To skirt or not to tree skirt?
I have wanted a new tree skirt since I inherited a pre-lit, super nice, fake Christmas tree from my in-laws in 2013 when they downsized from a giant house and 5 trees to an apartment and 3 trees. It came with a homemade but very sad tree skirt that I am sure my mother-in-law bought from a craft bazaar or commissioned from someone in the early 1990s which probably was once right on trend. It was, however, never my style.
BUT tree skirts are expensive!!! And I didn’t find one I liked more that I could justify buying when I could probably just make it myself from better and cuter fabric!!
And then I just never, ever made one.
I just kept using the old one or nothing or once using a white bed sheet, and it was fine but also I really needed to get my act together!
And then I started Quilt Pattern Mart and a few designers had patterns for quilted Christmas tree skirts!! But I had to think of a color palette and acquire good Christmas fabric (which is harder that it should be? Like it will either be good but not in my color palette or in my color palette but not in my style or just be bad at every other thing).
Enter: Bobbie at the Geeky Bobbin and her get it done in time for American Thanksgiving #ArcticVortexQAL that started this fall, just after I visited my parents (so I could hit the MEGA quilt shop with all Christmas fabric ever) and covered the time of my guild’s fall retreat so I realistically could get this done this year even though I am the WORST at sew-alongs!!!! I either rush through and finish nearly immediately (ruining the community aspect), or I lose interest and wander off/get buried in other deadlines and finish 18 months past the deadline (IF I am lucky) which also is not how quilt-alongs work.
The "Arctic Vortex" Tree Skirt Pattern by Geeky Bobbin
This is a very long way to get to Why I LOVE This Quilt (ish thing): Arctic Vortex Tree Skirt Edition!
Spoiler Alert: I love my new tree skirt, my 6yo who is full of the joy of Christmas LOVES the new tree skirt, my spouse who rarely expresses enthusiasm beyond “it’s good” said it was good (!), and my brother-in-law who is a bachelor who lives a few blocks away liked it quite a bit and also acquired his first Christmas tree for his own home about a week later, so GOOD RESULT all around!!! It looks fantastic under my tree and is a MAJOR upgrade from what was there!!
Longer story: of course the journey to finished quilt was not QUITE smooth. This was my first time following a Geeky Bobbin pattern, and Bobbie’s patterns are clear, easy to follow, often come with excellent links to helpful videos, and often make a harder quilting skills manageable. I absolutely recommend her patterns!! Every time I thought, hmm, how do I do this, she had a resource either in the pattern or linked from the pattern (the JOY of digital patterns is in pattern links).
Would you believe this was a quilt first?
The Arctic Vortex tree skirt is a riff on a quilt Bobbie (of the Geeky Bobbin) designed called the Vortex Quilt. It is a diamond log cabin quilt but arranged into a rectangle shape.
Back in the fall of 2020, Bobbie got the idea to re-color her original Vortex quilt into a Christmas tree, and it was FORKING adorable!!! But that also led her to realize that she could maybe turn those diamonds into a swirl around a tree as a tree skirt!! This ended up being a BIT more involved than just choosing your fabrics carefully, but it did go from wild hare of an idea to brand new pattern in just a few weeks in October/November 2020.
And now for more about ME making the Arctic Vortex tree skirt.
There have been two Quilt Alongs now to make your own Arctic Vortex which means that there are great resources on the Geeky Bobbin website AND some good versions to peep on IG, so I felt very confident going into the pattern.
However, the thing about me is I often read a quilt pattern and feel very confident I completely understood every single thing that I need to know to start it! Then I start the project and realize I maybe did not understand EVERYTHING I needed to know, and I finish the project wishing 'beginning of the project' me had learned the thing I learned by doing the project before I did the project. However, that is not how learning works, and I might make another tree skirt in a few years because of what I learned.
Now, what I learned was there in the pattern and in every single photo of the tree skirt in the Geeky Bobbin feed and in/on the pattern, so it isn’t like it was a secret or a surprise. It certainly was not!
It has value to think about color value.
But I (like many quilters) often forget that it is not always the difference in colors that are making the quilt top sing with success but the differences in value (and color), so I didn’t pay the right kind of attention to picking my fabrics for this pattern.
