If you hang stockings as a Christmas tradition, what’s the story behind your family’s treasures? Are they a mix of old and new? Are they handmade? Did you find them in a catalog or fall in love with them at a favorite shop? Whatever the source, age, style or material, the stockings “hung by the chimney with care” are a special part of each family’s holiday tradition.
This illustration from a Victorian storybook shows young children hanging one of their everyday long black socks on the fireplace mantle “in hopes Saint Nicholas soon would be there” to fill the stockings with small toys, candy, fruit, coins or other small gifts. The origin of a Christmas stocking is credited to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children. While St. Nicholas was known for many things, his traits of wealth and generosity were highly admired. Popularized further by Clement Moore‘s 1822 A Visit from Saint Nicholas (more commonly known today as The Night Before Christmas), stockings have been a favorite part of the anticipation of Christmas by children for decades.
One of my favorite Christmas stockings is the small red one belonging to my brother-in-law, Ed McWilliams. Of the 11 McWilliams children, Ed’s (#7) stocking is the only one of the childhood originals I’ve seen. Ed is beyond proud of his holiday treasure, personalized with his name and hand embroidered by his mother. Who wouldn’t be proud to have that!
My cousin, Julie Truax, has a collection of knit Gee Bee brand stockings originally purchased by her mother, my cousin Judy George. She’d ordered a personalized stocking for each of her children, their spouses, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Judy has passed on, but Julie hangs hers and her family’s stockings on her own fireplace mantle, continuing the Christmas morning memories.
These cute stockings from Pottery Barn Kids belong to my niece Chloe Walker’s four children. Purchased in 2007 when her youngest child, Claire, joined the team, each stocking features a different whimsical motif. The kids have loved them – and you can see why!
If you know me, you’d know I lean toward the homemade! I belong to Ohio Valley and Cincinnati Area Quilters Facebook group of quilters and hobbyists. Members are encouraged to share about quilt making ideas, so I thought I’d share a couple of Christmas stocking photos from some members.
Stephanie Raker has created a family of stockings in the same chevron pattern made of 1 1/2” strips, using color to distinguish between her children and their subsequent families. She and her husband’s stockings are created in gold fabrics, and their children and their spouses have a colored cuff (red, blue, green). The grandkids’ stockings have the body of the stocking in their parent’s color.
Linda Upp shared a photo of a stocking she created that won the Guild’s stocking challenge. What a complex design and beautiful vibrant colors!
And would you not expect a family named Stewart to go with plaid? (Such a Scottish surname!) Annette Stewart has hung an assortment of colorful stockings from a wooden shelf in front of one of her gorgeous quilts.
I’m also a member of the Embroidery Guild of America (Louisville Chapter), an organization dedicated to the study, preservation, and promotion of needle arts. The group has many talented members, and here are photos from two – one using cross stitch and one using needlepoint.
Angi Collins purchased “stitchable stockings” for herself and her husband over 30 years ago and used patterns from a magazine to cross stitch in the cuff. The center stocking was purchased for her son, David, and features the “Hogwarts Express” train from a French Harry Potter pattern collection.
Martha Katz, who is also a member of the American Needlepoint Guild, sent a photo of an intricately stitched stocking illustrating a variety of decorative stitches. Edwin is one lucky guy!
You may recall my recent post about the newly formed stitching group here in Madison, Indiana? One of our new stitching friends, Cathy Cleveland, is knee deep in a complicated cross stitch stocking project for her son-in-law. It’s slow going, but she’s determined!
The overall design is really cute, but if you take a close look at the charted stitches, you can see why this project will take a while! I’m excited to watch Cathy’s progress during out stitch-ins.
As for me, I favor the handmade needlepoint stockings. I was inspired by my next door neighbor, Diane, in 1978 (Richardson, Texas) to create a needlepoint stocking for our infant daughter, Carrie. We visited a needlepoint shop, and after I recovered from initial sticker shock over the cost of a hand painted canvas, I decided to design my own! Using my Aunt Jane’s “Frosty the Snowman” Christmas card from that year, I drew the design on a piece of white canvas, bought some threads, and away I went! Here’s a photo of Carrie looking at what filled her sock on Christmas Day 1980.
I loved designing and stitching the stockings for my family of four. Since our first tree was decorated with gingerbread man cookies and red checked gingham bows, I chose those motifs for my stocking. Ken (“Big Mac” on the stocking) wanted an old fashioned Christmas tree on his, and I did my best to illustrate that. I used an Avon Products’ “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” lip balm case as the inspiration design for our son Kevin’s stocking in 1981.
Thirty-one years later when the kids married and grandchildren started arriving, I’d gotten over canvas sticker shock… I had a blast finding hand painted Christmas stocking canvases from Annie & Company Needlepoint and Rita’s Needlepoint in New York City, Stitchen Time & Stitch in Louisville, and most recently at Rittenhouse Needlepoint in Philadelphia.
For me and probably everyone who’s made the family’s Christmas stockings. each one has been a labor of love, a joy from beginning to end. It was so cool to see them all in a row when our three families gathered in Seattle for Christmas 2017, and it’s heartwarming to see them on display in each of our homes in 2021.
This season as you notice Christmas stockings around you – in your home or the homes of your children, siblings, cousins or friends – I hope you remember their beginnings or learn their stories. If you’re starting new holiday traditions this year and Christmas stockings will be hung in your home for the first time, I wish you many years of fond memories ahead.