Wednesday, December 21, 2011

holly jolly topper tutorial . . .

As originally blogged on Sew We Quilt, 12/21/2011.

Happy greetings, this fine Wednesday-before-Christmas! My name is Denise, from Count it *all* JOY!!! - my little blog about life in general with a heavy emphasis on quilting, crafting, tea parties and GRANDBABIES! I'm so very thrilled to be here as a guest blogger on Sew We Quilt. Thank you for having me, Madam Samm!

Before I share my Holly Jolly Topper project with you, let me give you some background. I like little projects. My husband and I are full time RVers, which means we have limited space. Small projects display best in our small space. Also, small projects require less 'creative' space! Needless to say, I love decorating our space with little table toppers and candle mats ... pieces that are seasonal and beautiful, but easy to display (and stow) in our RV quarters!

That being said, I found a darling little pattern for a Leaf & Acorn topper in one of my Art to Heart books last year. The process was so simple I thought it would make a cute Candy Corn topper, which became my very first tutorial. Having finished that, my sister suggested that the same application would probably work well with holly leaves. Since 'tis the season, I decided to give it a try and I was so pleased with the result, I knew I needed to share (making it my very second tutorial -- LOL)! Besides that, it's a relatively fast and easy project to put together and makes a lovely hostess gift or exchange for Dirty Santa!
Holly Jolly Topper

I started by drawing out my idea in my EQ software. I drew one large leaf, one small leaf and one berry. I used each of these four times. Using EQ, I printed the actual figures out onto cardstock, for my templates. You can hand draw your templates *or* leave a comment on my blog letting me know you're interested, and I'd be happy to e-mail you a pdf of my templates!
Once I printed and cut out my templates, I went about choosing the fabrics. This is such a great project for scraps -- even scrap batting -- because all the pieces are small. The biggest leaf is about 8" long. Truly less than a fat eighth is needed for each of the respective different shapes, and less than a fat quarter for the backing fabric and batting.
I chose a dark tonal green for my big leaves, holly print for my small leaves, the tonal red for the berries, and the small, red print for the back of all the pieces. I could have gone scrappier (and may go that route on the next one) by choosing four different greens and four different reds. It's nice to have options.

Next, I gave everything a good pressing. I just had to get a photo my beautiful new iron in this post somehow!! Mmmwah, my dear iron! :)

I started putting the fabric together for my big leaves. I layered first my batting,

then my backing fabric (ride side up),

followed by my top piece of fabric (ride side down).
NOTE: This is important -- there are three layers with the batting on the bottom, then the backing and top fabrics layered right sides together.

Once my fabrics are placed together, I take my big leaf template and trace around it onto the (wrong side of the) top piece. I'll do this four times ... once for each of my big leaves ... leaving at least 1/2" between leaves. The drawn line will be the stitching line.

Once all four big leaves are traced I'll separate my pieces, again being careful to keep at least a 1/4" space around the points and edges.

Now there are four rectangles with a large holly leaf traced onto each. Pin the layers together at the points to keep the fabric from shifting.

Now that the big leaves are finished, I'm going to repeat those steps for the little leaves, tracing out four.
Again, the batting goes on the bottom, followed by the backing fabric right side UP, and then the top fabric right side DOWN. Pin the layers together in the corners to secure the fabric.

And finally, repeat the process for the berries.
And even though this shape is a circle, I still cut them out in squares (my preference), leaving at least a 1/4" space around all the edges. I trace and cut out four.

Now that all the pieces are traced and cut, it's time to sew.
As you can see in this photo, I mark a starting point and a stopping point, leaving a 1" to 1.5" gap in the seam. This gap is important -- it's where the pieces are turned right side out. And I've found that if I *don't* mark my gap, I invariably sew through it! I also try to make sure I put the gap in a place where I'm going to attach other pieces. That helps hide the the fact that it was not machine stitched.

I set my stitch length to a 2.0. I find the smaller stitch works better on this project. I backstitch at the starting point, stitch a straight stitch on the line I've drawn, all the way around to my stopping point, where I backstitch again.

I flipped this piece over and highlighted my stitches, so you could see what it looks like from the back.
Note the open (unstitched) space at the bottom of my leaf.

Next, I'm going to cut my leaf out, leaving a scant 1/8" around my stitches . . .
Except where the gap is. There I want to leave about 3/8". This will make it easier to fold under and stitch closed once the piece is right-side-out.

Repeat stitching for the remaining eleven pieces. [Then take a Christmas cookie and coffee/cocoa/hot tea break. Trust me on this one!]

Once everything is cut out, it's time to turn each piece right-side-out.

Open the gap with your fingers and . . .

Wrestle and tug Gently maneuver the fabric through the gap so that the right sides of both pieces of fabric are showing, and the batting is now hidden in the middle. You may need to run a finger or blunt object around the inside of the opening (I went between my top fabric and the batting), to make sure the seams are pushed out all the way. This will be especially important at the tips of your holly leaves.
Next, turn the excess fabric at the gap under . . .
And pin it shut. Repeat this process for all of the remaining pieces. You may find it convenient/necessary to take another cookie-and-coffee break. Again,trust me.

Now that everything is turned right-side-out, it's time to stitch closed the openings on each piece.
I match my thread to the top piece of fabric and take tiny, applique-like stitches to close the gap.

I pull my stitches fairly tight, doing my best to keep them hidden from the top.

Once all twelve gaps are closed, it's time to press and quilt as desired.

I did a free motion quilting stitch in the big leaves to look like leaf veins, which gave them a little texture. I used a straight stitch leaf vein in the small leaves. I didn't do any stitching in the berries (although they might be cute with a little spiral action). But again, it's a quilt-as-desired project.

Once the quilting is done, it's time to assemble the topper.
This was the convenient aspect of drawing my design out in EQ and then using that as my template. I knew it would all fit together nicely once it was sewn and laid out.

In projects like this where multiple pieces are being sewn together, it's good to make sure each piece connects to another in at least three different places. This gives your overall project good stability.
I did not compress the above picture so it can be clicked on and enlarged. You can see where the berry attaches in three different places, the small leaf attaches in three different places, and the large holly leaf actually attaches in five different places. I use two pins for each connection, to help hold the pieces together securely.

I purposefully put my 'gaps' at the bottoms of the holly leaves (large and small), where I knew they'd be connected to other pieces. The holly berries need to be rotated so that the closed gap fits up into the connecting point of one of the leaves. This is just the most aesthetically pleasing.

Once it's all pinned together (and it took a little playing around to get it looking the way I liked it), I flip it over.
I flip it because it's from the back side that I'm going to stitch the pieces together. And believe it or not, of all the steps, this part takes the least amount of time!!

I start by stitching each berry at its two connecting points to the BIG holly leaves. First I remove the two pins used to hold the two pieces together. I use the same thread I used to close my gaps. With tiny stitches I make a run of about six to eight stitches up, catching only the tiniest bit of the bottom fabric. Then I run back down the other direction, cross-hatching my previous stitches. The double stitching helps secure the pieces nicely.
Once I've gone around and done each berry in the two spots, I start on stitching the smaller leaves to their three connecting points. This really does move very quickly and generally, on the small leaves, I only took three to four small stitches up and then back.

Once all the pins are removed and the last stitch is stitched, flip it back over and give it a little press. Then VOILA!
A Holly Jolly Topper is born!!

I hope this all makes sense ... please feel free to drop by my blog and let me know if you have questions, or if you want the template pdf. Or even if you just want to say hello and Merry Christmas!!

Denise - counting being here today all joy! :)

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