It’s not quite November yet, but here at The Way Homestead, we have Christmas on the brain! We’ve decided to have a rustic “Country Christmas” this year. I want lots of burlap, plaid, and natural elements. I prefer to save money when I can by making my own decorations, and the main thing I wanted to create was a rustic burlap tree skirt.
My in-laws bought us an awesome spinning tree stand years ago, but it’s huge. I’ve never been able to find a tree skirt that fit it well without getting tangled from the spinning. And tree skirts are SO expensive! Even when I found them at a decent sale price, they still didn’t fit or weren’t what I wanted. Which meant I could only do one thing… make my own!
I promise that I’m no expert when it comes to sewing. I’ve only been doing it for a few years, and I’ve only made very basic items. I was scared to death to try a tree skirt, simple because it’s round!! But this project was so much easier than I anticipated. So believe me when I say that if I can do it, you can do it, too! If you have any sewing experience at all, or even a glue gun and a good dose of determination, you can make your own rustic, ruffle-edge tree skirt in no time.
What You’ll Need
For a long time I didn’t really know what I wanted from a tree skirt. I was really drawn to burlap, but I also wanted some color and cuteness, too. I tried several fabric and pattern combinations that just weren’t quite right. Finally I stumbled upon a burlap tree skirt with a ruffled edge on Pinterest. It was the perfect mix of rustic and adorable! I had already purchased my burlap, so I just needed a red fabric that would complement it. I also had some burlap ribbon on hand. I was planning to use it for something else, but then I realized it would make perfect ties for my tree skirt! This is what I ended up with:
Altogether I spent less than $15 on my tree skirt! $4.50 for the burlap, $4 for the edging fabric, two spools of thread for $1 each, and $4 on ribbon.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1.5 yards main fabric (I chose burlap)
1 yard edging fabric
Thread to match both your fabrics
2 yards of 1″ wide ribbon for ties (4 yards if you want to edge your keyhole in the ribbon – see step 6)
String or yarn, a marker, and a dinner plate
Sewing necessities: Sewing machine, fabric scissors, seam ripper, etc. A rotary cutter, cutting mat, and sewing ruler are optional but recommended! You could also use a glue gun and fabric glue instead; just glue whenever I say sew! 🙂
Step 1: Cut your main fabric into a circle
Obviously I used burlap for this, but you could use any fabric at all. Cotton is always the easiest to work with when sewing. Experts recommend washing and ironing your fabric before you begin sewing, but I never do this. The one time I did, all my fabric came unraveled! I’ve never had a problem washing something after I’ve made it, but you can choose for yourself. I had expected the burlap to be difficult to fold, pin, sew, etc., but besides the shedding, it wasn’t bad at all!
To help you get a perfect circle, you’re actually going to create your own compass. Begin by folding your fabric into a square, making sure all the edges line up as much as possible. Cut a length of string or yarn as long as your shortest folded fabric edge, adding a couple inches extra to tie the string around a marker. If you have a skinny tree and want a smaller tree skirt, then you’re going to want to cut a smaller circle. We have a big, FAT tree, so I wanted my skirt as big as possible!
Tie a marker to the end of your string. Holding the string very tightly in the corner of your folded fabric, and keeping your marker at the same angle, draw a curved line from one edge to the next.
You will end up with a quarter-circle drawn on your folded fabric. Cut around this mark. You may need to cut through just the top two layers first, then the bottom layers. Once you have it cut, lay out your tree skirt to see if it’s the size you want. If you need to make it smaller, repeat this step with a shorter string.
Step 2: Cut out the inner circle and side slit
We’re not done with the weird techniques yet! For this next part you’re going to need a dinner plate. Place the plate on the corner of your folded tree skirt.
I originally tried using a smaller plate, but since I need a much larger hole than usual for my tree stand, I had to switch to a bigger plate (hence two different colored plates in the photos). To ensure that your circle will be centered, determine how wide your plate is, and divide by two (for me this was 5 inches). Measure and mark this length out from the tip on both sides.
Now line the edges of the plate up to your marks, and draw around it.
Cut along this mark. When you open it up, you should have a donut shape.
Now you need to cut your side slit. To cut burlap without having it unravel, there’s actually a strange trick: pull one string out. Choose where you want your slit to be, and start pulling the thread all the way up from the outside to the inner circle. You’ll probably have to cut it with scissors or a seam ripper every once in a while.
