How to: Julia Usher’s Needlepoint Gingerbread Stocking
There are myriad ways to decorate the stockings for this project, so feel free to get creative! This needlepoint pattern is impressive, but it is time-consuming and requires a rock-steady hand. Feel free to cut corners by applying the pattern to just a portion of the stocking body.
For a simpler design, outline and flood stockings and write a family member’s name on each one to turn them into place cards or personalized gifts. Another timesaving note: The back sides of the stockings needn’t be decorated if the cookies will be viewed from only one side.
Step 1. Outline and flood the toe, heel and trim at the top of the stocking with red royal icing. Be sure to adjust the icing to the correct consistencies for outlining and flooding, respectively, for these tasks. Allow the icing to set for 1 hour or more, until a crust has formed. (A longer drying time will help prevent the dark red color from bleeding into the white grid that will be piped in the next step.)
Step 2. Pipe the needlepoint pattern. This step is nothing more than outlining and flooding taken to the extreme. The same basic techniques apply; you will just need to take a little more time if piping a very tight grid like this one. (The stocking below was decorated by Post staffer Roxanne Roberts; go to www.juliausher.com to see her handiwork.)
■ Fill a small disposable piping bag with white icing of outlining consistency (before you add any water to thin it) fitted with a very small round tip, such as PME No. 0. Slowly pipe thin lines, parallel to one another, running the length of the stocking. If you’re an advanced decorator, challenge yourself by piping the lines about 1 / 8 to 1 / 16 inch apart for a very detailed grid. Alternatively, open up the grid by spacing the lines farther apart. Space the lines as uniformly as possible to ensure that your end pattern will also be uniform. Turn the cookie 90 degrees and then pipe lines running perpendicular to the first set, to completely fill the interior of the stocking with a white grid. Let the grid dry until the icing has crusted, about 30 or more minutes.
■ Thin any leftover white icing to flooding consistency (similar to Elmer’s Glue). Also, mix red and green icing to flooding consistency. Then proceed to flood some holes in the grid, using a disposable bag and tip for each color. Note: It’s best to allow the icing in one cell to set slightly before filling an adjacent cell, as this will prevent the icing from flowing together and will result in more distinct beads.
Step 3. Use white icing of beadwork consistency to pipe larger white dots under the red trim at the top of the stocking and around the heel and toe “seams.”
Step 4. If needed, conceal the ends of lines with a few icing dots or a larger edible embellishment of your choice, such as sugar snowflakes or dragees. Use fairly thick icing “glue” to quickly adhere those or other relatively heavy sugar objects to the cookies. The thicker the icing, the faster it dries, and the less likely large pieces are to move around.