Easy Gifts to Make: Fabric Circle Topiaries

26 Nov 2012

Last week, I wrote about how I was trying to use up supplies like fabric strips, turning them into table runners. I had planned to make six table runners, one each for my husband's siblings. I like easy gifts to make such as table linens, and I was proud that I was on my way to finishing my Christmas creating.

fabric topiary holiday crafts
Fabric scrap flower topiaries by Cynthia
Dubbers make easy handmade holiday gifts.
Then, my sewing machine broke. To say that I was frustrated is an understatement. I whined about it for a while and then I thought, OK, what other holiday crafts can I make with the supplies I have?

So I looked through my magazines and idea boards for gift ideas to make, and then it hit me: Cynthia Ann Dubbers' Fabric Forest Topiaries from Cloth Paper Scissors Gifts, 2011/12. I could still use my fabric scraps, plus my abundant stash of buttons, and all I have to do is cut, hand stitch, and pin.

Take that, you cranky sewing machine!

Of course I want to share this handmade arts and crafts project with you. So here are slightly abridged instructions adapted from Cynthia's article.

Fabric Circle Topiaries

  • A plastic Styrofoam® tree form, 18" x 5"
  • Dressmaker pins
  • Fabric scraps
  • 1"-wide strips of fabric or ribbon to cover the base
  • Buttons
  • Needle and thread
  • Fabric scissors

Note: To cover a tree form of the size specified here, you will need approximately 45-50 fabric circle stacks.

1. Choose the fabric for the first circle, and cut a circle about the size of a quarter. Pick another fabric, lay the first circle onto the second fabric, and cut a circle 1/4" larger than the first circle. Continue with this process until you have 5 circles, each 1/4" larger than the one before. Set this stack of circles aside and start on another set. It takes 45-50 fabric flowers for an 18" x 5" tree. (Figure 1)

Tip: Fray circles if desired. You can do this by stacking several circles together and pulling at the cut edges. Work over a table or a drop cloth to make clean-up easier.

2. Stitch a button in the middle of the circle stack.

3. Cut or tear a coordinating fabric into 1" strips or use ribbon, and starting at the bottom of the cone, wind around the cone, overlapping the fabric slightly. Secure with pins along the way.

fabric circles for easy gifts to make
It takes about 45-50 of these fabric circle stacks to make one of these holiday art projects. (Fig. 1)
4. Starting at the bottom, pin the flowers to the tree, hiding the pins between the fabric circle layers.

5. Cover the bottom of the tree form with flowers and, if desired, mount on a thrift-store compote.

You can work with multiple colors and patterns, solids and prints, or a limited palette, depending on the effect you want.

If you have any leftover circle stacks, Cynthia suggest you sew them onto headbands, barrettes, or even a hat as a cute accents.

For more fiber and mixed-media homemade holiday gift ideas, download your copy of Cloth Paper Scissors Gifts 2011/12 now. And, for a limited time, celebrate Cyber Monday with an extra 10% off on digital products in the Cloth Paper Scissors Shop.*

As for me, for the next couple of weeks you'll find me cutting fabric scraps while watching TV!

P.S. *Digital Sale and Bargains and Blowouts Sale ends November 27, 2012, at 11:59 p.m. Central Time. Final discounts will be displayed within the cart for qualifying items. Not all items apply.

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Cloth Paper Scissors Gifts, 2011/2012: Digital Edition

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Cloth Paper Scissors Gifts is a special issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine devoted to the art of mixed-media gift-giving! Check out our 148-page 2011/2012 issue for holiday inspiration.


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Mamacrystal wrote
on 26 Nov 2012 3:15 PM

Please oh please, for your non US readers, put sizes in measurement terms (preferably metric!). Nobody in this country uses "quarters"

Good article otherwise'

For any other perplexed Aussies out there.... after much research, turns out it is the same size as our dollar coin.



on 26 Nov 2012 3:21 PM

When I pick colors or styles of something to give another person, I pick something THEY would like. If they like purple, then I get purple. Not my favorite color, but it isn't for me. I couldn't believe my ears one time when I was gift shopping to have a lady tell me, "oh, I always pick something I would like, so if they don't like it, they can give it back to me." I think something got lost in the translation?

briganna wrote
on 26 Nov 2012 3:50 PM

This is a perfect way to use up all those cardboard and plastic  cones left over from machine knitting yarns. FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT AND SEASONAL, cover the cone a bit at a time with craft glue, wind a sparkling green, red or white yarn round the cone from bottom to top. Add some dots of glue and stick on seasonal sequins - stars, Santas, bells etc, till you have a decorated MINI-TREE centrepiece. Top with a larger star sequin. A great project to do with children.

liita wrote
on 29 Nov 2012 1:46 PM

Cate, thank you for sharing this great project. Every Wednesday I host a group of adults with disabilities at my studio (The Little Bits Workshop). I had a completely different project planned for yesterday's group until I saw this topiary project....so that's what we made yesterday and the group LOVED them. Here's a link to "Charlie's" finished project:


janetleora wrote
on 1 Dec 2012 11:06 AM

I already loved this project for me and my grandkids, then was even happier to read the suggestion to use old serger thread cones - now I know why I was saving them!! But a question: you really only have one sewing machine.??  just kidding, and lucky for us this time.

Cate Prato wrote
on 3 Dec 2012 3:53 PM


Sorry Aussies and other metric users! about 2.5 cm is the size of the smallest circle.

Glad you are all enjoying this project. I've made one complete tree and have cut circles for two more. Love the link to the Little Bits! Great job.

Yes, I only have ONE sewing machine! Sewing machine companies, are you listening? :-)

on 3 Dec 2012 9:39 PM

i absolutely adore these!! they are gorgeous :)

on 4 Dec 2012 2:34 PM

Here at Interweave's Sudbury office, we have a lovely little tradition. Every Tuesday morning at 10:00, we circle up for a little Show and Tell. Those who have been working on projects bring them in and show them off, while the rest of us admire and

on 5 Dec 2012 4:39 AM

I agree with Mamacrystal. I don't know if this is the right place to suggest this, but I feel that the magazine must have a lot of readers ouside of the U.S.A. and surely it would be a small matter to have BOTH imperial and metric measurements in the magazine articles? Here in New Zealand schools have been teaching the metric system since 1967 I believe. If you can reach your audience by getting people to download a digital magazine then surely that tiny multi-measurement step has been overlooked somewhere on the road of technological advances?

BUT loving your e-mails and mag as always! Thanks!