If I were to be picking fabric for this quilt again, I would still pick the same fabric as my focus, fussy-ish cut centers of the diamond (an adorable Moda print with city Christmas people), BUT I would have made sure the 4 fabrics that I picked to frame it were of markedly different colors and value in relation to it. I ALSO would have picked the log cabin strip pairs with more thought towards them always being paired together in the finished quilt (why I did not do that when it is clearly listed in the pattern, I cannot tell you! You have to ask September Heather).
This may not be the same kind of problem depending on what size you make, I made the middle size of the pattern. If I had made the biggest size which includes sashing, I could have been fine just by having the sashing be a different color/value. AND in the end, all the worries I had while making it that there wasn't enough contrast in value ended up kind of moot because when it was underneath the tree with the lights on, it looked lovely! You would only know about the 'problem' with the values if you lived in my head OR if you were super duper familiar with the pattern design. A good reminder that in reality the BIG MISTAKES that loom inside our quilt projects are not so big when it is all bound and quilted!
Making the Top.
Beyond that, making the quilt top was pretty easy to do! Yes, I said quilt top because you piece the whole thing together solid before you quilt it. And it was easy EVEN though the pattern uses partial seams to make the diamond log cabin shape happen. Partial seams often get confused with Y seams which are much more challenging. Although both Y-seams are a form of partial seams, all partial seams are NOT in that Y formation, and the partial seams in these big diamonds were pretty easy to do because of the scale, I just pinned them out of the way!
(Initial layout at home in dark basement one night)
And the top came together pretty quickly! I got behind right at the beginning of the sew-along (because I was on vacation in another state AND caught a bad cold while there), but it was easy to catch up since everything was very chain piece friendly and the top is not much bigger than a baby quilt. Well, it would have gone together more quickly if I hadn’t realized that when at home I followed Bobbie’s instructions to carefully lay the blocks out, so that the diamond pattern and fabric assembly would stay beautifully arranged BUT then I packed it up to take to my guild quilt retreat and I did NOT carefully unpack and lay it out there and didn’t notice until it was one seam away from finished!!!!!! So there was some ripping and re-sewing.
(NOT carefully laid out on hotel conference room floor UGH!!)
There is a big sort of nest/knob of seams at the center of the top that made me nervous at first because I was worried that they would be hard to line up, but then I remembered that this is a tree skirt and I was cutting that piece out anyway!!!! So of course, they all matched PERFECTLY, so I kept it and turned it into a coaster/tree skirt for a tiny Christmas tree that my 6yo has confiscated for herself.
Time to Quilt it!!
Quilting was my next worry as I am not super confident in any of my machine quilting skills. I can get by, but I was planning to use gold metallic thread to give this extra Christmas spirit, and I had never used it before. I followed some advice from friends and used a high quality metallic thread (mine was from Madiera) only on the top, and I used 50 weight aurifil in the bottom, with a wool batting from Quilter's Dream, and it worked like a charm!!
I used a pretty simple “sew down the middle” of each of the logs pattern that was fast and easy to do. I don’t 100% love it, because it overlaps more than I envisioned would like in the centers on the quilt BUT I also don’t really notice it in action under the tree, so I can say I am happily living with it. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the finished when it comes to quilt projects you will use!
It was a little weird/scary to slice a big old slit in the side of a kind of finished quilt AND then to cut the circle out, but it was easy to do! Especially as I had been thoughtful to make sure that the quilting was very regular and reasonably close together. I do wish that I had stay stitched around the edge for the circle because some of those seams pulled a little more than I would have liked when I was applying the binding. I could have just plopped it over on my machine really fast right after the cut OR even before the cut and after I marked it.
The Final Product!!
And now here we are! I have a wonderful homemade quilted Christmas tree skirt, and I am so delighted by the results!!! 10 out of 10, would recommend!! This is one of 2 Christmas tree skirts we sell on the Quilt Pattern Mart website, but I think you could tree skirt-ify many others INCLUDING the super awesome curved “Orbital” pattern by Geeky Bobbin herself!
Do you have a quilted tree skirt? (I should note that my second Christmas tree downstairs has a Christmas quilt tucked around it like a Christmas tree skirt, so technically this might not be my first one).