Tutorials - Christmas Tree Skirt (updated Jan 2013)

Christmas Tree Christmas Tree Skirt. (a very meta item)

UPDATE: I made some updates to the instructions.  You'll see them in green.  They are mostly about making the template and using fat quarters.

Here's a tutorial on how to put together this tree skirt or table topper.  It finishes to about 43 inches across.  UPDATE: each inch you add to the sides of the template will increase the diameter of the skirt by about 1 1/2 inches.
Step 1
Create a template. Use your quilting ruler to create a triangle that is 45 degrees at the top and each side is 15 inches long.

UPDATE: steps on making the template
 Get some cardboard - a cereal box works great.
 Cut the flaps off one side to make a long straight edge.
 Lay your ruler with the 45 degree line along the straight edge you cut.
 Cut along your ruler.  This gives you a 45 Degree point and two long straight edges.
 Now measure from the 45 degree point and mark 15 inches along one edge and mark 15 1/2 as well.
From the point, mark 15 inches and 15 1/2 inches on the other long edge.
 Draw a line across the bottom  joining up the 15 inch edge marks and the 15 1/2 inch edge marks.  Cut along the 15 1/2 inch line.
Size variations:
You can make the triangle longer if you want a larger tree skirt.  The 15 1/2 inch side will need a square of fabric a minimum of 12 1/4 inches wide and 14 3/4 inches tall.

Here's the table of sizes of triangle and fabric for various sizes of templates.  The first column is the length of the sides of the triangle.  The 2nd column is how wide the bottom of the triangle ends up and the third column is how high your triangle ends up - you don't have to measure these on your template, it's just for calculating the fabric size you'll need.  The fourth column is the size of the fabric "squares" you'll need for each triangle.  You'll need 8 in total.

Triangle Sides  Triangle Bottom  Triangle Height  Fabric Size
1511 1/213 7/812 x 14 1/4
15 1/211 7/814 3/812 1/4 x 14 3/4
1612 1/414 7/812 1/2 x 15 1/4
171315 3/412 1/4 x 14 3/4
1813 3/416 3/414 x 17
1914 1/217 5/814 3/4 x 17 3/4

You'll also need 5 - 1 inch width of fabric strips if all your garland will be the same.  Or you'll need 8 - 1 inch width of fabric strips if each tree has it's own colour of garland.

Step 2
Cut a rectangle 12 1/4 inches by 14 3/4 inches from 8 coordinating fabrics.  Stack 4 of your fabric rectangles on top of each other. Lay the template on top, and cut out the fabric. 1/4 inch larger on all sides than the template.  (Use the 1/4 inch markings on your ruler to do it.)  This gives you wiggle room when you add the garland to the trees.  Since the new template is 1/2 inch bigger than it needs to be, just cut out you fabric the size of the template.  Stack and cut the other 4 rectangles.

 (You can use the two leftover triangles from each fabric for another tree triangle.  If you plan to do this, cut your fabric size 1/2 an inch wider and centre your template on the fabric when you cut.  This gives you the seam allowance you'll need when you sew the the two leftovers together.  Just sew them together along the straight edge - not the bias edges - and you'll have another tree that has a seam down the centre.  This way you could only use 4 fabrics so half the trees will have a seam down the middle.  Use a different colour for your 1 inch strip to make each duplicate tree different.  If you are using a directional print, these trees with the seam down the middle will be upside down.)

This is fat quarter friendly.  You can get two triangles from each fat quarter.  Just cut a strip from your fat quarter the Triangle Height, then lay your template on the strip and cut the two sides, rotate the template and cut the next triangle.  However, if your fabric is directional, you will end up with one upside down.

At this point I suggest you go through the steps to make one of the 8 tree units.  This way if your trees are too small to square up with the template, you can adjust your seam width before you try the rest.

Then do the next 3 chain sewing all at once, ironing all at once, and trimming the edges all at once.  Then do the last 4 all at once.

Step 3
Cut each of the triangles across two or three or four times using your ruler for the look of garland wrapped around your tree.  You can do them all at once if you want them all the same, or you can cut them each individually.  I did mine in sets of two.  I cut some diagonally up and some diagonally down, some with 3 cuts and some with 4 cuts.

Step 4
Cut one inch strips from your garland fabric.  I chose 1 inch so that the final triangle is still the same size.  A one inch strip adds no size to what ever you sew it into.  I think I was able to do all 8 trees from just 5 width of fabric strips.  Chain sew the one inch strips to the top of each tree segment using a scant 1/4 inch seam.  You can place them on the one inch strip quite close together.  I kept them less than an inch apart.

Step 5
Iron everything open.
Then trim the edges to match the angle of the edges of each segment

Step 6
Chain sew each section of the trees together with a overlap so that the two pieces intersect just 1/4 inch down from the top.  This is what the wiggle room is for.  If you aren't exactly lined up, you'll be able to trim it so it's perfect.

