Thursday, December 28, 2017

Luxury DIY Christmas Tree Skirt for Mom

Happy Fourth Day of Christmas!  I realize that this post would have been more timely if I'd written it a couple of weeks BEFORE Christmas, but I made this tree skirt as a surprise gift for my mother (and she does read my blog).  However, if your own tree skirt has seen better days, or you're looking at a bare tree stand now that the gifts have all been unwrapped, I encourage you to make yourself a custom tree skirt for next Christmas.  

58" Lined Microsuede Velvet ChristmasTree Skirt with Trim
When my mom mentioned that she lost her Christmas tree skirt during her last move, I started shopping for a new one that I could gift to her for Christmas.  I had some serious sticker shock at the Peppermint Forest Christmas Shoppe, where they had tree skirts made out of flimsy polyester fabric (like what a toddler Disney Princess costume would be made of) retailing for $150 or more.  Then I checked online at Horchow and Frontgate, where they had much nicer quality tree skirts but even more outlandish price points of $500, $600, even $700...  And that's for a mass-produced tree skirt with limited fabric and color options.  When you're making your own tree skirt, you can get the size you want, the colors you want, and decorate it any way you want.

This isn't the first Christmas tree skirt I've ever made.  The crazy quilted and hand-embellished tree skirt I made for my own Christmas tree was fun to make but largely a wasted effort, since the vast majority of my hand embroidery and hand stitched sequins and beads get hidden beneath the branches of the tree:

My Crazy Quilted Tree Skirt, Completed in 2010
I worked on that crazy quilted tree skirt off and on for about two years, and I wouldn't ever make one like that again.  It would have been much better to do crazy quilted stockings or even a table runner, something closer to eye level where all those decorative bobbinwork machine stitches and handwork can be seen and appreciated.  

I Had to Crawl Under My Christmas Tree to Take This Picture
There is so much going on visually with most Christmas trees anyway, what with all the ornaments and packages, that I really prefer a solid tree skirt with embellishments at the outer border where they can make a strong impact. 

So, back to this year's project for my mom's tree!  She decorates her tree primarily with red and gold ornaments, with a sprinkling of black music ornaments in the mix.  I made her skirt out of a 60" wide, deep red home dec microsuede velvet home dec fabric that was very stable with a nice drape and no rubbery upholstery backing.  I started with this tutorial from Mary Jo's Cloth Store:

Mary Jo's Tree Skirt, Tutorial Found here
The Mary Jo's tutorial is easy enough to follow for anyone who has prior experience sewing window treatments and other home dec items, but those whose sewing experience is primarily quilting or apparel could probably use the following additional tips and tricks.

Choosing your Fabric:  For this project, a home dec weight fabric is going to be your best choice, along with a drapery lining fabric.  A lightweight quilting cotton isn't going to be wide enough to cut a full size tree skirt in a single piece, and since there is no batting in this skirt it would also be too flimsy to support the heavy machine stitched trim.  You need about a yard and a half each of 54-60" wide home dec fabric and the same amount of drapery lining fabric.

Covered Cording: The Mary Jo's tutorial uses a narrow covered welt cord around the outer and inner edges of the skirt, which you don't even notice unless you look closely at the photo.  This cording serves an important function, because it keeps the lining fabric from sagging and showing along the outside edge of the skirt once it's under your tree.  However, covering 6 yards of cording with fabric adds extra work to the project and if you use the same fabric as your tree skirt like they did, you don't get any extra dramatic impact from all of that work.  I could have covered my welt cord with a contrasting fabric, or done a shirred jumbo welt cord in a contrasting fabric, but I decided to use a 3/8" decorative rope cord instead.  

Shirred Jumbo Welt Cord Would Look Great On a Tree Skirt, Too
You can read about my tips and tricks for covering welt cord with fabric in this post, and you can read about my tips for sewing in-seam decorative rope cording here.  With fabric covered cord, the challenge is feeding the two fabric layers evenly through the machine, so I use Dual Feed on my Bernina sewing machine with large diameter welt cord, but I get the best results with 3/4" diameter welt cord when I use my serger.  With in-seam rope cord, the challenge is sewing close enough to the cord that the fabric tape "lip" doesn't show.

Trimming Your Tree (Skirt): Ideally, if you're going to use multiple trims on the same tree skirt, you want to select coordinating decorative rope cord, fringes and braids from the same collection.  You would think that, as an interior designer with access to a bazillion fabrics and trims, I could have found coordinating trims for this project, but alas -- there was no time for me to custom order anything and I was limited to what was in stock at my local JoAnn's store.  I loved the black and white pom pom fringe but there was no coordinating rope cord to go with it, just this plain black cord...  and some Snow White DMC embroidery floss over in the cross stitch aisle...

DIY "Matching Rope Cord" Trim
I used a size 22 tapestry needle and unseparated embroidery floss, all 6 strands, to whipstitch my white stripes around the black cording, but had to go over each stitch twice so it would stand out enough.  That means each stitch ended up with a total of 12 strands of embroidery floss.  I think I used three or three and a half skeins of floss to go around my whole skirt, and it took several hours -- on December 23rd, mind you, racing against the Advent clock!  But I liked the tree skirt MUCH BETTER after I added the white stitching to the black cord, so it was worth it.

