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Scrappy Improv Christmas Tree Ornament Tutorial

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If you’re like me you still see the potential in these beautiful pieces of leftover fabric.

You’ve been busy dicing and slicing away at your Christmas fabric, sewing up a storm, leaving a trail of scraps behind you. Maybe you’ve even made our Chillin With My Gnomies pattern. If you’re like me you still see the potential in these beautiful pieces of leftover fabric, but what are you to do with them? How about you make a scrappy, improv, Christmas Tree Ornament or garland? 

There are many modern quilters who still shy away from improv and find the lack of rules and structure overwhelming. I hear you. That has been me, but this project is a fun and easy introduction to improv, which will help you use up those Christmas scraps.

Although improv quilting is considered a freeing, rule-free way to sew there are some basic techniques to keep in mind while working on an improv project.

Technique Tips:

  • Iron your scraps before you begin to make them easier to work with.
  • Sew your pieces together using a ¼” seam.
  • Press your seam and trim any excess fabric from the 1/4″ seam before adding the next piece.
  • If you make your block larger than you need it will be easier to trim down when finished.

Fun Tips:

  • Play with varied sizes of scraps to create interest and movement.
  • Use this opportunity to fussy cut motifs to incorporate into your project.
  • If you don’t like the way something looks don’t pull out the seam ripper, just slice it off and start fresh.

Scrappy Improv Christmas Tree Ornament Tutorial

Scrappy Christmas Tree Ornament Tutorial

Black, metal wire basket of Art Gallery fabric scraps.

First, press all of your scraps you plan to use. Be sure you have a range of colors and sizes. Place a scrap, right sides together (RST) with another scrap. Sew a ¼” seam down the top fabric’s edge. Trim the excess from the bottom fabric’s seam and press the top fabric to the side. 

Visual representation of the first three steps in improv quilting.

Repeat this process, adding on new fabrics, growing the block larger. Your improv block should finish atleast least 5 ½” square. 

Quilting Your Christmas Tree Ornament

Next, cut a 6” square batting piece and place your improv block on top, right side up. Quilt the two layers together. This is a fun opportunity to play with the different fancy stitches on your machine and use multiple thread colors. There is no wrong way to quilt your block, so have fun with it!

Our improv block placed on top of a square piece of batting. The tree template sits next to it.

Once you’re done quilting the block, place the Christmas Tree Template on top of your block. You can either trace the template with a marking tool and cut it out with scissors, or carefully go around the template with a rotary. 

Adding the Hanging Tab

A close up of the detailed quilting and the attachment of the hanging tab.

Using the Tab Tutorial starting on page 32 in Issue 4 of Modish Quilter make a 1 ½” x 4 ½” tab. Next, line both raw edges of the tab to the top raw edge of your cutout tree. Baste the tab in place, ensuring that the tab is laying down flat, on top of the block.

Assembling the Christmas Tree Ornament

An overhead peek at the from and back pieces of the Christmas Tree Ornament template cut out.

Using the Christmas Tree Template cut out the background fabric for the ornament. Now we’re going to make the Christmas Tree sandwich. Place the backing Christmas Tree piece RST with the improv Christmas Tree piece. Make sure the tab is tucked inside of the sandwich. Leaving a 2″ opening at the bottom of the tree, sew 1/4″ all the way around the tree, backstitching at the beginning and end. Trim off your corners without cutting into your stitching. This will reduce bulk and make for sharper points.

Showing the ornament inside out with the corners clipped and the 1/4" stitching around.

Next you’re going to push the tree right-side-out through the 2″ opening at the bottom. A turning tool, or small wooden rod, is useful here to help push out the small points. Give the tree a good press, tucking in the 2″ opening by 1/4″ while ironing. Topstitch all the way around your tree 1/8″ away from the edge.

Adding Those Special Details

There are so many fun ways you can spruce up your Christmas Tree Ornaments. In this tutorial I’ve decided to use a wooden bead to represent my tree base. Using an embroidery needle, I then took three 8″ strands of 8 weight thread and sewed them through the base of my tree. I left about 4″ hanging on each end. Using my embroidery needle to help me, I threaded all 6 thread ends through my wooden bead. Gathering all of the threads together I tied a knot three times. Then, I trimmed all of the threads to the same length of about 1 1/2″.

Two Christmas tree ornaments with beads and buttons scattered around them.

When I was in my local craft store I also found these adorable wooden star buttons and thought they would make for an adorable tree topper. These Christmas Tree Ornaments would look adorable even with a regular button on top. If you like embroidery this would be an excellent project to add some special stitching. We hope you will share your scrappy improv Christmas Tree Ornaments with us! Tag us on Instagram (@modishquilter) and use the hashtag #modishornament so we can share what you’re making!

Grab the template for this project by clicking on the download button at the bottom if this page.

Did you enjoy this tutorial? Then you should check out the fun projects inside each of our quarterly issues. Learn more about Modish Quilter Magazine here.

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