Step 3: Cut the fabric for your ruffle edge
Set the burlap (or whatever main fabric you’ve chosen) aside for now. Unfold your edging fabric. If it isn’t cut straight, you may need to straighten it out for this next part. Now you’re going to cut long strips that will become your ruffle edge. Decide how wide you want your ruffles to be, and add an inch for seam allowances. I wanted 5 inch ruffles, plus an inch for seams meant I needed to cut 6-inch strips. My fabric was 36″ wide, so I could get exactly 6 strips out of it.
I highly recommend using a rotary cutter, cutting mat, and acrylic ruler for this! This job would have taken me at least four times longer without them, and I probably would have made a lot of mistakes!
Step 4: Sew the strips together
Next you’re going to sew all these strips together, end to end, to create one very long strip of fabric. Place the “right” sides of two strips together along the short edges.
Sew these together. Continue for the remaining strips, until all your strips are sewn into one long super-strip!
Step 5: Hem your ruffle edge
Now you need to hem the ruffle edge. Fold one end over twice to create a 1/2″ seam. You only need to hem one side; the other side will be sewn onto your main fabric. Continue along one side of the entire strip, pinning it down as you go. Pay attention to how you pin it; you will want your pins to point toward your machine needle so you can remove them easily.
Now sew it, using the matching thread.
Step 6: Hem your main inner fabric
Switching back to your main fabric, you’re now going to hem the keyhole cut. Place your fabric with the “wrong” side up. (On burlap you won’t really have a wrong side, but you may prefer one side over the other.) Starting at one bottom corner, fold and pin your hemline just like you did for the edging strip. Work your way around the keyhole. The inner circle is tricky simply because it’s rounded, but pin often and it will be okay!
Now sew your entire keyhole hem, using matching thread. Take it slow on the circle.
At this point I decided to edge my keyhole hem with the ribbon I had, to add a pop of color. I simply folded the ribbon around my hemmed edges and sewed it down. I really like how it turned out. If you’re a much better seamstress than I am, you could simply sew your original hem using the contrasting thread color. I knew I could never sew that straight, though!
Step 7: Pin your ruffle edge to your tree skirt
Now comes the fun part – putting your two pieces together! Beginning on one side of the slit, place the two fabrics on top of each other. You want the raw edge of your ruffle fabric strip along the raw edge of your main fabric, with the “right” sides together. Pin the edging to your main fabric. Every couple inches, fold the edge strip back on itself and pin. This will create your ruffle!
Pay very careful attention to which way you’re pinning it! You may want to pin just a few ruffles and take it to your machine, to see if you’re doing it right. When you start to sew you’ll want the bulk of your fabric on your left side, away from the machine. You will also want the pins pointing toward your needle, and your ruffles opening away from the needle. This will allow you to sew in the direction of the ruffles, which will make it easier and make them lay nicely. Unfortunately I didn’t realize I did it wrong until I had spent an hour pinning the whole thing! I wasn’t about to go back and re-pin, so I had to sew “against the tide”. Thankfully it still worked out, but it would have been easier to just pin it right in the first place!
Step 8: Sew the ruffle edge on
When I got to the end I had about four inches of edging strip left over. I wish I had made my ruffles just a little tighter at the beginning, but it’s better to have too much than not enough! I simply cut the extra off and re-hemmed the end of the edging strip. Once you have the entire ruffle pinned on, go ahead and sew it. It doesn’t really matter which thread you use, you’re not going to see it. A couple tips: set your machine to a wider stitch, and sew fairly quickly. When you’re feeding two fabrics in at once, the machine tends to pull the bottom fabric faster than the top. This leaves you with a tangled mess! Sewing faster and with longer stitches will help it pull the fabric through more evenly.
Step 9: Add your ribbon ties
The last step is to add ribbons to tie your tree skirt closed. To make three bows, cut six ribbon strips, each a foot long. Sew one end of each ribbon strip onto the edge of the keyhole slit, on the bottom side (the side that will be against the floor). I suggest using a zigzag stitch for this to make it stronger. Sew one ribbon at the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom. Repeat on the other side of the slit, sewing ribbon strips across from each other so that they can be tied together. Cut the ends of your ribbon into an upside-down V shape to finish it off.
You’re almost done! Run an iron along your edges to make your ruffles lay a little nicer.
That’s it! Now you have a beautiful ruffle-edge tree skirt to enjoy all season – and hopefully for years to come! If you try it, I would love to see your photos in the comments!