Happy Trees Quilt Tutorial

Jenny Doan

Happy Trees Quilt Tutorial

Quilt Size: 88" x 88"

Jenny Doan is joined by her talented daughter, Natalie Earnheart, to demonstrate how to make a beautiful Happy Trees quilt using 10 inch squares of precut fabric. For this project, they chose Wilmington Essentials Red Carpet 10 Karat Gems by Wilmington Prints. This pretty layer cake pattern was inspired by one of the antique quilts in Jenny's collection. It's a traditional tree of life quilt made in solid red and white. With just a few changes - and easy half square triangles - Jenny whipped up a simplified version that represents her very own family.


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video transcript

Jenny: Hi everybody, it’s Jenny from the Missouri Star Quilt Company. And I am here with Natalie and we have a fun project for you on this Christmas Eve. And we chose this project because the block is specifically and traditionally about families. This is our family tree block right here. And we have made it a little bigger so it’s doable. And I got this idea from an antique quilt that I have. And it just brings families together. And all of this to me is like my big whole family all together. I hope you’re able to spend some time with your family this Christmas and we just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and we hope you enjoy today’s tutorial.

Jenny: Hi everybody, it’s Jenny from the Missouri Star Quilt Company. And you may notice that I am here today with somebody special. I’m here with Natalie and we are going to show you a quick and easy way to make this amazing block. So this was a quilt I picked up at Dakota’s museum here. She periodically gets old quilts and sells them at the museum. And I love, this is the Tree of Life block. And I just loved it. And I just thought it was really amazing. And then Natalie was like, I’m pretty sure that we can recreate this and use this for inspiration for a quilt pattern to teach.

Natalie: Ya it’s a common block in antique quilts

Jenny: It is. I love this new setting.

Natalie: And we came up with an easy, quick way to do it. 

Jenny: And it’s fun. Now before we move on from this quilt, I would just like to point out, on this quilt, we reverence these old quilts. We love them. We think they’re amazing. Our quilts will outlive us by generations. But looking at old quilts is what made me realize that I was a pretty good quilter. Because, let’s take a look at this. How many points are missing right here? How about all of them, you know, and while the lady who made it, I’m sure, you know, she did it by hand and all that and we revere what they do, you know. All of a sudden I was like, huh? If it was ok for them, it’s ok for me. So please remember finished is better than perfect. Do things that fill your soul. And let’s just get to making things and let’s not worry about being so incredibly perfect. How many points are missing on this one? All of them. Anyway, this is what we came up with

Natalie: Do you want to show the whole thing?

Jenny: Oh ya, sure

Natalie: Because there’s one other piece about this that I think is super interesting.

Jenny: The pattern. So hold it this way.

Natalie: The trees are laid out facing each other

Jenny: They really are. Isn’t that interesting?

Natalie: So it’s like a super interesting layout.

Jenny: You know, they almost look like birthday cakes on a stand to me or

Natalie: Ya or like Menorahs

Jenny: Just fun little things. It is interesting to think about why they would have positioned them that way and that sort of thing. We will never know. For the maker of this has long passed. But I love to use old quilts for inspiration. And this is a fun one.

Natalie: We kind of, and that’s kind of why our quilt is laid out the way it is, we decided we wanted them to face opposite directions and you know, we incorporated little bits of inspiration kind of all throughout.

Jenny: And we lost a few points. But we’re not telling.

Natalie: No we didn’t.

Jenny: Anyway, so let’s show how we did this.

Natalie: Only the ones we didn’t need.

Jenny: That’s right, only the points we didn’t need. So this is a pretty big quilt. It measures 88 by 88. It’s a great size. And let’s show how to make this block.

Natalie: We used up the entire layer cake. So if you wanted to make more blocks, you totally could. You just need a little bit more red and white. I mean you can lay it out however you want. You can mix and match. You can have it go several directions.

Jenny: We actually did several layouts.

Jenny: So to make the Happy Trees quilt you’re going to need one packet of ten inch squares and we have used Red Carpet by Wilmington Essentials. You’re going to need 4 ¾ yards of a background fabric. For your outer border you’re going to need 1 ½ yards. And for your backing you will need eight yards of vertical seams or three yards of a 108. So show us how to make this Nat, how did you do it? 

Natalie: Alright, so one of the first things you want to do is make all your half square triangles. So you’ll gather up a white square and a red square. And we’re going to make 16.

Jenny: We are, 16 out of two ten inch squares. And you’re going to need a squaring tool. 

Natalie: So you’re going to draw a line horizontally and vertically.

Jenny: Like we’ve got it. 

Natalie: And then what you’re going to do is, you’re going to stitch on both sides of these two lines and all the way around the outside edge.  

Jenny: Ok. Let me do that. I’m pretty sure I can do that pretty fast. 

