Over the years, I can remember different Christmas celebrations in my home, and while I was in the Air Force. There wasn’t always a traditional tree. Sometimes money was the issue, sometimes a traditional tree wasn’t allowed (as in a military dormitory). While stationed overseas, there were no Christmas tree lots so I could purchase one. Instead of going without, my family and I made our own. I was ten. I’ve made dozens since then.
I saw a stuffed Christmas tree toy as a child, and decided to make one for myself. No patterns were sold at that time, and I have never purchased one.
That never stopped me from having a tree of some sort. When I remember Christmas, I remember those trees most fondly.
With money being tight for so many families, this relieves one facet of Christmas tree. This also relieves the stress of trying to find the “perfect” tree, driving from lot to lot, yearly price increases, and having no tree available if you waited too long.
There are two other powerful benefits to designing and making your own Christmas tree. First, you don’t have a huge tree to haul to the “pick up” Second; you don’t have to water your tree, hoping it won’t dry out and drop needles before Christmas Day.
The entire family can participate in designing and building a Christmas tree from scratch. Sewing skills are required however, knowing someone who sews also comes in handy.
Sew your own tree:
• You will need:
• Green fabric, – 1 to 2 yards. Plain or “Christmas print” doesn’t matter.
• Package of hook and loop tabs- enough to total one to two dozen- these will hold the tree decorations
• Safety pins, if desired to hold the decorations. While hook and loop is safer on small hands, safety pins hold more weight.
• Pillow stuffing- enough to pack the tree solidly
• A child’s Christmas tree drawing- have a contest to see whose the best is.
• Sewing machine and general sewing supplies.
• Fabric glue
• Ruler and marking supplies
1. Begin with a child’s drawing of a Christmas tree. Fold it in half lengthwise and look at it. Imagine the half tree is a stuffed pillow. Now imagine six to eight stuffed pillows of the same shape, sewn to be a tree. Make sure the higher branches are smaller than the lower ones so it will balance. Check both halves of the tree- both are usable. Make a straight line across the bottom so the tree will stand flat. Made “as-is,” it could be balanced on a Christmas tree stand or in a decorative bowl.
2. Enlarge the picture to the height of tree desired. I chose 2 feet for our tree. Commercial copy companies now provide this service at little charge; I used the old “copy from the grid” method. If only using one- half of the tree, cut it in half or just have that half copied. Ask for the copy to be centered on the paper.
3. Using a ruler, add a 3/8 seam all the way around the tree and along the side. If any part of the tree touches the edge of the paper, add paper with tape and mark the seam. Add a seam allowance at the bottom as well.
4. Cut out the pattern along the seam allowance.
5. Decide if you want six or eight “branches” to the tree. I usually go with six. Eight will hold a few more decorations, but will be heavier and more “fun” to sew.
6. For each branch desired, cut two pieces of fabric.
7. Mark the end of the inside straight seam with a pin and snip with scissors almost to the seam. Do not cut through it. Do the same for the bottom.
8. Pin the outside of the seam allowance and sew. Leave the side and bottom seams open.
9. Turn the piece inside out and stuff. Do not sew closed.
10. When all the pieces are done, begin to pin one side seam to the side seam of an adjoining piece. Both insides will be facing out and the outside seams will be untouched.
11. Sew another section to either side of the first piece.
12. When all pieces have been sewn, add stuffing to make piece semi-stiff. The last seam is tough to sew, but it can be done. Fabric glue can also be used.
13. The bottom can be traced on a piece of fabric and sewn in place, or a fabric stand in the shape of a flat pillow can be used. Hand stitch or glue the tree to the stand. One year, I used an old throw pillow that I covered with a festive pillowcase. The tree was sewn to the case itself, and the tree looked terrific on its soft stand.
14. Using fabric glue, attach the hook or soft side of the tape to various points on the tree. Attach the other side of the tape to lightweight ornaments, and decorate the tree.
15. Tree lights can be used, but should never be left alone.
Some notes to consider:
• The tree can be made from any color fabric. Have a tree made of white fabrics to celebrate winter. Make another of pastels for Easter, and so on.
• Instead of using full sheets of fabric, sew like or different colors together along any seam that comes together. This is “crazy-quilting,” and makes a truly one-of-a-kind tree. The entire family can help plan the fabrics.
• Make the tree fabric from old family clothes. Anyone would love that keepsake.
• Size is no limit for this tree- make six-inch models and send by mail to friends, family, etc. Cover with family pictures for ornaments.
• It truly doesn’t matter if friends, neighbors, or relatives don’t like your tree. You made it yourself; they’re just jealous. Tell them how you did it- they might even suggest a contest next year.
• Want “needles” on your tree? Purchase shiny fringe or holiday fringe and attach to the tree for a “piney” look. Have fun.
• Sometimes the trees look like the ones in the Dr. Seuss book, “The Grinch That Stole Christmas.” Having a “Whoville-esque” tree is hilarious. Especially since no pattern is sold for them anywhere.
• Pins can be used to attach ornaments, but I have found that: a) no one will ever find all the pins, except by accident, and b) people love to squeeze the trees- the pins make that unpleasant.