Scrappy Arctic Vortex Tree Skirt – a fabric story

Do you have emotional reactions to your fabrics?

You know the type: The fat quarter that you bought on vacation and used a bit in one economy block of a very special baby quilt. The out of print unicorn that you found in a scrap bag that was handed down to you by a fellow quilter. The last remaining strip from the backing of your first ever quilt.

Rummaging through your stash can be like a mixtape from another time in your life.

I feel the same way when we decorate our Christmas tree each year. Sure, there’s some filler (I’m looking at you, unbreakable Ikea balls!) but there are special gifts and meaningful treasures that bring back a flood of memories as we pull each ornament out of its box.

When I think about the perfect quilted tree skirt to go under my Christmas tree, I want it to have the same feeling: an eclectic collection of meaningful bits and pieces, with maybe a bit of filler to pull it all together.

And yet, sometimes I find it so hard to pull together a cohesive yet scrappy fabric pull!

As a quilt pattern designer, I’m often designing with an upcoming collection of prints in mind. There’s an entire creative team who has already done the heavy lifting to make sure all the colours go together, that there’s the right mix of dark and light, saturated and toned down. Add the fact that I don’t generally work in reds and deep greens… I had my work cut out for me!

Since I’m not ready to start stitching anyway (my sewing machine seized up and is in the shop), I’m going back and forth between digging through my fabric stash, and playing with digital mock-ups in Electric Quilt software to get a feel for how my scrappy quilt blocks might work out.

I started by browsing my stash for some of the most meaningful pieces that are in the right colour families. I’m avoiding pinks, purples, oranges, greys, and blacks for sure, since those don’t really work with the decor of my tree. That eliminates a large portion of my stash! This is a good thing.

I pulled out the most meaningful scraps and fat quarters, and grouped them into colour families. I focused on reds and greens and whites, but since my greens tend to be on the yellow-green and blue-green ends, I don’t have a lot of what I’d call Christmassy greens.

Once I had an idea of what those looked like, I pulled this green, white and red raccoon print from Tula Pink’s All Stars as a candidate for fussy cut centers. Using the selvedge from the focal print as a guide/confirmation for the colour scheme is one of my favourite techniques for choosing fabrics for a quilt!

My next step was to mock it up in EQ8 to get a better feel for how the colours will work on the quilt as a whole. Rather than import every print that I was considering, I used prints that I already had, in similar colours.

Canned cat food, same colours as the raccoon!

I got a bit too much of a ketchup, mustard, and relish vibe from these. Also, the raccoon was a bit too large for the fussy cut to capture the green and red balls that give it the Christmassy feel.

I decided to try remixing the fabrics with the gold as sashing, pairing the reds with whites. This was an improvement, but I needed to see how the fabrics looked under the tree.

The reds, whites, and golds were all excellent. The peachier tones and the yellow greens were completely wrong. I did like the darker greens, especially the ones that were more to the blue end. I also got a suggestion from a comment on Instagram that I should try some navy. I’m not a big fan of navy, but I do have some very dark teals that are almost navy-ish. I threw them into the mix and I think they’re just what it needed.

I remembered that I have this fairy print that would pull the colours together quite nicely, and it’s the right scale for the diamonds. I bought it ages ago and have never found the right project for it! The little hat gives it a bit of an elf-like feel, so I’m leaning toward using it!

I’m going to sleep on it, but I think I’m close enough to start cutting and making some blocks!

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