Thursday, December 1, 2016

tips and tools for making your Twelve Days ornaments

Wowee, folks! Thanks for making my Black Friday/Small Biz Saturday/Crafty Sunday/Cyber Monday Etsy sale the most successful ever! And by far the most popular items from my shop were the Twelve Days ornaments. Quite a number of you have some cozy hand-sewing to do! Thanks again.

As you might imagine, I've made a lot of these ornaments. I thought I'd share some tips and tricks of the trade that will make crafting your Twelve Days ornaments easier and quicker!

First and most obvious one. Can't say enough about this magical felt craft and embroidery helper.

This sticky-backed stabilizer is the key to making these ornaments. I live in terror of it being discontinued. I miiight be hoarding it.

You just print (or copy) the pattern to the Sulky stabilizer, peel off the backing, apply it to the pre-shrunk* wool felt and start stitching right on the lines. It's FANTASTIC. No pattern tracing or transferring embroidery designs.

When you are finished embroidering you cut out the piece and soak it in cold water about 15 minutes. The stabilizer dissolves away and when your piece has air dried you have a perfectly executed embroidery design with no trace of the stabilizer.

You may notice the felt and stitching feels stiffer after it's dry, like it's been starched. That's perfectly normal. It's a leftover invisible residue from the stabilizer and I actually prefer it because it secures your stitching and adds body and durability to the ornament.

And of course, Sulky PSF-S also works great for your regular fabric hoop embroidery projects. You can get it at your local craft/sewing store and also at, or Shiny Happy World.

*You should pre-shrink your wool or wool-blend felts the day before you make the ornament by simply soaking them with cold water and letting them air dry. 


Do you guys know about Thread Heaven? I love this stuff. If you do a lot of embroidery or hand sewing you need to have this right next to you.

It adds a siliconey (technical term) coating to your needle and thread, which keeps knotting and snarling at bay as you sew. It makes the whole process of sewing French knots way less frustrating. If you coat your needle along with the thread it makes poking through the stabilizer as smooth as butter. Mm. Butter. But anyway, I love it and you can get it in several places but I bought mine here. It seems to last forever because I can't remember when I bought this one and I still have plenty.


Do you guys have a stuffing fork? You might need one. So much better than a dowel, crochet hook or that leadless pencil you've been using. It can't be matched at stuffing tiny, hard to reach areas. Here's a closeup of the business end:

You are perhaps saying, 'So it has a tiny fork at the end, big whoop.' That's because you don't realize the fork is GENIUS. You take a loose pinch of stuffing, press it against the fork and spin the fork like you are eating spaghetti. It makes a compact ball of stuffing that you slide into place in the tiny spot you are trying to stuff. The fork also makes positioning stuffing inside an ornament a cinch. It grabs and repositions the stuffing whereas a dowel just pokes through it. I use my stuffing fork all the time with this ornament series. The store I purchased it from doesn't seem to have them anymore, but this is the website listed on the handle: Barbara Willis Designs.

There's a stuffing fork I've seen online made by Clover, but I can't find a closeup of what the end looks like. It's not as long but if it has a little fork on the end it would also be very helpful for these ornaments. Anyone have one?


Dritz® Fray Check is listed as optional on my pattern supplies, but it's really nice to have. It's a clear, quick drying liquid that keeps things from raveling. Think of it like the hand sewing version of nail polish on your pantyhose.

Metallic embroidery threads tend to ravel and come untied, so just adding a dot of it to your hanging loop attachments and hanging loop knots ensures they won't ravel with use. I love it for sealing the ends of cut ribbon also. You can see by the label that you shouldn't expose it to heat, so keep it away from your iron. It's available at all your local sewing and crafting stores.


Whoever Aleene is, I'd like to hug her. I love this glue. It's widely available in the US at any self-respecting local craft store or Wal-mart or I use it on all my Twelve Days ornaments where glue is needed. It's nicely thick and dries to a clear finish pretty fast, but not so fast that you can't reposition if needed. If used sparingly, I never have trouble sewing through it. If I get a smear of it on something I can easily wipe it away with a damp cloth if it's still wet.

I keep mine stored upside down in a cup at all times so that it stays ready to dot on when I need it. I also cut the hole in the nozzle as small as possible to control the flow of the glue.

