All the complaints we had last year about the layout--designers in sections rather than alpha, graph and color key on different pages--continue as the layout is the same. Since there are 75 projects, if they gave each person a page and had the same number of two page layouts that they have now (eight), they would still use the same number of pages AND the readers (that's us!) would be happy. How hard can this be? Sigh.
This year, the divisions are labeled with Christmas carols and songs that seem to have nothing to do with the ornaments themselves. So, our first group of ornaments is called "O Holy Night," but only one is "holy." All are, however, primarily red. Several stitched entirely in red include JBW "Star" and La-D-Da's "Tis Red." Plum Street's "Love and Joy" is probably my favorite. As you know, I have stitched several of Fancy Work's carol ornaments. This year's bothers me because the song lyrics are out of order. At the top it says "Let earth receive her King," the middle section has "Joy" in large letters and under that it says "to the world, the Lord is come." Is it wrong of me to hate? Don't worry, you won't want to stitch it anyway, the floss key is on the reverse of the pattern. Sigh.
"Silver Bells" is one of the few places where the ornaments and title match up. The ornaments are all silver or bluish. Except the one I like, which is called "hope" (My Big Toe). Some people may argue that Christmas is the season of hope, but I kind of associate that virtue with Easter. Nevertheless... I like the "Holiday Peacock" from Courtney Collection more for its finishing than the freaky bird but even I am repulsed by "Dashing through the Dough" a "goody holder." And you know my Christmas is all about the Santa Claus. I do like Forget-Me-Nots in Stitches beadwork snowflake she cribbed from an old magazine. I've always thought someone should revisit needlework patterns from old women's magazines and reprint or update some of the patterns our foremothers would have stitched. I also like the lettering on Charland Design's stocking though I am not sure that the motifs work together.
"Carol of the Bells" contains no bells. These ornaments are red and green. On this page I am particularly fond of Blackbird's (of course!) "Floral Gift." I also like Ink Circle's "Stained Glass Pine" though I liked it a lot better when I though the background was stitched in an overdye that randomly made that pattern and not three different flosses that have to be placed particularly. Although I have a small collection of The Artist's Collection's Santas, I'm underwhelmed by the colors this year. I'll have to pull them and see what I think. (Early assessment is that they are too bright.) Moss Creek, who always gives us a history lesson, turns to Scottish tradition this year. My Scottish husband (he was born there to a Scottish mother) suggests that people aren't quite as into Oidche Choinnle (say it, it's fun!) as she suggests.
"Joy to the World"--the golden ornaments--has one of my favorites and one almost favorite. Monsterbubble's "Day Four"--the calling birds--is perhaps my favorite of the whole magazine. If you are looking for colly birds (blackbirds) you'll be disappointed, since they are red and green. Now, you may remember that monsterbubbles produced my favorite design last year too, but what I want to know, nay need to know, is what happened to the second and third days? The one that almost does it for me is Midsummer Night Designs "I love Christmas" which has a tone-on-tone background of the lyrics to "Oh Christmas Tree." The reason I am not fully on board is that the lyrics don't run across the ornament. You have "Oh Christma/Oh Christma/of all the tre/lovel each/you b...ng to/ light meani." See what I mean? The rest of the ornaments in this section practically fade into the background for me.
"Silent Night" is another red and green section, which includes Homespun Elegance, Sweetheart Tree, and Prairie Schooler. My favorites here are the Cherished Stitches Pin Keep and Jeannette Douglas's (yes, I'm surprised too!) Christmas Stamp Ornament. She says that this is based on the new Christmas stamp. Since she is Canadian, I figured it was a new stamp from north of the border, but I have been unable to find it. I'm hoping they did a lousy job editing her story because she talks about filling her stamp collecting book with Easter seal stamps because the only ones she got were from Holland and Canada. "And it was quite something to get one from an Eastern Bloc country." Um, hello?
"White Christmas" is the snowmen and snowflake ornaments, and you know how I love snowmen! My favorite of this bunch is SamSarah's "Love." I may even be inspired to stitch one of these before Christmas. I also like Amy Bruecken's and Miss Crescent's snowmen. Honestly I don't think anyone's gone wrong on this page.
"The First Noel" seems bright and cheerful but that may be caused by the backdrop. Little by Little and Legacy Designs seem to have perfectly coordinated their Quaker-inspired designs. Like them both. I like Ladybug Lane's "Joy" ornament that is accented by JABC buttons. Casey Buonaugurio continues to focus on converting flavors to cross stitch with a peppermint latte. (How does she not weigh 1200 pounds?) I like the Erica Michaels 40-count rendition of "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" though I'm not so fond of the finishing. I also like Charlotte's Web's angel. The story on this one is cute: Charlotte was nostalgic for a particular Christmas ornament of her youth, so she stitched a replica. Nice! How much do I hate to see large chunks of magazine being wasted on literary Christmas quotes? Use it to perfect the layout!
Last, and perhaps least, is the "Little Drummer Boy" section. This is where the much ballyhooed sock monkey appears. The crazy bird from Jemini this year is a puffin! I'm always happy to see those birds, even if I've yet to stitch one of them. The dragon lovers will be happy to see Jennifer's gift, and the kitty lovers will be pleased with Brittercup's design of a cat among the presents. Dog lovers can hang. Finally, I'm a little disturbed by "When Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney." People, we don't want to freak the kids out.
I know many of you skip over the stories, and frankly you're not missing much. I think many of the layout problems could be solved simply by including only the ornaments. From my perusal of the stories, I think they are often harder work that designing the ornament. They're either poorly written or poorly edited. And most of them are boring, frankly. Family stories are either the same (we all have that story about...) or are so odd that they should be kept under wraps. And I honestly don't care about your grandchildren; you're the only one who finds their antics cute. Everyone is being polite when they nod and smile. Look carefully, you'll see our eyes have glazed over when you start telling us all their ages. Sandra Sullivan (Homespun Elegance) puts Martha Stewart to shame with her story which isn't about Christmas at all--it's about her daughter's wedding. (See why we need to get rid of these?) She handcut savory shortbread into a "W" to put on all the salads at the reception. Frankly, I would have been a lot happier not knowing that.
There are only 16 ornaments that I would put on my to-be-stitched list. The fewest in ages. I also blame the magazine for the lack of funny in my review. I keep looking at it and reading it but I got nothin'. Maybe we're all a little tired.