Christmas always brings back memories of long ago. Why not help the memories with a contribution to an old-fashioned Christmas? Here’s an idea – a cross stitch Christmas tree ornament, a craft you can make.
Cross stitch ornaments make great additions to your Christmas tree, because they are brightly colored and the patterns cover so many topics that it’s easy to find a pattern to personalize your tree. Better yet, cross stitch ornaments make wonderful gifts for family and friends.
I’ve made over 75 ornaments since 1997, some for my mother and brothers, but most of the ornaments belong to my husband and my two kids.
I keep a cross stitch ornament record with a description of the pattern used, the backing material, the braid used for edging and the name of the recipient. When the kids eventually move out on their own, they will have a set of ornaments that not only decorate the Christmas trees in their own homes, but also bring back memories of past Christmas celebrations.
Christmas ornament patterns are almost unlimited. One source for patterns is the annual Christmas ornament issue of Just Cross Stitch magazine. Each issue contains around 75 designs created by some of the most talented cross stitch pattern designers in the business. Past years’ issues can be found on Ebay. Two other potential sources for ornament patterns are the websites www.abcstitch.com and www.stitcherscloset.com. Both sites have lots of great ornament patterns for sale at reasonable prices.
But, when making a cross stitch ornament, don’t let your imagination stop at Christmas themes. Any cross stitch pattern that can fit in roughly a 6×6- inch piece of material is a potential ornament idea.
For example, we have lots of Santa and snowmen ornaments on our Christmas tree, but the tree is also home to birds, fruit and a set of ornaments based on Northwest Native American motifs. I developed the Native American patterns as a gift to Dick, who graduated from high school and college in Alaska.
Time is the main ingredient when making cross stitch Christmas ornaments. Often, patterns are simple enough to finish in as little as five hours. Some patterns take as much as 20 hours to cross stitch, because they are more complicated. Ideally, you should figure out which ornaments you want to give next Christmas in January, have them all cross stitched by August and completely finished by October. I think I might have managed this once, but I can’t tell you which year.
What I find is I don’t want to think about next Christmas in January, and the thought of cross stitching a snowman in May makes my fingers cramp. Usually, by October, I might have half of my ornaments cross stitched. I have been known to finish making an ornament or two on Christmas Eve. My point is to start small or start early if you don’t have a lot of time. The important thing isn’t that you made the fanciest cross stitch Christmas ornament known to needle workers everywhere, but rather you thought enough of someone to take the time to make him or her a beautiful homemade gift.
Now let’s make a cross stitch Christmas ornament.
The ornament below, known as Aschenklaus, was designed by Carol Emmer, of Carol Emmer Designs, and the pattern is located in the 2001 Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornament special issue. The design was stitched on 14 count Oatmeal Aida cloth. (I like Aida cloth the best because it is easy to count squares and very easy on the eyes as you stitch. It also comes in several very cool colors.)
Before I cross stitch, I bind the edges of the cloth with masking tape, to prevent it from unraveling with all the handling you do while stitching. Remove the tape once you are done cross stitching and trim the edges of the cloth so there are no loose threads.
To make your cross stitch Christmas ornament, choose a backing material that looks good with your cross stitch pattern. The most obvious backing material is cotton cloth printed with Christmas motifs, but you can also use pieces of old green or red checked shirts, felt or even lighter pieces of wool material.
Pin the right side of the ornament to the right side of the backing. The “right side” is the side you want everybody to see when you are finished with the ornament. Cut the backing ½-inch bigger than the ornament edge.
Next, sew the backing to your piece of cross stitching, using a ¼-inch seam allowance. Your stitches should be ¼-inch in from the side of the cross stitch material. Begin sewing 1¾-inches from the lower right hand corner, sew around the entire edge and end 1¾-inches in from the lower left hand corner. This leaves about a 2½-inch gap at the bottom of the ornament, which allows you room to turn the ornament right side out and stuff it with filling.
You can either use a sewing machine to sew the seam. Or, stitch by hand, which is what I do. To stitch by hand, cut a 30-inch piece of white all purpose sewing thread, and thread a hand sewing needle. Bring the two ends of the thread together until they are even and knot the ends together. With the cross stitch side facing you, start one stitch up through and then back down through the materials, pulling the thread until the knot catches and the thread is taut.
Your first stitch should be about 1/8-inch long, or two squares of Aida cloth wide. Your next stitch should come up through the middle of your last stitch, splitting the last stitch and creating a pattern with your thread that looks like a chain. This creates a very strong seam.
Repeat this stitch until the backing is sewed on as described above. As your thread gets short, pull it through to the backing side, and weave the thread through eight to 10 of your previous stitches to tie it off.
Once the backing is sewed on, trim the backing material to the same size as the cross stitch material. Cut the tips off of each corner, being careful not to cut into your stitching. This gives you a smooth corner when you turn the ornament. Carefully turn the ornament right side out. Use your fingers to gently push the corners to their maximum extension. Stuff the ornament with polyester fiber fill. Use the eraser end of an unsharpened pencil to push the polyfill into the corners. The ornament is stuffed when it feels like a pillow, but the cross stitch picture still lies fairly flat.
Choose a braid for decorating and hanging the ornament. To measure the length of braid you need, place ½-inch of the braid in the bottom opening. Lay the braid along the edges. When you get to the top of the ornament, make a loop the size you want for hanging, then run the braid down the other side to the bottom. Add ½-inch at the bottom for pushing into the ornament.
Place a piece of masking or scotch tape around the point of the braid where you want to cut, then cut the braid in the center of the tape. This prevents the braid from unraveling. Place both ends of the braid in the bottom opening of the ornament. Center the braid by measuring from both ends of the ornament, then use a pin to secure the braid in place and close the opening.
With the ornament upside down in front of you, use blindstitch to close the opening. To do blindstitch, you tie a knot in a single piece of white thread (not a doubled up piece, as you used before). Working from right to left, with the needle pointing left, you take a very small horizontal stitch in the backing material. Take the next small stitch in the cross stitch material, about 1/8-inch in front of your last stitch. Continue alternating the stitches until the opening is closed. When you get to the braid, run the thread through the middle of each piece of braid before continuing your blindstitching to anchor the braid.
Once the opening is closed, leave your needle and thread in place. Pin the braid to the side of the ornament. Make a loop at the top of the ornament and pin in place, remembering to center the loop.
Continue using blindstitch where you left off, only this time blindstitch between the braid and the edge of the ornament. When you’re finished, blindstitching the braid onto your ornament, tie off your thread using a quilter’s knot. To make a quilter’s knot, tie a series of four small knots as close to your last stitch as you can. Push the needle into the polyfill and up through the backing, pulling the knots gently through the backing material until they are lodged in the polyfill. Cut the thread and allow the end of the thread to disappear into your ornament.
TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS
The great part about this project is you and your relatives and friends can enjoy the craft that you made every Christmas for years and years to come. Plus, Christmas gets a touch of old-fashioned homemade creativity. When you tie in giving the ornament to someone, you’ve encapsulated the true meaning of Christmas.