Whether they be handmade by the kids, part of some grand theme or even limited edition collections, many families look forward to trimming the tree each year with ornaments old and new. Pulling them down from the closet and dusting them off reminds us of holidays past and builds anticipation for the season’s upcoming festivities.
In my family, it was my Grandmother who began the tradition. Every year she would hand sew and embroider unique felt ornaments for each of her grandkids (there were 8 of us!). Gingerbread Men and Toy Soldiers, Santas and Elves; there was always a new figure, and while I can’t speak for my siblings and cousins, I for one was so excited to receive that year’s decoration! Below are just a few of the beloved ornaments I’ve received over the years.
Sadly, as time has passed, it’s been difficult for my Grandmother to keep up with her tradition, so this year I decided to pitch in and help carry it forward by creating my own felt ornaments for my nieces and nephews!
Rather than continue with the holiday themed figures that she created, I decided to come up with something a little different and more ‘me’. I looked to one of my favorite artisits, Charley Harper for a little inspiration. Mr. Harper’s love of nature and his ability to express it through a two dimensional world of exaggerated yet simple geometric shapes is really quite beautiful. He called his work ‘minimal realism’ and said, ‘I don’t try to put everything in, I try to leave everything out’. Unfortunately Mr. Harper passed away in 2007, but his work continues to remain relevant and inspirational to both artists and nature lovers alike.
After a bit of research, I was ready to go. Here’s what I used (available at most craft or knitting supply stores):
Wool Felt, sewing needles (I used size 8), embroidery floss, cotton stuffing, a glue stick, scissors, and a pencil.
I redrew and simplified a few of Mr. Harper’s designs to make them better suited for life as an ornament. I then separated each color into individual shapes, cut them out and glued them on the back side of a cereal box to make the pattern pieces sturdier. Trust me, its way easier to trace them onto the felt this way. Note*** (Make sure to trace the pieces upside down so you won’t see the pencil marks when you turn the pieces over.)
Once all of the pieces were cut out, I began by attaching each of the smaller pieces to the larger base piece with a simple back stitch (the music on this link cracks me up). I did the eye with a French Knot. Once all of the pieces were sewn on, I attached the front and back pieces together with a blanket stitch.
My Grandmother always embroidered our names onto the back side of our oranaments, so I of course did the same before giving each one a little stuffing and closing them up.
For a first-timer I’d have to say I’m pretty proud of my work, and I think my Grandmother will be too. Trust me, anyone can do these, all it takes is a little time, patience and creativity. I can’t wait to see the look on her face as well as on the faces of my neices and nephews when I give them their ornaments. Hopefully someday, one of them will continue the tradition!