Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Free Pattern: Felted Patchwork Tree Skirt

I made this tree skirt the other day, of recycled felted sweaters sewn in a patchwork. This was a fast project, completed while my husband purchased the tree and hung the lights.

This pattern is both recycled and handmade, so it makes me feel double-good. I thought I'd share the pattern so you can feel double-good, too.


3 spools of neutral-toned thread
Sewing machine
4 or 5 wool sweaters to destroy
Fabric Scissors
Measuring tape

1. Felt the sweaters. Use a top-loader if you have one with some dish detergent like Palmolive. Throw them in the dryer, too.

2. Cut the sweaters. Turn them inside-out and cut along the seams. Be sure to remove the felted seam ridges so you have smooth pieces of fabric. I chose to leave on the ribbed edging to add texture to my skirt, but you can remove yours if you wish. You will end up with fronts and backs that are relatively square, and long sleeve pieces.

3. Thread your machine and make 4-5 full bobbins of thread. This takes a LOT of thread.

4. Measure around your tree. You need two numbers: the inside diameter of the skirt and the outside diameter of the skirt. If you are unsure what a "diameter" is, read this. Divide each number in half, and you have the radius. Subtract the little radius from the big radius, and you have, TA-DA--the width of your tree skirt, what we'll call "W." Mine was 18" wide, that is, it stuck out 18" from my tree stand.

5. Do the math. You need to figure out what size "pie pieces" to make; there is some flexibility here, which is good, because most of us don't like math, and some of us (me) don't like super-rigid patterns. First thing, you need to figure out your "magic number": divide the inside diameter by the outside diameter. My magic number was 0.16, meaning that the inside diameter was 16% of the outside diameter. This number (e.g. 0.16) is "M."

6. Start sewing. Set your machine to the largest zig-zag stitch it will make--the longest length-wise and the widest width-wise. This is not the time for detail work. Start piecing the sweaters together. Avoid piecing together the same colors. Once you have a largish piece of fabric, set it aside, and piece together other parts of sweaters. You should end up with 4 or 5 large pieces of fabric of all sorts of strange shapes. You will cut out your pie-pieces from this parts.

Sewing tip: Don't bother pinning--that takes too long. Just hold the sweater pieces together and let fly. You'll have to raise your presser-foot and readjust as things slip and slide. That's okay--your wacky stitchery is part of the design. Your goal is to create a zig-zag that holds the fabric together relatively smoothly, and for me, that meant I had to make TWO passes at each seam. The first pass held it together, the second pass smoothed out the connecting point. If you are awesome, you can do it in one pass, I suppose.

7. Start cutting. Using your pie formula, cut pie-pieces from what you have sewn. Some can be wider and some narrower, so long as you maintain the ratio you devised in step 5. To maintain this ratio, use your M. The width of the bottom (the inside edge) of the pie must be M times the size of the top (outside edge).

The distance between the top and bottom edges should be the length of your W.

This gets a LOT easier once you get going.

8. Lay out your pieces in a manner that pleases you. Seam the pie pieces together, leaving one seam un-sewn, to slip around the tree.


1 comment:

Bean Counting Knitter said...

I love love love this idea and yours is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing the idea!