How to Make a Stocking


obama2What an absolutely and utterly amazing day. The people, the majesty, the TV and Web coverage, the history, the swearing in, the speech, the man. Tears, laughter, cheers, gratitude, hope, and pride are among my personal experiences of this day.

The only other inauguration I remember was Reagan’s. I was in 8th grade at St. Agnes School, and they actually wheeled in a TV so that we could watch not only Reagan’s inauguration, but the release of the Iranian hostages. As a lifelong Democrat, you’d think I would have memories of Clinton, but no. I don’t even remember where I was or what I did just four years ago, when Bush claimed his second term.

So in honor of this great day, I offer the Inauguration Stocking, a creative way to preserve the moment and create an heirloom gift for your favorite Obama supporter.

Steps Involved in Making Your Own Inauguration Stocking

You will create this stocking by finding a photo you like and using an iron-on transfer to place the image on a suitable cotton-based fabric. Iron-ons take some work to do well, but they’re easier than you might think. I will do my best to give you step-by-step instructions, including a materials list.

Materials List

  • An inkjet printer compatible for use with iron-on transfers
  • Regular paper for printing previews of your design
  • Iron-on transfers, which you can purchase either at the fabric/crafts store or at most office supply stores
  • Iron – on the cotton setting without steam
  • Fabric or pre-made stocking to decorate – it should be at leas5 50 percent cotton (I generally use muslin or old bedsheets for my photo transfer stockings)
  • An swatch of the same material to test the image-fastness

Directions

  1. The first thing you need to do is find the picture you want to use. Lord knows that by the end of the day, you will have loads to choose from. MSNBC always has a great photo collage of these events, as does Huffington Post.
  2. Print a preview of your design on regular paper. It should look exactly the way you want it to appear on the stocking. If you’d like words on the stocking, make sure to include those with the image. Adjust and print previews on regular paper until you are satisfied with the appearance of your design.
  3. NOTE: You will be using a MIRROR IMAGE to iron onto your fabric/stocking, so the image must be flipped when you print it. Follow your printer directions to flip or “reverse” the image. If you’re not sure whether your image needs reversing, look at it in the mirror. If it looks backwards, you should flip the design. (This is an especially important test if your iron-on includes text.)
  4. Print your design onto iron-on transfer paper. You’ll want to print two if you plan to do a test version first.
  5. Carefully cut out your design, leaving about a one-quarter-inch border.
  6. Set your iron to the “cotton” or hottest setting, and turn off the steam.
  7. Test your design by ironing it onto a sample piece of material.
  8. As an alternative to an ironing board, a low, flat surface like a workbench might allow you to press harder when you iron.
  9. Following the directions for how long to apply pressure, iron your design onto your fabric or stocking.
  10. Allow the design to cool and peel the paper backing from the iron-on transfer.

NOTE: You will likely want to clip and save the instructions for cleaning the material with your iron-on transfer.

Next Steps

If you have used a pre-made stocking, you can choose to embellish it with jewels, baubles, or fabric paint. If you are making your own stocking from scratch, you’ll next need to choose a pattern for the stocking that best suits your image. Then, you will follow Laura’s special abridged stocking creation instructions:

Cut.

Sew.

Decorate.

Hang.

Stuff.

Enjoy.



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Kathy Jensen designed this Santa - she may or may not have been the artisan featured in the story I read.

I saw this great story in a crafts journal years ago about a woman who designs nearly life-sized Santas. She adorns them with all sorts of things: jewels, baubles, watches, buttons, pipes, pieces of real fur. Each takes dozens of hours to complete, and they sell for upwards of $1,000 apiece. All are unique, and with varying themes – most, however, have a vintage/antique feel to them. While the crafts(wo)manship was stunning, the thing that most fascinated me about her story was the description of where she finds materials for the Santas: everywhere.

That’s  how I feel about my Christmas stockings.

Q: What kinds of material do I use?
A: Virtually anything I can get my hands on.

