Thursday, December 20, 2018

'Twas the Week Before . . .

I've been inserting a hand-made holiday ornament in each of my Christmas greeting cards for at least the last 10 years. The challenges are many:
  • To create something small enough and flat enough to go into a greeting card and be sent by mail
  • To generate an idea that I don't mind repeating about 40 times to complete my holiday card list (one year I made mittens - they were really cute, but every ornament required TWO!)
  • To start early enough to execute said idea in stated multiples without making myself nutzoid by December 24th!

This year I hit the jackpot!

I've been experimenting with blackwork (see this post from earlier this year about biscornu), and with a little online research, I found a couple of small patterns suitable for some scraps of even weave linen, some fun variegated threads, and double sided fusible foam batting.

And, most importantly, an EARLY start!

I started stitching the little motifs in the summer months, and took threads and linens with me on vacation to Europe. Lots of long plane, train, and bus rides, as we traveled overseas and from city to city, made for good chunks of dedicated time with a needle in my hand.

First I created the stitchery, each just over 1" square. Then trimmed them down, leaving about 1/4" of fabric around the stitching. Then, I sewed the stitchery to a sandwich of fusible foam batting and festive fabric prints on front and back (shown above). I suppose I should have used a zigzag stitch for the sewing, but I used a straight stitch. It's an ornament, and will likely never be washed, so the loose week linen should last acceptably well. 

And finally, I removed rows of the linen threads up to the stitching point, creating a fringy edge.

Making lots of linen thread scraps. Perfect for nesting season, even though that's several months off, at this point.

And repeated the process about 40 or so times.

I trimmed the sandwiches with pinking shears to fun-up the ornament edges, and added a hanging thread.

Ready to pop into a card and into the mail. . .and with time to spare!

If you're thinking something like this would be suitable for you. I have to say, I struggled a bit to find information about blackwork embroidery so I could learn more. This book (aff.) by Lesley Wilkins only recently crossed my attention, and I haven't really given it a good look-through just yet, but I plan to find a quiet moment beside the tree in the next few days to really take it in.

You can find lots of images on social media, Pinterest for example will generate lots of blackwork images on a search, but, I found, many of those links for more detail lead to dead ends.

If you want to tackle something like this, for next year, for example. Do plan ahead so you can relax and savor each stitch. The technique is worthy of your best relaxation time. Stressy deadlines are counter productive with any kind of hand stitching, in my humble opinion.

In fact, I'm already looking ahead to 2019. No real plans for my ornaments yet, but Hardanger embroidery, or white work (even though I'm not using white thread in this sampler I'm working on), has my attention at the moment.

Whitework has a strong foot hold in Europe, but not so much in the US, or at least that's what I've found.

So I'm currently looking for some more sources to learn and hone this handwork method. How different can it be, you might ask? Hardanger is very big on texture. Several of the classic motifs include cutting and withdrawing threads from the base linen fabric, then 'decorating' the openings with more thread. I haven't quite managed the hang of it (that's kind of 'punny' isn't it?! Groan!)

As long as I'm taking a mini inventory of my current projects, this little number - a table runner - I started a few months back with *plenty* of time to complete by the holiday appears to be earmarked for Christmas 2019 at this point.

Rolling my eyes, and jus' keepin' it real, folks!

Have a lovely, wonderful, stitchy, holiday! Merry Christmas! And. . . 

Happy Stitching!


  1. those are beautiful Joan, great job. I have one friend who does cross stitch for her christmas cards, I have a whole set of them when I can see them in my quilt room. All the best, Sharyn

  2. Enjoy reading your posts. You are energizing

  3. Oh wow. I make ornaments or small usable gifts for our railroad friends, to be presented at our Annual New Year's get-together at the local Chinese restaurant. I failed to find just the right ornament for this year so am making tote bags instead. They'll be usable and appreciated, but not exactly what I had in mind as a gift! Your little stitchery gifts are wonderful! I've never done counted cross-stitch, which is what I believe you are doing. Beautiful work!