Friday, December 27, 2013

T'was the Night Before Christmas... a Tree Skirt Story

T'was the night before Christmas and all through the house,
all creatures were stirring... likely even the mouse (who may or may not still live in the basement).
Papa, tucked in bed with the flu,
four days of coughing made him rather blue.
Visions of hot cars filled the man-child's eyes,
a new game for Christmas had already arrived.
Mama in her workshop, frantic with doubt,
would there be enough time to whip this one out?
That's it... that's all I got.  I've never been really good with rhymes and poems.

This is a tale about a last minute Christmas Tree Skirt.

After 20 years of marriage, we have acquired enough Christmas Tree ornaments to decorate three trees.  Lucky for us we acquired a second Christmas Tree along the way as well.  Any ornament that is white, clear glass, or gold goes on the tree in the Great Room.  It's not a very big tree so I tuck it next to the staircase.
It's usually the first tree to get put up just in case we run out of time and energy to get the den tree put up.  This tree has it's own lovely gold trimmed Christmas tree skirt.

The den tree is now 23 years old and is still looking as festive as ever.  There are two options for the den tree since I've split up our enormous collections of Christmas Tree ornaments.  Option number one is called the Trinket Tree.
These are all of the Hallmark ornaments, the home-made ornaments, or any other fun trinket style ornament.  The tree gets dressed up with red wood beads and simple plaid Christmas Ribbon bows.  I found a whimsical Christmas tree skirt for this tree several years ago.  (This photo is from last Christmas -- before paint.)

The second option for the den tree is called the Vintage tree and features a large collection of these old blown glass bulbs.

Yes, it's very likely I'm risking lead poisoning every time I decorate this tree but I really do LOVE these ornaments.  Some came from my husband's folks, some came from my grandmother, and a few have come from my mother.  Even though I SWORE I would NEVER put gaudy silver garland on any tree of mine, I can't for the life of me, think of anything better for these vintage ornaments.

Sadly, this tree has never had a tree skirt.  Most years, I've hastily wrapped the base in a couple of yards of silver lame promising that next year would be the year I would make the skirt.  So I did... finally... and at the last possible minute... I made the skirt.

At some point in time, I found this piece of silver tissue lame in the remnant bin.  It was a yard and a quarter which was perfect for a circle.
Cut it into a big ol' circle. The easiest way to do this is to fold it in fourths.  Note, that point at the bottom right of the photo above is the exact center of my piece of fabric. It will be the exact center of the circle.  Don't move that point.
 And fold it over again.

Now I measured from my center point down to where the first sign of frayed edges were tucked in with the fold... about 24 inches as this was 48 inch wide fabric.  
Keep the 0 edge of the tape measure of the tape measure at the center fold and pivot it along the fabric marking at about 23 3/4 or enough room to cut.  Pin along this arc.  Then cut all layers.
 And like magic... a circle is made.  (It's crafting so perfection is not necessary.)
Use this piece to cut a lining.  I used some wide muslin from my stash.  Even an old bed sheet would be fine as well.

Here's the only tricky part, I promise.  Cut through only one layer of the lame from the edge strait to the center point.  Do the same with the lining.  This is so the skirt can be wrapped around the tree after the tree is up.
Cut a small circle at the center point. (Larger circle would be needed for real trees.)

Now... had I had just a little more time, I could have added this darling sheer white ribbon ruffle.  This is wired ribbon and is easily gathered by tugging on the wire on only one side.  But, Santa's coming in mere hours at this point and there is no time for such frills.
With right sides together, pin and sew.  Sew like a mad woman in a rush to be done!
I started at one of the straight radius that was cut.  An opening needs to be left to turn everything right sides out and it's easier to whip stitch a straight segment than a curved segment.
Sew.... Sew... Sew....  It's a race... who will make it to the tree first?  Santa or the tree skirt?  Don't forget to leave an opening... just big enough... no time for unnecessary hand sewing because the opening to turn it right side out it bigger than necessary.
Take pinking sheers and trim the seams.
 Flip the skirt right sides out, press, whip stitch the opening, slap it under the tree and scurry to bed.  Jump out of bed, run down, turn the iron off, and hustle back to bed.

