Sunday, 19 December 2010

going crackers

Whilst the snow has been a huge inconvenience (I can't get my car out in the week before Christmas....) it has also allowed me a lot more creative time. I had all these ideas floating around in my head I wasn't too sure when I was actually going to make anything.

Time at home is one thing I have plenty of at the moment and as we are all slightly feeling the effects of being stuck in for 4 days I've been creating the things on my 'to make' list in a desperate attempt to occupy the children so we don't all end up 'going crackers'.

I picked up some cracker 'innards' in the Hobbycraft sale last year and we've been collecting loo rolls for ages with a view to making our own crackers, but I never really thought it would happen. Unable to get out and buy some glamorous new paper we've had to improvise and raid the cupboards to see what we could find. An old Financial Times provided a great base wrap and then we selected bits of black, white and silver paper before decorating our own crackers. I then secretly stuffed them with the obligatory bad joke, hat and tacky toy.

We haven't been able to get out and buy a Christmas Tree so, again, we've improvised and have a rather odd, branchless tree from the garden strewn with a set of lights which are far too small and dense for our tree. Lying precariously on the few branches that do exist are our crackers. This really will be a Christmas that we'll remember!

whoppee! cushion

Every time we have to give the great grandparents a present its a photo in a frame. Whilst I know they love having endless photos of their great grandchildren around their house I feel that it slightly lacks originality 7 years on. So this Christmas I decided to give the photo a little twist using one of my favourite tricks, transfer paper.

It's the same stuff I use for the letters on my bunting, and I promised to share the secret. It's really easy to use, just so long as you remember that you need to make writing and pictures into mirror images before you print otherwise you'll end up with everything back to front. I use T-shirt transfer paper. You create your image or text on the computer, print it onto the transfer paper then iron the transfer on to your fabric and voila.

Whilst I was already pleased with how the photo came out on this lovely tumbled linen I got from Sarah I was even more pleased with my appliqued label that I put on the back of the cushion to give it that added personal touch. I typed my Christmas message onto some calico before stitching it onto the cushion, but wasn't entirely sure if it would work. Using a reinforcement as my template I hand stitched a hole and then the thread through the label and I was thrilled by the rather naive result. I don't know why I just find it strangely satisfying.

Lets hope the grandparents do to!

Monday, 13 December 2010

a partridge in a pear tree

I love to make my own Christmas cards. Don't ask me why. Since there are so many other things to do at this time of year it would be much easier to pop to the shops and buy myself a load but this year I really couldn't pass up the opportunity to use my new Partridge stamp, from one of our favourite shops, Paper Source (will they ever reach the UK?).

Then I remembered that I also have a lovely pear stamp and the theme was obvious. The great thing about rubber stamps is that the results are better if they aren't perfect so for a short while I roped in the children. We did have a production line going; one child gluing the graph paper trees, two stamping, but as I realised we needed far more cards than I originally thought they got bored.

I couldn't resist finishing them off with a little machine stitching. Sewing on paper is another thing Sarah introduced me to and I seize every opportunity to have a go. Like a lot of my work it was quite an organic process, I never really know what I'm going to end up with until I've finished. As our shelves are fast filling up with red and silver cards I was pleased with the fresh and untraditional colours.

I must admit having made them, written them, stamped them etc I was pleased to see the back of them all when I dropped them into the post box last night!

christmas stocking workshop

I can't believe that another week has flown by. The weather has returned to its usual winter damp, greyness yet this time last week the conditions were amazing.

It was cold and bleak, treacherously icy and yet crisp, white and beautiful with Minchinhampton Common shrouded in thick, mysterious, fog (causing a slight problem for people coming to our workshops since they couldn't see to read the signposts). Heavy frost had completely covered the branches of the trees and they looked like something out of Narnia. It couldn't have been a more appropriate setting for our Christmas Stocking Workshop.

Despite the conditions everyone did manage to make it and they were welcomed in to home baked cookies and fresh coffee before sitting down to start a busy day of sewing. Sarah took centre stage sharing her expert knowledge and demonstrating some machine and hand stitching techniques, applique, covering seams, making pockets (the list goes on).

Through the morning everyone had the chance to try out their own stitches, and to create their own samplers, while Sarah wandered round sharing ideas and giving any help that was required. Since, again, french knots seem to cause a problem for a lot of people this was of great benefit!

While Sarah is the one with the know how I scurry around supplying cups of tea or coffee, cakes and biscuits and of course lunch. Since we both enjoy food as much as we enjoy creating we feel that the enjoyment of our courses can only be enhanced by the provision of plentiful, edible goodies!

The most popular part of the day seems to be the hunting through our scrap baskets; selecting colours, textures, trimmings and ribbons and pulling together ideas. People do enjoy a good rummage, but there is also immense satisfaction as an idea comes together.

As everyone is encouraged to move at their own speed not everyone went home with a finished Stocking, but for those that didn't finish everything needed to complete the project at home was provided in the file, along with handy tips and notes to help them on their way.

Do you know what I think people enjoy most about these days? The opportunity to spend guilt free, uninterrupted time doing something you enjoy. Add in a few new sewing tricks and the realisation that you can achieve masses in a day and that feeling is fantastic. And in the run up to Christmas such an opportunity is a real treat.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

katie bonas furniture

 local lovely lady Katie Bonas is having an open day to celebrate the launch of her new website . Katie is an expert in the field of painted  vintage furniture and specializes in creating bespoke pieces for her discerning cotswold customer base. she sometimes uses my fabric too!!

anyway katies open day features her own lovely furniture alongside charlotte macey textiles, lolly and boo, amy jane interiors, and myself (ghastly weather and sickly children permitting!) details below for any of you local ladies ...
Launch Open Day - please join me for mulled wine and mince pies to celebrate the launch of my new website on Thursday 9th December from 11am - 3pm at the The Old Plumbers Shop, Yanworth, Nr Cheltenham, GL54 3LQ. Several other local designer-makers will also be joining me, so it's the perfect opportunity for a spot more Christmas shopping!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

the arrival of advent

This year November seems to have been a particularly hectic month for both Sarah and me, thankfully things have quietened down (for me at least) and I'm looking forward to having the chance to be a bit more creative in the run up to Christmas.

The first opportunity presented itself last night. I always find myself on the evening of 30th November exhausted having spent the day wrapping presents, baking cakes, making special breakfast, packed lunch and supper all in celebration of boy's birthday. And then I have to stay up late making an advent calendar for the children (of course I'm not quite organised enough to have done it in advance).

It's a tradition that started before children. I used to make hubby one, always steering well clear of chocolate (they are on a par with party bags in my view!). Despite the fact my children have personalised, chocolate calendars from Grandparents and tasteful, glitter-covered, traditional ones from Godparents I still have to make them one from me. I try to make something that develops into something else as we count down the days.

This year I've gone a bit mad with paper. I was trying to save a few pennies, trying to think of a theme that I could follow through all over Christmas and yet still had a traditional and decorative feel and to be honest, I am just a sucker for paper. Plus I had to find a use for the delicious green velvet ribbon I bought at great expense in Anthropologie the last time I was in London.

It's not like I need justification for owning it but this year I've certainly made the most of my label cutter, each day directing the children in what to make. I've provided scissors, needle and thread and buttons and bells. Old sheets of music, graph paper and pages from ancient books have been presented in glissine bags to help the children create a bird or a snowflake, a bell or a leaf to hang in place of the label they've removed. Hopefully by Christmas Eve we'll have a whole seasonal garland hanging above the roaring fire.