Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Calendar Hop 2013 - Door #4!

Welcome, And Come On In!

I'm so pleased to have you visit today and very excited to be participating in my first Blog Hop! Many thanks to Jo from Serendipitous Stitching for hosting this super fun seasonal event :) In honor of this momentous occasion, LOL, I knew that I wanted to do something special! So I designed this little double-sided blackwork ornament:

Blackwork Poinsettia Ornament

If you have any trouble downloading this file, please let me know!
My e-mail is in my sidebar at right, under the pretty postage stamps :)

I stitched my ornament on 14 count Aida using three strands of DMC for everything but the hanging loop. The finishing method I used is one that is entirely new to me, and I'd like to share a tutorial here in case you'd like to try it too! The braided-look edging is adapted from an article on beaded trim in an old issue of Just Cross Stitch magazine and consists of chain stitch border outlines joined together by whipstitch.

Now, The Whipstitch is a noted Stitchy Foe of mine, and I did have some trepidation about trying this technique. It took me a while to get into the rhythm of it, and I had to unpick a few of my stitches and redo them as I went, but I was surprised at how easy this method of joining is! It's so much easier to pick up the chain stitches than it is to pick up backstitches, and the trim looks very much like cording when finished!

A note about the size: when stitched on 14 count, this little ornament is just over two inches square, including the trim. I kept the design small because I wanted something quick to stitch, that would make an easy gift, and could be used anywhere on the tree.

Also, please be advised that there are a few Specialty Stitches in the design - Smyrna Cross Stitches fill in the green squares, the "arms" of the yellow stars are long stitches taken over two threads as are the large blue diamonds in the frame, and the little yellow diamonds in the corners and at the centers of the flowers are filled with very simple Upright Cross Stitches :) If you have any questions, please just ask away!!!

Happily, this method of joining could be adapted to ANY ornament, where the front and back stitched motif is the same size :) Here's how I made my ornament:

Please click on any picture in this post to see a a larger version!

I stitched the front and the back on two separate pieces, since I was working in hand and I found it easier to hold the smaller pieces. You may want to try cutting a larger piece of material and working in a hoop - whatever you're most comfortable with :)

And here's the back of both sides! I wouldn't normally show this, but here's a helpful tip for anyone who hasn't stitched coloured blackwork before: try borrowing the "travelling" trick from embroidery, and running your thread under the back of other stitched sections to get where you need to go! I stitched all the red (the flowers) first, which gives a good foundation for anchoring travelling threads all around the square.

Then I stitched the yellow stars, which fills in the space between the flowers, which allowed me to then add the green, travelling across the stars from leaf to leaf. Finally, I stitched the blue last. And I kept the lettering on the back close together and simple so that it would be easy to travel from the closest points between letters :)

And then it's time to stitch the Chain Stitch outlines!!! The point where I started is marked on the chart with a black dot, to the left of the topmost petal on the topmost poinsettia flower. Because each Chain Stitch goes over two threads, if you start right at the mid-point of the pattern, the count will be off. I placed my border two stitches away from the edge of the motif on all sides of the front (and mirrored that spacing on the back). If you'd like some extra space around your design, just remember to add your stitches in increments of two so that your Chain Stitch will work out right :)

I found it really helpful to hold the working thread taut with my forefinger and loop the thread over my finger, as shown, before going back down through the fabric. This kept the thread out the way so I could see clearly where to come up for the next loop!

At first, I thought I had to end the chain with a tacking stitch to turn the corner, but then I realized all I needed to do was turn the loop and keep stitching ;)

And ending the chain is super easy - just loop your thread under the bottom of the first stitch, as shown! I repeated the border on the back side, and trimmed the edges:

And cut two small squares of quilt batting, to fit the space within the border. This batting helps to keep the threads on the back of each piece from showing through the other side! It also fills out the hollow left when the edges are oversewn, and so it doesn't add any extra bulk. For a puffier look, you could try adding a smaller third square sandwiched in the middle. Conversely, you could leave the batting out.

