Picking an ornament kit to buy:

Picture

Brand

Comments

Bucilla (or Plaid Bucilla)

Bucilla kits are the easiest to find, especially if you wish to purchase brand-new kits (as opposed to buying unopened kits off ebay).
[+] pre-stamped
[-] stitching directions are a little vague less clear than older Bucilla directions, and directions for each of the included languages are interspersed rather than split onto seperate pages.
[-] The directions are on folded 11x17 paper. This wouldn't be a problem except that they are oriented as one large sheet instead of book-folded and have text and images straight across the fold requiring you to work with a spread out the entire sheet at once.
[-] watch out for "trim a tree" type kits that contain large numbers of ornaments(often as many as 75). Look at the picture carefully. There's usually a significant number of duplicates of each ornament, and each individual ornament is typically smaller and less detailed (eg. 2" instead of 4"). In and of itself, smaller and duplicate ornaments is not a problem, but the way they arrange the pictures on the kit it would be easy to not notice you're getting a bunch of duplicates.

Bucilla (older)

Older Bucilla Kits (usually identifiable by the font used on the brand logo) are of better quality than the newer ones.
[+] pre-stamped
[+] older kits are typically stamped with a dotted line rather than a solid line which makes it easier to cut out the shapes without getting any uninvited border
[+] directions are in English only but are MUCH easier to read and follow than the newer Bucilla Kits and are more clear as to the steps. Includes more text accompanying pictures explaining the important points of the images, and the stitching types are described much more clearly.
[?] Hard to find kits include Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz

 

Disney (Bucilla) Disney kits are sometimes difficult to identify who manufactured them because the words disney are identified in big letters and "Paragon" or "Bucilla" appears in small print in a corner. However, I have never seen any Disney kits not made by a brand I would hesitate to recommend. They're good kits.
[+] Pre-Stamped
[-] There is a Disney copyright logo on the back of Pooh's shirt, which in and of itself is not a problem except that you can't tell this from the outside of the package
Disney (Paragon) [+] Quality is similar to other Paragon kits
[+] Pre-Stamped
[-] I have not been able to yet obtain a copy of a Paragon-Disney kit
Paragon [+] pre-stamped
[+] kits include fun designs like Disney and Care Bears
[-] Hard to find, I've only seen these on Ebay, I have not worked any paragon kits.
Better Homes & Gardens [?] Quality of kit unknown
[?] whether or not these are pre-stamped is unknown
[-] Hard to find brand, even on ebay
[-] I have not been able to locate a copy of one of these kits to evaluate
Sultana [+] Pre-Stamped (typically dotted rather than thick solid lines)
[+] Goldilocks & the Three Bears and the Little Old Lady who Lived in a Shoe are Sultana kits
[+] Directions include multiple pictures per ornament to show how to assemble more complicated steps (very helpful, especially if you're a visual learner).
[-] Textual directions are a little sparse, and no text accompanying stitch guide
[+] Directions gives enough detail on needle-type ("Sharps No. 10") to replace if lost or damaged
Malina [+] Pre-Stamped
[+] Single-language english directions
[+] Stich guide is clear
[-] Step by step instructions are a little vauge with steps like "Attach appliques 1 through 14 for SANTA/S FRONT" leaving you to figure out for yourself the proper order of attachment.
Titan

[+] Some fun and cute designs
[+] Include stuffing (though not enough for the entire kit)
[-] Are not pre-stamped
[-] Hand drawn/labelled patterns
[+] Detailed step by step instructions and includes tips that will help you avoid possible pitfalls
[-] Some of the pieces in the patterns say "cut 2" but include only a single copy of the pattern requiring careful foresight into how to lay out the patterns on the felt to have sufficient for all the pieces.

Design Works Crafts

Outside of package in french and english. Rarely described by the brand name in Ebay auctions. Brand name is in small print on bottom corner of front of kit.

[+] Really fun and cute designs
[-] Are not pre-stamped
[-] Hand drawn/labeled patterns
[-] Directions inside the kit are actually single language (English) despite the appearances on the exterior that french would be included too.
[+/-] Step by step assembly seemed reasonably detailed, though they don't always specify the stitch names (they just say "attach" for example) and the directions on how to do the stitches are nearly non-existent (single picture of each type of stitch, no arrows or text explanation)

Types of stamping

Solid Lines
Dotted
Unstamped
(picture of plain ol' felt goes here)
This is what comes in most kits you could buy in a store today such as Plaid Bucilla kits. The lines are very thick and easy to follow, but do require you to cut carefully to get all the border off the front of the finished applique. Typically they don't give margin for cutting inside the lines easier, so if you are not extremely precise in cutting close to the line but on the inside of it, you'll have a hard time with sequins near the edge of the fabric. Older kits from before the photocopier era often are printed with dotted lines instead of solid. The dotted lines are nice because the thinner weight of the line makes it easier to cut off the marking completely. The downside is sometimes the marks can seem to "vanish" on their own. Unstamped kits require you to lay out pattern pieces onto the felt and cut them out yourself. This can be tricky because it is hard to draw thin lines on felt. Most felt tip or markers smear or bleed too much, but pencil will only draw well on really stiff felt and requires a soft lead. Paint works good at marking lines--if you can find a brush or paint pen with a fine-enough point. Typically on unstamped felt, it is best to only draw your lines on the back of the felt so that they don't show on the finished project if they smear.

 

Where to Buy

Felt ornament kits can be tricky to find in stores (try craft stores like Micheals or Beverlys or other stores with large crafts sections like Walmart). It is much easier to buy them online.

PlaidOnline the website for Plaid sells Plaid-Bucilla ornament kits directly, having the full selection of all their current year's designs plus overstock of less popular designs from previous years.

Mary Maxim Catalog sells Plaid-Bucilla kits as well, and their stock may vary slightly from Plaid's current available choices in having different slightly older kits avalable.

Ebay has not only a huge selection (varies seasonally, many more to choose from near the holidays) but also carries lots kits that are no longer in print or from brands that have gone out of business. Plus the prices are really reasonable unless you're bidding on a rare-and-popular old kit (eg. Bucilla Alice in Wonderland kit)

Other Supplies You May Need

Stuffing. A big bag of polyester fiberfill is inexpensive. You'll definitely want to pick up a bag of this to go with your kit.

Sewing scissors. Really. They're smaller and sharper and cut through fabric and floss better than "normal" scissors.

Sewing Wax. If you're having a hard time keeping your thread from tangling and knotting, this will make the thread stiffer while you sew so it tangles less.

If your kit doesn't include pre-stamped patterns, carbon paper for fabric is needed to transfer the patterns to the felt (you can try without but its a lot harder)


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