Q: Where do I buy it?
A: W
herever I find it.

Although I do purchase a fair amount of fabric at traditional fabric stores like Joann, I also pick up fabric at yard sales, quilt shops, thrift stores, freecycle.org, eBay, etc.

Part of the fun of crafting stockings for me is being constantly on the lookout for fabric that would make a great stocking. Another reason to be resourceful is that the cost of fabric adds up! If I can get the same (or similar) material at the dingy outlet store as I can at the big-name shops, I don’t mind spending a morning weeding through the bolts. I’ve come across some amazing finds – and lots of new ideas – at SAS Fabrics by the Pound in Phoenix. As far as I  know, they’re located only in Arizona, but you can search online for discount fabric stores in your area.

Fabrics I have used in my stockings

You name it, it’s probably in there. Felt, muslin, burlap, cotton, chintz, velvet, mattress ticking, old neckties, dishtowels, bridesmaids’ dresses, drapery fabric, upholstery fabric, Aida cloth, leather, lace. Perhaps you’re starting to get the idea.

If you’re a beginner and using a sewing machine, basic cottons are probably your best bet, as they are easy to cut, pin, and sew. For the linings, try a satin-like fabric that has a little weight to it, because it will be less likely to slip when you sew it.

For hand-sewn stockings, felt is one of the nicest fabrics. Embroidery floss works well in place of thread; just make sure you’re using a needle that is large and sharp enough.

If you’re like many crafters, perfectionism is a way of life for you. You notice blemishes in material, out-of-sync stitches, and shades that don’t quite match … small details the untrained layperson’s eye would probably never notice. And certainly there is a beauty and satisfaction in creating a flawless piece of work.

The thing is, whether you realize it or not, perfectionism is probably hurting you more than it’s helping. For one thing, unless it’s a blatant error like misspelling a name or sewing with the wrong side of the fabric facing out ( I have done this!), chances are really good you are the only one who will ever notice the mistake or know it’s there.

As a professional editor, I make a living by focusing on finding mistakes and correcting them. But there’s a truism panoply-card-side-two-chimneyabout editing: you cannot proofread/edit your own work. Because you are so close to it, you can read the same mistake again and again and simply not see it. I handed out my own business card (for my editing business, no less!) with the word “brainstroming” on it for a few months before noticing the mistake. That was a pretty blatant error, and even though I was really embarrassed to discover the mistake, I recovered without any major catastrophes resulting. Any gaff you make in your crafting will more than likely be much smaller and a whole lot less noticeable. Yet, how much are you stressing yourself out by striving to make your creation absolutely perfect?

Another thing to consider is that perfectionism slows you down! The most glaring place my perfectionism rears its control-freak head is in my own writing. I will slave over an article or blog post, reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading a hundred times, trying to make sure I’ve got every comma and en-dash correct. Well guess what I learned recently. Done is better than perfect! Reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading takes up a lot of time I could be using to write or create something new. If I can just release the need to worry that it’s not perfect, I can move on to starting a new project.

Psychology Today online has a very interesting article about perfectionism. One thing they mention is that perfectionism keeps you from growing:

Perfectionism seeps into the psyche and creates a pervasive personality style. It keeps people from engaging in challenging experiences; they don’t get to discover what they truly like or to create their own identities. Perfectionism reduces playfulness and the assimilation of knowledge; if you’re always focused on your own performance and on defending yourself, you can’t focus on learning a task. Here’s the cosmic thigh-slapper: Because it lowers the ability to take risks, perfectionism reduces creativity and innovation – exactly what’s not adaptive in the global marketplace.

They even have a 25-question quiz you can take to determine how steeply ingrained your personal perfectionism may be.

