It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, almost… but we’re definitely close when the annual Just Cross Stitch Christmas ornament issue comes out. I’ve looked forward to these issues every year since the mid-1990s, and I own every single one. I even have a loosely prioritized wish list of ornaments from the yearly issues that I’d like to stitch one day. But, frankly, as each year passes I’ve become less and less excited about each issue, and I’ve added fewer and fewer recent patterns to my wish list.
I think my enthusiasm has waned in part because I haven’t been keeping up with the latest in cross stitch as much as I used to and in part because a lot of the designs have started to seem like they have a “been there, done that” quality to them. This issue just didn’t seem as vital (in all senses of that word) as past issues.
However, that’s not to say that there weren’t many bright spots, including some newcomers (at least to me) that I hope to follow in the future. Cross stitch definitely needs some new blood.
The first grouping is called “Frosty the Snowman” (by the way, shouldn’t that be “Frosty the Snowmen”?). I’m partial snowman designs and my two favorites are ” Frosty Friends” by Blue Ribbon Designs (which probably would have “popped” better if it had been stitched on a slightly darker fabric) and “Hats Off to the Holidays!” by SamSarah Design Studio. OK, first I complain that the designs aren’t taking enough risks, and then I pick the two most “conservative” designs of the bunch. Go figure.
The second grouping is “The Friendly Beasts,” featuring ornaments depicting mostly birds (cardinals, a partridge/robin twofer, and even a penguin) as well as a sheep, a deer, and a surprisingly unChristmas-like dragonfly (see cover photo above). My favorite is “Red Bird” by Elizabeth’s Needlework Designs; second favorite is “On the Runway” (deer with a red scarf) by Snoflake Stitchery (it’s taking me every ounce of my strength not to put the “w” back in “Snowflake,” but damn my unwavering commitment to accurate citations!). I am usually a sucker for all sheep designs, but even though Amy Brueken’s “Rocking a New Holiday Hat” had a sheep wearing a chullo (a chullo! yeah!), the sheep just looked a little lumpy to me.
The third, “Here Comes Santa Claus,” is a pretty good bunch and the finishing on Mani di Donna’s “Prim St. Nick” is fantastic; it’s an off-center pillow and the hanging cord runs through two small thread bobbins. Again, my favorites are “Santa 2017” by Needle Bling Designs (in photo, upper left) and “Ho Ho Ho” by Angel Stitchin, a simple, off-center Santa face with a puffy Hercule Poirot mustache worked with Rainbow Gallery Wisper Thread and the words “Ho Ho Ho” surrounded by snowflake buttons. I’ve seen similar patterns before over the years but this one is really well done–bright and cheery (in photo, bottom center).
The fourth grouping, “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” is, like its title, a kind of catch-all category. There’s an ambitious “Quartet of Country Ornaments” from Always Time to Stitch, for example, and, for some reason, there’s a dragon in a Santa hat hanging from a sign that says “Balance.” Huh? Unexpectedly, there’s even one ornament with no cross stitch at all, a gingham wool oblong. It’s cute but I don’t know what it’s doing in this issue. My favorite is another very simple, straightforward design, “Warm Hands, Warm Heart” by The Little Stitcher, two red mittens with snowflake designs which reminded my of knitted mittens (on the cover: left hand side, center).
“Joy to the World” offers several designs incorporating the word “Joy” and some others with phrases like “Believe,” “Halleluia,” and “Peace.” The weakest design in the entire issue is Faithwurks Designs’ “They Followed the Star” which is just a plain circle with a star button and the backstitched words–you guessed it–“they followed the star.” Most were a little too religious for my tastes, but I liked the Renaissance tone and the finishing of “A Savior Has Been Born” by My Big Toe Designs (see photo, center left) . “Beaded Joy” by Gracewood Stitches and ” Modern Nordic Ornament” by Ink Circles (love Ink Circles! see photo, top center) are both bright, colorful, ornate, and, well, joyous. Time out: “Modern Nordic Ornament” is neither modern nor Nordic. Discuss.
The sixth grouping “Jingle Bells” is one of the strongest and includes some blackwork and hardanger which work so well in Christmas ornaments. Particularly beautiful are Blackwork Journey’s ” Silver & Gold,” Patricia Ann Designs’ “2017 Christmas Bauble,”and Giulia Punti Antichi’s “Little Purse” (see cover photo, lower right). I’ve long been a fan of Giulia Punti Antichi–their designs look like no one else’s–but I’d especially like to mention whomever did the finishing for this piece. It’s exquisite.
“O Christmas Tree” highlights designs featuring rabbits on snowmobiles. Just kidding! I wasn’t that excited about these offerings although the finishing on Gentle Pursuit Designs’ “Mannie & Zeb” was really cute. The top and bottom of the triangle-shaped ornament was covered in little gold jingle bells. “Hardanger Tree” by Lisa LeAnn Designs (both design and finishing) was just too much and made me rethink my “hardanger and Christmas go together like Stewart and Colbert” philosophy. I do admire that it was different and new, however.
To me, this issue saved the best for last. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” had a great combination of traditional and contemporary designs and colors. I could see myself stitching most of the designs on this page. A special shout-out to Turquoise Graphics & Designs for their “Rustic Noel” which used unusual (at least for Christmas designs) colors like brown, aqua, mustard, and rust and finished the ornament as a kind of gift tag with a copper wire hanger with multicolored beads (by the way, the other great gift tag-style finishing in this issue is Swallick Stitchery’s super cute “Santa’s Coming”). I’ve never heard of TG&D before, but I will keep an eye out for them.
In fact, I’d like to revise my earlier pronouncements: the greatest benefit of the annual Just Cross Stitch ornament issue is that I learn about what’s new and upcoming in the cross stitch world, and that’s not at all a bad thing. We just need a lot more of this in our community.
My top five, in no particular order:
- “Rustic Noel” by Turquoise Graphics & Designs
- “Little Purse” by Giulia Punti Antichi
- “Warm Hands, Warm Heart” by The Little Stitcher
- “Modern Nordic Ornament” by Ink Circles
- “Silver & Gold” by Blackwork Journey
I’d love to hear what some of your favorites are too!