Monday, February 22, 2016
Equator Band Ornament Tutorial
(For design. designer information on the ornaments pictured above see Equator Band Ball Ornaments.)
Having now made 5 of these cross stitch ornaments I think the biggest challenge is adapting patterns so that they have the right dimensions to fit on a band that will fit on a ball. I used 2 1/2" diameter foam balls which had a circumference of just under 8 inches and the visible part of the bands have been 15/16 to 1 1/8 inches tall. For other sizes of balls I would aim to have bands where the width of the visible area = the circumference of the ball and the height of the visible area = approximately the width divided by 8. You could use Math to figure out how big to make the band or you could instead use a strip of paper.
To use the strip of paper wrap it around the widest part of the ball, mark it and cut it where it overlaps the beginning of the strip.
The visible area of your stitched band will be as long as this strip and if you fold the strip into 8 equal parts (by folding it in half, then quarters, then eighths) you will know how wide to make your strip.
For my Winter Landscape Ornament the height of the visible part of the band is almost exactly 1/8 of the length of the paper strip and the top and bottom edges of the band fit snuggly to the ball.
For my Skating Party Ornament the height of the visible part of the band is a little taller than 1/8 of the length of the paper strip and the top and bottom edges of the band do not fit snuggly against the ball.
The pattern I used for ornament tutorial below was an adaption of Prairie Schooler #158 "Christmas Eve". The original design area is 155 stitches wide but I knew that on my 22 count hardanger fabric the visible area of the band would be 175 stitches so I shifted elements around to make a design that is 175 stitches wide. If I wanted the design to fit snuggly to the ball I would have made the height of the visible area of the band 175 divided by 8 = approximately 22 stitches tall. I decided to stitch a design that was 23 stitches tall and leave a bit of space above and below the design.
After I finished the cross stitching I basted a line two threads above and two "threads" below the stitched area. I also used the ends of the basting threads to indicate the center of the design.
I sewed strips of contrasting fabric to the top and bottom. My seams were sewn one "thread" inside the lines I basted. This time I used the sewing machine but on some of the other balls I just used a needle and thread to backstitch the seam. (Despite the fuzzy focus I decided that this photo was worth including.)
I trimmed the seams to about 1/4" and pressed them open.
To trim the fabric to the right height for the ball I used the strip of paper to make a pattern that is as wide as the paper strip and as tall as the paper strip folded in half.
After I cut out the pattern I folded it in half to crease a centerline and then laid it on top of the fabric so that the folded centerline of the pattern lined up with the centerline I had basted on the stitched piece.
Then I used the pattern to trim the fabric from the top and bottom edges. (Note that I didn't trim the sides because I need seam allowance but I could have taken this opportunity to mark the seam allowance.)
(Aside. Since my circle template was on my desk I played with the idea of someday making circular padded ornaments using a stitched band and two strips of fabric.)
Then I needed to add the gathering threads for the top and bottom of the ornaments. As I mentioned on an earlier blog post, I have previously used three rows of the short and long stitches that are used to make smocked ornaments but for this ornament I just used a simple running stitch. For demonstration purposes I decided to make one line of gathers on the bottom edge and 2 parallel lines of gathers on the top edge.
To make sure that the gathering threads for the top would line up and make nice straight pleats I made a stitch guide. On a previous ornament I made the guide by placing translucent tape on my quilting ruler and marking the 1/4" lines on the tape.
Then I placed the tape on the fabric.
This time I used a 1/2 inch wide strip of 1/4" graph paper. I cut it the graph paper strip the exact length of my paper pattern (ball circumference) but I also double checked that it was the same length as my stitched design.
I used double sided tape to adhere the strip of graph paper to the fabric. (If I hadn't had double sided tape I would have basted it in place.) I placed the guide approx. 1/8 of an inch from the edge of the fabric and made sure that the ends of the strip corresponded to the ends of my stitched design/ future seam. (Since I hadn't previously marked my seam allowance I used my quilt ruler to determine the placement of the future seam.)
