Spiral Staircase

Stair Skirt {Work in Progress}

I had a really productive sewing week last week, so this post will catch you up on all the progress I was able to make on a new project (read: lots of photos to follow!).

Our apartment has a spiral staircase to go between the floors. Just like last year, around Thanksgiving, I wound LED lights up the column of the staircase. And then I got a great idea: wouldn’t it be delightful to have a Stair Skirt (picture a tree skirt, but with a big open wedge so that the floor in front of the last step is still open)?!?!?

Spiral Staircase

Spiral Staircase

The Stair Skirt would cover the cord running to the power strip, and it would be a fun place to tuck our presents out of the way. Since I was working on my Q4 just for fun project, I tucked this idea away until I had that quilt finished. Last week, it was time to explore the idea further!

Stair Skirt - Fabric Pull

Stair Skirt – Fabric Pull

The first thing I needed to do was think about the color palette and make an initial fabric pull. I talked with my husband, and we both agreed that a more traditional red/green/white color palette would suit us just fine. Since I still had some fabric left over from the Irish Autumn quilt, those reds pretty much just stayed out. Because the reds were all prints, I stuck to all green prints from my stash, and then opted for a nice gingham white and cream print to round it out.

Stair Skirt - Design Wall Size Reference

Stair Skirt – Design Wall Size Reference

The next thing I did was take measurements of the base of our spiral staircase. Then, using those measurements, I put pin references on my design wall to use to help guide me as I worked on piecing the skirt. The pin heads themselves were not very visible in the photograph I took, so I’ve circled them in red in the photo above.

Stair Skirt - Piecing Plan

Stair Skirt – Piecing Plan

Then I needed to decide on a piecing plan. My husband really likes improvisational quilts, so I knew I wanted to approach this in a pretty improvisational way. I also am really, really low on the quantity of red prints (and will be even more so after this project). So, I came up with the plan to make ~5″ wide strips that go from red, to cream, to green from the center out. Using soft improvisationally cut curves to join the fabrics, I alternated between arcing down to arcing up on each subsequent strip.

Stair Skirt - 5in Strips

Stair Skirt – 5″ Strips

It didn’t take long to basically use up all of my red prints and piece enough 5″ strips to cover my marked out pins on the design wall. In order to turn these strips into wedges, the first thing I was going to need to do was fill in all of the extra space between the strips. Luckily, I had plenty of left over green fabric.

Stair Skirt - Filling In Gaps

Stair Skirt – Filling In Gaps

I mixed and matched the green prints and then started sewing the extra pieces on the lower right hand side of each 5″ strip. The photo above shows the first 3 strips with the filler piecing added (lower right hand corner) with the rest of the pieces just stuck to my design wall waiting on their turn to be sewn together.

Stair Skirt - First Quarter Wedge Sewn Together

Stair Skirt – First Quarter Wedge Sewn Together

Then it was time to improvisationally piece the 5″ strips together into wedge like shapes. Above, the first quarter wedge is sewn together (bottom of the photograph).

Stair Skirt - Wedge Piecing 1

Stair Skirt – Wedge Piecing 1

I wanted to illustrate how I was improvisationally joining the strips into wedges around the circle, so I took a few photos of one of the seams. The first step was to carefully align the strips on my design wall, making sure that the inner and outer pins were covered by the strips. The inner pins mark where a circle will be cut to make room for the spiral stair column to sit and the outer pins mark the expected final trim location for the skirt. Once aligned, I carefully moved 2 strips to my cutting mat making sure the alignment didn’t shift.

Stair Skirt - Wedge Piecing 2

Stair Skirt – Wedge Piecing 2

Then I used my 45mm rotary cutter to freehand cut gentle curving shapes in the areas where the strips overlap. In the photo above, I’ve removed the excess pieces that were cut away to show where the two strips will be sewn together.

Stair Skirt - Wedge Piecing 3

Stair Skirt – Wedge Piecing 3

After carefully sewing the strips together with a ¼” seam allowance, I pressed the seam open. Then I moved this new section back to the design wall to overlap the next strip to continue the process.

Stair Skirt - Quarter Wedges Complete

Stair Skirt – Quarter Wedges Complete

To keep things manageable, I sewed the strips together into groupings of 5 which were each approximately a quarter wedge. Then, I followed the same alignment, freehand cut, and sew process to join the final 2 seams.

Stair Skirt - Pieced Top

Stair Skirt – Pieced Top

When the strips were all sewn together, they no longer made ¾ of a circle, but this will still be plenty big enough to fill our needs under the spiral staircase. AKA: I didn’t really have enough red fabric left to add any more, so we are going to make it work. 🙂

Stair Skirt - Pieced Backing

Stair Skirt – Pieced Backing

I left the pieced stair skirt top on the design wall to help me map out and plan a scrappy backing. I almost forgot to think about the fact that the stair skirt is asymmetric, but thankfully I remembered before I started sewing the backing pieces together. To make sure the backing would align and fit with the quilt top, I simply laid out the backing pieces wrong side up on the design wall. That way, when I was ready to baste, the backing would be wrong side up (just as shown above) and be sure to work / fit with the quilt top.

Stair Skirt - Basted

Stair Skirt – Basted

The stair skirt is basted and ready for me to quilt it this week. I’m planning on doing free motion quilting with matching green, cream, and red thread, but I’ve not decided on what motifs to use, yet. Also, those of you with eagle eyes might note that I sewed on a scrap of a red print on the right hand side of the inner circle. I think this will give me a bit more wiggle room when it comes time to trim this after quilting.

This equates to the most holiday spirit I’ve had in YEARS, and I’m looking forward to having this to decorate our space for years to come.

9 thoughts on “Stair Skirt {Work in Progress}

  1. Cocoa Quilts says:

    Yvonne, I am loving where this is going. Can hardly wait to see the finished skirt!

  2. Kate says:

    I love the idea of a stair skirt. It’s fun that you are developing new holiday decorating traditions that fit your space. Happy stitching this week.

  3. I can sense your excitement as you worked through the project. That is what I enjoy about improv, it is so much fun to see if the idea will work, and is intensely satisfying. I am looking forward to seeing how you quilt your stair skirt, and seeing the finished product in place.

  4. What a fun way to make a tree skirt. I love the improv curves and think it will be a fun holiday decoration. Hooray for a week of getting a lot done.

  5. What an inspired project! Such a new and fresh idea for those with spiral staircases. It will be like your staircase is your tree. Will you put some garland on the rail? Maybe a few ornaments hanging between the vertical rails? You could take this really far!

  6. aquilterstable says:

    What a fun, unique project. Enjoy quilting…I’m anxious to see it in place!

  7. Bernie says:

    This is so fun Yvonne! I am happy to see you are really enjoying this project. It looks great, cover the cord and with the lights on the pole – add such a festive feel to the room. Really cool.

  8. Elizabeth E. says:

    I wish I’d read my emails sooner–I have some similar reds I could have fast-mailed over to you, but I know how it is when you are in the groove and just want to get it done. I love your ideas in this project, as well as the idea to put it around your staircase. Inventive! I have to say I also like the graphic punch the project brings, even when it is in construction stages on your design wall.

  9. debspups says:

    I cannot wait to see the finished product – love the idea, and how festive it will be next Christmas! Too bad you can’t leave the twinkle light up year round, though. Thinking about that, it would produce light for going up and down the steps…but you’d have to make at least one other tree skirt for year round use….I’m good at thinking up more work for you to do! Have a wonderful New Years celebration! Best wishes from No. California….. Deb

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)