — or even three — different retail options.

Supplementing that lack of choice, however, were a couple of retailing giants who each spun off at least three catalogs a year for our home shopping pleasure. We knew them as Eaton's and Simpsons Sears (later, just Sears). Between the two of them, I was always more of a Sears customer. To this day, I don't recall anything that I may have ordered from Eaton's, but can remember everything from toys to my grad dress to my sewing machine that came from Sears.

We lost Eaton's in 1999. (Ironically, some of its remnants were picked up by Sears at the time.) A little over a month ago, we officially began the process of losing Sears.

And in a very real way, it's been heart-rending.

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On the first day of liquidation sales, I happened to be nearby and decided to go in and check it out. Just from seeing those loud yellow and red signs on the door (that I had last seen on Target Canada doors two and a half years ago), I found myself feeling anxious and oddly emotional.

Once inside, it occurred to me that I had never seen the store so full of people... not even at Christmas.

A small part of me silently admonished the crowd with the thought that, "if all of you had supported the company over the past decade, it would never have come to this". But that's not fair; the sorry tale of Sears actually features a lot of top level management mistakes that had nothing to do with shoppers.

A memorable post holiday haul from Sears in 2014... all this for hubby (shoes were mine) for under $100!

The thing is, 21st century retail is an increasingly difficult puzzle to solve. Maybe Sears could have made some adjustments a decade ago that would have changed their fortunes for the better. Or maybe, like everything else on earth, all retail companies have a finite lifespan and there is just no saving them when their time is up.

In the meantime, it's probably not an exaggeration to say that 75% of the clothing that my husband, my mother, and I own, comes from Sears. My whole family now has to adjust to shopping elsewhere. And truthfully, we don't see any viable alternatives. "The Bay" — the department store that saw me through my childhood — is not a place I regularly go to, nor like. (It's pretentious and pricey... and realistically speaking, its days are numbered too.)

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You might wonder why I'm writing a blog post about this. Well, in the past few years, I've noted that Sears continues to carry a range of sewing machine accessories, particularly for their Kenmore brand. I recall telling my mother that if this day comes to pass, I'm going to have to pick up some of those little items.

Well, three days into liquidation, I went back to Sears — to pick up an online order. (The timing of the order was extremely fortuitous. It was submitted on the evening of October 9; the news came out on October 10 that they were going out of business. Two days later, their e-commerce site was pulled.) Before I went to the merchandise pick up counter, I scoped out the sewing area. To my utter surprise, it was already picked through.

Why was I surprised? Because there was no actual discount marked anywhere. Oh, the big signs all over the place indicated savings between 20% and 50% but there was also the accompanying small print stating "some exceptions apply".

I took two items and figured that, even if there's no discount on them, let it be a matter of me supporting the store one more time. (After all, who knew if I could stomach coming in here again; the whole liquidation atmosphere made me extremely uncomfortable.)

Anyway, here is the funny story that I promised in the title of this post.

Saving a "negative percentage"... 

Do you see the prices circled on the items and on the receipt in the above picture? In case they aren't clear, the needles are marked $4.99 on the package but rang through at $5.49. The bobbin thingies are marked $4.49 on the package but came through as $4.79.

That's right. I went to a liquidation sale and paid MORE than sticker price.

[This is apparently not unheard of, if you understand how liquidations work. Everything from the store/company has been sold to a liquidation company that oversees the operation from that point forward, including the all important matter of setting prices on merchandise. The point is actually to make back as much money as possible to pay off creditors, not to give customers a great deal. I realized this, yet did not actually suppose for one moment that I would end up paying a higher price.]

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In this case, what was worse was having to deal with a ditzy sales person who initially said that the price difference was because of tax.

When I showed her where the amount of tax appeared separately on the receipt, she rescanned the items and told me that those are the prices and that she has no ability to adjust them, due to the liquidation. Not only that — again, because of the "final sale" aspect of the liquidation — she couldn't refund me the items if I didn't want them.

