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Merry & Bright Christmas Tree Table runner tutorial

 I love driving around at night and seeing all the lovely Christmas lights. I’ve tried to capture that joy in this raw edge applique project.  Black backing fabric creates a brilliant night sky and bright saturated Kaffe Fassett-type fabrics work well for the trees. Choosing just the right threads made the trees light up with bright variegated light-reflecting tri-lobal polyester, variegated metallics and even a glow-in-the-dark thread! This little tutorial walks you step by step through the project, beginning with the raw edge applique on the Juki DX7 and finishing with the free motion quilting on the Juki TL QVP Mini. You’ll end up with a Christmas Tree table runner that is definitely Merry and Bright!

Things You’ll Need

  • JUKI DX7 sewing machine – ideal for applique!
  • JUKI TL2200QVP Mini straight – perfect for free motion quilting
  • 6-foot MachineQuilter frame
  • Black backing fabric
  • Bright Kaffe-Fasset-like fabric for the trees
  • Plain fabrics for the trunks – I used a set of charm squares
  • Very fine Vilene – Easy Fuse Ultra Soft Light H180
  • Threads for piecing, applique and machine quilting
  • Triangle tree-shaped ruler or be clever and simply cut your own!
Merry & Bright Superior Threads

Choices Choices!

First, figure out the size table runner you want and cut the black background fabric.  I cut my black background fabric to be 2 feet high and 60 inches long so it would fit on my 6-foot quilting frame. For the length, I just went from selvage to selvage – the fabric was 60 inches wide. Adding extra space below the runner gives you a place to practice your pattern, play with threads and get the tension sorted.

Next, choose some zingy bright fabrics for the trees. I raided my Kaffe Fassett stash and chose some similarly colour-saturated fabrics. My trees measure 5 ½ inches at the base and are 10 ½ inches tall. But you can make your own template with a piece of card or plastic. I just happened to have the perfect ruler.

Working with the Vilene

Now, use the template to draw the Christmas tree shape on the Vilene.  Later, we’re going to iron this Vilene shape on the back of the bright Christmas tree fabrics. The Vilene will give the fabric a bit of extra structure and also keep it from unravelling too much. One side of the Vilene will feel soft. The other side will feel hard and bubbly. Put the hard-bubbly side on your surface. I used my ironing board and traced the template on the soft side of the Vilene. Cut out the Vilene but NOT on the line. Go a half an inch or a couple of centimetres outside the line and cut there. Draw and cut one Vilene template for each tree.

trace the shape on the vilene
Cut the vilene shape OUTSIDE the line
arrange the Vilene on the back of the Fabric
ironing the Vilene

Iron the Vilene to the back of your chosen fabrics. Make sure that the bubbly side of the Vilene is facing the back of your fabric. I used another piece of cloth over the Vilene, while I was ironing, so I didn’t scorch it. Once the Vilene was ironed to my fabrics, I carefully cut along the traced lines.  The Vilene gives the fabric a bit of extra structure and keeps the edges from fraying too much. I also found it was easier to cut a nice straight line when I was cutting through the Vilene backed fabric.

Cut out the tree shapes
Cut out the tree shapes

Now, arrange the trees on the black background fabric.  When you’re happy with the order and spacing, pin them in place.

Making the Tree Trunks

Choose some fabrics for your tree trunks. I used some mini-charm squares in plain fabric measuring 2 ½ inches by 2 ½ inches for the tree trunks. I folded the raw edges towards the centre, ironed it and then slip the raw edges under the trunk.

folding the tree trunk fabric
folding the tree trunk fabric 2
folding the tree trunk fabric 3
folding the tree trunk fabric 4

Raw Edge Applique with the Juki DX7

Once your trees are pinned in place and your trunks are tucked in the bottom, you are ready to raw edge applique. Choose some thread that will blend in with your Christmas tree fabrics. Bottom Line is ideal for hand and machine applique because it is so fine and comes in lots of colours.  The JUKI DX7 sewing machine has a float feature that makes machine applique easy and fun. The float feature raises the pressure foot just a bit off the fabric each time that I stop stitching. This allows me to easily turn the fabrics as I’m stitching without having to raise and lower the pressure foot manually. Don’t stitch around the whole trunk yet, just catch the one side that’s tucked under the tree. Right now we want them floppy! I’ll show you why later.

raw edge applique using the Juki DX7 float function
Raw edge applique using the Juki DX7 float function

Free Motion Quilting with the Juki TL QVP Mini straight stitch

Now that you’ve raw edge appliqued all your trees on your backing fabric, you’re ready for the quilting. To keep it simple, I’ve backed my table runner with red fleece and loaded the layers on my Machine Quilter frame. The frame will perfectly tension the layers of my quilt so I won’t need to baste pin or tack. It also turns the needle of my Juki TL QVP Mini straight stitch sewing machine into a pen. Quilting becomes simply doodling with my needle! I’m using a 100/16 Topstitch needle and reduced tensions. You can find out more about how to tension your Juki TL QVP Mini for free motion quilting here.

The Juki TL QVP Mini on the Machine Quilter frame
The Juki TL QVP Mini on the Machine Quilter frame

Quilting the Background

First, quilt the background. I’m using some indigo thread, a Fantastico thread called First Place #5124. I like how it shows up a little against the black. I’ve used an all over wavy pattern to suggest the ground. Notice that I’ve flipped my tree trunks up onto the trees and pinned them down out of the way. This allows me to quilt my wavy ground line design without having to go around the tree trunks. Isn’t that great! I’ll stitch the trunks down at the very end sitting at my sewing machine. After I finished the wavy ground pattern I stitched an all over swirly pattern to suggest the sky.

Indigo Fantastico thread for the background quilting
wavy lines for the ground
the floppy tree trunks are pinned up out of the way
it was a dark and windy night

Free motion quilting the trees

Now move on to the trees. Embellishing the trees is the fun part. I chose bright fabrics that reminded me of Christmas lights. As I quilt the trees, I’m going to trace around and accentuate the patterns that are already in the fabric. I’m having fun playing with thread here, for instance, by choosing threads that look great on each tree. Here are some of the bright variegated thread from the Fantastico range that I used. I also use Superior Metallics which are GUARANTEED to work or your money back! And a Glow in the dark thread called NiteLite that is the perfect antidote to bleak mid-winter.

Variegated Fantastico
Merry & Bright Superior Threads
Fantastico from Superior Threads
Variegated Silver Metallic
Citrus Grove Fantastico
baubles and threads
Neon Fantastico
Superior Metallics

That’s our Christmas table runner done and dusted. Having the right tools really helped! The Juki DX7 is awesome for applique and the Juki TL QVP Mini straight stitch is fantastic for free motion quilting on or off a frame! The threads were terrific too! All together they make a VERY Merry & Bright Christmas tab;e runner.

free motion quilting
free motion quilting
Juki TL QVP Mini
Merry & Bright Superior Threads

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