Saturday, 26 December 2009

Christmas 2009

Hello my friends and Merry Christmas to you all. I'm sorry I didn't manage to post in advance of Christmas but there was such a lot to do. There was the wrapping of presents assisted by my little elf...

And I remembered that I had crocheted quite a lot of snowflakes which were meant to be made into a garland but which were only just being blocked on Christmas Eve. There's always next year!

There was so much to do on Christmas Eve including icing the cake, once I had been to two supermarkets to find the required gycerine!

I must tell you that my first patchwork quilt was ready in time for Christmas, too. I finished sewing all 32' of the binding on the 23rd December. I am really pleased with it.

As is Charlie Boy, of course, though not in the mood for a modelling session it seems.

But finally, the scene was set. The presents were ready under the tree... we headed out to join in the fun and I remembered to take the camera to snap one of my favourite fun local Christmassy sights on the way. Behold, the "house with the Christmas lights"...

Goodness knows how long it takes the owners to put up this display but I always enjoy seeing it when I drive past.

A collection box is put out so that people who stop and enjoy the display can contribute to a cancer charity. Nearly £2000 was raised last year.

We enjoyed a lovely Christingle service and sang the Christmas carols with gusto! The Munchkin received his Christingle and enjoyed looking at the Nativity scene in the beautiful church.

The Muchkin was exceptionally tired, I think all the excitement had finally got to him. I think he also thought that the sooner he went to bed, the sooner he'd be getting up! He didn't forget to make sure any late night visitors were catered for, though.

And, of course, like all good children, he was not disappointed next morning!

I received some wonderful presents, particularly from my thoughtful other half who had been up to mischief liaising with a certain lady, that purveyor of marvellous vintage fabrics and goodies, Donna Flower. As he warned me on the gift tag for my most marvellous present, this was unlikely to be a gift which remained just for me!

How right he was!

We enjoyed a wonderful Christmas and I really hope you all did too. It has been a pleasure knowing you all this year, especially those of you who have been prepared to come forward and comment and create a friendship between us, I really appreciate it. Now I'm signing off for a much needed break so I shall say cheerio to you all for 2009!

Monday, 21 December 2009


Here we are again, another week starts but a very special week, isn't it? The Munchkin is going to burst with barely repressed excitement before long! After a hectic weekend with guests, I feel almost at a lost end today (it won't last for long!) Much mince pie making has taken place, a few are stashed in the freezer as Delia suggested, so hopefully that's the last of those I'll be making for this year though at the rate the Munchkin gets through them, who knows?!

I must get on and cover the Christmas cake, I nearly forgot about that one. Well, you may recall that a few weeks ago, I started on my first ever patchwork quilt. I've been getting on with that in between the cooking, cleaning and present shopping, in fact I really had to get on with it as it was all over the guest bed so needed to be out of the way for our weekend guests. Here it is, the top finally all pieced together last week.

I had a few wobbles with the pattern of the squares which I had initially deliberated over for hours. I'd carefully take a row through into my den and stitch pairs of squares together, then pairs of pairs and so on until I had finished each row, but somehow, I'd inevitably forget which was the top and which the bottom so the pattern is not quite as perfect as I would have liked but I have decided this gives it "character" (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) With some trepidation, I pushed all the furniture into the corner of the room so that I could lay out my backing (simple but cosy white flannel) which I then taped to the floorboards to stop it moving. Next, I laid the batting on top (more cosy cotton) and finally, the patchworked quilt top. I took a huge pack of curved safety pins and started pinning at regular intervals, from the centre out towards the corners as Kaffe directed me to. Really wished I had some knee pads at that moment! I then began quilting on the machine, just a simple stitch in the ditch. It actually went a lot better than I thought. The pins kept the quilt "sandwich" together very well and I just rolled up each side to keep things tidy and fit it under the machine. There was however, another problem of which Kaffe had failed to warn me ...

Ummm, mummy, this looks ever so cosy! That furry backing and that thick woolly bit in the middle, just so snuggly! Thank you for making this for me.

I can even rest my tired furry head on the edge of your quilting table!

Aaaarrrggghhhh! In an almost comedic moment, Charlie-Boy decided he was truly in lurrrrve with the quilt. It was snowing outside and he clearly thought he'd found himself the perfect spot to hibernate. He's quite a hefty chap, our Charles, and despite moving him several times in the end (I had already walked away to do something else as I was too soft to move him for the first half an hour), he kept returning.

