Stitching the Family: Ornaments and other Smalls

If stitching a sampler for a family event is just too much work for you, consider stitching something smaller.  Perhaps something ornament-sized.  You may not be able to stitch as many details on it, however, they can be just as effective.  They also take much less time.

Substituting Ornaments for Samplers

When you don’t feel like making a whole sampler for an upcoming wedding, birth or other event (or you simply don’t have the time), an ornament can be just as effective.  I have seen many people hang them on the wall year round instead of just having them on the Christmas tree.  As space is limited, you may have to plan on using two pieces of stitching fabric (one for front and one for the back) so you can have the design on one side and the details on the other.

Not sure what to stitch? Here are some ideas:


  • Whitework or hardanger
  • Two people looking romantic (I’ve seen some with snowmen in love)
  • Hearts
  • Churches
  • Houses


  • Rocking horses or other toys
  • Creche/Nativity scene


  • Candles
  • Inspirational sayings/Bible verses
  • Clouds/Rainbows


  • Owls
  • Cap/Gown/Diploma

Family Tree

  • Identical designs with a different person stitched on each one.

This is no means a comprehensive list.  Feel free to add ideas in the comments!  We all learn from each other in the stitching community.

The Ornament Per Year Approach

A few years ago when I was first laid off, I came up with this insane idea to make my daughters an ornament for each Christmas until they were 18.  It wasn’t terribly insane for my biological daughters because they were 1 and 2 at the time.  What was insane was that I decided to also make ornaments for my stepdaughter who was 15 at the time….starting with when she was born (to be fair, her mother is a poor excuse for a mother so I’ve basically become her mother and I wanted to show her some love that she never really got from her biological mother). I’m happy to report that it only took me two years to get all caught up with her ornaments (started Jan 2013, caught up June 2015).  My little ones are still missing an ornament each, but I’m hoping to get all caught up this year.

When I couldn’t find any “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments that I liked, I got creative.  Each girl has a nativity scene of the holy family, because since we are Christians and that is what Christmas means to us.

Here’s the front

Then I put the “deets” on the back.

I also created a baptism ornament for each of them (we baptize infants in my church).

I couldn’t find a design so I designed this myself. The “deets” are on the back 😉 If you can’t tell, I like the frayed Aida look when doing double sided ornaments.

We also like to have fun with Christmas, so I try to match the ornaments to my daughters’ interests.

My youngest (who is Autistic) loves Pooh. She kept going up to the tree and pointing at this ornament and saying “Pooh” (which was significant because she was mostly nonverbal at the time).

My older daughter (who is also Autistic) is slightly obsessed with her stuffed orange kitty cat. So I made her one on an ornament. She also enjoys pointing out her name (Z-O-E-dook! – where the dook is her accent).

I also decorated a wood box to keep the ornaments in.  My stepdaughter is the only one who has a completed box.

I hope I’ve given you some good sampler alternative ideas.  Happy stitching!

Stitching the Family: Modifications!

[The title of this post comes from the extremely funny Pixar short “Tokyo Mater” where Mater gets “modifications.”  What can I say, I have two small children and all I get to watch is Disney and Sprout.]

So, you want to stitch something nice for an upcoming birth or wedding but you can’t find anything you like in a traditional sampler.  What do you do?  Fortunately, for you, there are options!

Personalized “pictures”

When I got married, there wasn’t time to stitch a sampler because we eloped.  After we got married, I just couldn’t find anything I liked in my stash.  And then I found this:

It was a kit by Dimensions.

It isn’t a sampler per se.  It’s more of a picture of a bride and groom with room for personalization at the bottom (it came with the alphabet).  And it’s only 5×7 so I was able to frame it myself without much problem.  It’s simple, yet effective.  My husband loved it.  And it’s hanging in our dining room. [Read more…]

Stitching the Family: Samplers

Many stitchers use stitching to commemorate events in the family.  One of the most popular ways to do this is with samplers.

Samplers have been around since humanity has been doing the needle arts.  Many stitchers think of alphabet, motif, and border samplers when they hear the word “sampler,” but according to Wikipedia, a sampler is merely a demonstration of a stitcher’s skills.  That is a pretty loose definition.  For the sake of this article, let’s separate our cross stitch into “pictures” and “samplers.”  A bird “picture” would be a general cross stitched picture of a bird and a bird “sampler” would have motifs of birds with an alphabet and/or borders and/or specialty stitches.

Behold! The Sampler!

[Read more…]

Tips for Stitching on Black Fabric

Stitching on black fabrics can be eye-straining, frustrating, and down right difficult. All that said, why do we even do it? Because the results are always stunning and awe-worthy. Here are my tips and ideas for making the process less painful.

Tips for Stitching on Black Fabric (headline image)

Good Lighting, Quality Lighting, More Lighting!

