Advent Tree

Materials

  • Eight assorted fat quarters of green
  • 40cm each of three different cream fabrics
  • 10cm of red - or can be scraps of different reds
  • Scrap of brown for the trunk
  • 86 x 80cm of wadding
  • 86 x 80cm of backing
  • 24 star shaped buttons
  • 40cm of red felt for decorations
  • Gold fabric paint for numbers
  • Gold thread for hanging decorations
  • Glittery red thread for sewing decorations
  • 24 chocolate tree decorations or sweets

Finished Size

32 x 30in (81 x 76cm)

Skill Level

Beginner/Family

This charming pine tree patchwork would function as a delightful hanging in its own right. Or you can add the decorations to make it into an advent calendar that can come out year after year. Designed and made by Davina Thomas who says, "I wasn't going to include the chocolates initially but there was such shock in the editors office that I quickly added them. The only danger is you have to test each one to make sure it is good enough, so I must have put on half a stone. Maybe I'll make some patchwork jogging trousers for our special dieting issue after Christmas!"

Making the blocks

To make this project simple enough to be sewn before Christmas, all the strips are the same width - 1 1⁄2in. The tree and background are formed by log cabin blocks. There are three different colourways, traditional blocks with half green/half cream and blocks that are all cream or all green (see Figure 1).

  1. Cut some 1 1⁄2in wide strips of each red, cream and green fabric. Sew a red strip and a cream strip together and press towards the cream fabric. 2Cut into pairs that are 1 1⁄2in wide, lay another cream strip RS up and place the pairs RS down leaving a small gap between each pair. Sew the seam in one continuous seam (this technique is called chain sewing).

Note: Remember to keep the fabric you have just added towards you when you are sewing each time. Doing this, you won't start going round the wrong way on some log cabin blocks.

  1. Press open and trim level with the edge of the first two strips.
  2. Continue adding strips in this fashion, two cream then two green until the block is complete.
  3. Make ten blocks like this with half green and half cream strips. Make ten with all green strips for the centre of the tree and make eight blocks with all cream strips for the background. Keep any extra strips that you have cut off as you may need them later.

Finishing the Tree

Using the plan in Figure 2, sew the blocks into rows. The second and fourth row will need some filler strips added to bring up to the same width as the first and third rows. Cut the filler strips from some 1 1⁄2in cream pieces you saved earlier. Join the rows into one piece.

Cut:

  • Twenty eight cream strips 5in long
  • Twenty eight 1 1⁄2in squares in greens
  • A strip of brown 2 x 5in for the trunk
Figure 1: The three blocks
Figure 1: The three blocks
  1. Divide your cream strips into two piles. Lay a green square RS together on the end of each cream strip and sew exactly on the diagonal. As they are small you may get away without marking the line first. Make sure you sew in the opposite direction on each pile to get the triangles pointing correctly - see the photo and Figure 3.
  2. Press open and trim away the extra fabric on the back. Starting with the trunk in the middle, sew strips to either side until it measures the same as your tree piece. Don't worry if you need one more or one less strip - small differences in seam allowances make a big difference when there are lots of seams in a row. Just trim it level with the sides if needed when it is sewn in place. For clarity Figure 2 shows the correct position of the triangles, although you will probably have more strips.
  3. Add this pieced strip to the main section and press well.
  4. Add two triangles to two long cream strips as before and then join the two strips together. This forms the top of the tree and the border at the same time. Sew in place matching the triangles to the top of the log cabin tree. Trim off any excess level with the sides of the quilt top. This is the top border.
  5. Sew a cream strip to the bottom of the quilt top. Repeat by adding strips to the sides. These can be one length or pieced if you only have scraps left. Press everything well.
Figure 2: Layout plan for whole tree
Figure 2: Layout plan for whole tree
Figure 3: Sewing the tree fringe
Figure 3: Sewing the tree fringe

Quilting and Binding

  1. Cut a piece of wadding and a piece of backing fabric a little larger all round than your quilt top.
  2. Press the backing fabric and lay RS down on a flat surface and spread the wadding over. Lay the quilt top RS up on the top and pin together. If you are going to hand quilt, tack the top about 6in apart in lines from top to bottom and from side to side. If you are machine quilting you could use safety pins which dont get caught up in the machine feet as easily.
  3. Quilt as much as you want and have time for. The tree has buttons for the decorations to hang on so does not need any extra quilting and you could tie the background as well. This quilt has curved shapes quilted on the branches and random quilting by machine on the background.
  4. Sew the buttons in place making sure they are spread out evenly over the tree.
  5. To bind the quilt join enough 1 1⁄2in strips to go all round the quilt with about 10in extra.
  6. Sew RS together to the quilt top with a 1⁄4in seam. Fold to the back and turn under a hem and catch down. This quilt has mitred corners but you can use four strips and bind each side separately if you prefer.

The Decorations

  1. Draw Christmas shapes such as stockings, stars and baubles, onto cardboard or template plastic and draw round onto the felt. Dont cut out at this stage.
  2. Make 48 shapes with matching pairs for back and front. Write the numbers onto one of each pair with the gold fabric paint and leave to dry for 24 hours or longer.
  3. Cut out carefully, layer a back, a small amount of stuffing or wadding and a top and stitch with a running stitch close to the edge.
  4. Make a hanging loop with glittery thread, having the knots on the back.

Options

  • Keep the numbers in a bag and find the right number and hang onto the tree on the correct day.
  • Hang the chocolates on the tree and choose which one you want to eat everyday. Hang that number in place of the chocolate.
  • Make a hanging line from piping cord and hang the numbers on this ready to take off each day or use pegs to hang on a line.
  • Add extra buttons to the bottom of the quilt and hang the numbers on these.
  • Hang the numbers and chocolates together on the tree and just eat the chocolate every day.
  • Forget the numbers and simply use as a lovely hanging for the Christmas season, perhaps adding special decorations each year.

First published in Popular Patchwork Volume 10 Number 12 - December 2002