Finishing the Miniature Motifs: ornaments

Materials needed to finish an ornament

There are so many ways to use small designs that I decided not to include finishing instructions with the Miniature Motifs collection - if I'd included even a few options, each booklet would have been the size of War and Peace! 

In the first of this series, I'll show you how I turn small designs like the Little Christmas Tree into ornaments ready to adorn your home or gift to friends and family.

You will need:

  • A completed stitched piece - my example uses the Little Christmas Tree stitched on 32ct Antique White Zweigart linen with DMC threads
  • Backing fabric - I used a lightweight quilting cotton
  • Quilt wadding or felt
  • 2mm thick acid-free mount board or other card
  • Strong cotton thread - I used white to match the linen
  • Cord or thread to make a cord - for this ornament I used 12x1m strands DMC 3345 and 12x1m strands DMC E3852
  • Pair of compasses or a small circle template (and a pencil!)
  • Craft knife - I've used a scalpel with a 10A blade since my art college days but knives with retractable blades work equally well
  • Glass-headed pins
  • Needle - for this piece I used a size 28 petite tapestry needle, for more complex pieces I prefer a size 12 curved needle 
  • A surface suitable for cutting - the background for the pictures in this blog is my trusty cutting mat. It's an old friend so please forgive its slightly battered appearance!
  • Double-sided tape (optional)

1. Using the compasses or drawing round a circle template, measure two circles on the 2mm thick card and cut out using a sharp knife. For this piece, each circles measured 42mm in diameter.

2. Trim the stitched piece and the backing fabric to at least 20mm larger in diameter than the card circles. 

3. Stitch even running stitches 5-10mm from the edge of the stitched piece and the backing fabric using a long length of strong cotton thread. Leave long tails of cotton thread at the beginning and end.

Running stitch around the edge of the stitched piece

4. Cut two circles of the quilt wadding or felt to fit the card circles. I used one piece of wadding but if you prefer a more padded appearance, use more than one layer. Use a small piece of double-sided tape to hold the wadding or felt in place on each card circle.

5. Turn the backing fabric upside down. Place the wadding-covered card circle upside down in the centre of the fabric. Firmly and evenly pull the two lengths of thread to gather the edges of the stitched piece together. Check the fabric is centred and smoothly drawn across the wadding/card circle. Firmly tie off thread ends.

Gathered running stitches in backing fabric around card circle

6. Lace the edges together using strong cotton thread. Maintain an even tension and keep the stitches evenly spaced apart to avoid the linen bunching and the design shifting from the centre. Tie the threads off and weave ends back into the linen edges.

Backing fabric laced in place around card circle

7. Repeat with the stitched piece. Place the glass-headed pins at the top and bottom of the design to help keep it centred - for larger ornaments, I'll often pin several times around the edge to prevent too much movement while I'm lacing to the card.

Little Christmas Tree held in place with glass-headed pins

8. Place the covered circles wrong sides together and stitch together using ladder stitch (see diagram below) and the strong thread. Use small, evenly spaced stitches and pull firmly to ensure the pieces are tightly joined together.

Ladder stitch diagram
Covered card circles stitched together using ladder stitch

9. To make the cord, take all 24 strands and make a loop at one end. Hang this loop over a doorknob or drawer handle. Taking 12 strands in one hand and 12 in the other, twist both in the same direction, keeping a taut tension. Gradually allow the two sets of strands to twist together. Once the twists are even down the lengths of the strands, take the twisted strands in one hand. With the other hand, firmly take hold of the centre of the twisted strands. Move other hand towards the top loop held by the doorknob/drawer handle and let the twisted strands twist back on themselves. You might want to help the twists along manually to ensure they are even. Knot the double twisted strands together and remove the loop. The twists should stay in place and you now have a cord for your ornament!

10. Place the centre of the cord at the bottom of the ornament and pin in place using a glass-headed pin. Smooth the cord around the ornament, pinning at both sides and the top. If preferred, at this stage you can knot the cord at the desired hanging length and cut off the excess.

Glass-headed pins holding the cord in place

11. Alternatively, firmly stitch the top cord into place using a coordinating thread (I used DMC 3345 as used in the cord) and remove the pins. As above, knot the cord at the desired hanging length and cut off the excess. The cord will stay in place, held in the gutter of the two pieces of covered card.

Cord stitched in place


Finished Little Christmas Tree ornament

12. Hang your new ornament on your tree, stand back and admire!

Little Christmas Tree ornament hanging on a Christmas tree

This is only one way to make ornaments - there are many other methods described online and sometimes you need to experiment to find the method that works best for you. For example, many people prefer to use glue to stick the fabric to the card and to attach the backing to the front piece, but I find lacing and stitching to be easier. Thread is more forgiving and less messy to undo when last minute adjustments are needed!

You can use all sorts of fabric for the backing piece - I tend to use lightweight fabrics where folds compress neatly and edges are left clean. Imperfections and mistakes show up clearly on plain fabrics and on strong geometric prints, so I prefer to use either a randomly patterned quilting cotton or something with a little texture like a silk dupion (for an example, see the Fish Tales collection for a beautiful aqua silk dupion from 

On small ornaments like this consider the scale you're working with, don't forget the beauty of a large print can either become an unattractive blob or swamp the delicacy of your stitching. A pattern where the motifs are small but widely spaced may also not quite work on a small scale. My ideal patterns are tiny floral 'ditsy' prints or small random designs like the stars used here - both are very forgiving! I tend to pick fat quarters and remnants up whenever I see tiny prints in suitable colours, so I always have something in my stash that will work.

Finally, you might have noticed that I've made two variations of the Little Christmas Tree - the first, with a red and gold cord, has French knots baubles made from DMC 666, while the second uses small iridescent red beads in place of the French knots. So if you prefer beads to knots, go for it! 

1 comment

  • Shirley Basso

    Great tutorial! So happy to see you stitched the two rounds together instead of using glue. Thank you so much!!

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