A Christmas Tree: Embroidery Free-For-All

Embroidered Christmas tree ornament - Funk & Weber Designs

An embroidery free-for-all: a departure for a perfectionist stitcher who prefers to count threads.

This holiday ornament/sometimes bookmark is an Embroidery Free-For-All. As is the case with many of my favorite projects, it was a whim, an experiment.

I never planned to share this as a stitching “technique” until Needlework Nutshell reader (and non-stitcher), Chrissie, mentioned liking the messy back-side image from the Overdyed Thread tutorial. Truth is, I find the “messy” stitching attractive, too.

The Stitching

I drew a tree on graph paper, then backstitched it on the fabric.

Combining 2 strands of DMC 501 with 1 strand of DMC 503, I stitched a bunch of straight stitches, every which way, overlapping, heaping, cramming. Along the edges, I carried the straight stitches over the backstitched outline to break it up and hide it. My goal was a look of thick and random branches. For a neat-nick accustomed to counting every stitch, this was more challenging than you might expect! I suppose it was also liberating.

Since I planned to cut the shape out, I opted to not have stray stitches (wispy branches) beyond the outline, though the idea was tempting.

Close up of Embroidery Free-For-All Christmas Tree

I think the blended green threads accentuate the every-which-way aspect of the stitches.


The result was a dense piece of needlework, and I liked that look of randomness and depth. I considered stopping there, but decided to decorate the tree, too. I stitched red (DMC 321) satin-stitch balls, layering the stitches for a three-dimensional look. It was hard to get good circles on the uneven surface, but I decided that the irregular shapes were the result of branches obscuring the view. Small white French knots (DMC 1), a gold chain-stitch garland, and eyelet star (Kreinik #8 braid, 002 gold) completed the decorations.

The Finishing

Wool felt ornament backing

Weeks Dye Works wool felt was glued to the back with white glue.

To finish the ornament, I rubbed white glue into the back of the needlework and ground fabric to adhere a wool felt backing and to keep the fabric edges from fraying when cut. After pressing the wool to the needlework, I ran my finger around the edges several times to assure a good bond there.

I let the glue dry overnight, and then used sharp scissors to cut around the tree very close to the stitching. With a sharp needle (not a tapestry needle), I ran thin gold cord through the center of the star for a hanger, but these days it’s got a jump ring, swivel, and small shepherd’s hook that doubles as a bookmark and tree hook. We like to read (and re-read) one of Dickens’ Christmas stories this time of year, and a holiday bookmark seems in order.

What a treat to look at embroidery through a non-needleworker’s eyes. Thanks, Chrissie!

A Tree Pattern For You

Ornament turned bookmark

How it lives now.

Want to stitch your own Free-For-All Christmas Tree? Or how about a Free-For-All evergreen sans decorations? Make your own tree, or, if you prefer, I’ve got one here to get you started: Embroidery Free-For-All Christmas Tree Pattern. It’s not exactly the one I used originally, but it’s close.

Naturally, if you stitch one, we’d all love to see it. Send pics or image links to mail AT funkandweber DOT com.

7 Responses to “A Christmas Tree: Embroidery Free-For-All”

  1. Lena Wright

    LOVE IT!

    December 18, 2011 @ 5:54 am
  2. Bev

    Way cool!

    December 18, 2011 @ 5:56 am
  3. Laurie

    looks like fun!

    December 20, 2011 @ 8:38 am
  4. Jen

    Laurie, it was fun. I started a wreath in the same style. Hmm…I must find it and finish it.

    December 21, 2011 @ 9:25 am
  5. Susan

    Please e-mail me bookmark tips, tricks, and brilliant ideas. I checked my spam and it was not there and I didn’t receive in regular inbox.

    Thank you

    December 20, 2011 @ 7:50 pm
  6. Jen

    Check your inbox again, Susan. Let me know if you have any further problems. Happy Stitching!

    December 21, 2011 @ 9:24 am
  7. Jen

    Thanks, Bev & Lena!

    December 21, 2011 @ 9:27 am

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