Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


A friend and I were chatting about our interest in fabric, and it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about the fabric embellished ornaments I gave away at our holiday party this year.
Each year my husband and I host a holiday party for about 40 friends and neighbors. Our dog lady is the official greeter and sends each guest home with a bag of homemade chicken liver biscotti for their pampered pooch. I also send them home with a handmade ornament for their tree. 

One year they were crazy quilted, another tatted snowflakes and wreathes, and yet another wet felted orbs.
For this year’s ornament I was inspired by an article I saw in the August/September 2009 issue of Quilting Arts Magazine. The article by Jill Amanda Kennedy titled Ethically Ethnic Cuffs, was about reusing old bits of trim and fabric scraps along with a cushion cover from the thrift shop to make the extraordinary cuff shown in the cover photo. While I didn’t think the cuff was something I would wear, it started me thinking about what else I could do with the technique.
The process is quite simple and not expensive, if you have scraps of special occasion fabrics (like velvet, satin, organdy, etc.), and odd bits of trim (lace, ribbon, metallic cording) stashed away. It is because of just these sorts of projects that I tend to cut buttons off old blouses before sending them to the rag bin.

This whole project is about layering. Start with a piece of solid fabric that is no more than 18 by 18 inches. Any larger and it’s awkward to twist and turn as you stitch on the machine. I had some dupioni silk in a light green as well as pieces in emerald green and Christmas red that I bought on sale. To the back of this you will fuse a piece of heavyweight interfacing.
Begin cutting out little bits and pieces of fabric, and scatter them across the right side of your fabric. If you like you can use a bit of spray adhesive to hold them in place. When you are satisfied with the color balance, stitch them in place with a straight or zig zag stitch. I used metallic threads in different colors since this just added another element and a bit of sparkle to the overall piece.
The next step is to layer a piece of something transparent over the top. I found some sparkly white organdy with silver sequins, and a pretty gold organdy. Stitch this around the outer edges of the piece just to hold it in place. Now add another layer of fabric pieces and some wide ribbon or trim, and stitch these down. Since I was making Christmas ornaments, I dug through the wrapping box to find some of those great wide wired holiday ribbons that I bought at Costco for next to nothing. Finally take narrow trim and ribbon and add this in curves and loops all over the top. You will end up with something that looks like this. 

Yours may be more or less complex. As long as it appeals to you, that’s all that matters.
But I bet you are wondering how this pretty placemat piece of embellished fabric becomes an ornament. Basically, now that you have the big piece assembled, you are going to cut it all up. The first thing you need is a template. I made two (a diamond shape and a mandorla or almond shape) and cut them out of heavy duty construction paper. Any firm paper or card stock will work.
Using the templates and a fine point marker, layout as many of the shapes as you can make fit on your embellished fabric, drawing the outlines for your cutting lines. Now do the same thing on a similarly sized piece of backing fabric. I used cotton velvets because it is quite stiff and easy to draw on and cut to shape. Once you have your templates all traced. Cut out the shapes.
Note that, following Jill Kennedy’s technique, I cut the backing pieces larger than the embellished shapes, stitched around the edges, trimmed the pieces and then finished the edges. However, I later realized this was not necessary and in subsequent batches cut both fronts and back to the same size, thereby eliminating a step.For every ornament you make, you will also need a piece of ribbon or trim for the hanger. I cut these about eight inches long to make a nice roomy hanger to fit over a tree branch. The final step is to lay a backing piece right side down, and a embellished piece right side up with the ribbon doubled over and inserted between the two at one point or corner. Using your machine's zig zag stitch, satin stitch around all the outer edges of the ornament to hold all of it together. That’s it. 
The finished product will look a bit like this. Something to hang on a tree or decorate a special package, and that will always remind the recipient of you. Or better yet, a bit of inspiration to send you off on the design of your own project.  


  1. I am stuck on that bed. What a beautiful spread!

  2. Thanks Nicole. Here is a link to a different page where you can get a better look at it.

  3. What an awesome idea for small gifts! I love that the one 18' square produces so many unique ornaments! Very cool, Kay!