I never said it was a pretty cup.

Just as important as having the right glue is knowing to use as little as possible to get the job done. It doesn't take much. I hardly ever squeeze the bottle. I just dot it on. In most cases when my patterns call for glue it's just to tack something in place long enough for you to sew it down without using pins. Always, always, always just tiny dots or even smears.

In some instances glueing is used instead of sewing to hold something in place, like wings. In those cases you'll want to use a little more glue, but it still doesn't take a lot. You'll know this if you ever accidentally glue two felt pieces together and then try to get them apart.

Are you Glob Challenged? Do you have problems with accidentally adding too much? Easy solution: squeeze a glob of glue on a scrap piece of paper (the backing from the Sulky Printable Fabri-Solvy is good for this because it's coated) and use a toothpick to apply the glue instead of the glue nozzle. Voila!

You'll notice several patterns in the series call for cotton pipe cleaners and unfinished wood beads. First, cotton pipe cleaners. Here's a shot of the ones I'm using:

So why cotton pipe cleaners as opposed to the more easily found craft pipe cleaner?

Here's a side by side comparison of the two. The white one is a BJ Long's cotton pipe cleaner and the gray one is a cheapy craft pipe cleaner from Joann.

First thing you'll notice is the width. The cheapy one is wider and the fuzzy stuff is not as dense, so you can easily see the wire in the middle. Also the wire in the middle of Mr Cheapy is pretty flimsy compared to the BJ Long. The BJ Long on the left has soft, dense cotton fuzz so that the interior wire is not visible and the skinnier width works better for my ornaments. If you need a different color than white I have seen and purchased packs of colored cotton pipe cleaners on eBay, but it might be easier just to color the cotton pipe cleaner with a few strokes of a fabric marker and let it dry.

I buy mine here, but you can find smaller packs in local cigar/pipe shops too. Other brands I've tried and liked are Ideal and Dill's.

OK, unfinished wood beads. Several of my ornaments use 8 mm (5/16 inch) wood beads and 20 mm (3/4 inch) wood beads. If your craft store is a nice, big one they might have those available right on the aisle. In my town these sizes are not usually available, so I ordered them from Etsy. There are several shops that carry them and you can find them by doing a quick search for the size you need. The ones shown above came from here and here and they were great quality beads.

It's important to get the right kind of felt for these ornaments. Both 100% wool felts and wool-blend felts work great. Wool-blend felts are a mixture of rayon and wool fibers and are less expensive than 100% wool felts. Most of my samples are made using wool-blend felts.

I buy my felt online because my local craft store doesn't carry it. I have a few vendors I like listed in my FAQ if you'll scroll down to the question about wool felt.

Photo courtesy of Benzie Design

For your convenience, Benzie Design has put together wool-blend felt and floss bundles curated just for this series and you can find them all here. You can find my color samples for each ornament and embroidery floss color guides here on my blog. Just scroll to the bottom to see a list of links.

Just say no to acrylic craft felts! They are plentiful and cheap but they won't work for these ornaments. Besides not being very durable or dense, the acrylic felts don't work with the Sulky stabilizer and often turn the stabilizer into a gummy glue-like substance when you try to soak it off. Please use wool or wool-blend felts only.

So that's it for the tools and tips. I hope it's been helpful! The heirloom nature of these ornaments and the time it takes to sew them make it worth getting the right tools and supplies. You'll thank yourself!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Maid a-Milking pattern available/Black Friday sale

Happy Friday! Two EXCITING THINGS.
OK, First Exciting Thing: Pattern number 8 in the Twelve Days series is now available in my Etsy shop! Maid a-Milking! Whoo!

The Benzie Design felt/floss bundle that goes with the new hand sewn Maid a-Milking pattern is the previous Turtle Dove bundle, seen here. The color bundles will all be repeating like that. All the samples you see in the photos above^ were made using that felt bundle!

Who can guess what the next ornament in the series will be? It's probably not the one you think. More on that later!

Second Exciting Thing: My annual Black Friday/Cyber Monday Sale is here!

Coupon Code: MMMSALE

Use that code in my Etsy shop only to receive 20% off your pattern purchase! Sale ends at midnight EST on Monday, November 28th. Don't forget the code at checkout, for Pete's sake!
(Pete really wants you to get a deal.)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

thankful for you

Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow world citizens. I know we are officially celebrating today here in the US, but we can all count our blessings don't you think? Every single one of us.

