Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A labor of Christmas love...

I have been working on a labor of love.  Christmas love.

My step-mother made an incredible set of ornaments in the late 1960's, right before her first two daughters were born.  They were most likely from a kit sold at the time.

When my step-mother came into my life in 1973, I was twelve years old.  She definitely saved me and my little brother (and my Dad), in so many ways.  My Mom had mental illness and was abusive and things had been hard for a while.  I saw these ornaments the first Christmas I spent with her and my Dad and my brothers and step-sisters.

(I really beached the color out of this picture trying to lighten it up on my computer...the colors are beautiful and really saturated.  This is "5 golden rings" and I sent both of them to my sisters, so no picture on the tree...)

It was magical.  She made Christmas and birthdays special.  There was a simple tree and these ornaments were on it.  They were amazing...I couldn't take my eyes off of them...the way the sequins glittered in the tree lights.  Then the ornaments disappeared through three major moves my parents made over the next 20+ years.  I thought they were gone forever.

Fast forward to when they moved to this property in Alabama in the mid-1990's.  Most all belongings were moved into a new metal Qnonset hut on the property while they cleared some of the land, built a cottage and subsequent large home over the next seven years, all while practicing medicine.  I am not sure how they did all this!

About fifteen years ago, I was helping my Dad as he started sorting through boxes in the Quonset hut (unfortunately there are still some boxes to go through...sigh).  Most stuff was kept, some stuff donated, and some things thrown away.  I found a hastily-packed, crude small, corrugated cardboard box containing these ornaments!

Happy dance!!

The box had not been properly sealed and they were not in great shape.  Some had been nibbled on by mice...to the point where they could not be saved.  They smelled mousy.  All the plastic stars to which the motifs were glued had become brittle and broken.  Only one ornament's star was still in tact, and that was one where the felt part was heavily chewed.

I think those mice were probably crapping sequins...

I was sad about their condition, but asked to hold onto them, hoping I could bring them back to life.  Lee told me I should just throw them away.  They have been sitting in one of my closets ever since, rediscovered when I was packing for our recent move.

The theme was the 12 Days of Christmas, and there had originally been two sets.  Only eighteen survived.  

For years, I have been looking for replacement plastic stars and a method to perk them up and restore them.  I was also looking for the confidence and courage to touch them.

I have done a lot of different crafts and ornaments, but never any stuffed, embellished felt work...with sequins and/or beads...especially from a kit.

Every now and then, I would look on the Internet to try and find replacement stars.  A couple of months ago I found the exact star online, but they encased in glitter...ouch!  

There were no "crystalline star" version anywhere on the Internet that I could find.  Of course they were an imported item and it was hard to tell much about their quality from the sketchy descriptive photos provided.

So I ordered the stars and while waiting for delivery (and confidence and courage) and started replacing sequins, doing a little reparative stitching, and some spot cleaning.

It took a while for the stars to arrive...now I know the meaning of "a slow boat to China..."

The worst part was picking the remaining pieces of brittle plastic and glue from the backs.  The felt used from the kit was of poor quality.

Everyone uses too much glue.  

Sometimes the glue removal was "surgical" as I would have to trim the felt bulk a little to cut it loose.

I have chosen some ornaments for me and chosen some for my sisters, which I am going to mail this week with the new ornaments I made for them.

It was worth the effort.  I love them!  They are kind of retro and I think it is interesting to see them with the other homemade and various ornaments on my tree.

Stopped and waiting for a long train two weeks ago, I was looking through Pinterest on my phone.  I saw a picture of one of these ornaments!  The link went to Ebay and of course the item was no longer available.

I started to get curious about whether or not an intact kit for the same ornaments could be found on Ebay.  You can find freakin' ANYTHING on Ebay.  I mean, there will be quilt kits in my stuff when I am dead and gone, so why not?!?

I took a guess that the Bucilla Company produced and sold the kit.  I found a lot of vintage (and new!!) Bucilla kits on Ebay, but not this one.

I almost gave up, but finally found one!  It was made by the Lee Ward Company.  Anyone ever do a project produced by them??

I ordered it.

It came yesterday.  It is definitely vintage.  The single sheet of instructions has browned, there is a musty smell, and the pre-stamped felt is the same crappy quality...but I love it!

I will most likely replace the felt with good quality wool felt.  I can trace the stamped patterns on the crappy felt...maybe some time when I am stopped by another long train.  LOL.

It also came with a product flyer for their monthly ornament club...charming.

And tacky glue is included...it looks like it has separated, LOL!