Ta Da!  Matching Trims!
The biggest omission with the Mary Jo's tutorial is that they tell you to "sew fringe inset from your corded edge," but they don't tell you how to get your fringe lined up in a smooth curve equidistant from the edge of the skirt.  If you try to just eyeball it as you stitch the trim down, you'll end up with a wobbly mess.  Here's the trick I came up with for mine:

Marking Fringe Placement Inset 5" from Rope Cord
I chose a 5" tall plastic spool of giftwrap ribbon and "drove" it around the outer edge of my tree skirt, with the bottom edge of the spool riding in the groove between the black rope cord and the red fabric edge. (Note that the fringe gets sewn to the tree skirt PRIOR to lining it.  The seam allowance with the lip cord is merely rolled to the back side in this picture to enable me to get the ribbon spool right up against the cord edge).  The top edge of the plastic spool left a temporary track in the microsuede velvet pile in a smooth curved line spaced exactly 5" from the edge of the tree skirt.  I was then able to pin my fringe along that line, with pins as close as an inch or so apart so the fringe couldn't move out of place on the way from the worktable to the sewing machine.

Because my tree skirt is made of home dec weight microsuede, I used a size 90 Microtex needle and regular polyester all purpose sewing thread for this project, in black to match my trim.  I sewed the rope cord and fringe with a regular straight stitch, elongated to 3.5, but with no other tension adjustments.  I sewed the rope cord with Zipper Foot #4D and sewed the fringe with Open Toe Embroidery Foot #20D, engaging Dual Feed for both tasks.  

Machine Stitching the Inset Pom Pom Fringe
I sewed the fringe down in two passes, placing my stitching just inside the white running stitch embellishment on the fringe.  There IS such a thing as fringe adhesive, by the way, and gluing the trim to the skirt is an option.  However, so many of us store our holiday decorations in areas that are subject to extreme temperatures and humidity, and then we would be dragging gifts back and forth across the glued-on fringe, and i don't think the glue would hold for very long in those conditions.  Stitching the trim is the way to go.

So here you have the finished tree skirt, draped over my ironing board upon completion just after the stroke of midnight announcing the arrival of Christmas Eve:

Finished, In the Very Nick of Time!
...and here it is again, beneath my mom's tree:

Finished Tree Skirt, Beneath the Tree
There was a little bit of silliness initially about the tree skirt being "too nice to go on the floor," but then after running the vacuum cleaner she agreed to put the Christmas tree skirt on the floor beneath the tree as I had intended.  I think she likes it.

Mom's Christmas Tree, Naked No More!
So, that's what I was sewing last week when my blog was silent!  It's a good thing I finished on time, since I had no backup plan...  My mom did some Christmas sewing of her own, making pajama pants for Lars and Anders that were a huge hit.

As for me, this project reminded me that as much as I enjoy the "journey" of making, it really does feel good to FINISH something every once in awhile!  Now that the cookies have all been eaten and the wrapping debris has all been thrown away, I'm mulling my options for what to sew next. It sure would be nice if 2018 could be the Year I Finally Finished a Bunch of Stuff!

Today I'm linking up with Esther's WIPs on Wednesday, Can I Get a Whoop Whoop? at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, Off the Wall Friday at Nina-Marie's Creations, Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts, and Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication.  Enjoy these last few days of 2017!


Ramona said...

Oh, Rebecca Grace! The tree skirt you made for your mom is GORGEOUS!! Wow! The red microsuede and the black pompom trim look so elegant and festive. Your customized rope trim just finishes it off. I’m going to have to remember this! I have two weddings coming up this year, which means two tree skirts need to be made. I may be adding something like this to my list!

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

it looks lovely!! and they have to go on the floor - just a fact of xmas tree life. I keep saying I will make a new one and I never get around to it - one day? Hope you had a terrific Xmas

SJSM said...

Nicely done! The use of the curling ribbon cone is genius. I would have my gage out ticking a line every inch. Your method is quick and easy. I will keep that in mind for future projects in the round.

Jill said...

The tree skirt is beautiful under the tree. It shows up very well. Appreciate the other links which will be helpful in the future. This is only a suggestion ~ perhaps your skirt can be converted to a table topper some way some how. Happy New Year.

Rebecca said...

I have always used a white sheet under a Christmas tree because it reminds me of snow in the field around the tree. (and my mama did it that way) I save my fancy work and stuff for the table runners and chair runnersthat are draped on the back of my dining room chairs to say nothing of the lovies on the walls and such

Judy Biggerstaff said...

Beautiful Christmas tree skirt. Love the fabric and trim. What a treasure!

Judy Biggerstaff said...

Beautiful job! Love your tree skirts especially the red one with black trim. It will be a treasure for years to come. I made three small tree shirts this year with fussy cut cardinals. Thanks for your inspiration.

Alla Blanca said...

What a lovely tree skirt! Although I have been eyeing carefully pieced patterns for skirts (Violet Craft even had a last-minute sew along for hers), I like your assessment of the need for simplicity in a tree skirt. I also appreciate all your tips in making one using the tutorial. Thanks for sharing

Jill said...

The tree skirt is perfect under your mom’s tree. Way better than store bought. Amazing it was a rush job in the final stretch. Appreciate the how-to and other link. Happy New Year.