 Step 7
 Iron everything open and lay the template on top of each tree, and trim off the extra.  This time cut exactly the size of the template.

UPDATE for trimming
If your tree is smaller than the template, don't fret.  Just cut off the bottom of the template at the 15 inch mark.  Now you should be able to have enough room to position the template so that you can see a bit of the tree all around it.  If you still can't see fabric all around your template, keep trimming down the bottom of the template till you can properly "square up" the block.  

If your tree is really a lot smaller, don't trim down the template.  Use your seam ripper to take apart the tree at the top of each of the the strips and try again with a smaller seam allowance and smaller, more accurate overlap.  You can try about as small as 1/8 of an inch seam and overlap.  That might be enough to add more than 1/4 of an inch of extra height and width to the tree.  Once you get this one together, adjust your seam allowance for the rest of the blocks so that they are big enough to be able to trim to the right size.

Step 8
Sew the 8 tree trunks together.  Each trunk is a 2 inch by 2 inch square of brown and the sides are each 2 inch by 6 inch strips of white.  Iron the seams open.

Step 9
Centre the trunks to the trees by folding and making a small crease in the centre of the tree and the trunk. Line up the two creases and sew.  Iron open.

Step 10
Trim the edges of the trunk section to match the angle of the tree sides.

Step 11
Cut 8, 2 1/2 inch by width of fabric strips.  Lay a strip along the edge of the tree with about 1 1/2 inches longer than the tree trunk end.  Sew from the bottom of the tree to the top.

Step 12
Iron and trim the top so it follows the angle of the opposite side of the tree.

Step 13
Flip the remaining part of the strip over so that the angle of the trimmed area matches the side you just sewed on.  Lay it on the tree side with about 1/4 inch extra above the side you just sewed on.  Sew this strip from the top of the tree to the bottom 

UPDATE: If you are using a printed fabric for the background, you wont be able to flip it since you'll end up with the pattern on the back.  You'll need to leave about 1 1/4 to 2 inches extra so you can trip it to a point.  Remember, work it out with this first tree and keep track of how much extra you need for the rest of the trees.

Step 14
Iron open and trim the top to match the sides, then trim the bottom so it's straight.   
UPDATE: Notice that I cut the strips, sew them on, then trim them to match the edge.  I don't measure and cut first.  This allows you to start with a bigger or smaller tree and it all works fine.

Step 15
I didn't like the look of the tree trunks going to the edge of the skirt so I added another 2 1/2 inch strip on the bottom.  Iron and trim.

Step 16
Lay it all out to get a nice balance of colour and patterns. (This is where I realized I didn't like the tree trunks going off the edge of the skirt so that's why I decided to add another strip to the bottom)

Sew the 8 sections together from the bottom to the top, two at a time to get four sets of two.  Sew the twos together to get two sets of four.  Sew those two together from one side to the other to get the final skirt.  UPDATE: Don't try to sew each tree in one at a time as you'll end up with messy 'Y' seams.  Make two halfs, then it's a straight line to put them together. 

If this will be a table topper, try to match the centre points in that last seam.  If this is going to be a tree skirt, you don't need to bother about getting the centre seams to all match.

Step 17 - Finishing up
At this point, treat it as if it's a small quilt. Make your quilt sandwich with a back, batting and the top.  Pin or baste and quilt as usual.  After you have quilted it, use a CD of Christmas music as a template to draw and cut out a circle in the centre of the skirt.  Cut from the circle along one of the seams to the outside edge.  Bind all the cut edges - around the outside of the skirt, both sides of the slot and around the centre hole.  The only place that you may need a bias binding is around the centre hole.  If you don't mind the centre binding a little lumpy and raised, then use regular binding.  No one will see it anyways, as it will be way under the tree.  There is also no need for any ties or buttons or snaps to keep it together either.  Once it's under the tree, it won't be moving.


  1. This is great Paul! I'm definitely going to have a go, but I sure won't be finished by the guild meeting :(

  2. Paul this was great to see in person. I hope to make one like yours with plain trees to go with my advent calendar (finally finished) but it will be after Christmas for sure. Have a great holiday

  3. Thanks for the tutorial Paul. I won't get it done for this year but it's on next years project list. I'm also glad to have seen it in person.

  4. you are keeping granny's art alive Paul....This for the first time I have searched this web and I liked this effort.

  5. Hey Paul - so enjoyed your trunk show at the Boundary Bay Quilt Guild last
    night! I didn't realise how jaded I have been with traditional patterns until I saw yours and thought YES - I CAN DO THIS! My first time on a blog - never thought I would ever blog - but maybe this is just a new beginning in a modern way! It was fun.

  6. Hi, thank you so much for the tutorial Paul. I've just finished my tree skirt, I'm really happy with it!! Thank you very much for sharing!