Today’s Sewing Basics post is a fun project that will get you familiar with your sewing machine while also turning out a great last-minute gift or decoration: a stitch sampler ornament! I tried this easy sewing gift idea with a dozen college students (most of whom had never used a sewing machine before) and we had a lot of fun, so I’m also sharing how you can turn this into an interactive party idea for your next craft night or holiday party with older kids, teens, and adults.
This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation (at no added cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links. This post is sponsored by Baby Lock and is part of our ongoing collaboration. All opinions and words are my own. Additional supplies were generously provided by Cricut.
Some of you know that in addition to being the maker behind Underground Crafter, I’m also a college professor. I was invited by the Center for Entrepreneurship at the college where I teach to visit the Fashion Club and provide a hands-on sewing machine activity. Many of the students in the club have never sewn on a machine, and others don’t get to sew very often, so I wanted to come up with a project that was as simple and beginner-friendly as possible. I also wanted to give students the opportunity to sew on a user-friendly, computerized, modern machine, like my Baby Lock Jubilant, since that experience can be a real game changer for a new sewist.
My visit was earlier this week in December, just before final exams. I thought it would be great if the students could come away with a gift or decoration for the holidays. And, that’s how the idea for the Stitch Sampler Ornament was born!
We used green, red, and white for our colors in preparation for Christmas, but if you were going to make these at other times of the year, here are some suggestions!
- Valentine’s Day: White fabric with red thread and red cord.
- Mardis Gras: Gold fabric with purple thread and green cord.
- St. Patrick’s Day: White fabric with green thread and green cord.
- Independence Day: White fabric with blue or red thread and cord.
- Halloween: Orange fabric with black thread and cord.
You can also make stitch sampler ornaments for party favors matching the color theme, or individually as gifts in colors the recipient would love! When possible, pair a lighter color fabric with darker threads as it will help the stitches “pop” a bit more.
I’ve included the instructions below for making your own Stitch Sampler Ornament, and for hosting a party activity where guests can make their own stitch sampler ornaments. Because the Baby Lock Jubilant is so portable, it’s easy to bring it with you to a party, or to set it up on a different table in your home when hosting.
Stitch Sampler Ornament
Tutorial by Underground Crafter
Stitch samplers give you the chance to get to know your sewing machine by trying out different stitches and presser feet. This project will also introduce you to stabilizer, different thread weights, and different needle types. Place your stitch sampler into an embroidery hoop to create a modern decoration or a last-minute gift. If hosting a group activity, see “Interactive Group Activity Instructions” at the end of this tutorial.
- Sewing machine such as Baby Lock Jubilant with an array of decorative stitches, and the associated presser feet. Read my review of the Jubilant here and my Sewing Machine Presser Foot Guide here.
- Cricut 45 mm rotary cutter, acrylic ruler, and self-healing cutting mat.
- Fabric shears. I used the one from the Cricut Sewing Kit.
- Cricut EasyPress 2 with EasyPress Mat, or iron and iron-safe surface.
- Klassé Topstitch needle. I used 80/12 but you can also use 90/14.
- Class 15 bobbin.
- Basic sewing supplies (seam ripper, thread snips, etc.).
- 5” square of 100% cotton fabric for each ornament. I used a Moda Bella Solids Charm Pack of precut 5” squares in White.
- 12 wt 100% cotton thread for the top spool. I used Sulky Cotton Petites in Green.
- 40 wt 100% cotton thread for the bobbin. I used King Tut Superior Threads in Malachite.
- Baby Lock Tear-Away Soft Stabilizer or 5” square of iron-on stabilizer for each ornament.
- 3” embroidery hoop for each ornament. I used Caydo Bamboo Hoops.
- Waxed cotton cord. I used Mandala Crafts 0.5 mm.
- Acrylic craft paint with brush, clear drying craft glue, buttons, beads, and/or other embellishments for decorating the embroidery hoops. You’ll also want a protective cover so you don’t get paint or glue on the table.
- Spindles Spools and Bobbin Storage Spooler. Most of the time, I use 100% cotton 50 wt thread for both top spool and bobbin. Whenever I use something different – polyester or rayon thread, or another weight – for the bobbin, I use these to keep the leftover bobbin attached to the thread spool.
Prepare Your Fabric and Stabilizer Squares
- For the stitch sampler ornaments, you won’t sew pieces of fabric together. Instead, you’ll use your sewing machine almost like an embroidery machine to decorate the fabric surface with one or more stitch patterns. Start by stabilizing your fabric with an iron-on/fusible stabilizer.