I grew up in Phoenix, home of the Heard Museum, a world-renowned museum dedicated to the lives, work, art, and history of the Native American peoples. During a fourth-grade field trip to the museum, and I heard something that has stayed with me ever since. The tour guide was explaining the elaborate weaving method used by several of the tribes to craft their beautiful blankets. She said that if the weaver managed to complete the entire blanket without making a single mistake, she would deliberately weave a mistake into the fabric, so as not to offend the gods. Only the gods were perfect, while the human condition is inherently flawed. That was the coolest thing I’d ever heard because it gave me permission for my work to occasionally be less than perfect.

I don’t necessarily abide by this “rule” when crafting my stockings or writing … but it’s freeing to know it’s there. We’re not perfect because we’re human. The sooner we stop trying to achieve the impossible goal of perfection, the sooner we will learn the lessons we’re here to absorb and the happier and less stressful our lives will become.

bryanRegardless of where or how you acquire a Christmas stocking, if it’s meant to be filled by Santa for a specific person, you’ll probably want to put that person’s name on the stocking. (All of the stockings available for purchase from By the Chimney With Care can be personalized at no extra cost.)

If you purchase your stocking elsewhere – or make it yourself – and would like to personalize it, there are several different ways you can add a name to the stocking, including:

  • Applique
  • Hand-stitching
  • Machine embroidery
  • Fabric paint
  • Buttons
  • Iron-on letters

For all stockings, the first thing you’ll need to do is figure out where on the stocking you want to put the name. It makes sense in many, if not most, cases to put the name on the cuff or top of the stocking. However, there are instances where you may prefer to put the name on the heel, the toe, or the main body of the stocking. As with all aspects of crafting and stocking making, there is no right or wrong way to do this. You must simply decide your personal preference for what looks best.

Once you’ve figured out where the name will go, you’ll need to figure out your spacing. The easiest way to do this is to spell out the name on a piece of paper. Count the letters and determine where the middle of the name is. Then, mark your stocking accordingly. You can use tailors’ chalk or even a few straight pins to mark the start of the name, the  middle, and where you want it to end.

If the name has an M or W or I in it, you’ll want to make sure to plan accordingly, as the M and W will likely take up more space than the rest of the letters, and the I will likely take up less.

Next, determine whether you will use all capitals (THOMAS), initial capitals (Thomas), or a funky combination of both upper and lower case (tHomAs).

reverse1

TO APPLIQUE A NAME, you will need to find fabric that compliments or matches the stocking. Make sure you make the letters small enough that you have enough space on your stocking to accommodate them. Stencil the letters onto the back side of your fabric. Make sure to REVERSE the letters before you trace them. Cut out the letters.

Basket Stitch

Next, you need to adhere the letters to the stocking. You can do this by one of a couple methods. First, you can use craft glue (Aleene’s Tacky Glue is probably the most common and most durable – find it at virtually any craft store) to glue the letters onto the stocking. Or, cut fusible web material (such as Stitch Witchery) in the shape of the letters and  follow the directions to iron them onto the stocking. Finish the edges of the letters with fabric paint, or using yarn/embroidery floss with a basket stitch.

TO HAND-STITCH A NAME, decide if you will use yarn or embroidery floss. Yarn works best with a loosely woven stitch-nameor knit fabric. It may be pretty difficult to pull a needle with yarn through most cotton prints and/or the several layers you will likely need to stitch through with a stocking. Make sure your have a sharp needle with an eye large enough to accommodate your yarn or floss. As instructed above, make sure you’ve figure out how much room your name will take, and where you want to position it on the stocking. Make sure your yarn/floss is in a contrasting color that will be easily read against the stocking fabric. Cut the yarn/floss no longer than 1 yard (or it’s likely to get tangled). Use about 1/4 -inch stitches to spell the name. If you run out of yarn/floss, tie a knot on the inside/reverse of the fabric. Cut a new piece of yarn/floss, and continue until you’ve finished.

hollyMACHINE EMBROIDERY offers a nice look for personalizing your Christmas stockings. You can use this method to add the name if you have a machine capable of this function. If you don’t have the necessary machine, you can hire someone to do it for you.

