One of my favorite, inexpensive, go-to gifts is a personalized framed cross stitch. Once you've finished the cross stitch, all you need is some time, leftover thread, and a frame (thrift store ones work great) to make a lovely finished product.
Design credits: The rocket design is from The Cross Stitcher's Complete Companion by Bookspan (page 203). The cursive font is "Blessed" from The Best of Cross Stitch Basics edited by Susan White Sullivan (page 86).
Step 1: Tools and Materials Needed
Finished cross stitch
Thin cardboard (cereal boxes work great)
Iron and ironing board
About one skein of cross stitch thread, any color
Cross stitch needle
Step 2: Preparing the Frame
Remove the glass from your frame. Place it on a flat piece of thin cardboard and trace it. I recommend using cereal box cardboard. If you use something too thick, you risk your finished product not fitting into the frame.
Wash the glass using dish soap or glass cleaner. Set it aside to air dry.
Cut out the traced shape on the cardboard, cutting completely inside the lines. Your cardboard should fit inside the frame (where the glass will rest) with a few millimeters of wiggle room on all sides. Err on the side of more wiggle room, not less.
Step 3: Iron the Cross Stitch
Before you frame your work, it needs to be ironed so that the creases made by the hoop aren't preserved for posterity under glass. Start the iron on a low setting and increase the heat as needed. Do not use steam. Only iron the cross stitch design on the off side. If your background is unstitched, you can iron around the design on the finished side, but take care to avoid the finished design.
Step 4: Position the Cardboard
Center the cardboard on the off side of your design, leaving at least an inch on every side. Make sure to double check the positioning by flipping the work.
When you have it positioned, fold the fabric over the longest sides and crease it, as shown. You will attach this side first.
Step 5: Begin Sewing
Cut a length of whole (not unraveled) cross stitch thread. I use pieces of about two feet in length. Thread the end through your needle a keep only a short tail (as shown). Tie several knots in the other end. You may need to reload the needle several times as you go. This is an excellent use for excess thread in strange colors that you are unlikely to use again.
Thread the needle into the folded over fabric, at least 1 cm from the edge. Sew the two long sides of the fabric together, with stitches about 1 cm apart, as shown.
After three to five stitches, stop and pull the stitches tight one at a time so that the fabric is stretched flat over the cardboard. Hold the stitches tight with a small piece of masking tape. Then tie a knot to hold it.
Continue stitching until you have sewed the entire length.
Flip the design over and make sure it is still centered on the cardboard properly. If it is not, you can carefully pull off the masking tape (the knots should hold the stitches) and then slowly pull the design into the right position while maintaining the tautness in the stitches.
Step 6: Sewing the Other Side
Trim any excess fabric from the unsewn sides. Too much excess fabric will result in fat corners that don't fit into the frame. Fold the sides over using neat corners as though you were wrapping a present. Tape down the corners and prepare another needle and thread.
Using the same sew-and-tape method, attach the short sides. Take care to maintain the neatly folded corners of the fabric.
With both sides sewn up, you may notice some minor bending in the cardboard due to the tautness of the sewing. This is okay, since the framing will flatten it.
Step 7: Framing the Cross Stitch
Make sure the glass for the frame is dry, and if necessary use a paper towel to dry it (don't use a dish towel, which may leave lint). Carefully insert the glass into the frame. Lay the finished cross stitch over it.
Re-assemble the back of the frame. You will most likely not need any of the usual padding between the cross stitch and the back of the frame.
And voila! Your cross stitch is framed.