A Christmas Ornament for you!

The past few weeks have been pretty hectic and, like all of you, I imagine, I’ve been looking for something festive and simple to stitch. I’ve always wanted to make an ornament for our tree but, as you all know, counted work it not my forté and most of the ornament patterns out there are counted work of one variety or another.

So, I decided to create my own ornament using surface embroidery. Many of you are familiar with the shape of a strawberry pin cushion. It occurred to me that this would be a perfect shape for a simple embroidered ornament.

The first ornament uses a simple holly and berry motif. I love holly and always draw holly sprigs on my gift tags every year. I decided on red holly shaped leaves made from boiled wool for the top of the ornament. 

The second ornament is a pine branch and pine cone motif. Although we don’t have pine trees on our property, I love seeing them here in Iowa, covered with snow. They’re so festive! I made simple green leaves from hand dyed felted wool for the top of this ornament.

Although I love boiled wool, it just isn’t easy to find here in the USA in the colours I wanted. I needed something for the green leaves of the pine cone ornament so I zipped over to Etsy and found some absolutely beautiful, soft, intensely coloured felted wool from Ruby Mountain Dye Works. It is gorgeous fabric! I loved it so much that I ordered more just to have it in my stash for a day when I would use it as a ground fabric for a piece of embroidery.

I ordered this selection of green wool for the leaves of the pine cone ornament and used the darkest green for the leaves. However, I am confident that regular felt will work just fine as well!

At the end of this post you will find the pattern for both ornaments, including a pattern for the leaves. 

Here are brief instructions for each ornament. The stitches are simple and there are tutorials on the internet to help you if you aren’t sure about how to do them. There is a link below for the raised leaf stitch used on the pine cone ornament from my blog.

Holly: the holly leaf outlines are worked in tiny stem stitches. The veins in the middle are worked in back stitch/straight stitch. The berries are first outlined in split stitch and then satin stitched. 

DMC thread colors are 304 (red) and 3345 (green).  Use 2 strands.

Pine cone: The pine needles branches are worked in fly stitch. The pine cones are worked in raised leaf stitch.

DMC treads colors are 3345 (green) and 801 (brown). Use 2 strands.

Cut the shape on the solid line and stitch the shape together on the straight dashed lines (the sides). The top must be gathered, pulling in the entire curved edge. There are loads of instructions on the web for how to make a strawberry pin cushion.

Cut three of each of the leaf shapes for the top of each ornament. The three shapes should be arranged on the top of the strawberry so each of the 6 outside tips of the leaf shapes are equally distributed. Stitch down the center where they all meet and then add a few holding stitches part way down each leaf to secure it to the side of the ornament. Look closely at the photos above and you will see my holding stitches.

Use a piece of DMC floss to make the hanging loop. 

Here are the links to the PDF ornament patterns. Holly ornament will be found here. Pine cone ornament will be found here. I hope you have a lovely holiday season and enjoy making these ornaments!

Crewel work – old and new

Years ago my mother gave me a large remnant of crewel work fabric left from when my grandmother had a chair reupholstered. The fabric has traveled with me to Germany and then back again to Iowa when we returned in February. I always knew I’d do something with it but wasn’t sure what that would be..

The chair below is one that my grandmother purchased in the early 1960’s. It’s made by the Stickley Company and was originally upholstered in a solid coloured fabric. At some point during my childhood (I can’t remember when) she had it recovered in the beautiful crewelwork fabric you see; the same crewelwork fabric that I have had for years but done nothing with.  One of my favourite things about my family is that we all tend to choose things that are made to last and then, because they do last, we use them from one generation to the next. We also save fabric from chairs, curtains and bedspreads just in case we might use them again in the future. Obviously my love of textiles is inherited!

The chair is now with one of my brothers and he loves it and will cherish it so it can be passed down to the next generation at some point. But the fabric is still in my stash, waiting to be used in a new project. Until now!

In 2012 I embroidered The Marriage Pillowe designed by Phillipa Turnbull. That piece has been stored for all this time, carefully wrapped in tissue, waiting to be made into a pillow. You can read more about that project here.

