Sunday, 8 December 2019

Updated finishing tips for the Gingerbread Village (Dec 2019)

I know a lot of people are keen to make their own Gingerbread Villages, but are put off by the need to convert their precious embroidery into a 3D object.

I'm here to reassure you that if you have the right equipment, and take it slowly, you can create beautiful 3D ornaments.

All of these patterns are by Thea Dueck of The Victoria Sampler.

When I made my first Gingerbread House back in 2012, I had never done any finishing before.  I followed the detailed instructions in the pattern, took it slowly, and I did it.  Naturally my finishing techniques have improved since then, but even my very first house was perfectly acceptable. See the photo above - that was the very first time that I had tried finishing a 3D object.

my Gingerbread Village

So here are my top tips to help you embark on this lovely journey of making your very own Gingerbread Village:

1. Think about how your cottage is going to look.  Work out which walls need to be the same length, height and width.  Although your embroidered front and back wall pieces might not be exactly the same sizes, the cardboard for corresponding walls needs to be exactly the same size to make the cottage square.  eg.  if the average length of the side walls is 4", both side walls and the base plate need to be exactly 4" long and match each other.

Your embroidered pieces may not be the same size as stated in the pattern.  Not all 28 count linen is exactly 28 threads per inch.  You need to measure your own embroidery and make sure the cardboard fits your work.

Which cardboard to use? That depends on which country you live in.  Thea recommends 4 ply Mat Board (Acid Free).  I buy Crescent Whitecore Mat Board from Gordon Harris art shop in New Zealand.  It needs to be sturdy.

I measure so my cardboard fits just inside the outside line of backstitching - as shown below.  When I turn the edge back the backstitching will sit on the edge of the cardboard.

2. Once you have determined the dimensions for each piece, draw each shape on to the cardboard with a pencil and a quilting ruler. The lines on the quilting ruler will help you to ensure your pieces of cardboard are square. You don't need a big quilting ruler - even a 6.5" square ruler will be sufficient for these small cottages.

3.  Then cut along the pencil lines with an old rotary cutter and a quilting ruler. Use a self healing cutting mat or an old wooden breadboard so you don't damage your table.  Do not use your best rotary cutting blade that you use for quilting - the cardboard will blunt it.  Also, do not use scissors - they do not give a straight edge due the thickness of the cardboard.  If you have never used a rotary cutter before, watch this video especially from the 2 minute mark. You will probably need to run the rotary cutter down the line a few times to get through the cardboard. Be very careful with the blade and never put the cutter down with the blade open.

4. Layout out your cardboard pieces and check that the sides all match where they should. Write the name of each piece on the back with a pencil so they don't get mixed up.

5. Glue the cardboard pieces on to a single piece of pellon.  You can use a foam brush to spread the glue around, or just spread it with the nozzle of the bottle.  Leave the pieces to dry and then cut them out neatly.  Pellon is very thin and soft padding, and it makes the embroidery stand out more on the cottages.

6. Now you're ready to pin the embroidered pieces onto the cardboard.  Cut each piece of embroidery out, leaving a margin of about half an inch around each side.  Don't worry about fraying - your fabric is going to be glued down in a few minutes.

Pin the four corners first, and glue the corners down first.  Put the pieces under a heavy book for at about 30 minutes to let the glue set.
I keep special pins aside for making these cottages.  The pins can get glue on them, so they are no good for quilting after you've used them for making a cottage.

7. Once the corners have dried, it's time to pin the edge backstitching into the edge of the cardboard.  Watch your fingers!!!  It's easy to stab yourself during this time, but again, practice makes perfect, and I haven't stabbed myself once with my latest cottage.

The photo below shows a lot of pins.  I don't use that many pins anymore.  When I cut the cardboard for the Haunted House pieces I cut it slightly too big and I had to stretch the linen tightly to make it cover the cardboard.  I should have trimmed the cardboard smaller to fit just inside the backstitch lines.

