Monday, 18 November 2013

Christmas tutorial: festive embroidery hoop decoration

Christmas tutorial_stencilled embroidery hoop

Today I'm joining in with Laura's festive blog hop of Christmas craft tutorials over at Bugs and Fishes by Lupin. This is a quick and easy project using freezer paper stencils which gives ample opportunity for raiding your stash of embellishments! This tutorial makes a great project for little stitchers, as no advanced sewing skills are needed, especially if you stick to decorating the Christmas trees and omit the embroidered text. You can get small children to draw their own simple tree shapes (the wonkier the better!) for you to transform into stencils, and they will really enjoy picking out shiny buttons and trims to personalise their designs.

Freezer paper, a coated greaseproof paper, is a fantastic thing to have in your stash for making stencilled designs - once you've cut out your design, you should be able to use it several times over by simply adhering the shiny side to your fabric with a dry hot iron. You can buy freezer paper by the 50 foot roll over at Cotton Patch, but if you just want a small amount to experiment, try The Village Haberdashery for 1/2 metre lengths at 50p a pop. The fabric paint I've used here is made by Dylon - they do a great range of strong colours and give a nice even finish. The paints were sent to me to try out several years ago but are still going strong many projects later! The principal investment I made this time with my freezer paper stencils was a new cutting knife - the X-ACTO knife is far superior to the basic plastic craft knife with the snap off blades I used last time around, and essential for cutting nice crisp edges. 

Equipment list: 
  • A 10" square of calico or other plain fabric
  • Freezer paper
  • Pencil or pen to mark your design
  • Craft knife
  • Cutting mat
  • Fabric paint and brush
  • An embroidery hoop large enough to accommodate your design.
  • Erasable fabric marking pen
  • Needle and stranded embroidery thread in festive colours
  • A selection of trims/ribbons/sequins or buttons - whatever takes your fancy! I used guipure lace daisies, silver sequins and red ribbon and ric-rac.

1) Start by drawing your design onto the non-shiny side of the freezer paper, or trace from a drawing, then carefully cut out the design using a sharp craft knife and cutting mat. My design is three simple child-like Christmas tree outlines, which is about my level when it comes to drawing skills.

2) Place the stencil shiny side down on top of your fabric and use a hot dry iron to fix the stencil in place. Make sure your stencil is firmly stuck to the fabric to avoid the paint bleeding around the cut edges. 

 3) Lay your fabric on newspaper to protect your worksurface, then using a fairly hard brushpaint the stencil with a stippling technique

(hold the paintbrush vertically and, without loading the brush up too much with paint, dot the paint all over the cut out sections and overlapping the stencil edges, reloading your brush with paint as needed). If using multiple coats of paint, you should leave each coat to dry and 'fix' the paint with a hot iron before applying the next coat.

4) When completely dry, peel off the stencil.

5) Place the fabric piece inside your embroidery hoop and mark your text with an erasable fabric pen, if desired. Use a neat backstitch and two or three strands of embroidery thread to stitch your lettering, with French knots to dot the 'i'.

6) To complete your design, use buttons, sequins or other embellishments to decorate your trees. I have used individual flowers cut from a length of guipure daisy trim to represent snowflakes (try Ribbon Moon for a great choice), but you could just as easily embroider these.

 couching sequins
i) Secure the thread at the back of the work, then bring to the front through the central hole of the sequin. Make a stitch vertically, inserting your needle close to the top edge of the sequin and pull through to the wrong side.
ii) Bring the thread back to the right side of the work again by drawing your needle through the central hole of the sequin, then take a second stitch a third of the way around the circle, inserting your needle near the right side of the sequin's edge. Pull through to the wrong side.
iii) Bring the thread back through the central hole to the right side of the work, then take a final stitch a third of the way around the circle, inserting your needle at the left side of the sequin and pulling through to the wrong side.
iv) Your couched sequin. You can continue zig-zagging the thread on the back of the work to attach the rest of the sequins to your tree, securing when complete. Use a new strand of thread for each tree to avoid the trailing lines of thread being visible on the front of the work. 

7) Take lengths of ribbon, trims or ric-rac and stitch in place to form your forest floor leaving an inch or so extending beyond the edges of the hoop at each end. I've used a herringbone stitch to couch the ribbon in place and a simple forward and back stitch over the ric-rac trim.

couching ric-rac

i) Make a stitch to the right from the trough of the wave, inserting your needle underneath the crest of the next wave of the ric-rac.
ii) Bring the thread back to the front of the work above the trough of the next wave along, inserting your needle into the fabric alongside your last stitch to make a backstitch. You will then bring the needle back to the front of the work alongside your last stitch in the trough of the wave. Continue in this way until the ric-rac has been stitched in place along its length.

couching ribbons with herringbone stitch

i) Make a long diagonal stitch to the right from the top of the ribbon to the bottom. When you insert your needle, push it through the fabric from right to left to make a small stitch. Pull the thread right through on the right side.
ii) Take the thread up and to the right now to make another long diagonal stitch, inserting the needle into the fabric from right to left to make another small stitch, pulling the thread right through to the front. Continue in this way to attach the ribbon with criss-crossing herringbone stitches.

When you have stitched the trims in place, remove the fabric from the hoop and replace it, ensuring that the loose ends of ribbons and trim are now trapped between the outer and inner hoop at the reverse of the piece. 

8) Having finished embellishing your piece, simply trim the excess fabric away from the reverse of the piece, preferably using pinking shears to prevent fraying, leaving around an inch of fabric outside the hoop. Then, sew long running stitches all the way around the edge of the fabric, and gather the stitches up and secure so that the raw fabric edges are concealed at the back of the work.

I then finished my embroidery hoop with a small bow made of red satin ribbon and stitched in place at the top of the hoop (it's a good idea to stitch right through the middle of the knotted part to ensure the bow stays perky and doesn't come undone).

Sit back and admire your handiwork! These embroidery hoops are a great activity for a Christmas crafternoon - a selection of festive designs would make a pretty decorative feature displayed in a group on the wall.

And if you fancy a bit more festive stitching, try my felt decorations tutorial with free pdf templates over at Sew, Mama, Sew.

Felt Christmas decoration tutorial

Edited to add:
The crafty Christmas tutorials are all  now live - have a look at the very crafty Christmas tutorial post for links to 30 free tutorials for festive makes - thanks for hosting, Laura - plenty there to keep me busy into next Christmas!


  1. fantastic Christmas hoop tutorial!

  2. Cute tutorial... thank you for sharing!
    Sara x

  3. The tutorial is beautiful! thank you for sharing :)

  4. I love that you've mixed paint, sewing and sequins for your tutorial Helen! It's such a simple tutorial (in a good way!). Once the trees are painted and the added pizzazz of the decorations, it's a straight forward and more importantly, a do-able tutorial. Mad props.

    xx A

  5. Oh so festive! Am I allowed to feel that way yet?

  6. Thanks, all - I'm looking forward to blog hopping around to see everyone else's tutorials now, I feel a bit of Christmas crafting coming on!

  7. Lovely job. My only problem is that I'm still trying to pretend that Christmas is months away!


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