Capitol Christmas Tree Ornament

In a couple of days, December 2nd to be exact, the new House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will flip the switch that will light up the U. S. Capitol Christmas Tree. This is exciting news for Alaskans as it is the first time EVER that a tree from Alaska has traveled all the way to Washington D.C. to be the official Capitol Christmas Tree.

Maria Shell Capitol Christmas TreeThe tree stands 74 feet tall and weighs approximately 7,500 pounds. It is from the Chugach National Forest where it grew for 90 years before making a 4,000 mile trek to the White House lawn.

Maria Shell Capitol Christmas TreeAnd to make the story even better, (at least for me), I was one of ten Alaskan artists invited to create ornaments for the tree. I originally wrote about being an ornament artist here.

Maria Shell Capitol Christmas Tree OrnamentIt was not a easy task. The ornament requirements were quite complicated. The ornament had to be less than ten inches tall or wide, weigh no more than a half-a-pound pound, be made out of repurposed materials, have weatherproof qualities and there needed to a template of the ornament that could duplicated by youth from across the state.

I knew my official ornament would be made of wool–repurposed wool sweaters to be exact. I started with buttons. Lots of buttons. It was beautiful but not really me. I don’t normally work with buttons. Unfortunately, once the ornament was stuffed, it looked sloppy.

It is so disappointing when a design fails, and I have to change course, but I did it. I am not good at buttons. I am good at stitching. I made some sketches first. Maria Shell Capitol Christmas Tree OrnamentThen, I created two quilt sandwiches–one for the front of the ornament and one for the back. Each quilt sandwich had three layers–wool, batting, and white cotton. I quilted them.

Maria Shell Capitol Christmas Tree OrnamentI cut them out and satin stitched around the edges. This is the final ornament on display at the First Friday event last March.

Maria Shell Capitol Christmas Tree Ornamentblue.holloman gallery and I thought it would be great fun to create a limited edition inspired by the ornament that actually went to Washington D.C. After doing the wool ornament, I realized that my thread work was much more vibrant on the NON-wool side of my stitching.

I decided that for these new stars I would use left over shot cotton fabric from my quilt backs. Shot cottons really do make the quilting glow. First, I made flat samples. I liked the flat ones because they were double sided–the quilting showed on both sides, but the satin stitching around the edges was killing me. And I just had it in my head that the ornaments should be puffy not flat.

So I tried again. Finally, I liked the results. I loaded up my long arm so that I could stitch a dozen at a time. I used Aurifil 28 WT in both my bobbin and my top thread.

Maria Shell Capitol Christmas Tree OrnamentOnce they were quilted, I faced each one with upholstery fabric scraps.

 I then stuffed them with cut up batting scraps, so they were nice and puffy.

Maria Shell Capitol Christmas Tree OrnamentI used vintage fabric trims for the hanging hooks.

Maria Shell Capitol Christmas Tree OrnamentThere is now a baker’s dozen for sale at blue.holloman gallery.

Maria Shell Capitol Christmas Tree OrnamentI will be making more in the next couple of weeks leading up to Christmas. Each one-of-kind limited edition ornament is $45 dollars. (And if you leave out of town and want to order one from me, that price does include shipping.)

Maria Shell Capitol Christmas Tree OrnamentI will be posting a tutorial on Wednesday if you are interested in making your own version of my Capitol Christmas Tree ornament.

Maria Shell Capitol Christmas Tree OrnamentIf you want to know more about the tree you can visit the Capitol Christmas Tree website to learn all about the trek, the artists, the student ornaments, the history and more.

The tree will be lit on Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 5:00 p.m. EST (That is 1PM AK time.)in a public ceremony, which will be broadcast on C-Span. I will be watching.

This entry was published on November 28, 2015 at 11:52 AM. It’s filed under Just Plain Stories, News And Events and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

19 thoughts on “Capitol Christmas Tree Ornament

  1. This is wonderful that you will have an ornament on the tree! I wish I could see it in person. Congratulations!

  2. I appreciate you showing your first design idea, which did not work. That helps me feel less discouraged when the same thing happens to me–which it very often does!

    • Nancy- I think the whole mistake thing is why I like bit making so much. If I make parts that don’t work for a quilt, they are not wasted, they just go in the bit bin for a future quilt. Still, there are many times when I have spent days and days going in the wrong direction. We have to think of it as process. It is the journey, right?

  3. kathleenloomis on said:

    congratulations!! these look beautiful. did you have to make just one for the Capitol tree, or more?

    • Kathy- I made one for the Capitol Tree and then a lesson plan, so that students and communites from all over Alaska could make “versions” of my ornament. I think the end goal was to have 5,000 ornaments to decorate trees all over D.C. That 5,000 includes versions of the other nine artists ornaments. Thank you for stopping by!

  4. Nice work, love these, great story, congratulations!

  5. I’m a big fan of stars!!! Glad you used them as your motif. The stitching and fabric combined are beautiful!

    • I love stars too! The idea is that they are Solstice Stars representing the darkest day of the year here. Part of the taks with the ornaments was to create a lesson plan for teachers to use. My lesson plan is about solstice and the earth’s tilt away from the sun….thank you for stopping by.

  6. Vivien zepf on said:

    This is SOOO cool! I didn’t understand the whole story until now. Congratulations! I’m going to brag I know one of the tree ornament artists. Go Maria!

  7. Wow, I just read about the lesson plan part here in the comments! That is very cool, but also a lot of work. I love reading about your process. I have a love/hate thing going with buttons as well. I love the way they look when other people do them. But I don’t really like sewing on buttons that much. I like your finished product, and I think it represents you AND the state of Alaska very well.

  8. I think your stars are fabulous! I really like the shot cotton ones, especially the little ribbon hangers. Congraulations on your being selected for the tree. That is pretty cool.

    Hey, the link to the Capitol Christmas tree isn’t working.

  9. Wow! The Capitol Tree and Quilt National all in one year, congratulations!

  10. Maria… you never fail to amaze, and this project is dear to my heart. Love your star!

    In 1976 my Mother-in-Law’s front yard Concolor Fir tree – 21 ft. tall was selected to be the White House Christmas Tree for Gerald Ford and his family…andas a newlywed with a baby boy and another “in waiting”, we all traveled with the tree from Michigan to Washington DC. Each grandchild made an ornament for the tree and I made one for Wade, to be born in July… no one knew the difference. Wonder what ever happened to them. Two little birds with their names embroidered on…

    It was a big deal and you will be remembered for this beautiful star all of your life! Well done!!

    • That is an awesome story Bethany! Thank you so much for sharing. Betty looks fabulous in front of that tree. Happy Holidays Bethany, I hope you have great season planned. For me it catch up season. I do very little in the way of holidays, but the fact that everyone else is bustling around it gives me a break!

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