USE FABRIC Pjoe1AINT to apply the name, following the above-mentioned instructions about sizing and placement. Depending on the brand and size of the paint bottle you decide to use, you can either squeeze the paint straight from the tip of the bottle, or put some paint on a pallette and use a brush to paint the name onto the stocking. There are many different kinds of fabric paint to choose from … puffy, glitter, shiny, crackle. Have fun selecting the ones you think will work for you.

NOTES: To be on the safe side, you may want to do a practice run on some scrap material before you actually paint on the stocking. Squeezing the paint straight from the bottle looks easy enough, but can actually be a little tricky – those stray air bubbles can cause an ugly, accidental “splooge” if you’re not careful.

You can alsobuttons USE BUTTONS, SEQUINS, CHARMS, or other materials to spell out the name on the stocking. As with every area of stocking crafting, the only limits on ways to personalize your stockings are where your ideas end. Make sure you determine your space needs ahead of time. Also make sure the buttons have enough contrast with the fabric to stand out against it. Sew the buttons on, one at a time, using a sturdy thread. Fishing line works, but can sometimes be hard to knot.

NOTE: This method will probably work best for short names (unless you want to use teeny-tiny buttons, which requires a LOT of detailed sewing).

One other way to add a name to aeleanor stocking is USING IRON ON TRANSFERS. The biggest deal with this process is finding a letter set that will compliment your stocking without making it look gaudy or odd. Also, make sure the letter set you purchase has enough of each letter – or you will need to purchase two. For instance, an iron-on alphabet that only has one of each letter will not enable you to spell Tiffany with two Fs. Follow the instructions on the package, regarding the appropriate iron setting.

NOTE: Most iron-on transfers work best on cotton fabrics. They also will suggest that you’ve washed the fabric before applying the transfers.

stocking-intitialsSome folks may choose not to spell out the whole name, opting instead to use simply a single initial. Of course, this might be challenging for those alliterative families like Connie, Craig, Cara, Caitlin, Connor, and Cameron Coors.

As long as you have fun with this process, do it with love, and double-check your spelling before you start, you really cannot go wrong. And even then, a misspelled name can make the stocking all the more special and, perhaps, the subject of holiday stories for years to come!

Classic Christmas Stocking Pattern

Classic Christmas Stocking Pattern

Well, it look s like I’m not going to get to directions for how to make a Christmas stocking until after Christmas. My apologies. I started the blog late,  though … and the directions would be pretty useless without accompanying pictures or video. Just think of it as an activity to look forward to during the long summer months, when Christmas seems soooo far away.

What I do have, however, are patterns you can use to make your own stockings. These are pretty generic, but  you can certainly edit or amend them, and feel free to cut them in virtually any fabric and dress them up in whatever baubles or decorations you have  handy and/or feel are appropriate.

The biggest thing to remember when cutting is to leave a 1/4-inch allowance for your seams. I use a sewing machine to make almost all of my stockings, but even if you are hand-stitching, you’ll need a seam allowance.

You can pin the paper pattern to your fabric and cut through both the paper and the fabric. Or, if you think you will be reusing the pattern, it’s probably a good idea to stencil the pattern onto a piece of cardboard to create a sturdier template. Then use tailors’ chalk if you have it, to trace the pattern onto your fabric.You can also use a pen, but ink can show through and be permanent, so I try to avoid it if at all possible, unless it’s the special disappearing ink you can buy in the fabric stores.

That’s about it. These are your steps:

Print.

Tape.

Pin.

Cut.

Sew.

Decorate.

Hang.

Stuff.

Enjoy.

Egg Carton Christmas Tree

Egg Carton Christmas Tree

Boy do we have it easy today. Do you remember the days of macaroni art and egg carton Christmas tree ornaments? Once upon a time, there were no craft stores and kits with pre-cut, color-coordinated pieces. Once upon a time, when someone handcrafted a doll or a greeting card, chances are good they carved the doll’s face from wood or made the card stock with a mold and deckle.