But it's done and I beat Santa!  And the best part... I finally have a tree skirt for the vintage ornament tree.  I love how the colored lights are picked up in the silver lame.

And now for one last Christmas Tree Skirt.... Alice Ghostley as Bernice in Designing Woman.  Now THAT was a good show!!

The Perfect Bow

My mother-in-law told me that I made beautiful bows.  I think I learned the art of a perfect bow while living in the South for a couple a years.   It wasn't officially Christmas until every mailbox in our neighborhood was adorned with it's own velvet bow.  I got roped into the neighborhood bow making committee one year.  We all met down at the pool house and spent a fun evening talking and making velvet bows.  After about ten or so bows, I was convinced I could make them in my sleep.

Bows are easy and no fancy guides or tools are needed.  I used an entire three yard spool of ribbon for each of my sleigh bell arrangement bows.  Have a length of floral wire handy.
First, fold then edges in so they don't show.
 Next, form that center loop covering up the raw edges that were folded in.

Twist the ribbon 180 degrees at the back-side of the center loop before making the next loop.  These twists make the individual loops easier to fluff and direct.  Plus, if the ribbon has a right and a wrong side, this ensures the right side will always be to the outside of the loop.

Continue this process of twisting the ribbon 180 degrees on the back side of the center loop before making the next loop as shown in the photos.  (Please pardon the bright orange sweatshirt, it's cold in the workshop today.)
When there is an equal amount of odd number loops on each side... that sounded like a bad, math story problem...  Let me try that again... when several loops on each side of the bow have been formed, secure the bow with the length of floral wire.  For this bow, there are 5 loops on each side.  See, odd number of loops but an equal amount.  I'm really not sure how it is that odd just seems to be better.  It tends to look prettier.

 To cover up the floral wire, I bring the length of extra ribbon through the center loop.
But great, it's still a lopsided bow because it only has one tail.  Bring up the end of the tail to the back of the loop and secure alone with the bit of ribbon that was just brought through the center of the loop.  This can be done with a twist of the floral wire.  I will even put a full knot in my floral wire at this point because I don't want it to come loose.  Now you have a pretty bow with one giant loop. 
Find the exact opposite end of the loop from the bow and cut diagonally as shown and like magic... TWO tails now.
 It would be magic if my picture were better.  Trust me, both tails are there.
This is what the finished bow looks like.  Right sides out and easy to fluff.  Oh, and visually pleasing because each side has an odd number of loops.  This is wired ribbon so the final curl is fairly easy and stays.  I simply rolled the ribbon back up from the bottom of the tail and then let it fall.  Easy!

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Last of the Sleigh Bells

I promise, this is the last of my sleigh bell harnesses. I purchased the brown sleigh bells last year after Christmas.  I knew they'd be perfect for a hanging Christmas arrangement.  Everything for this project came out of my stash of Post-Christmas-Clearance shopping from numerous prior years.
The poinsettia and the holly leaves were part of a larger bush I cut apart.  The pine cone with the bit of evergreen and berries was part of a larger swag.  Yup, I cut that puppy apart too.  The rustic snowmen were in a box with metal snowflakes that didn't even match.  The snowflakes have clips on the back and these snowmen have a metal loop. 
I think they were designed to go on Christmas lights.  Who knows how they ended up in the box of snowflakes?  In to my shopping cart it went.  I think they've been stashed here for about three years waiting for the perfect project.

The base is made from a three foot section of garland. Form a loop and connect the ends to each other.
Stretch it out flat as shown in the photograph of the base. Since the harness will go down the center of the arrangement, all of the little evergreen branches should be bent to go towards the outside except for a few which get tied into the inside. This maintains the shape of the base and gives the sleigh bell harness something to rest on.
Place the largest item, which in this case is the pine cone grouping from the other style of swag I cut apart.
Floral wire works out great to hold it in place.
 The flowers are next. Secure with wire as well.
And the holly berries with leaves. More wire.
Work the various items up around the harness for a nice effect.

 The snowman accent really can go anywhere.  For this arrangement, he sits at the top.

 All that's left is to add a bow and hang it up. Or make up several more as gifts.

These were fun to make up and really cleared out my stash.  I guess that means I need to hit the clearance bins next week.