Purple Moon

Lynn Schoeffler 2010

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 Like Smaug the dragon, I have a tendency to save (hoard ?) my most 'special' things. This questionable habit is quite common to crazy quilters, I find, but it has come to my rescue for the new year.

Knowing full well that I would have to present a work-in-progress article after the inevitable 2009 Christmas rush, I was so happy to find Hideko Ishida's gorgeous block from the previous year's cracker exchange at Crazy Quilt International. It fit my theme perfectly, and exonerated me from any feeling of guilt for squirreling it away, not to mention giving me a quick start!

One of my Christmas projects was the creation of several tree-of-life ornaments, and of course I knew that I would want them on a crazy quilt. However, the original ornaments were constructed over bangle bracelets, and I found that form to be difficult to place on this delicate block.

It didn't take too long to figure out how I could reverse the position of the wired roots and trunk, and I simply couched the tree to the fabric, and added the bead chips and purple moon. The moon was a rather ugly silver plastic button, but it was the size I needed, and a couple of swipes with some purple and green alcohol ink improved it quite a bit.


  • small flat nose pliers, preferably with replaceable plastic tips (these help eliminate scratches when working with colored wire)
  • chain nose pliers
  • round nose pliers
  • flush cut pliers
  • one or two colors of size 20 wire* (coordinate your wire and bead colors)
  • one string of stone or glass chips**
  • beading thread to match chips and wire

To start:

Measure the approximate height you want your tree to be: mine is about 5 l/2" tall. To figure out how much wire you'll need, multiply the height of the tree by a factor of 3.65 (example: 5.5 x 3.65 = 20" of wire). Cut five or six pieces of wire.

Bend each piece of wire in half. Twist wires together twice or three times with your fingers about 2" from bend. Hold the wire above the twist with one pair of pliers padded with a scrap of heavy sweat shirt. Using the flat nose pliers, twist the wire toward the bend until you can't twist it any more.

Mash the bend so the wires lay as close together as possible. This forms the tip of each branch. Now reverse the process and twist the remaining wire together toward the cut ends. It's not important to twist evenly; an uneven twist adds texture and interest. Leave about l/2" of the wire un-twisted for tree roots. Twist all of your wire pieces.

Lay the wires out according to how you want the colors to mix; if you want a heavier concentration of one color, put two wire pieces of the same color together. Gather the wires closely together in one hand. Starting about 2" from the cut ends of the wire, begin to twist the wires together with the flat nose pliers to form the trunk of the tree. Twist all of the wires together about three or four times. If they begin to fall apart, twist them more tightly together at the top and the bottom of the trunk. You will need to judge how long you want the root system and the branches to be.

Form a graceful curve in the tree trunk by bending it with the flat nose pliers.

Spread the branches and roots out; check the size of the tree in your patch. If necessary, you can un-twist the trunk, straighten the wires out a little and cut them smaller. Re-twist the trunk together. Form angles in the branches and roots as you like them; a pair of round nose pliers is helpful in making small bends in the tree branches. Using the flush cutters, cut the ends of the roots in an un-even pattern.

Couch the tree to the fabric with matching bead thread; you will need to bend any of the branches that stick too far out toward the fabric.

Choose the flattest bead chips you can find for the leaves of the tree. Try to find chips that are not drilled too closely to the edge of the bead; those break easily, especially with stone chips. Sew the chips randomly with matching beading thread; you will need to use one or two opposing stitches to hold some of the chips in place.

I'm eager to finish this block, and will be looking for an interesting way to display it. I have an empty wall in the living room, and I'm thinking about a CQ gallery--this will be a great beginning!

* Great source for colored wire in a number of sizes and colors: http://www.widgetsupply.com/

** I actually preferred the glass chips for sewing onto this block, they don't seem to have so many heavy square ends, and they are a little more uniform in size; less expensive too! One brand I particularly liked for a nice range of colors was Blue Moon Frosting Glass Chips, available at JoAnn's stores or online.

Thanks to Gary Grayson at Free Antique Images for the beautiful Japanese wood block image. http://freeantiqueimages.blogspot.com/

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