And look!  A tree skirt can be made from the motifs!  Interesting...could be applique with fabric.  Interesting...could be enlarged slightly.  Hmmm...

But what is really interesting and confusing is that I think the kit makes 24 motifs but there are only 12 stars.  They are supposed to be glued together with the star between them!  I wondered why the second set of Lee's was a mirror image!

I will enjoy my selection of ornaments on my tree for now and properly store my "new" kit until I have time to figure out what I want to do.

Oh, and the hilarious thing?  Bucilla STILL makes kits and www.merrystockings.com sells them.  They have stockings, ornaments, wall hangings and even some stuff for Halloween, etc.

Very kitschy and very retro!

Again, like all those years ago, I will sit in my great room only illuminated by my Christmas tree and enjoy how the sequins glimmer in the tree lights.  I will remember happy Christmases from the past and the new memories we are making now.

In stitches,
Teresa   :o)


  1. Your persistence paid off! The snowflake is a lovely (and unusual) touch.

  2. Wonderful story! Thank you for sharing your memories with us. I made something similar but they were on clothespins with felt and sequins back in the late 70's. Lee Ward was a favorite hangout for me back then. Happy Christmas!

  3. Oh how I remember these. Both my Aunts, my fathers sister and my Mothers sister made these types of ornaments. Sadly I only have two left. The styrofoam ball that was wrapped in silky thread and then the sequins, beads and long pins that held it together. I also have a red gem shaped one that looks a lot like the one on your monthly brochure. Not in the best of shape, either one. So nice your going to make replacements for these. Love how a tree looks with these on it. All that would be lacking is the tinsel. Also not used now. But boy it sure made Christmas morning magical. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  4. The reason you love the ornaments so much is the story behind them. Their beauty comes from the love you associate with them. The designs are pretty and the felt and sequins passable, but their beauty is the effort to create something that would be remembered by a person who meant so much to you.

  5. glad you were able to find them and you have such wonderful memories I used to make a few of these type of things but they are no where to be found now I don't know where they are lost in moves I guess in our younger days.

  6. What a fantastic story! Such wonderful memories and as you say, new ones to make. Thank you for sharing this special Christmas story!

  7. well blogger ate my very nice long comment....

  8. I went to the Lee Wards store many times in my late teens and early 20s as Elgin is only about 35 miles from here. I mostly bought pre-stamped linens for hand embroidery and didn't get into the felt items.

  9. I believe my mother did the monthly kitted ornies with the church sewing group so many years ago. They are just lovely and how wonderful that you revived such wonderful memory filled items and sharing them back into the family. Your persistance to find produced a great find.

  10. Just amazing ornaments--beautifully worked...I made three needlepoint ones backed in felt when first married, two of which have gone to my two children for their trees...I have never done stuffed felt either--but i did do two sequined angels on styrofoam a long time ago, too. I am wanting to make us a felted wreath...we'll see what I can find...thanks for sharing a wonderful story hugs, Julierose

  11. There is just something about those old kits and memories. A few years ago, I had to do a replacement cross stitch item and the internet saved the day. Glad that you were able to find your kit! Have fun with it as I know you will!

  12. I used to live at Lee Wards when I was a teenager. My nephew and I did lots of the sequin ornaments. We have the large snowflakes like in your kit, but we just hang them on the tree as snowflakes. You did a fantastic job on your ornaments -- they look brand new!

  13. I too was a fan of Lee Ward. These kits were very popular in the early 70's. I also made Christmas Stockings for my children and one granddaughter from Bucilla needlepoint kits. These are very special to my children (now grown adults) and it wouldn't be Christmas without them. Thanks for the memories - enjoy the Holidays especially with your new found ornaments that were very likely made with love. Terry

  14. (literally laughed at the mice and sequins. . .) This is the best post. Huge kudos for reviving the cherished ornaments. I really enjoy retro kitsch like this with special backstories.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing! I am so glad you were able to find the kit on e-bay. I have a set of 24 Christmas stockings with tiny presents for an advent garland that I have been working on (and off) for years! Enjoy your ornaments and the wonderful memories!

  16. Thanks for sharing the story of the lovely ornaments. I am glad they hold such treasured memories for you. I am wondering now about a felt kit my husband and I put together our first Christmas together in 1974. I might just have to do some research of my own. Its a mobile and has hung in our home everyyear since 1974 and our children now look for it whenever I get the decorations out. My sweet husband reminded me this year that we used to hang mistletoe in the middle of the mobile....hmmm, think I need to find some mistletoe!