Natalie: Yep.

Jenny: So no diagonal lines on this one, just straight up and down. And then we’re going to come over here to the side. Now you might have noticed mine, well I thought it folded there a little bit but it didn’t. But I was going to say don’t  worry about it if it does because that’s part of the part that’s going to get squared. So now we are going to sew all the way around. People always say, do you sew off or do you pivot? And I’m like it just depends what happens when I get there. 

Natalie: I almost always sew all the way off the edge. I feel like it makes a nice square that’s really sharp. 

Jenny: Alrighty. There you go, girl. 

Natalie: So now we have the cutting. And the cutting is extra fun. You guys are going to love this. If you wanted to, you could cut the four squares apart but I’m going to show you how to cut the whole thing all together in one piece without moving it. So you’re just cutting across those four lines. 

Jenny: Vertically and horizontally.

Natalie: And then I did this direction corner to corner. And then I did this direction corner to corner

Jenny: Well Natalie that’s different than how I cut them. That’s very cool.

Natalie: And then I do this direction corner to corner. And then you just go the opposite way. 

Jenny: Very cool. 

Natalie: And your entire thing is all cut up and ready to be squared. 

Jenny: We can always count on you to look at something with a different, come at it from a different angle. 

Natalie: Ok, so now these are ready to be squared to three inches.

Jenny: Ya, I’ve got a little squaring tool here. You don’t cut much off, do you?

Natalie: Nope, it’s not a lot and if you’ve got a good straight line you can just cut one side. So this can go pretty fast.

Jenny: Alright, I will iron these. And I think we have a bunch cut over here already.

Natalie: We do. 

Jenny: How many do you need for each block?

Natalie: So you don’t need, you need, let’s see, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 11, 12, 13, 14. 14 per block. So because you have 16 you’ll have a couple leftover.

Jenny: A few leftover. 

Natalie: But they will go into other blocks

Jenny: Ok that makes sense. 

Natalie: Alright, so 

Jenny: I have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.

Natalie: It’s easier for me to use this tool on the print side than the white side because then you can see the seam. 

Jenny: Ok well you can stop now because I have 14 done.

Natalie: We have 14? Perfect. We’ll set these aside for other blocks.

Jenny: I knew we had done a bunch of those, I just wasn’t sure how many I had done.

Natalie: So if these are all squared, we need to make sure they’re all pressed open. And then we can make this part of the block which is another half square triangle and we have a pieced in stem. We’re going to start with our red or printed square. We’re going to cut it down to 8 ½  inches. So I’m going to go eight inches here. 

Jenny: I’m going to cut these little dog ears while I’m standing here. 

Natalie: And we are going to end up using both pieces of these, these little extra pieces that we cut off. That’s what makes up our stem.

Jenny: Oh perfect. 

Natalie: So we will cut this also in half. 

Jenny: And that will make two of those.

Natalie: And it makes two blocks. So, I mean, you could match these up if you wanted to but they don’t need to be matched. Because it’s a tonal line I didn’t worry about any of the stuff matching up. I used whatever reds I had in front of me. Some of them are side by side, some of them are not. But your stems and that, none of it has to match. So I made a pile of triangles and a pile of stem pieces. And then to get the two sides, these two side pieces, I took ten inch squares

Jenny: And we have two stacked up, you could do it one at a time or whatever.

Natalie: You can do it with however many you want. I cut them corner to corner, both directions. I’m going to have to scoot just a little bit close to you to get this angle.

Jenny: You’re fine. I was just thinking it’s always so funny to watch you cut because I’m left handed. 

Natalie: I feel the same way when I watch you cut. It’s like all backwards and upside down. Ok so then to make this stem you’ve got this really great piece right here. And you’re going to just line up this top with those tops. Make sense?

Jenny: Oh, yes, I didn’t think that was where you were going at all. So that’s awesome.

Natalie: Totally easy. So just stick this one here and we’ll keep, we use that top line as a straight guide and then we just trim off the bottom excess. 

Jenny: So then what size is this strip right here? 

Natalie: It’s whatever size is left after cutting an 8 ½ inch square out of your layer cake, but it’s an inch and a half. 

Jenny: There we go. Oh one more. One more.

Natalie: So then this one goes on the other side. Line up that top piece

Jenny: Alright. There we go. Alrighty. 

Natalie: Alright, I’m going to go ahead and press this open. And I usually will press to the inside because I really don’t want my red to show through my white.

Jenny: No that’s one of those press to the dark side times.

Natalie: Ya. Yep, I mean I’ll flip it over both sides just to make sure it’s going the way I want it to but. So then if you’re worried about getting this stuff to match up, you might want to put a little finger press in here. 

Jenny: On this too?