Then I was ready to make my gathering stitches. I began by poking my needle into the fabric just inside the graph paper guide (so it wouldn't be on or inside the future seam) and I made 2 stitches every 1/4 inch.
I also made sure that I finished just before the end of the graph paper guide (so that the end wouldn't be on or inside the future seam) and that I finished with my thread on top.
Then I used the guide to make the second line of gathering stitches that exactly matched the ups and downs of the first line of gathering thread.
Making the single line gathering stitches along the bottom edge was more straight forward but I again used my quilting ruler to make sure that the thread started and ended just inside where the seam will be,
and I made sure that the thread ends were on the top of the fabric.
After the gathering threads were in place I sewed the two ends of the strip together to make a tube. I used a double running stitch,
then trimmed and pressed the seam.
I turned the tube right side out and then inserted and centered the ball. (The ball is centered when the fabric meets in the middle exactly the same on the top and the bottom.) I also checked that the seams were still flat open.
When I am gathering fabric into a tight circle I like to make a second line of gathering that exactly matches the first. (Because: the thread is less apt to snap and if it does I can easily recover the pleats; the thread is less apt to fray the fabric; and it is easier to maintain a tight circle while I tie the knot.) To make the second line of gathering I threaded one thread end onto my needle and continued the stitching on the other side of the seam.
I went about halfway around with that thread end and then stitched the second thread end around towards it. When they met up ...
I gently pulled on the 2 thread ends to make a very tight little circle of fabric.
When it was as tight as possible I knotted and cut the thread and then use the eye end of my needle to "comb" the gathers into more even pleats. This is what the bottom looked like after it was gathered and "combed".
After I had gathered and tied the top thread on the top of the ornament I drew up the second row of gathers. Even before I "combed" the pleats they were neater than the bottom but they too benefitted from a bit of adjusting.
These photos show the difference between having the two rows of gathers on the top and the one row of gathers on the bottom. With a single row of gathers the soft pleats resembles a puffy fabric yoyo. With the double row of gathers the more sharply defined pleats better follow the curves of the ball and resemble the spokes of a wagon wheel.
I knew that when I removed the second line of gathering from the top the pleats they would be better defined than the bottom pleats, but not as defined as they had been before I removed the gathering threads. To help maintain the pleats I misted the top of the ornament with spray starch and dried it with a hair dryer before I removed the gathering threads. (I wouldn't have used the spray starch if I had suspected that the threads might not be colorfast.)
I have previously explored many different ways of capping the top and bottom of smocked ornaments. This time I decided that I would use simple wood buttons. When I use buttons I usually choose ones that are a little concave and then install them upside down.
Before gluing the buttons to the ornament I used some pearl cotton thread to stitch the buttons and to make a hanger. Then I applied a minimal amount of fast drying FabricTac glue to the buttons, pressed them firmly to the ornament and checked to make sure that no excess glue had squeezed out. If any excess glue had squeezed out I would have used a toothpick to ease it back under the ornament and then pressed the buttons down again. (This is a little easier to do with white glue and if one chooses to use white glue they can use angled pins to hold the buttons firmly against the ball while the glue dries.)
These photos again illustrate the difference between the one and two rows of gathers.
Either method works well so the choice is just a matter of the look one wants to achieve. (If one wants even more well defined pleats they can use well matched thread to make 3 rows of smocking gathering, as I did on my first ornament experiment. Because the threads barely show as points between the pleats they can be left in place on the finished ornament.)
And this is how the design straddles the seam.
On this ornament there is a noticeable waviness where the stitched band meets the fabric strips. At first this puzzled me because although it is one of the taller bands it is the exact same height as the Skating Party band. I also considered that the stitched bands might be different widths but the visible area on both is 175 stitches. Then I concluded that it must have something to do with the fabric. On the Skating Party ornament both the cross stitch fabric and the added fabric are a little stiffer than the fabrics used on this ornament. In future if I use taller bands, that won't fit snuggly to the ball, I will probably stiffen the stitched band with iron on interfacing. (If I were going to stitch this same design again I would probably adjust the pattern up to 200 stitches and stitch it on 25 count fabric.)