I'm thankful to be a child of God.
I'm thankful to live in a country that is free.
And free to disagree.
I'm thankful for you.
I'm thankful for your wonderful patience as I try to complete this series in a timely manner!

Speaking of which, this Maid a-Milking pattern is absolutely positively going to be available this weekend. Keep in mind I have one sale a year in my Etsy shop and this is the weekend it happens! Stay tuned for a shop announcement later today. In the meantime I'm planning to be very thankful indeed for broccoli salad, smoked turkey and pecan pies. And coffee.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Maid a-Milking samples

I'm getting very close to finishing the Maid a-Milking pattern! I plan to sequester myself upstairs with Squeegee Beckinheim* over the next few days to finish up. My youngest's school play is over and I'm looking at a mostly commitment free weekend. I have to tell you I'm a little panicked to find myself so close to Thanksgiving and so little prepared for December. This should be a familiar feeling since I'm NEVER prepared to meet December. It's always a surprise. It's only been twelve months since the last one!

Do you want to know more about this Twelve Days ornament series? Click here.

*Gilmore Girls reference. Are you guys excited about the new episodes? I want to be. But I have a dark premonition that the magic will be gone. Oy with the poodles already.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

as long as the front looks nice

There are some excellent crafters in this world whose embroidery looks as great from the back as it does from the front. I am not one of those crafters. 

My philosophy about felt crafting embroidery is as long as it looks neat from the front, the back doesn't matter. I'm all about gettin' it done. I'm just showing you guys this so you don't sweat that part. I've heard from crafters making the Twelve Days ornaments who actually worry about this! Bless your hearts.

I design the ornaments so that any knotty, tangly wrong-sided messes are always hidden in the end. The only thing you need to do in this ornament series is make sure you have no anchor knots on the front. Make the back as ugly as you like! Snip the long ends, tuck in any stray threads, and forget about it. No one's going to see it (unless you publish a shot of it on your blog).  

Thursday, November 3, 2016

sneak peek of Maid a-Milking WIP

This WIP will be the future pattern release for Maid a-Milking, the 8th pattern in my Twelve Days ornament series.

She's still a bit too tall and also missing her buckets and all the loopy signature embroidery. But overall I'm very happy with her proportions and her look! With this one I had many construction/style dilemmas to work out. Since they are all people figurines from now til the end of the series, it was important to iron all that out now. My goal is to keep the style consistent between all twelve and make them look like a cohesive set. It's tricky sometimes.

I'm excessively fond of her tiny hat. You'll be seeing more of her soon. I'm still tweaking and making samples at this point.

I confess that I had expected to be further along with this series at this point in 2016. Can I just blame other people right now for this delay? Other people in love? Can I just say THREE family weddings, all out of state and all since August? Ah, young love, and I'm very happy for them! haha! Sorry to throw them under the bus. But seriously what about my micro business goals?  :-)

My goal was to release through #10 this year, but I'm 99.9% certain that will not happen. I think I can get this one and number 9 done, possibly, in time for Christmas. The rest of the series will need to be finished up in 2017.

Thanks for your continued support and kind enthusiasm for this ornament series!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Great Scott! I hope your Halloween was happy.

Marty McFly (L)    Dr Emmett Brown (R)

My daughters chose to be the coolest time traveling duo from the 80s, and that is why they are awesome. I kept telling Thing 2 she had to wear purple underwear to really go for authenticity but she waved me off. It's unbearable when your parent refers to your underwear in any way.

We cobbled these outfits together from our own stash (big, ugly digital watch, aviators, t-shirt, jeans), nice folks at church (tool belt and Hawaiian shirt, thanks Dave and Corey!) and the rest purchased items. I couldn't believe we found that criss-cross patterned shirt at the thrift store. What luck! And this year Old Navy had the iconic orange vest (got it on sale *kaching*). The hazmat suit was a cheap painting coverall from Home Depot (way too big, had to alter) and I added the orange tape and the big radiation symbol on the back.

Super fun! I hope they coordinate their outfits again next year. And I hope we have a colder Halloween next year. Gah. Too warm, Georgia!