Every year we hold a Christmas Tree Festival at our local church and this year is no different. I’ve been involved with a number of these over the 17 years of this event (not all of them have been actual trees either! 3 of those years were ‘dancing’ trees featuring my Brownies and Rainbows-they went down a storm with the punters I can tell you!)
Since I rent a small room on the premises to hold my sewing classes I thought it only right to create some sort of tree myself but what to use for inspiration? My Dad suggested sewing ‘bees’ which led to my initial thoughts of a tree covered in bees made from wooden cotton reels. I duly ordered rather a large bag (too large) which arrived in the post. That was fine except in the meantime I’d seen a photo on the internet of a tree in the form of a dress which I thought was a fabulous idea and much better than the hazy ideas I’d had up until then!
The only thing about these ‘dresses’ was that the skirts were made from actual tree branches (probably artificial) and I didn’t know how-or if-I wanted to tackle that. But I’m a dressmaker aren’t I so why didn’t I sew the skirt and use Doris-my trusty, long-serving mannequin-as the model?
I came up with a few sketches and was happy with my initial ideas so set about getting the materials together.
I decided that layers of green fabric and net attached to a cone-shaped underskirt would be the way forward but like all these sorts of projects it would probably change. I eventually found a company via Ebay that sold both lining and net in bottle green and, after doing my calculations, ordered some.
It arrived the very next day!! talk about impressive service! and the quality was great too-I was very happy.
I initially thought I’d make it in four layers of the same length but after cutting those out I had fabric left over. Not only that, it didn’t look ‘bushy’ enough so I cut a few more shorter layers for nearer the top. As well as more layers I cut the edges in the pointy shape to give the edges a more tree-like shape. (I made myself a template from a cereal packet to draw around so they were all very similar) All the lower layers were about 20-25cms long but the upper layers became shorter the higher they were.
By layering the fabric and the net like this gave a better appearance. Each layer was strips of lining and net across the width of the fabric and then sewn together in long strips of varying length-longer strips at the hem becoming shorter nearer the top. Another idea I’d changed was having the A-line skirt shape as the base underneath-by using the full, un-shaped, width of the fabric I kept it super simple and then I’d just add elastic in a casing at the top. I could keep the whole thing flat on the table in order to add the decorations as I went and only join it up the back at the end.
I needed to rig up a petticoat to give the skirt it’s shape because normally a skirt would have a pair of legs inside it to hold it out but…whisper it..Doris doesn’t have any. Rather than go to the bother of making a proper net petticoat I rigged up and underskirt using cardboard, packaging ‘bubbles’ and packing tape!
Once the skirt was made it was a case of making the decorations (I had a huge bag of wooden cotton reels after all!) Unlike the photo that started the whole thing I didn’t want to use ‘real’ decorations or baubles, I wanted them all to be ones I’d made for myself so basically I came up with a list of the sorts of things that could be made using fabric/ribbon/buttons/trims/cotton reels or other embellishments and set to it.
The first thing I made was mini bunting. To cut down the actual sewing required I ironed 2 layers of fabric together using Bondaweb (an iron-on adhesive in a sheet for this exact purpose) then cut them into small triangles which I attached to wired ribbon. [I’d also found tape-measure-printed ribbon on t’internet so I’d ordered some of that to drape around the tree too]
After making all the decorations it was a process of sewing them all on. One final touch was needed and that was the lights! I found a string of dinky lights which used batteries in Dunelm so I had to stitch them in place first (by hand) and then everything else went on top.
The top half of Doris isn’t her finest feature so that had to be disguised using lacy top that one of my girls had put into the charity bag. It wasn’t quite the right size and shape but I twisted and pinned it into place so that it looked acceptable. I made a neck ornament-for want of a better description to make her neckline look pretty…
I sewed more red and green buttons down the front…
and made a large felt poinsettia to adorn her waist…oh, and added a fabulous tartan sash!
So there you have her, after adding the final trim of tape measure ribbon Doris is ready to go to the ball…ok, the festival
It’s been a lot of work which I’ve mostly enjoyed-I’m not really a ‘crafter’ so I tend to lose interest a bit in fiddly ‘bits’ but I’m really pleased with the result. Judging by a few of the comments I’ve had already Doris is definitely going to be the Belle of the Ball!
The Festival is being held at St Francis church on Parkway in Welwyn Garden City, Herts on December 5th 12-6pm and December 6th 12-5pm…maybe I’ll see you there?