Monday, 8 December 2014

A Handmade Christmas Part 1: LeMoyne Star Tree Ornaments

Growing up we had an artificial tree most years. I remember one Christmas we had a live one and it shed horribly. I was given leg warmers that year (it was the 80s) and I still remember putting them on after leaving them on the floor and being pricked by what seemed like hundreds of tiny needles. It took forever to get the pine needles out. 

My mum dressed the tree every year and the process was always the same. Lights were first and had to be tested. Ours were coloured with spikey lanterns covering the bulbs. Invariably there would be a loose bulb which caused the whole string to not work, thus began the tedious task of twisting every bulb to find the offending one. After that was tinsel. Tinsel first then the lights, so the lights didn't cover the gaudy sparkly garlands. This seemed to take a while because my mum was a real stickler for making sure there were no gaps. Then came the fun bit, adding the ornaments, but there was a system to this as well. Larger ornaments at the bottom, smaller at the top.

I decided to rebel at little when dressing my tree and put the ornaments on before the lights. I could almost see my mum sighing and shaking her head as I awkwardly pulled the string of lights around the tree, knocking off my carefully placed baubles. There was obvious method in her madness!

In years past our tree was inspired by peacock colours which meant deep teal, magenta and I even added peacock feathers. But this year we decided on a mainly red and white colour scheme. I have to say I prefer it. Concerned I wouldn't have enough ornaments in the right colours, I decided to make some and chose the lovely traditional LeMoyne star patchwork design. I made this using my favourite paper piecing method since they are quite small and they really don't take long at all to make this way. 

You will need
LeMoyne star template (to be added!)
Fabric in two patterns
Stiff cotton canvas or heavyweight stabilizer
Matching ribbon cut to 4 inches
Card stock
Scrap paper
Glue stick
Multi-purpose thread in a contrasting color to the patterned fabric
Sewing thread in a color to match the patterned fabric
Pinking shears or regular scissors

  1. Cut out the template and glue onto card stock to make a re-usable template
  2. Draw 8 shapes onto scrap paper and cut out
  3. Pin 4 of these slanting to the LEFT to the wrong side of ONE of the patterned fabrics allowing about 1/2 inch between each shape and the edge of the fabric
  4. Cut around the shapes with a 1/4 inch seam allowance
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 with the remaining 4 shapes point to the RIGHT with the other patterned fabric
  6. Fold seam allowance over the paper shape and tack stitch the seam all the way round with the contrasting thread
  7. Do this for all eight
  8. Take one each of the shapes in different patterns
  9. Put the front sides together (so if you flip them either way you can see the seam allowance and paper underneath) and sew a long edge with matching thread using whip stitch
  10. When done, take another shape and sew it to one of the of the short edges of the two shapes, ensuring the pattern is alternating (see the photos above)
  11. Do this for FOUR shapes so that you have half a star with a straight edge
  12. Repeat steps 8 - 11
  13. Sew the long edges of the two halves together with the right sides facing each other, using the matching thread and whip stitch
  14. Remove the tacking stitches ad papers (save them for your next star!)
  15. Pin the wrong side to the canvas or stabilizer, with the seam folded under and sandwiched betweed the canvas and star
  16. Fold your ribbon into a loop
  17. Pin between the star and canvas (see photos)
  18. Sew with running stitch in matching thread, I intentionally made the stitches long to give the stars a primitive look
  19. Trim the excess canvas or stabilizer with pinking shears or normal scissors
  20. Hang on your tree or wreath!

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