sewing 101: tree skirt


Deck your halls DIY-style this year with an easy handmade tree skirt! In this post, I’ll show you the basics of sewing a simple round skirt, which you can adapt to any custom size to fit your tree — from a majestic 12-foot fir to an NYC-apartment-sized mini-tree like mine. The fabric you choose will make a big statement in this project, so try a graphic print for a modern look, or a velvet, brocade or vintage textile for a more traditional flavor. This skirt is fully reversible, so if you’re feeling indecisive, use a different fabric for the front and back, and flip it when you want a change. — Brett Bara

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!

Materials

  • fabric for the skirt (front and back)
  • muslin or light batting for lining
  • 1–2 yards grosgrain or satin ribbon
  • straight pins
  • scissors
  • chalk, pencil or other marking tool
  • sewing machine
  • iron

Instructions

Choosing Fabric

You can use just about any type of fabric for this project, depending on the look you want for your tree skirt. This is a great opportunity to think outside the box and consider using vintage or heirloom fabrics — a vintage tablecloth, old velvet curtains or an antique bedspread would all work great here. Luxe fabrics are also good candidates — now is your chance to break out the brocades or embroidered textiles. Graphic prints are a great choice for a more modern look. And if you can’t quite make up your mind, consider using a different fabric for the front and back for a reversible skirt.

In addition to the fabric you’ll need for the front and back, you’ll need a lining fabric that will be sandwiched between the two layers to give the skirt more body and to help it do its job of covering up any lumps and bumps created by the tree stand, power cords, etc. For a smaller skirt, a simple layer of muslin should do the trick, which is what I used here. For a larger or heavier skirt, you can use felt or a layer of light quilt batting.

Determining Size

A good rule of thumb is that the tree skirt should be about the same diameter as the base of your tree, give or take. To make this skirt, you’ll need two squares of fabric as wide as you’d like your finished skirt to be, plus 1″.

Bear in mind that decorator fabrics tend to come in wider widths than fashion or quilting fabrics, so if you need some extra width to make a large skirt, look in the decorator section of your fabric store.

1. Cutting

As described above, begin by cutting two squares from your fabric, each measuring the same size as your desired finished skirt, plus 1″. To make the front of the skirt, fold one square of your fabric in half diagonally, then in half again.

Fold it in half twice more, making a narrow triangle shape. Pin it together through all layers to keep the layers from shifting.

Draw a curved line at the wide end of the triangle, just inside the shortest raw edge. (Note: when marking fabric, it’s best to use chalk, a disappearing ink pen or a pencil — never a marker, which I’m using here only for visibility in the photos!) Cut the fabric along that line (cut through a few layers at a time rather than trying to cut through the whole stack all at once).

Open the fabric up, and you’ll have a circle shape. Most likely it will not be a perfect circle, so trim away any peaks or dips around the circumference to even it out.

Then, layer your fabrics as follows: place the lining fabric down on your work surface. Place the remaining square of fabric (this will be the back) right side up on top of the lining layer. Finally, place the circle you just cut right side down on top of this. It’s important to layer the fabrics in this order, and be sure the front and back are placed with their right sides facing each other.

Pin all three layers together, and cut around the circle shape so that all three pieces are the same circle size and shape. Do not remove the pins; keep the layers pinned together for all the remaining steps.

2. Make the center hole and skirt opening.

Fold the stack in half twice to determine the middle point, and mark it with an X. Next, use a round object such as a lid or bowl to trace a circle, which will become the hole for the tree trunk. (Seam allowance will cause the hole to become 1″ larger after you sew it, so trace a circle that’s about 1″ smaller than you’d like the finished hole to be.)

Finally, draw a line from the center point to the edge of the circle.

Cutting through all three layers, cut along the line and around the center circle.

3. Attach the ties.

Cut your ribbon to approximately 10″ lengths (the number of ties you need depends on how large of a skirt you’re making).

Flip up the top layer of fabric and pin the ribbons to the raw edge of the skirt bottom and lining, arranging them in pairs.

Sew the ribbons to the bottom/lining layers with a scant 1/4″ seam allowance.

Flip the top layer back down and pin the layers closed again, being careful to arrange the ribbons inside the layers so that they won’t get caught in the stitching in the next step.

Beginning on one of the straight edges and using a 1/2″ seam allowance, sew around the entire perimeter of the skirt, including up the sides of the opening and around the center hole. End the seam about 6″ to 8″ from where you started, leaving a 6″-to-8″ opening on one of the straight edges.

Trim the seam allowance all around the piece, trimming about 1/8″ from the stitching.

Finally, turn the piece right side out by carefully working it through the opening in the stitching. Iron the skirt, and sew the opening closed by hand.

And you’re done! Happy holidays!

Stephanie

Who makes that fabric? I’ve been looking for fabric like that for ages!

ce

I love the fabric you used. Can you tell me what it is or where you found it? Thanks

Molly

I really like the fabric you chose for this. Would you mind sharing where it’s from?

Thanks!

annawithlove

this could not have been posted at a better time! My boyfriend is in desperate need of one but we can’t find one we like….now I have a solution!! thanks ;)

Mallory

I want to make this so badly, and I don’t even have a Christmas tree. I think I will make one and put it under someone else’s tree…

Rebecca

Really cute. I wish I had seen this yesterday! I went searching for a tree skirt and everything I found was $75 or more. I eventually settled on a red blanket marked down from $50 to $30 from Pottery Barn that I thought I might be able to whip into a tree skirt. But when I wrapped it around the base, I thought looked good enough sans sewing. Very Charlie Brown-esque :) Anyway, next year I will be more ambitious!

Isabelle

I love the fabric and the tree! Where did you get the tree from?! I have been looking for one just like it!

Rebecca

Great ideas. The tree skirt is always the last thing on my mind but the first and only thing I don’t love about decorating. I’m not sure I’ll have time to make something…but now I feel inspired to go hunting!

Emily Rae

This is so wonderful, and thanks for the clear instructions! I want a graphic tree skirt like this to put around the bottom of my coat rack.

Brett

hi all,

My little tiny tree is from one of the xmas tree vendors that set up on the sidewalks here in NYC. They sell these itty bitty trees for those of us in itty bitty apartments. :)

Brett

Kate L.

What is the name of the fabric that is shown; we know it’s from http://www.moodfabrics.com, but there are a TON of lines and makers there. Name of maker, eve would help. To ME, it looks like giant Dahlias printed on the fabric – awesome!!! I’d buy a fake tree that looks like that “Charlie Browner”. LOVE IT.

Sondra

Hello,
I totally agree with everyone, LOVE this Tree Skirt, great post, could easily see this in Alexander Henry bold prints. The fabric could compliment the ornaments colors.
Thanks very much, Grace, for sharing this. Just posted a link on our blog.
Best to you,
Sondra

can't sew

Oaf, this might be too advanced for my “one time a made a pillow” sewing skills. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to fold the square properly to make it look like the picture!

Shana

Easier way to produce a perfect circle: thumbtack, string, pencil. Trying to rough it out, then painstakingly trim, would drive me ’round the bend. Remember your geometry classes, peeps!

Paulene Shedd

I have made these for years, the same way, but I made them out of velvet and use different color on each side. Of course I spent many hours doing beaded ornaments and decorations on the velvet before it was sewed. They make wonderful gifts. I made each one of my children one for their house.

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