  17. Ahhh. Lee Wards... Brings back memories. My mother used to call it Leewards like in Leeward Islands... Loved to get their paper catalog in the mail; I think it was the original craft store. I still have things stashed away that came from there--and an embroidery stand and lap hoop that are still in use. This dates me, I know, and reminds me that I should be destashing...
    Congratulations, by the way, on your win at the fall Paducah show!

  18. What a wonderful venture. Thank you for sharing. The ornaments are gorgeous.

  19. Old family ornaments are the best. Yours are lovely. You gave them new life and they'll warm your family Christmases for years to come. Wonderful story. :)

  20. What a beautiful Christmas story and I love that you found a new kit to make the ornaments with. Now I'm off to check out the ornaments by Bucilla!!

  21. I really enjoyed reading today's story, made me smile, made me want to make some of my own memories - best wishes :)

  22. When I was young, I made stuffed felt ornaments from a McCall's pattern. They were not 12 days of Christmas, but various characters like snowman, reindeer, etc. My mom returned them to me several years ago. They need a little work - but I still have the pattern and may remake them.

    I also have a mail order pattern to make ornate 12 days of Christmas stuffed ornaments. Every once in awhile I pull out what I've started and tell myself I must finish them. I have a new niece who loves Christmas - maybe I'll make them for her.

    Thanks for the good memories!

  23. Wonderful! A true labor of love, so glad these bring you joy and wonderful memories.

  24. Thank you for sharing the story of your beautiful keepsake ornaments!

  25. Your story brought a smile to my face and joy to my heart. Thanks!

  26. This story was a wonderful read! Thanks for sharing it. It makes me want to run out and make me some of those wonderful ornaments, but I won't. I will just admire yours. You have done a fabulous restoration job!

  27. Thank you so much for posting this! These are beautiful!

    It brings back so many memories of my Mom making sparkly felt ornaments. I don't think I have any, but I recognize some of the ornaments in the club; wonder if she had a membership or just bought them at the Lee Ward's store not far from out house - one of her favorite hang outs. This will be our 3rd Christmas without her so I won't be able to ask.

  28. Owww, what a sweet post, I'm so glad you were able to find the ornament kit. What did we ever do before the internets??

  29. Teresa, you are amazing! But it is worth saving those precious memories. Merry Christmas!

  30. I'm glad you found the originals and a "new" kit they were made from. I wonder....would someone with a 3d printer be able to make more stars if you wanted to make more?

  31. I love this Christmas story and your adventure to find existing kits still out there is amazing. They are beautiful and so worth all the trouble you took to get them back to their original beauty.

  32. I'm so glad you found them after all this time! Great memories - thank you for sharing. My mom made a kit of three wise men and their modes of transportation (donkey, horse and camel) for herself and had three other unmade kits for each of us kids. I wonder what happened to those extra kits. They lived at my house in a Charlie Chips tin for the longest time, but I think were given away (still unstarted and unfinished)when we remodeled the storage room to be an office. Mom still hangs hers every year. Ahhh sequins - I love them!

  33. Theresa, my Mom used to make the ball ornaments from Lee Wards with all of the beads, sequins and trims. That is mainly what is on my Christmas tree in the great room. Like you I enjoy the glimmer from those beautiful ornaments that she made all of those years ago. I have many happy memories of shopping with her at Lee Wards here in Indianapolis for those ornaments and wonderful memories of past Christmases. Your ornaments are beautiful and well worth all the work. Beautiful post!

  34. I wonderful Christmas story full of love! A lovely tribute to the Mom who saved you!
    Hope you had a special Christmas and best wishes for 2018!

  35. SCORE!!!! Good for you. I love this set too! The ornaments are nothing like what they offer to day sorry to say. I made two sets of the beaded sequined ornaments years ago- around 38 years actually and my son still decorates his tree with them. Happy happy joy joy. When you're done with this kit, Id love to purchase the pattern from you and I'll collect wools, sequins, beads, braids etc. to make it up if you so desire. Happy Beading, sequining, and sewing!

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  37. Does anyone know if something has happened to Teresa - she hasn't posted in ages.

  38. Wow! What a find! Congratulations! I'm so happy you found the ornaments and then a kit!

  39. Great story! So glad it is an ongoing story.
    I did those kits with my grandmother. Loved going through the catalog with her and dreaming of future projects. They sold Quilt kits too.

  40. Are you ok? You haven't posted in a while. I hope you are well. Hugs.

  41. Congrats on your Daytona ribbon!

  42. Checking on you! Please respond.

  43. Believe it or not I did this very kit when my two boys were little when I look at it all done I think I must have been insane. I am glad to find out that there is someone else out there like me


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