Natalie: And a little finger press on that. And then hit those middles and we’re just going to sew right across. It’s not going to be, like this if obviously more white than you need but it was easier for me to put this block together using those ten inch pre cut squares because then I didn’t have to think too much about that measurement. It just gave me a lot of wiggle room. 

Jenny: I like it. Oop, I’m going to back up a little bit because I want this seam to stay on the red. There we go. I could feel it flip when I came by and I’m like, nope you cannot be on the red. Or you cannot be on the white. There we go. There’s that. 

Natalie: Alright so now we’re going to press this back. And you’ve got most of it. We’re going to go ahead and square it up. 

Jenny: I have a little square down here.

Natalie: Perfect. And then I squared these to eight inches. So I’m going to flip that around because this piece is typically just about the right size. Turn that so I can get to my eight. There we go. So you’ll see once you take that seam, your red is right on the corner.

Jenny: Oh ok, that’s perfect.

Natalie: You almost never have to cut red off. So then the other thing you want to look at is making sure as you’re eyeballing this you’ve got something on either side of the line so that your stem stays in the middle. And then it’s just two quick cuts and you’re squared up. 

Jenny: That is awesome.

Natalie: This part is set and ready to do. So then

Jenny: Attach your trunk.

Natalie: Yep. So then we’re going to take our

Jenny: It does look a little bit like a leaf and I love it.

Natalie: Then we’re going to take our triangles and we’re going to lay them out. One thing that’s different about this that you’ll notice, in this top corner we have, you know, solid squares here. So I did make these blocks separately.

Jenny: Oh ok.

Natalie: But we can lay the whole thing out first and talk about that.

Jenny: I think I have some solids over here.

Natalie: So these go red to red.

Jenny: And how many of the solids do you need for your, two?

Natalie: Yep. It’s a little four patch in the corner.

Jenny: Alright so hand me those.

Natalie: Hang on just a second, I want to lay out the whole thing.

Jenny: You want to lay out the whole thing. That makes sense. That’s what I would do if I were making it but I thought you were way ahead of me a few steps. 

Natalie: So I can show. Just a little bit.

Jenny: This here, then? 

Natalie: And then that goes in there. And then we have a second layer out here and they go the same way. 

Jenny: Double leaves.

Natalie: Yep. It’s a double layer. Now if you wanted to recreate that quilt you could go two more layers if you wanted to. It will make a more rectangular, well no, it will just be a much bigger square.

Jenny: Yes and also, that’s what I was going to say. If you want to remake that quilt you can make tinier half square triangles.

Natalie: You can square all of this down to littler sizes too. You just have to make sure that these pieces match this piece. So, you know, three three inch squares sewn together equals an eight inch square. And that’s by, every time you take a seam you lose a half an inch. So that’s the math rule for quilting. If you want to try and figure out, you know, what’s going to fit with what. It can be tricky and we get it wrong a lot which is why we do a lot of experimenting with our designs.

Jenny: Or cutting down or squaring up.

Natalie: And, you know, then diagonal lines change things. And seam allowance, if it’s just a little big or a little small can make things a little shifty. But as a general rule, every seam you lose a half an inch.

Jenny: Well and honestly when you’re starting a block or making it for the first time, you really want to, I generally start a little bigger, you know, I would be much more comfortable sewing this than, you know, the tiny little squares. Alright so shall I make this one?

Natalie: You can do that. Yes, that’s how I did it when I put them together. I put them together all of my little four patch corners because they were less brain work. They’re super easy to put together. Two reds to the middle and then your white is top and bottom. 

Jenny: So here, like that. And did you have a trick for how you laid out your, how you sewed together your other one? 

Natalie: Well these ones I just did in our normal, piece these two and keep them connected. So I did this as a set of three and this as a set of three. Then I joined this to my four patch and this to this and these two together. So we can just do it in that order. So everybody can see it’s not super complicated. It’s just a little bit time consuming. 

Jenny: Not super complicated. Most things aren’t, you know, they’re just a little overwhelmed looking at the picture. Mostly when you take it a seam at a time, it’s just fine.

Natalie: Ya. I tried to come up with ways where I could sew, you know, the little sets of two and get all those done. But I found that because some of them go on the side and some go on the top you can get mixed up pretty easily and then it just doesn’t

Jenny: Oh and then your points are all going different directions.

Natalie: Ya. 

Jenny: Ok, I get that.

Natalie: So I found that laying out a block and sewing it in our chain piecing trick works perfectly. 

Jenny: I do love this layout too and we laid it out quite a few ways.

Natalie: There are a lot of different ways to do it.

Jenny: Completely changes the look of the quilt when you change the layout.

