Crafting Christmas ornaments is one of my earliest, and fondest, holiday memories. My favorite ornament was probably the classic Christmas mouse – the kind you could make using two pieces of felt, a candy cane (for the tail) and buttons and thread (for the eyes and whiskers). I’m sure many of you have fond memories of making homemade ornaments as well, but have you ever thought about creating new holiday memories by putting your heirloom smocking techniques to use? These gorgeous smocked ornaments – colorful pleated Christmas balls – were designed by Dorothy Dyer and introduced in the November/December 2010 edition of Sew Beautiful. They make a great addition to your tree are also perfect for that extra-special gift. The designs can be simple or complex, geometric or stacked, holiday-themed or something completely unique.
Follow Dorothy’s tutorial below to make your own:
• For a 3-inch foam ball, choose a plate with nine smocked rows or one that can be adapted to that length.
• Using quilting thread for guide threads, pleat nine rows on a 5-to-6-inch x 45-inch strip of fabric.
• Measure around ball (a 3-inch ball will measure approximately 9 inches); tie off pleats to 9 inches wide or determined measurement. Leave top row and bottom three rows untied (these are used later to gather smocking to ball).
• If picture smocking or chosen geometric design has open areas, backsmock on every row to secure pleats.
• When smocking, make sure design is centered and looks as though it continues around the ball. In other words, a cable above the guideline on one end should match up to a cable below the line on the other end. Or a wave-cable combination should divide in half on opposite smocked ends so that a continuous design is formed when ends are joined.
1. After smocking is complete, remove all pleating threads except top holding row and bottom three rows.
2. Form a tube by sewing together ends of smocked design (photo 1).
3. Insert foam ball inside tube (Photo 2).
4. Pull holding threads as tightly as possible around ball and tie each row into knots; clip and pull tail threads to inside (Photo 3).
5. Trim off excess fabric at top and bottom so that fabric can be smoothed out and pinned down (Photo 4).
6. Place silk pins (with flat heads) close together so they hold pleats down as flat as possible
1. For top bow, cut five 7-inch long pieces and one 6-3/4-inch long piece of 1/4-inch polyester satin craft ribbon. For bottom bow, cut four 5-1/4-inch pieces, one 3-inch piece and one 2-1/4-inch piece of ribbon.
2. All ribbon pieces for top bow are stacked on one pin, and all pieces for bottom are stacked on one pin (photo 6).
3. Place 6-3/4-inch piece on pin. Make a circle overlapping ends; stab pin through ends from inside of circle (Photo 7).
4. Place 7-inch piece around 6-3/4-inch piece (Photo 8). The other four pieces of ribbon are applied by pinning center first, and then bringing ends around and stacking them on pin to form a bow (Photos 9 and 10).
5. Place craft glue at ornament top and insert pin at center. Arrange loops while glue is wet (Photo 11).
6. Follow same procedure for bottom bow using 2-1/4-inch piece of ribbon first, then 3-inch piece and finally 5-1/4-inch pieces (photo 12).
• Rest finished ornament on top of a drinking glass; the rim should be just large enough to accommodate the ornament so that it doesn’t fall into the glass. Let glue dry overnight.
• The best way to store ornaments is to place them on a hanger, specifically one from the drycleaners that has a cardboard cover. Six ornaments fit perfectly on one hanger. Drawer or box stowage can smash ribbons, which must be replaced.