I was blown away by the wonderful needlepoint “shape” ornaments Pat Mazu put on Facebook last month.
Each year she stitches ornaments, every year with a different shape. The pictures throughout the article are from Pat & used with permission.
This idea is fantastic and so I asked her to tell us about it. Here’s our interview:
How did you get the idea for the shape tree? I didn’t. My daughter and son-in-law dedicated that specific tree in their front hall for the ornaments. When Christie and John celebrated their first Christmas, Mike (my husband) and I bought them a amall tree and I made a ton of small ornaments (small squares, etc.) to decorate it. They were in the same position that most of us were when we started out – lots of love and no money. Through the years, I added to the ornament stash, at first some were painted canvas – Kathy Schenkel did a yellow lab ornament, Judy Mulahy painted a couple of ornaments with a preschool teacher and a state trooper and I did Indiana University and Indiana highway patrol mini stockings – they were just graphed out. As the children arrived, I began to do an ornament for each of them each year. I do seven ornaments each year. One each for our son and daughter-in- law, our daughter, her husband and three children.
The first ornaments for the children were Kathy Schenkel New Year mini- stockings with the New Year’s baby insert. I stitched the stocking and changed the baby (hair and eyes to match the child) and changed the ribbon on the baby to one embroidered with the birthdate. The back of the stocking has the weight and length embroidered on it.
Eventually, I started choosing a shape and all ornaments that specific year are that shape. Each stocking is individual as to color and stitches. The names are either worked into the ornament or, as in the case of the balloon, added as a beaded pennant at the top. The children like having their names on the ornaments – I guess that to a child “possession is still nine-tenths of the law”.
The variety of shapes and designs keeps me interested. I teach a one day seminar/guild class on creating a design within a limited area or shape. The class includes a simple manual on color and design. In many ways, that is what I do with the ornaments each year. There is a great deal of freedom to experiment with stitches and colors in this limited area and because of the limited size, I finish each ornament and never reach my personal level of exasperation. I also have the fun of using a variety of colors and threads (sometimes from my stash, sometimes not) as well as stitch combinations that I might not ordinarily select.
How many of these ornaments do you make each year? Seven
What kind of shapes have you done & how do you pick each year’s shape?
I have done teardrops, miniature stockings, mittens, bells, hot air balloons, hearts, kites, stars and probably a few that I don’t recall right now. The shapes are chosen according to my frame of mind that year – and what looks fun. This year’s ornaments were pyramid shaped with a flat base names were stitched separately and incorporated into the base when I finished it.
Are there other things in common about the ornaments? For example does each family have a set of colors you use or a stitch that is always included? The only commonality is the shape. I choose the colors according to each person’s personal favorite colors. I generally like to work with Neon Rays+, ShimmerFloss, Splendor, some overdyes and lots of metallics, beads (and currently) crystals for lots of sparkle. Several years ago, my middle grandson looked at his ornament (which was bright and fun in my defense) and at his sister’s ornament (which had lots of beads and crystals) and said “but Nana, I like sparklies too!” He taught me a lesson about stereotyping boys and girls and now all three children get lots of “sparklies” to enjoy.
I think that needleworkers tend to have periods when their designs have similar aspects (just as painters have these periods). I have noticed that my style of stitching changes from year to year. The fun part of these ornaments, for me, is allowing myself to experiment and play.
What kind of stitching is done in the shapes? The designs involve anything from creating multi-level stitch patterns and combinations to playing with new threads, to whatever I want to do.
What advice can you give stitchers who might be thinking of doing something like this? You need to allow yourself to experiment and play and have fun. Have extra canvas on the side of your shape or stitching area so that you can develop an idea without having to rip it out later. The ornament you design can involve simply practicing a new stitch, a pattern or working with a new thread. The most difficult thing is to allow yourself the freedom to experiment. That is a real hurdle to overcome. Most embroiderers are hesitant to take that step and it isn’t everyone’s “cup of tea”.
Needlework is a hobby or avocation for most of us and you should do the projects that you enjoy and that please you as well as the recipient of the gift. If that happens to be basketweave on painted canvas – wonderful. If it is experimenting with your own designs (and not every design will be is wonderful also. I tend to combine both types of projects in my stitching.
Thanks Pat, I’m sure your family knows how lucky they are!