Advent Trees: Using layers of fabric for decorative effect

Learn how to create this tree from my series by overlaying lace or other transparent fabric over the top of the base fabric

This is just a quick variation on the simple layer of fabric – instead of one piece of fabric, we’ll be layering two (or more) fabrics to create interesting effects. This is a chance to use some of those embroidered organzas and lace fabrics that look great in the shop, but then clutter up your stash!

Good fabric choices for layering

We’ve got two (or maybe even more) layers of fabric – a bottom layer and a top layer. You can think of the bottom layer as the background, while the top layer adds the details and interest.

The best way to pick fabrics is to try them in as many combinations as possible until you find something you like. But here are a few guidelines if you’re not sure where to start.

Bottom layer

The bottom layer will show through in places, but it’s not the main focus. So,

  • choose fabrics that are fairly plain – beautiful patterns will be lost underneath a second layer;
  • choose colours that are fairly consistent – big variations in colour can be distracting;
  • introduce depth and interest by using textures – luxurious fabrics like velvet, or the subtle sheen of satin look great.

In general, choose plainer fabrics the more ornate your top layer is, and vice versa. Here you can see that the pattern and colours of the top fabric just interfere with the sequinned swirls on the top organza so you can’t see either clearly, whereas the plainer velvet bottom fabric allows the organza to be the star.

Top fabric is too intricate under the lace; the bottom allows the sequinned organza to shine

Top layer

This is the fun layer!

  • Semi-transparent layers such as organza can be layered to give subtle shades of colour.
  • Embroidered organza is quick way to add embroidered details.
  • Partially transparent fabrics, such as lace or mesh, allow glimpses of your bottom fabric to show through.

It turns out I have a rather impressive stash of fancy embroidered organzas; any of these would work well:
Embroidered and fancy organzas, suitable for layering

Sewing the layered advent tree

Once you’ve chosen your fabrics, making them into the tree is straightforward.

I’m using a thick creamy satin for the bottom fabric (left over from my wedding dress years ago!) and a dark red all-over lace for the top.

  1. Check the first post for instructions on how to make the basic tree, and to get the template.
    Cut the felt and bottom layer of fabric (in my case, the satin) from the template. Cut your top layering piece (my lace) larger than the template.
    Layer the top fabric over the top, but keep it larger than the template for now.
  2. Layer the fabrics: top, bottom and felt, and sew round the template with straight stitch. You’ll probably want to seal your edges with Fray Check as well.
  3. Trim close to the stitching, layer with the back felt piece and stitch all round as usual.
    Trim the top fabric to the same size as the other layers

    I used my usual blanket stitch round the edge for this finished version:
    Finished tree: lace layered over satin.

You can achieve very different effects simply in the choice of fabrics. Here I’ve done another one, using a gold mesh-type fabric on top, and just plain cotton underneath.
Finished trees: the left is lace layered over satin, the right is a gold mesh layered over plain green cotton
Here some more ideas for playing with this idea:

  1. You could shape patterned lace to fit the tree shape, like I did in this embellished purse.
  2. You could only partially overlay the bottom fabric; for example white lace on the top half over green cotton would give the effect of a snow-capped tree.
  3. You could try layering different shades of organza in different areas for some very subtle effects.

Can you come up with any more variations?

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