I brushed aside a momentary fit of pique to appreciate the total irony and insanity of the situation and headed downstairs to pick up my online order.

The last laugh was probably mine. The order I picked up consisted of two pairs of sandals, each marked down from $39.99 to $14.97, a savings of over 62%. In the store, footwear was currently being liquidated at 20% off. Had I been able to find those shoes — and in these types of clearance sales, there is no way of establishing what store has what stock, so good luck with that scenario — they would have been selling for $31.99 a pair... or more.

But all things considered, there is no last laugh to be had. It may only be the latest casualty of modern retailing, but I'm going to miss Sears.

It feels as though little by little, time is chipping away at significant stuff from my youth.

Seems like only a moment ago, I was eleven...

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Repurposing My Way to a New Ironing Mat

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
My jumbo ironing mat!
Semi-interesting fact: I've never owned a full-size ironing board.

Not sure if that's unusual, but all I've ever had is the mini table-top version. And since the one I have was not constructed with a steel base, it's gotten warped over the years.

The advantage of one of these things is that it can be placed virtually anywhere and doesn't take up a whole lot of space. Ever since my sewing journey began, my little board has had a home in my sewing room, on top of a shelf in front of the window.

My sad little ironing board...

If I had a full-size ironing board, you can be assured I wouldn't have it sitting out and open all the time.

When I recently made the decision to improve my ironing station (after purchasing a new iron), I pondered whether to make a large pad that I could put on any surface, or turn the top of this shelving unit into a larger ironing "board".

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After mulling it over — and ordering a yard of Insul-Bright — I thought, why not do both?

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
Gathering my materials to make an ironing mat...

Easy to use...
A yard of Insul-Bright comes in a 45" width, so it's a decent size. Combined with still more of that duvet cover fabric after last week's sewing machine cover project, I added some extra padding and protection to the mix by re-purposing a blanket (last used as a substitute for Flex Foam or Soft and Stable on my Summit Pack).

Therefore, this qualifies as an recycling project. A quick visit to your nearest thrift store should yield inexpensive bed sheets, duvet covers and blankets if you don't happen to have any at home that you can repurpose.

The result is a fairly large mat that can do double duty as a topper for my shelf as well as for a large counter or table top. (On the shelf, the excess part just hangs off the back against the wall.)

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
My expanded ironing "board"...

For this project, I didn't even bother measuring any of the materials. I just used the Insul-Bright as a template and cut around it. (The fabric was cut about half an inch larger all the way around.)

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
Stacking the four layers...

The four resulting pieces were then stacked in this fashion: the blanket, the Insul-Bright, the top fabric piece (right side up), the bottom fabric piece (right side down).

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Then it was just a matter of pinning and sewing all the way around, leaving a turning gap. After turning, I closed up the opening and topstitched all the way around the perimeter.

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
Closing the gap...

And of course, it sounds easy, but when dealing with something of this size, the layers are bound to shift. I probably could have gotten better results by basting everything first, but in the end, it's just an ironing mat and I wasn't seeking perfection.

My first instinct was to use binder clips to secure the mat to the top of the shelf, like this...

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
Trying out some binder clips...

They seemed too strong, however, so I attached four sets of adhesive hook and loop "dots" instead.

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
...but adhesive velcro dots come to the rescue...

Despite being "just" adhesive, these things hold quite well to fabric. They'll do the job in this situation and I don't have to be concerned about something being permanently fixed onto the shelf. (By the way, I do keep an old towel underneath to absorb any excess moisture that comes through during steaming.)

Ironing Mat by eSheep Designs
My new ironing station ready to go!

Quite happy with how this turned out. Not only do I have a larger surface on which to iron — three feet by almost four feet when laid out in full — it's actually flat and not concave! (I've seen smaller projects made with strips of magnets for securing to the tops of washing machines, which is another handy idea.)

Oh, and given the recycling factor, my only real cost associated with the project was $11 CDN for the Insul-Bright.

Do you do your sewing related ironing on a traditional ironing board... or do you have something a bit different?