101: Ornaments

One of our most asked questions is "How do I finish this..?" There are many options depending on what you are stitching, and this article is dedicated to flat ornament finishing.

Flat Ornaments

Ornaments can take on all shapes and sizes, to be used to decorate a tree, a window, a room, or even a person. For the sake of this issue, we are going to limit ourselves to some ways of finishing a flat ornament.

Reversible Ornaments

What if your ornament can be viewed from both sides? If your stitched piece has a finished border around it, such as the buttonhole stitch for Hardanger, or a fringed edge for a Blackwork piece, there are a couple of suggestions. You can leave the ornament as is, stiffen the ornament, or attach it to a piece of glass.

If you want to leave the ornament as is, plan to use a stiffer fabric. Regular Hardanger fabric keeps its shape well for small objects. Mono Deluxe canvas is more rigid.

Fabrics, such as linen, are more flexible. To make them stiffer, use a commercial fabric stiffener. Trim the ornament so that there is no excess fabric. Put down a layer of waxed paper, which will be easy to peel off when the stiffener dries. Always read the instructions for the product you are using. Generally, you will cover the back of the ornament with a stiffener, extending several stitches beyond the edge of your design. You don’t want it real thick or soaking through to the front of your design.

Check the front of your ornament, wiping away any excess stiffener. If your ornament has beads, charms, or treasures, take special care not to get the stiffener on them or it may dull their appearance. Lay the ornament face down on the waxed paper. Put another layer of waxed paper over the ornament and weight it down with something that covers the entire surface, like a heavy book. Once it is completely dry, gently remove the layers of waxed paper. If you are adding a ribbon or metallic hanger, you can run it through a hole in the ornament (such as a kloster block) or glue it to the back if there is not a hole.

If you want to use a glass back, determine what shape and size you will need. Then trim your design to the desired shape. Use a clear drying glue.

Here are some suggestions if you would like to make some flat ornaments. Hanky Panky has a wonderful selection of patterns including the Holiday Ornaments assortments.

Flat Padded Ornaments with Mat Boards

Finishing Basket

Here are some items you might want to use when finishing your ornaments:

  • Backing material, like satin, moirĂ©, or cotton fabrics.
  • Lining fabric (if you have a design with cut outs)
  • Material for the hanger (ribbon, cording, thread)
  • Mat board or a finishing form
  • Batting to give it a little padding.
  • Glue
  • Mounting tape
  • Thread
  • Pencil
  • Trim, cording, buttons, beads, or finished tassels.
  • Scissors
  • Sharp needles
  • Straight pins
  • Ruler
  • X-acto knife or similar cutting tool for the mat board

If the designer has provided finishing instructions, read them carefully and use them. If not, here are some basic steps for a padded ornament.

Prepare your stitched piece and backing fabric by washing and ironing as necessary. Determine the shape you want your ornament to be. You may be able to use a pre-made form. If you want a different size or shape, you can use mat board. Make a template of your desired ornament shape on stiff paper.

Using your template cut out two pieces of mat board the exact size of your finished ornament. Cut two pieces of batting the size of the template (if you are covering both sides of ornament.) Glue the batting to the mat board. If your design has a definite front and back, be sure to glue the backing to the correct sides. Put your hands together and pretend this was an ornament. When you "open" up the ornament and lay the pieces flat on the table, you see you would need two pieces with the thumbs going different directions. When the batting is dry, carefully trim any excess that extends over the edge.

Place your template on the backside of your stitching, being sure to get it centered the way you want it. Lightly mark around the template. Trim the fabric about a half inch or more beyond that mark. If you have curves, you will want to clip them a quarter inch in so they will lay nicely. If you have sharp corners, you may want to clip them also. If you are unsure, try folding the fabric over the mat board without the glue. If it is too bulky, cut a little bit more or trim the edges. Cut the lining and back fabrics in the same way.

If you have a lining fabric, you may wish to trim it back to just fit the shape of the ornament. However, if you have openwork that extends to the edge of the ornament, you may want to wrap that lining fabric around and glue it in place before attaching the stitched piece. Use good quality straight pins to help hold things in place as they dry.

Lay your stitched piece face down next to the lining or batting. Apply glue to the backside of the mat board. Center the stitched piece and then carefully begin to stretch the fabric edges over the mat board, being careful to keep the stitched piece centered. One way to help keep the design centered is to think about the ornament as a compass. Start at the north point gluing/pinning it in place, then go and do the same for the south point. Check to be sure the design is still centered. Next secure the east and west sides. Again, check to be sure the design is still centered. Now work your way around the entire ornament, stretching the fabric around the mat evenly. Continue to check to make sure you are still centered. Nothing is more depressing than to get the edges glued in place and find the design shifted a bit. Do the same thing for your back piece.

Before you put the two halves together, you need to decide on the hanger. Will it be a piece of cord or ribbon glued between the two halves, a loop with the trim on the edge of the ornament, or a thread stitched through the finished ornament?

For a hanger that goes between the two halves, make a loop and secure it in place with a bit of glue on one of the mat boards. Now you can put the two halves together. Some resources say to just glue the two pieces together, but sometimes they pull apart, so to reinforce the ornament, glue the two halves together, whipstitch the edges together, and then cover it with a cord or trim. You want the ornament to dry flat, so place it on a hard surface with something heavy on top, like a stack of books. Let it dry overnight. If you are adding trim or cord, put glue around the edge where the halves meet. Using straight pins, place the trim where you want it and pin it in place. Take care where the ends of the trim meet. Clip the ends carefully and glue them together so the seam is hidden. Depending on the trim, you may be able to stitch the ends together for extra support.

If your hanger is a part of the trim, measure out the length of trim including the hanger (and tassel x 2 if you are unraveling the trim for a tassel). Fold the trim in half. In the middle form a loop for the hanger. Depending on the ornament and the trim, you might tie a knot where the hanger ends and connects to the ornament. You could use a large fancy bead or do a whipstitch. Then glue the remaining trim around the edges using the same procedure as above. The trim should meet in the middle of the bottom edge. You can do the same thing as the top with a knot, a bead, or a whipstitch. Unravel the trim to form the tassel, trimming the ends to the length you desire. Or if you don’t want a tassel, then carefully cut the ends of the trim and join them with glue or stitching. Here are some examples of padded ornaments.

Ornaments that Snap into a Prefinished Frame

There are frames available that provide the edging and hanger in one piece. You will need to be sure that your ornament is not wider than the frame or it won’t fit nicely. Finish the two halves as shown above and then glue them into the frames.

Ornaments with a Manufactured Form or Button

You’ll need a button or ornament cover kit like one of these:

Most of the manufactured forms will come with instructions and the template. The template is often printed on the packaging, so don’t throw it away. These forms have teeth on the inside lip to secure your fabric. If you are adding a hanger, secure it with glue to one of the halves, but try to also catch it in the teeth. Attach the batting, lining, and fabric as shown above, except catch the fabric on the teeth.

How you put the halves together will depend on the form you have. Some forms will snap together. Other forms have to be glued and whip stitched together just like a mat board ornament. Add the hanger and trim as shown in the mat board instructions.

Trick: Do you have an ornament that you don’t want to add an attached hanger to, but would still like to have it hang? Find a color or theme coordinated button and stitch it on the back of the ornament. You’ll want the button towards the top of the ornament or it will be top heavy and not hang correctly. Now when you want to hang the ornament, you can use a pretty ribbon or an ornament hanger.

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

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