Now for the tricksy part, LOL:

I used my fingers to fold the sides down, folding top and bottom and then left and right, and pinned them in place. Make sure the pins are on the right side so you can remove them easily - to keep from leaving marks in the Aida I used thinner pins and used the Aida holes as a guide :) The corners stick up a lot but you'll be holding the sides tightly together in your hand as you whipstitch and they gradually flatten out.

For the hanging loop, I made some cording using two long lengths of matching floss doubled over (4 strands). Tie a knot where the strands fold over and clip the knot to something sturdy, like a drawerpull. Pull the floss very taut and twist the strands tightly together; when they visibly vibrate to the touch (pluck the cord to test), hold the middle of the floss with the fingers of your left hand and fold the bottom of the strand to the top with your right hand (or vice versa, if you're left-handed). The cord will start to twist together; smooth your fingers over the coils to smooth out any bumps. Tie a new knot, double over, and knot again. Trim the ends if needed. Voila!

I chose to hide the knot in the top of my ornament, placing pins through both pieces on either side to hold it. This does leave a bump that you can't see but you can feel, so you may want to leave your knot at the top, especially if you're not using padding.

For the Whipstitching, I cut a long length of floss, divided into three strands, so I wouldn't have to worry about joining threads! I started by darning the end of my thread in the fold at the top of my ornament, and then I made a few stitches through the knot of my hanging loop to secure it in the center top of the ornament. Then it's just matter of passing under pairs of loops! At first, my stitches were too loose - you really need to tug gently with every stitch, just enough to pull the sides together.

EDIT: When Shannan from Bobbin & Fred stitched this design, she asked a great question about stitching the edging.

When you put your back and front together, using this method, you end up with two lines of chain stitch next to each other. Which loops do you go through? That depends entirely on the look you're going for. I chose to go over both of the loops, but you can also go underneath the pairs of loops, which leaves the tops of the Chain Stitches visible. The original magazine article I adapted this technique from also suggested just picking up the inner arm of each loop pair for beading, but the seam would be significantly weaker, which is important to keep in mind.

I created a very rough, simple sketch to show you what I mean:

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to e-mail me :)

If your stitches are too tight, then the loops of the Chain Stitches distort and you lose the pretty braided effect. Don't panic if you make a mistake - I made plenty LOL ;) - it's very easy to unpick the whipstitch and try again! I took an extra stitch through every corner to cover the bulky folds of fabric there. When I reached the top again...

I went around the side of the hanging loop to pass through the last pair of loops, and then took a few extra small stitches to secure the opening.

I darned my thread in this join, and then buried the tail in the ornament, pulling my needle out through the side and snipping the floss close to the trim.

And that's it! Although there was a large learning curve with this technique for me, I think it would much easier for anyone who is more familiar and comfortable with The Whipstitch :) It's definitely something I intend to try again!!!

Here's a close-up of the edging:

You can see that my stitches are a little uneven, but overall I'm pleased with it ;)

And here it is at home on my tree, put up especially for the Advent Hop:

Honestly, I usually never get my tree up until the middle of December, even though decorating it is one of my very favourite things about Christmas :) Which brings me to Jo's great question about Festive Food Traditions during the Holidays - I love to bake, but only much closer to Christmas Eve. So I have nothing to show you LOL!

We do have recipes that are traditional in my family, but it's also become something of a tradition for me to try baking at least one new recipe every year. So I thought I'd share three recipes I've bookmarked as possibilities to try out this year:

Peppermint Cream Cheese Chocolate Cupcakes

This would be a wonderful way to use up left over candy canes! They're melted to flavour the icing as well as being crushed to sprinkle on top :) Yummy!

Chocolate-Cherry Cheesecake

Chocolate, cherry pie filling and cheesecake - what's not to love?! The cherry filling adds a festive pop of red. Or at least that's my excuse :) Mmm.

And last, but not least:

Chocolate Mint Brownies

I love LOVE brownies :) Everyone in my family does! There are tons of recipes for mint brownies but most of them use store bought chips, candy or chocolates and this one just uses plain peppermint extract, except for the optional garnish on top :)

Thank you so much for joining me for Door #4 in The Advent Calendar Hop!