I know, I know … pining for those things is like pining for rotary phones and 3 channels on the TV. But even as I wonder and marvel at aisle after aisle after aisle of beading supplies, scrapbooking materials, woodcrafts, needlework kits, notions, fabric, and everything in between, I’m often just a little sad that there seems to be a kit for absolutely everything. From greeting cards to jewelry to rock polishing to ceramics to paper dolls, it seems there is a ready made kit available to suit every crafter’s taste.

My objection to these pre-packaged kits is, I suppose, is not so much that they make things too easy (although that’s a part of it – a lot of the fun of any craft project, in my opinion, is finding the perfect materials), but rather that they take all the creativity out of the process. I mean, how creative do you have to (get to?) be, when your Christmas ornament kit comes with red, pink, and green beads, and step-by-step instructions for how to use every last one of them? It’s kind of like making sugar cookies from a kit that gives you one cookie cutter, two colors of icing, and one color of sprinkles. Where’s the fun in that?

And so I feel thusly about the whole idea of Christmas stocking kits.

The thing is, I get that we live busy lives in a busy world that whirls around us so quickly we’re lucky we even find time for handcrafts anymore. And I know that some people truly appreciate the ability to make “it” themselves, without having to put too terribly much thought or effort into the project. So, just because Christmas stocking kits are not for me doesn’t mean there aren’t others out there who wouldn’t appreciate the opportunity to use a kit to create a lovely keepsake Christmas stocking. (Wait a minute … I think I recently wrote about the fact that there’s no accounting for taste?)

Fabric Christmas Stocking Kit

Fabric Christmas Stocking Kit

So here’s the scoop. You can stitch your own Christmas stocking using one of the many kits available in Michaels, Joann Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, or your local craft store … and of course they are available online. And as mentioned earlier, these kits do include everything, from the material to the needle and thread to the fabric paint and/or decorations. All you have to do is find one you like, and then find the time to start stitching!

Various Types of Stocking Kits

  • Needlepoint – Needlepoint is stitched with wool yarn on a canvas. Once the work is finished, the entire canvas is covered so that none of the mesh is exposed.
  • Counted and Stamped Cross-Stitch – Cross-stitch is a needlecraft that is usually stitched on an even-weave fabric like Aida cloth or linen. Stamped cross-stitch kits follow a pre-printed pattern on the fabric, while counted cross stitch requires the crafter to follow a paper pattern, manually counting and placing the stitches in the appropriate places.
  • Crewel – With crewel, the crafter stitches yarn on fabric that is preprinted with a sketch of the design. Unlike needlepoint or cross stitch which use a combination of (x) and (/) patterns, crewel stitches are all sizes and shapes.
  • Felt – Many stocking kits contain felt, sequins, and yarn or floss, with a needle or craft glue.
  • Fabric – Some stocking kits come complete with coordinated fabrics, thread, needles, and decorative buttons or beads.

All kits come with complete instructions, although some instructions are certainly much easier to understanf (and subsequently follow) than others.

You may have noticed in viewing the stockings on this site that they come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. When I first began making stockings, I made a template out of foam core board from a preprinted fabric panel. It wasn’t long before I started creating my own templates from cardboard, tweaking the sizes and shape of the heel and toe. Although I designed many of them freeform, patterns are easy to come by online. I will post a few of them soon on By the Chimney With Care.

As with all aspects of Christmas stockings, creativity is the name of the game when it comes to the size and shape of your stockings … the new ideas end only when you stop inventing them!

When you begin making your own stockings, start simple so you can get the hang of it first. It won’t be long until you’re able to move to much more complicated details.

I’ll be posting directions for how to make a stocking here soon!

What follows are a few of the many stocking shapes I’ve used over the years … and even a few I haven’t tried yet.

shape-1shape-2shape-3shape-4shape-5shape-6shape-7