About a month ago, it was time for both of these textiles that had been waiting for so long to be brought to light. I was looking for a way to brighten up our new bedroom and wanted pillows and perhaps a bed runner for our bed. (Who knew there was a name for that piece of fabric you see at the foot of a bed in many hotels today!)

I called my new friend DJ Lauritsen who owns Brackets Custom Window Covering in Ames, Iowa and told her I had an idea I needed help with. As she and I spread out the piece of crewelwork fabric and the Marriage Pillow top we were amazed at the way the colours and the styles matched! It was as if they were made to be together.

Together we chose a fabric for the reverse side of the pillows and bed runner and a deep navy velvet for the piping. They were finished about a week ago and we are thrilled with the results!

DJ and her team had quite a challenge working with crewelwork fabric that was so old. There we a few moth holes and some stains so she had to consider and plan carefully how to use as much of the fabric as she could. Some of the threads were quite brittle and the fabric creased even though it was stored rolled up, not folded. However, the team did a marvellous job using the remnant from my grandmother’s chair to create something new for our home.

It’s so lovely how the colours and the patterns coordinate. Traditional crewelwork is timeless and the combination of the old and new in this project proves that!


City and Guilds Samples – Textured stitches

Firstly, a short apology as to why you haven’t heard from me for so long.

My self discipline has really taken a nose dive over the past few months. Mostly this is due to the huge amount of remodelling we’ve been doing. Each project has a vast number of decisions to be made and I’m experiencing “decision fatigue” according to my daughters. I don’t know if it’s a real thing, but I certainly am tired at the end of every day and I often haven’t done much at all except make a few choices about stain color or door handles and sort through closets and boxes deciding what to keep or not. You would think – that with my studio all finished – I could ignore the rest of the house when I’m in my studio but, sadly, I can’t.

However, the kitchen is now finished, we’ve now unpacked ALL the boxes from Germany and life feels more settled. As a result, I’ve been spending time in the studio creating and stitching the last few weeks.

And now, one of the projects I’ve been working on in my studio.

The City and Guilds course I’m working on requires 10 samples using the various techniques we learned at the beginning of the course. Each sample project has to show my source of inspiration, design development, materials, time, cost and evaluation. All of this is recorded in a large sketch book. The final piece has to be mounted in a manner that is appropriate to the finished piece of textile art. Additionally, students are encouraged to find a theme for all 10 pieces if they can, that tie them together.

Living in the home that my grandparents built and my parents lived in, I decided on Stewardship as my broad theme. This encompasses the careful, responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. In my case, this includes the house, the land, the trees, the garden, the heirloom pieces of furniture and the family traditions.

My first piece uses textured stitches and acorns. Our home is on two and a half acres of oak woods and there are acorns everywhere. In the autumn it’s easy to step on them and find your feet going out from under you! As I swept them up from the front walk one day, I took time to really look at them and noticed how beautiful the caps of the acorns are. They have the most delicate fringe all around the edges.

I decided to draw the acorns and then turn those drawings into stitch. Below are the three drawings I decided to use alongside the acorns I drew. It’s amazing how much more confident I am drawing things since I started the City and Guilds course!

I chose a grey even weave linen for the fabric. The thread was a little bit more complicated to find. I tried different embroidery threads, including Oliver Twists silk machine thread and Soy Luster thread. In the end I decided to use Oliver Twists Viscose cord, unraveled.

It’s cord that’s been twisted and I untwisted it so I would have bumpy thread to use. This gave the stitches a lot more texture.

I decided to mount the acorns on the fabric so the stitch appeared to be the shadow of the acorns.

Happily, my tutors, Tracy A. Franklin and Julia Triston, liked my work and I passed the first of the 10 samples! Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a long time know that doing something this “out of the box” and non-traditional isn’t what I usually do. But that’s the point of the course – to stretch myself. And I must say I’m loving it! (I haven’t, however, given up on the traditional historical things by any means!)