Every once in while I get the urge to sew and there’s no telling what I might create. I learned how to stitch when I was around seven years old and I still look forward to threading a needle when inspiration strikes. This year, a project I’ve wanted to do for a few years finally couldn’t stand sitting on my creative shelf any longer, so I made the time to get it done. In the 2008 issue of Holiday Crafts magazine (from the lovely people at Better Homes and Gardens), a pattern for a pear tree appliqué project was featured and my muse went crazy. It was a cute idea, but there were about a million things I wanted to change about the fabric and layout. All I needed was three years to work out all the details, (at least that’s what I tell myself to justify such ridiculous procrastination).
Now, I should point out that I rarely complete a project that follows the pattern perfectly. I always change, add, subtract, or combine some detail or another. Patterns are simply inspiration and I never let them create boundaries.
For my pear tree, I replaced all the fabric with wool felt to give it more rustic, folk art feel. My favorite type of wool felt is a 70/30 blend because it’s sturdy and comes in rich shades of color. I’m not a fan of floral prints, nor did I like the color scheme of the finished pattern project, so I replaced the colors with deeper reds, greens, and golds. The floral foo-foo ended up getting replaced with a woven wool plaid. As a result of the change in color scheme, I also had to rework all the thread choices as well. This sounds like a lot of work (and it is), but the result was worth all the trouble. While my finished piece has little resemblance to the inspiration, I love how it turned out:
One change I made to this project was the addition of leaves on the branches of the tree. It seemed only fitting seeing as I live in a place where there is no snow at Christmas and the trees remain green all year round. Plus, the leaves added some color and detail to a background that seemed a little bland. I pulled the leaf pattern from another shelved project and I’m thrilled the proportion turned out to be exactly right.
The outer border is another major change and I’m not sorry I did it! A few years ago, I found three yards of wool plaid fabric at a thrift store for $2. What a buy! The colors really compliment the pears and it packs a little punch of much needed blue. I also added corner pieces on the border that include more pears. This was done to break up the plaid and I think it ties the whole piece together. Inside each pear is a varnished wooden button straight from Northern Wisconsin. This little detail pays homage to my roots as the Northwoods hold a special place in my heart.
Each pear is hand stitched with an image and text relating to the Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” When I decided to make everything out of felt, I immediately hit a snag when I realized I couldn’t easily transfer the images from the pattern to the felt – it’s too thick! Thank goodness for my other little hobby of counted cross-stitch, where I learned a handy technique involving Waste Fabric. This fabric is a lot like aida cloth, but with less bulk. When layered over the top of any fabric, it’s easy to place a pattern wherever it needs to go and stitch right on the grid. Then, like magic it comes apart when the strings are pulled! Once the waste fabric is totally removed, the stitched pattern remains behind!
All the edges, (including around the outside border) are finished with a blanket stitch as opposed to the pattern sanctioned whip stitch. What can I say? I like the look of a blanket stitch!
With the Twelve Days of Christmas rapidly approaching, I can’t wait to hang my pear tree on the wall. To count down the days to December 25th, I’m going flip all the pears to the reverse and turn them over as each day passes. I see this as my personal spin on the always fun advent calendar.
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