Toddler Felt Christmas Tree – Grandma’s Gift Sewn with Love

My prayer as I worked to create this Felt Christmas Tree and Ornaments for my granddaughter was that I was creating a family heirloom that will entertain and bless little ones in our family line for years to come.  Felt became my friend as I created and engineered, with E6000 Glue, and monofilament thread close behind.  I share my creation in hopes you might put a project like it on your ‘To Do’ List.  Perhaps not for this year, but for next?

 

Granddaughter playing with Tree

Inspiration from Pinterest

Honestly, I had found the picture below well before last Christmas and had every intention of creating it for our new granddaughter then.  My friend, Dale, was correct in saying it would be better for her this year and I do believe she was correct – as my grandbaby is now 16 months old rather than 4 months as at last Christmas!

One big difference is how the pieces ‘attach’.  I put the hook side of Velcro (hook n’ loop tape) on the back of each piece, while on the inspiration project, a loop was stitched to the pieces that the child has to secure around a button on the tree.  I felt that was a bit difficult.  Besides, I didn’t want to sew on buttons on the tree.  I also feel that with my technique, it allows for more original ‘play’ and placement by the child.

 

inspiration project photo

Engineering a Stable, Collapsible Tree

Since my daughter and her family have some mobile years in their future, I definitely wanted this project to be ‘collapsible’ for easier storage.  I do believe I managed that, as you can see it all comes apart and folds up into a bag made of 1 yard of cotton Christmas print fabric.  I started with a 48″ x 24″ sheet of 3/4″ foam from JoAnn’s.  I did look up online how to create a cone – and followed those directions as found on YouTube.  Basically, the height of the tree is the radius of a circle.  The arc drawn is the base of the tree, and the center point is the tree’s top. I found that my 45mm rotary cutter easily cut the foam.

bagged up project    marking cone radius on foam

It was easy to realize that the foam would need ‘strength’ or some ‘bones’ in order to allow for the tree to ‘stand up’ to play.  My first thought was that cardboard strips would work.  I used a hot glue gun to apply long strips of Velcro to both the foam and the cardboard strips.  This did NOT work.  I realized I needed some ‘bones’ that would add more stability.  I also realized that the hot glue gun was NOT going to be strong enough for the task.  My visit to Ace Hardware  – the helpful hardware place’  yielded 5 yardsticks at $.50 each in my eager hands.  It was easy to tear the Velcro off the cardboard strips, and re-glue them to yardsticks that I cut as you see in the photos below.

I also decided to number the wooden sticks and the velcro spots for ease of putting together.  I admitted to hubby this morning, that SOMEHOW I wasn’t consistent in which side of the Velcro went on which piece…to which his (accountant) brain seemed unimagineable.  Yet – to my creative, inconsistent brain, totally understandable.

inside stability-total 8yardsticks inside stability yardsticks velcro on

Tiers of Felt

Looking closely at the inspiration photo, it appeared there were zigzag tiers of green felt on the tree – so I did that as well.  Buy several yards of green felt to accomplish all this!  You can see my freelance ‘design pattern’ below at the left and the result at the right.

Back Tree Seam

I would recommend leaving a good 3″ of excess felt on both ‘ends’ of the tree.  That way, it would be easy to glue it around the depth of the foam.  All you’d have to do is to add a strip of the hook side of Velcro to one side, and that would ‘stick’ it together.  You can see by the photos below, that you get the benefit of my struggle.  A long piece of felt with hook Velcro to the back covers up my ‘messy’ back seam.

          Back joining mess

 

Star Tree Topper

One last structural challenge:  a floppy star tree topper!  A piece of boning, stitched to an additional strip of yellow felt and glued to the back solved the problem of a floppy star.  This ‘cone + star’ simply gets set on top of the tree once it is stuck together as shown above.

Felt ‘Ornaments’ for Play

While I have an embroidery machine ‘hidden’ in my Studio, I really did not even consider using it to make all of the ‘Ornaments’.  Instead, I took my challenge from the inspiration photo project, and set out to make my own out of felt, machine stitching, and hand embroidery – and I’m SO GLAD I DID!  It was such fun – finding images online, then drawing the sections on felt, refining, re-doing, etc.  Not far into this process, I realized that if they were to hold up to little fingers playing (hopefully for years), that a single layer just would NOT suffice!  See my first reindeer at the  left – he would have leg amputations fairly quickly, I feared.  Instead, I did not hesitate at all on making numerous layers for these pieces, as you can see on the Rudolph Reindeer and Bell in the center.

These two pieces below at right were the very last completed as I took one more trip to JoAnn’s for a red pompom and a jingle bell.  Fearing detachment and swallowing danger, I stitched the bell on in a way I learned to sew on metal shank buttons to coats.  Since metal will ALWAYS cut through a sharp metal shank, I slipped a straight ‘eye’ from an old hook n’ eye card through the bell ‘shank’, and VERY SECURELY stitched the eye to the felt.  I tried to take a picture of that process.  Find those in the 2nd row of photographs.

   

Monofilament Thread Stitching

For the stitching on my ‘pieces’, or ‘ornaments’, I used clear monofilament thread in the needle, tension lowered, a sharp needle, and neutral thread in the bobbin.  Sometimes I even dropped my feed dogs to stitch ‘freely’ with free motion embroidery adding dimension and line to the pieces.  Below you can see some details.  I also did some hand embroidery – usually for faces and hair.  AFTER thta work, I cut another larger piece of felt to which I machine stitched the hook side of Velcro, then with wrong sides together, stitched around the perimeter of the piece to make it nice and durable.  Then I would trim away the excess around the outer stitching.

             

Here are some close-ups of most of my other ornaments/pieces/playthings.  Who is missing?  SANTA!  Yep, I decided to leave him OFF.  Nana’s message regarding the true meaning of Christmas.  The Christ Child.

Truth:  I’ve written this post before giving our little one this gift tomorrow at Thanksgiving.  I can’t wait!!!!  I’ve left a spot at the top of this post for a picture of our little angel playing with the tree.  Along with the cardboard table ‘Tent’ I’d made for her mommy and our son 34 years ago, (Read that post HERE) she’s bound to keep busy in the coming days.

Such is the fun of MAKING GIFTS.  I pray you are enjoying the same blessing for the little ones in your family.

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