8. Once your pieces are pinned to the edge of the cardboard, you can glue the remaining linen onto the back of the cardboard.  Fold the corners in neatly because when the walls meet at 90 degree angles you can get bulk if you're not careful - especially on small pieces.   Mine isn't pretty on the inside, but no one is ever going to see this because I put base plates on my cottages and seal them up.

10.  Now we're onto the fun part - joining up the pieces.  As you made each section you might have noticed that the number of back stitches around the outside of some of the pieces were the same. If there were 15 backstitches up the side of the left hand piece above, there would be 15 up the side of the centre piece.  This means that the pieces match perfectly and it's easy to lace them together with Perle 8.

See how neat the joining stitches look! That's because the backstitching on each side matches up.  I start and finish my threads inside the cottage where they will never be seen.

11.  If you need to attach a piece to a flat surface, it will be easier if you use a curved needle like mine pictured below.  It's well worth hunting one down - they make the task a lot easier. I used the curved needle on:
The Church
Haunted House entrance way
Quilt Shop entrance way
Retreat Cottage porch roof

12.  Base plates.  I finish all my cottages with base plates, even if they aren't included in the instructions.  I just backstitch around a rectangle with the same number of stitches required for the sides of the cottage.  If the side walls are 42 backstitches long, and the front and back are 36 backstitches long, my base plate will be 42 backstitches x 36 backstitches.
I then find the centre and stitch a little signature that I have mapped out on graph paper.  This lets me record my name and the year that I made the cottage.   I use 1 strand over 1 thread for my signature.

If the cottage is made up of two parts, I make two base plates and sew them onto each part of the cottage before joining the two finished sections.  I did that for:
Haunted House
Quilt Shop
Retreat Cottage
I often stitch the base plate in the roof colour to save my precious gingerbread linen for future cottages, but beware that the thread count per inch can be slightly different on different brands of linen, even if they both are 28 count.

So, there you have it.  Twelve easy steps to assembling 3D embroidered ornaments.  I really do hope this posts gives more people the confidence to assemble their own Gingerbread Villages.

Remember to allow yourself plenty of time for assembly.  You've spent months stitching the ornaments, so allow yourself a few days to finish them beautifully.  One afternoon is not enough, especially if you're a beginner.  Usually I allow 3 days and spend 2 or 3 hours each day, gluing in the day time and then stitching in the evening.  I estimate that the Retreat Cottage has taken me about 12 hours to assemble over 3 days.

You can find more helpful information about the Gingerbread Village and all my little cottages on the tab on my blog, or by clicking here.

If you have any questions feel free to leave me a question below or email me at .  You can find me on Instagram @wendysquiltsandmore or on Facebook as Wendy Welsh


Julierose said...

WOW Wendy--this Village is stunning! Just beautiful work on are so talented...hugs, Julierose

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

beautiful work - I'm sure it takes quite awhile to make these and will be treasured for a long time

Sue Rostron said...

These are so lovely.

Gretchen Weaver said...

These are beautiful, such a treasure. Thanks for the tutorial. Happy Stitching!

Barb said...

These are just incredible and your workmanship is outstanding!

Chopin - A Passionate Quilter said...

Absolutely astonishing! Beautiful and loving work! You deserve an award for all the hard and tedious work! Many memories in this project! Hugs

FlourishingPalms said...

These are such charming pieces, and I admire you for all the time you've put into creating them. While they aren't for me, because we no longer decorate since no one comes to visit us, I think it's lovely that you're sharing your how-tos with everyone who IS interested in making them. You're a very generous blogger. Enjoy your holiday preparations, Wendy!

Gail said...

Wendy, I have finished the embroidery for the Needlework Shop. Can you tell me what kind of cardboard you have used in your cottages? Thanks

Julie said...

A lovely collection Wendy, you are making some real heirloom peices.

Denice Barker said...

Your villages are so beautiful! I wish I had the eyesight for this again.

Kathy said...

Just lovely wish I had the time/energy/eyesight for that little village. You should be so proud happy holidays in the land of gingerbread