Since my mom died, it’s been a real challenge celebrating the holidays without her. For many years I put up her tree and decorations as well as my own, and was cooking the Christmas dinner at my house so that she wouldn’t have the hassle or the work. After she stopped driving, I even took on the selection and purchase of the presents she gave to family at her request. As much as possible, I wanted to make things easier for her, and make her holidays a happy time.
After she was gone, the idea of putting up my own full-size tree at the holidays suddenly felt like a waste of time and effort, as no one would be seeing it but myself, and there were so many memories associated with the twinkly lights and the smell of pine. But not decorating my house at all felt worse.
I eventually talked myself into displaying at least a small tree, but nothing felt right. Then this year it was suggested to me that starting a brand new tradition might help lessen my sad feelings about missing the old ones.
So I thought a lot about it and this week I decided I would try something completely different. I took several of my favorite Santas from of my collection of about 150, some inexpensive floating wooden shelves from Target, and a metal star, and built a minimalist “Santa tree” on my living room wall.
Planning and installing this gave me something entirely new to do, and I like the idea that I can change or rearrange the Santas if the mood strikes me. Under the “tree” is a small Lane chest where I’ve stacked the Christmas presents. Since this is a work in progress, I might add lights and some greenery later on, but even if I do nothing else, it still feels right.
These past few weeks before the holidays I’ve entertained myself by perusing other folk’s stitching blogs. While I was looking for ornament ideas and admiring all of the fabulous trees and decorations that people created in their own homes, I realized something very surprising – I haven’t a single ornament that I stitched myself on my own tree! All of the ones I have made over the years I have gifted out to others. So I decided that next year I would choose a design and do one just for me!
My own Christmas tree is decorated with a variety of things that I have collected over time, and changes very little from year to year. I could never seem to stick to just one “theme” for a tree, and so have amassed inexpensive old-fashioned glass ornaments, wind-up musical boxes shaped like instruments, simple wooden toys that evoke childhood memories, a heap of Santas and snowmen of every variety and manufacture, and even some tiny sparkly jeweled shoes! Not to mention all the lovely package and floral decorations that were just too pretty to throw away that now nestle happily within the branches, adding glamor and glitz to the greenery.
But I think my favorite decoration is still the “walnut”. This little item, inexpertly painted red to look like a strawberry and adorned with a green felt “leaf” and a simple twine hanging loop, was made long ago in an elementary school art class by one of my sister’s kids. I had always thought that my nephew made it, but during her visit last month my niece claimed all of the artistic credit.
Regardless of its origin it has always represented family to me more than any other bauble. It is the first thing I place on my tree each year – right at the top next to where the star will go, and the last thing I take off the tree when it’s time to take everything down.
Once all of the other ornaments are safely wrapped in tissue and packed into their compartments I make sure to place the walnut on the very top before the decorations box is sealed. That way each year when I open the box I once more remember what Christmas is all about for me.
I just finished this tiny hanging ornament for my dear niece. For gift-giving I popped it into a small premade paper-covered box from the crafts store, which I enhanced with an added scrapbook sticker that says “forever joyful” – which is how I think of her.
Val’s Stuff “Be Merry”
from Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornaments 2007 magazine 25-ct. Dublin Linen Light Blue, DMC floss (substituted for Weeks Dye Works) Stitch count: 40W x 35H Start 12/18/09 – finish 12/21/09
I finished the kitty ornament last evening as a stuffed pillow hanging, backed with a piece of dark red printed cotton and using some silky green cording for the hanging loop. And made a tiny white pom pom out of floss for the hat.
Val’s Stuff “A Merry Kitty Klaus”
from Just Cross Stitch Christmas Ornaments 2007 magazine 18-ct. Oatmeal Fiddlers Cloth, DMC floss as charted (mostly) Stitch count: 48W x 49H Start 12/10/09 – finish 12/19/09
I’m only a little bit farther along on the “Merry Kitty Klaus” ornament. Real life job has kept me busier this week, and earning dollars outweighs stitching for pleasure every time! One good thing, since this ornament is being given in person I don’t have to worry about finishing and mailing it early.
The pattern calls for Wisper floss (a fuzzy blend of mohair and nylon thread) for the “fur” on the Santa hat – which is actually something I’d never heard of before this chart! – but I am skipping that bit. It is possible that I have a tiny jingle bell somewhere in my sewing basket for the tip of the hat, and, if not, I will use a homemade pom pom instead – if I have time to make one!
For Christmas 2008 I stitched a variety of small Prairie Schooler patterns on pieces of 14-, 18-, and 22-count scrap Aida cloth and finished them as tree ornaments. All of pillow backs were cut from medium-weight dark green cotton cloth, and I used silky green cording for the hanging loops. I secured the reverse of the stitching and attached cotton batting cut to fit to stabilize the backs. After stitching the little pillows together on the sewing machine I turned and stuffed them with polyfill, ladder-stitching closed the small gap I used for stuffing.
Top, left to right:
Prairie Schooler Book No. 24 “Prairie Birds” Wren Prairie Schooler Book No. 134 “Christmas Day” Snowman Prairie Schooler Book No. 124 “Folk Art Christmas” AngelCenter, left to right: Prairie Schooler Book No. 134 “Christmas Day” Farm Snowman Prairie Schooler Promotional Minicard “A friend is a gift you give yourself” Prairie Schooler Book No. 134 “Christmas Day” Santa & Tree
Bottom: Prairie Schooler Book No. 24 “Prairie Birds” Junco