- For each ornament, cut one 5” square from your cotton fabric and one 5” square from your iron-on stabilizer. I used my rotary cutter, acrylic ruler, and mat to cut 5” pieces from the Baby Lock Tear-Away Soft Stabilizer but I bought a Moda Bella Solids Charm Pack of precut 5” squares in White so the fabric was already cut.
- The video below demonstrates how to use a rotary cutter, acrylic ruler, and cutting mat safely.
- If you can’t see the video above, click here to learn how to use a rotary cutter on YouTube.
- Turn on your Cricut EasyPress 2 or iron to get it up to temperature.
- Position your fabric square on top of the stabilizer square on the mat or iron-safe surface. Follow the stabilizer package instructions to determine which side of the stabilizer should adhere to the fabric.
- When the Cricut EasyPress 2 or iron is hot, press firmly on the fabric for about 20-25 seconds or as directed on the stabilizer package directions.
- Remove the fabric with stabilizer square and allow to cool.
Set Up Your Machine
- Note: If you’re new to sewing machines, check out How To Use a Sewing Machine for Beginners for more details on the following steps.
- Wind a bobbin with the 40 wt thread and insert the bobbin.
- Change your needle to a Klassé Topstitch needle. Topstitch needles have a very large eye to accommodate the thicker thread we will be using in the top spool.
- Thread the machine with your 12 wt cotton thread.
- Set the sewing speed controller to the lowest or second speed. 12 wt thread is the thickest thread most machines can comfortably sew with, so slower speeds are helpful for preventing jams and uneven stitches.
Choose Your Stitch
- Using the Stitch Pattern Plate (attached to the top of the machine), the stitch pattern guide (on the front of the machine), or the stitch chart in your manual, select a decorative stitch to try.
- Turn the Stitch Pattern Selection Dial to the appropriate stitch.
- Check the LCD to see which presser foot is needed for that stitch. If necessary, change the presser foot.
Make Your Sampler Fabric
- Lift the presser foot lever.
- Position the fabric with stabilizer square under the presser foot. I sewed from the point across diagonal for my version, but many of the students sewed from straight edge to straight edge. Since your fabric piece is larger than the embroidery hoop, it isn’t necessary to “perfectly” position your fabric square, but be sure that the fabric is under the needle before getting started.
- Using the Start/Stop button or the foot controller, begin sewing. Let the machine do the work and only use your hand on the outer edge of the fabric piece to gently guide the fabric in the right direction. It is not necessary to “push” or “tug” the fabric as the decorative stitch will move the fabric at the correct pace.
- Once you’ve reached the end of the fabric piece, use the Start/Stop button or the foot controller to stop sewing. Lift your needle and cut the thread with the thread cutter.
- Repeat from Choose Your Stitch 1-3 more times until you have several rows of decorative stitches.
Create Your Stitch Sampler Ornament
- (Optional) Decorate the outer embroidery hoop with paint or by gluing on embellishments. Allow to dry following manufacturer instructions.
- Position the Sampler Fabric over the inner embroidery hoop as desired.
- Place the outer hoop over the fabric and tighten.
- Using your fabric shears, cut a piece of waxed cord. Position the cord so it wraps outside of the tightening screw. Tie a knot to form an ornament loop.
- With fabric shears, trim excess fabric from the back of the hoop and excess cord from the top of the knot.
Interactive Group Activity Instructions
- Prepare by completing the steps for Prepare Your Fabric and Stabilizer Squares and Set Up Your Machine, above.
- If you are working with many new sewists, prepare extra fabric with stabilizer pieces in case of mistakes.
- Test the machine settings first by sewing with a straight stitch over a folded piece of scrap fabric.
- Since only one person can sew at a time, pass out the embroidery hoops and optional embellishment materials (paint, glue, embellishments, etc.) to keep people engaged when they are not sewing. Invite them to decorate the outer embroidery hoop.
- For best results, use the “Start/Stop” button rather than the foot controller (pedal) if you are doing this activity with people that aren’t familiar with sewing machines.
- Sit the first person in the sewing chair. Talk the person through the steps from Choose Your Stitch through Make Your Sampler Fabric. Remind new sewists to keep their hands away from the needle area while sewing to avoid injury.
- If you have a large group or a limited amount of time, limit each person to one to two stitches.
- As the person finishes the sampler fabric, describe how to create the stitch sampler ornament, or send them the link to this blog post!