The number one most important thing you can do when stitching on black (or any dark colors) is to have good quality light, and a lot of it. I’m not saying you have to rush off and buy an expensive Ott Light or anything, though they’re certainly nice to have.
[Read more…]

A Little Gridding Goes A Long Way

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (like back in 2013), I guest blogged a few times over here about my adventures in stitching.  Then, in Summer of 2013, I started a Masters of Arts degree in teaching and most of my spare time for blogging and stitching in general went down the tubes.  I am happy to say that I completed my degree in five semesters and walked across the stage with my velvet hood back on December 13.  A week later, my teaching certificate showed up.  But, since it’s mid-year and teaching jobs are in short supply, I am back to being a stay-at-home-mom with some extra time for blogging and stitching.

So, what has changed in two years?  Well, in my original interview with Loretta, I talked about how I enjoyed stitching smaller pieces.  Well, due to my mid-life stitching crisis, if you look at my current list of WIPs, you will see that I’m currently working away on a myriad of rather large pieces.  How my tastes have changed.

Anyway, I want to return to one of my favorite posts that I wrote for this blog: How to create a UFO in 13 easy steps.  In this post, I chronicled how a piece that I had started years ago (before I was married, in fact, and I’m coming up on my 6th anniversary) had tragically turned into a UFO.

A short time later, I blogged about how I had discovered gridding.  At the time, I had gridded two different pieces: an HAED (that’s “Heaven and Earth Designs” piece) and Snow White Discovers the Cottage, a kit of the Kinkade piece by the same name.  Both of those pieces were extremely large, solidly stitched and had lots of color changes, so gridding the piece made total sense.  To be honest, gridding a piece is kind of tedious and it can take an hour to grid one page of a piece (ok, it takes ME an hour since I have a 4 and 5 year old running around while I’m trying to work).  I only grid when I have to.

Then, I look a good look at Do Not Meddle (that would be the UFO).  It is not solidly stitched in the slightest but it caused me headaches even after I isolated and fixed the mistake.

To be honest, I think it’s the multiple shades of green that make this piece difficult, coupled with the irregular shape. The words were so easy. The dragons – HARD!

After trying (unsuccessfully) to start the dragon on the left side, I broke down and gridded the first page.  And to my surprise, it made things so much easier.  Instead of having to guess where I was from the current stitching (which is difficult because the shades of green are incredibly close together), I just use the grid lines as a reference point and go from there.  I got some work in today and here’s what it looks like.

You can barely see the grid threads because they’re beige but they show up just fine in person.

The moral of the story?

Is gridding tedious?  – Yep!

Can gridding prevent you from tearing your hair out and banishing a worthy piece to the bottom of your stitching basket? – Well, in this case, YES!

Need Some Graph Paper to Rechart or Chart a Cross Stitch Pattern?

graphpapergridSometimes you just need to rechart the date on something, or maybe you want to use a different color or add small detail like your name to a piece, or maybe you want to chart a small motif for a custom piece – you need a sheet of graph paper or some type of grid to start planning things out before you get stitchy.

Here are five easy to use free resources for printing graph paper from your computer all with different sizes, line weights, etc…;

Or if you’re out of printer ink or don’t have paper in the machine, you can just raid your teenager’s math binder when he’s not looking like I do 😉

Cross Stitch Tails … and we’re not talking stories here …


Recently a customer called me and needed more thread for a kit she had purchased.  She had run out of one color and was only half way done with the area.  WHAT?  How could that be?  I looked at my notes and I had another customer with the same problem, same color, same kit.  What did I do … or not do?  I always keep track of how many lengths and strands I use.

Two weeks pass and she calls me again and she has run out of two more colors!  Sigh …..

I asked her, just so I would know for future, how long were her tails?  Was she using each length to the very end or leaving 3-4″ ??  She told me she uses it to the last little bit just to be able to tuck it into her stitches.

Well … I guess I blew it.  I’ll need to add more extra lengths to each kit from now on.  I’m stitching a new design and I’m purposely throwing more away to make sure I don’t go short on my kits.

I found this How-To over on Ebay .. yes, Ebay … I didn’t know they had How-To’s ….  How NOT to Knot  This was her picture –

tails via ebay

I think mine are about that length when I’m ready to tuck it in.

I was also thinking about how stitchers “stitch” … do they make a line one way and come back or are they making crosses?  Am I making sense?  :)  I think you’ll know what I’m saying … Is the way they’re stitching causing them to use more thread?

Luckily I’ve only had the two phone calls about thread being short … so I’m doing okay!

So … how long are your tails?


Stitching, Quilting & Tiles Oh My!

I’m not nearly as crafty as I wish I was. I went through a quilting phase and in all honesty I was pretty good. But I quickly found I loved picking out fabric and designs more than I had the time or patience to actually quilt. This frustrated my poor mother more than words can possibly convey. But that’s another story entirely.

I’ve tried my hand at cross stitching several times in my life and that too I’m not so great at. If I had to pick, I suppose the best thing I can do is crochet. I learned how to crochet when I was very young but I don’t really do it. Again, I love picking out all the pretty yarns and I’m excited to get started but somehow I manage to start several projects and finish none.
[Read more…]

I may be an affiliate for some of the products that I recommend. If you purchase those items through my links I will earn a commission.