Christmas Stocking with a difference!

This project began as a way to use up some oddments of fabric I had stored away. Many of the Christmas stockings you see for sale are modern in appearance and often rather tasteless, so I decided to make one with a richer, more antique feel to it, and a curled-up toe as a nod to the tradition that Saint Nicholas originally came from an area of Greece which is now part of Turkey. cs stage1In one version of the tale, there were three girls who were too poor to have a dowry to get married, and Saint Nicholas threw bags of gold through the window of their home, where they landed in the shoes and stockings which were drying by the fireplace. In another version, it was not gold coins but golden balls which were thrown in, and this is why the emblem for Saint Nicholas is golden balls or oranges, and the reason why traditionally there is an orange in your Christmas stocking!

I chose wine red and moss green with ivory and gold – a slightly muted take on the traditional red, white and green Christmas colours. To add a twist to the design I decided to use a few LED lights as well (they may not be traditional but by sticking to white and red I avoided making them too garish).

I began by cutting out the basic shape in green velvet (remember to make it wide – once it is sewn together and full of presents it looks a lot narrower), then on the front of the stocking I added a broad red band and an ivory coloured cuff. Over these I appliqued on some decorative bands and a sprig of mistletoe, and, on the foot, a reindeer. I worked over these with gold thread and fancy machine stitching, and added braid to cover the joins between colours.

I decided to give the reindeer a glowing red nose, and to put white lights on the mistletoe berries. I chose a sewable LED kit with miniature LEDs so that they would lie flush with the fabric and not show too much when the stocking wasn’t lit. I didn’t use a switch, opting to make the battery holder accessible instead, so the battery could simply be removed and stored when the stocking was not on display. LEDs draw very little power, and a large lithium battery will last for a very long time.

The LED consists of a small flat board with a terminal on either side and a tiny raised square in the middle – this is the bulb, and although it looks nothing like a normal bulb, it’s astonishing how bright a light it can produce. The rest of the kit comprises a battery and battery holder, and some conductive thread, which resembles silky grey sewing thread but will carry an electric current. I should point out that the power involved is so low that you can’t feel it when you touch the thread, and it doesn’t produce any heat when the bulbs are lit, so it’s perfectly safe. You can check them out here.

The LED boards are small enough that you could mount them on the front of an item and if the pattern behind them was busy enough they wouldn’t show up very much, however, for Rudolph’s nose I chose to make a small hole for the bulb to peep through (see left) and sew the LED onto the back of the fabric where it would be completely hidden. For a detailed explanation of how to create a circuit with an LED kit and conductive thread, see my writeup of making an LED felted star. To the right you can see the LED board for the reindeer’s nose, and the conductive thread in place.

For the mistletoe lights I used a slightly different technique – I sewed the LED boards on the front of the stocking, and then covered them with a soft disc of white merino fleece, loosely packed so the light could shine through clearly but sufficient to make a mistletoe berry which would hide the board, and stitched it in place.

I positioned the battery holder near the top of the stocking where it would be easy to reach, but far enough down that it would not show when the stocking is hanging up empty. I left it uncovered but it would be possible to either cover it with a small pocket or flap, or to line the stocking and leave an opening with a velcro or press-stud fastening. I would recommend this if it was intended for use by children, so they couldn’t pull at the threads or components and break the connection.

Where there was only a single thickness of fabric I used stitches that would not be visible from the front, but where it was layered I was able to mostly run the thread between the layers both to hide it and protect it, taking care not to let the positive and negative threads touch or overlap anywhere. Before doing the final stitching I inserted the battery and touched the threads to the terminals to check that I’d got everything laid out correctly and that the circuit would work properly.

Once the lights were all done it was time to assemble the finished stocking. With the right sides together I sewed the two halves together, then turned the stocking the right way out and added a bell on the toe and a ribbon for hanging. I chose a strong satin ribbon and sewed it firmly in place – remember that it will have to take the weight of a filled stocking! I used a red button to hide the place where the ribbon was sewn on. Normally the ribbon would be stitched into the seam to hide the ends, but I preferred to leave the ends long, with a v cut in the end to prevent fraying, like parcel ribbons.

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