Natalie: The other thing I wanted to say is a lot of times, so you might be looking at this and saying well why didn’t they make all their half square triangles 2 ½ inches and make this larger half square triangle 6 ½ because that’s easier and more common quilt math but in the way that we design we often want to use, we want to make the best use of the layer cake and have as little waste as possible. And so that is why, because I didn’t need my stems to be any bigger than an inch and a half. I just did the math in reverse for the best use of, you know, of the fabric. But really you could use yardage or layer cakes or whatever you wanted to do and make these whatever sizes were more comfortable for you. 

Jenny: That is 100% true.

Natalie: It’s just a little insight into kind of the way we think about things and how we decide what sizes things are going to end up and what pieces we’re going to use for what. 

Jenny: Alright now these two go together. I’m going to sew this row here. 

Natalie: Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that, That was

Jenny: And do we want to just sew this end to this one? 

Natalie: Ya, do you want me to press it first?

Jenny: Sure. Whatever you’d like.

Natalie: I’ll give this a quick press.

Jenny: Do I sew this to this one? 

Natalie: Yes you can. You have permission. 

Jenny: Thank you so much. 

Natalie: You’re welcome. And I’ll go ahead and give you this so you can go ahead and stitch that up. 

Jenny: It is so nice to have an ironer. 

Natalie: I think it’s nice to have a sewist. You’re really good. 

Jenny: Is this right?

Natalie: And here’s where your points match up right here. 

Jenny: All of a sudden that looked wrong. You know when you do something a million times and all of a sudden you look at it and you’re like, wait a minute. 

Natalie: Yep, I think we’re going to be fine though. I think it turned out very nicely. It is nice to have little pieces to keep everything square and lined up.

Jenny: There we go. Alrighty.

Natalie: We’ve got this all pressed out and our block is finished. 

Jenny: That’s cool. Look at that. We did good. 

Natalie: Alright, so you end up getting several of these blocks. I think maybe 26 or so, I don’t know. 

Jenny: Let’s see, let’s count. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24. 24 blocks

Natalie: 24 blocks. They measure 13 inches. Yep.

Jenny: It’s perfect. 

Natalie: What do you know? So what you’re going to want to do is cut some 13 inch squares to make up the negative space. Now depending on how you put your quilt together you may want more or less or not use them at all. That’s totally up to you. But that is just a 13 inch block.

Jenny: Well and that’s the cool thing about doing this is once you realize your background square, you know, because in my mind it’s how far to the edge. But if it’s a square, it’s just a square. So 13 inch square, you could put them wherever and then these go together, you know, when you put these together in the middle, you’re going to put your stems and it’s literally sewn together block to block.

Natalie: Ya once you have all your squares made we’re just sewing blocks into rows. We did a little 2 ½ inch inner border and a five inch outer border.

Jenny: And this red is on the back. Look at the stitch pattern.

Natalie: And look at this quilting. I couldn’t resist because it’s the tree of life there has to be little birds in the tree.

Jenny: In the leafy tree tops the birds sing good morning.

Natalie: It’s just a thing. It’s super cute. 

Jenny: Super cute. We love the little birdies.

Natalie: And the other thing I would say is on a quilt like this you might be thinking, do I quilt with red or white? I like to quilt with whatever is the majority of my background because I want it to blend in. And the quilting that comes out on the darker fabrics it doesn’t show up as much. And you can still see, the block will still pop out in the way that you want it to and the stitching disappears.

Jenny: Ya on these blocks it will disappear. If we had quilted with red thread it would look like we drew all over this fabric. It would look like a whole different fabric out here and so.

Natalie: So the benefit of that though, if you are quilting and you really want all the cute stitches to show and you have a lot of negative space, that’s a time where you want to use the fun variegated thread or the really bright colors or you know, whatever it is that you want to achieve. That’s a design decision.

Jenny: It is. So if you want your quilting to be the star, you know, you would use those threads. If you want your quilt to be the star then you would let the quilting recede.

Natalie: Yep you blend with your background.

Jenny: So what size does this quilt make? 

Natalie: So this quilt measures 88 by 88. It’s a great big quilt. Honestly I think a little wider border and you’ve got a queen that would fit nicely on a bed.

Jenny: Very nice. So we called it Happy Trees

Natalie: Happy Trees

Jenny: We love Bob Ross too. We do.

Natalie: I love that everything with him is a happy little accident. And not a problem. He was just so encouraging. That’s how quilting is. 

Jenny: Anyway we hope you enjoyed this tutorial on the Happy Trees quilt from the Missouri Star Quilt Company. 

Hi everybody, it’s Jenny from the Missouri Star Quilt Company. We hope you enjoyed watching this video. If you aren’t already part of the Missouri Star Quilt Company family be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss a thing. And if you click that bell it will notify you every time a new tutorial comes out. See you next Friday.

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