May You Have A Very Merry Christmas :)

Many thanks again to Jo for hosting! Remember to visit the Advent Calendar Hop daily at Serendipitous Stitching for more treats throughout the Holiday Season :)

UPDATE: Thank you all for the lovely comments! I'm entering this post in the Link Party at Dream A Little Bigger this week, please click on the photo for more info:

Dream a Little Bigger


Beauty Bonnet said...

dear aurelia,
i love the ornament; it's very colorful and Christmas-sy although it's not just red and green.
with more time i might just try stitching it!
thank you for the recipes, too!

gracie said...

Wonderful ornament and clear explanations. The recipes sound delicious.

stitchersanon said...

I love the finishing technique with the whip stitch. Def. going to give this one a go! A lovely post and def. putting me in the mood for Christmas!

Justine said...

Thanks for sharing your lovely ornament and especially the neat finishing technique. Your recipes look scrummy too. I'm not much of a cook but those brownies look too good not to try them.

Shebafudge said...

What a very pretty ornament and fantastic instructions too. Merry (early) Christmas xx

Jan Gartlan said...

Such a lovely post! Beautiful ornament - so delicate! Thank you for the tutorial - so nice of you.

Shirlee said...

A lovely ornament & such detailed instructions! It was very kind of you to share this with us : ) Best wishes for a very Happy Christmas!

Karen said...

Your instructions make the chain stitched finish look so easy! I'll have to give this a try sometime. Love your little poinsettia ornament! Such bright and cheerful colours. :)

EvalinaMaria said...

All looks lovely! Have a wonderful Christmas.

Kaisievic said...

Fantastic post Aurelia - thank you so much for the tutorial - I am definitely going to try it out!
Merry Xmas, Kaye

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thank you all so much for "Hopping" by, and for the wonderful comments!!! I'm so very glad that you like the pattern and edging tutorial :) If you do give either a try, feel free to e-mail your post or photos to me and I'd be very happy to feature your work here on ES ;) Happy Holidays, and Happy Stitching!

Jo who can't think of a clever nickname said...

Thanks for taking part! I really enjoyed the tutorial. I whip stitch my ornies but just through the usual backstitch lines. I will definitely try this chain stitch finish soon.

Anne said...

Wonderful post Aurelia!! I love the little poisetta blackwork ornie! Thanks for the tutorial!! I'll have to try out the chain stitch some time!!Hugs!

Anonymous said...

What a gorgeous ornament. I love the colors so bright and cheery!

You will have to let us know which yummy desert your choose!

Thank you for sharing your pattern and tutorial.

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Thanks so much for the lovely comments!

@ Jo: You're very welcome, I had a lot of fun and am still enjoying following along with the Calendar! Glad you like the edging, it's even easier than it looks ;)

@ Anne: Aw, thanks so much Anne ;) So glad you like the pattern and the tutorial!

@ Carolyn: Thank you, bright and cheery is *exactly* what I was going for with the colour choices, so glad you like the ornament and enjoyed the tutorial! I'm not sure which recipe I'm going to try, but I'm leaning towards the cupcakes since I have a ton of candy canes left over from last year :) I'll definitely let you know if I do!

cheryl said...

Thank you for posting the lovely freebie and such great instructions. Happy Holidays!

Allison @ said...

I've wondered how to stitch these up so sweetly! Your tutorial is perfect and so easy to understand! And thanks for sharing my cupcakes :)

Aurelia Eglantine said...

Sorry for the delay in response!

@ Cheryl: You're very welcome - thank you for taking the time to comment! And a Very Merry Christmas to you too :)

@ Allison: Thank you very much for your lovely comment, I'm so glad that you enjoyed the tutorial! And I'm totally going to try your cupcakes, even if I have to wait until after Christmas :) Candy canes are never out of season! LOL ;)

Gillie said...

Will have to try the chain stitch finish, I do basically the same only with back stitch. Thank you for the design!