Finally, (I must have bribed Charlie with food, the only thing he loves as much as sleeping), I managed to finish the stitching in the ditch. I laid the quilt out, took out all the pins and stitched all around the edge to secure the sandwich as directed. I then trimmed the backing and batting level with the quilt top and evened up the edges of that too. I then spent a morning with the trusty rotary cutter and joined strips for the binding, a pretty floral retro cotton fabric (all my supplies except the fabrics for the quilt top came from the reliable but very-slow-to-deliver Cotton Patch).

And so that evening, I was eager to get on with hand stitching the binding on the reverse of the quilt. Or maybe not?

It's mine!

And my friends, the quilt is still in that unfinished state, except it has a lot of ginger fur on it!

More sewing then, you might remember a few posts ago, I tantalised you with a peak at some Christmas gifts I was making...

Now that they have found a new home with my lovely pal Vanessa, I can show them to you. Here are a couple of stockings I made for Vanessa and her husband. The main fabric is dyed vintage woollen blankets, the basic stocking pattern drawn out on a piece of freezer paper.

Each stocking has a cuff made from lovely patchworked vintage fabrics (I should think Donna recognises most of those!), trimmed with a vintage ribbon and there's a spotty hanging loop for wherever Vanessa and Hugo decide to put their stockings.

I tried to make Hugo's not quite so girly but my fabric collection is rather floral and pink by nature!

I then spent a fair while very enjoyably making some gift tags for the stockings and hand embroidered them with the Perle cottons I bought from the Bridport Christmas Fair. I loved working with those (for the first time), much easier than embroidery threads which tend to split, and they have such a lustrous quality to them.

Do you see that pretty button in the top right hand corner of Vanessa's tag? That is called a Dorset button, I bought a few of them from the WI craft stall in Bridport. They must have taken one clever person quite some time to make. The other buttons came from my vintage stash. I always enjoy using my precious vintage trimmings on things for Vanessa as I know she will appreciate them.

And now they have happily found a new home hundreds of miles away and will hopefully remind Vanessa of our friendship for Christmases to come.

They did look rather nice in the den though!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Festive HenHouse 2009

Hooray, it's nearly Christmas! Hooray, it's Friday evening! Hooray, no more getting up for school for 3 weeks! Hooray, I think I've finally finished decorating the house (well, very nearly almost perhaps?)! Hooray, I've finished my Christmas shopping and written all the cards!

Last year, I wrote just such a post as this for my first bloggy Christmas. I can't apologise for showing you all our Christmas decorations all over again because to me, it feels just as exciting this time around (and of course, I have lots of lovely new followers too). Each year when the decorations come out of their boxes, I've inevitably forgotten most of them and am delighted as I unwrap my "special decorations" (the pretty glass ones, the ones the other members of the household are prone to breaking!)

As if right on queue, we woke up to the white fluffy stuff this morning. Whilst I'm afraid I find the snow quite a pain for practical reasons, I cannot deny it looks rather special, it casts a lovely glowing light on everything and of course, it's very difficult to be anti-snow in a home containing an eight year old!

Herewith, our first ever photo of a snowy Christmas HenHouse taken late this afternoon. To be fair, most of the snow has already gone!

I just love peering into windows from the outside. Everything looks so magical, especially at this time of year, late in the day, when all the lights are switched on. Want a peep into the HenHouse?

The other side?

Brrrr, it's cold, though, Come on in!

Each year, I inevitably seem to add to our collection of Christmas decorations and this year is no exception. In the sitting room, two new nutcrackers are in place, possibly my favourite type of decoration, I just love them!

Back in the other side of the house, in our family room, we find the tree, finally decorated after this year's predictable "Christmas-fairy-light-fiasco". This room is our focus really, as we tend to spend most of our time in here. We have to shunt out some furniture to allow for that rather handsome tree.

I hope you will indulge me in recording this main addition to our decorations this year: my snowy village.

Back to the tree, most days the Munchkin and I play "which is your favourite decoration" and I am rather loving these Father Christmas faces, oh so jolly, and although they look quite like vintage glass, they are actually plastic (phew!).

My favourite though, must be the miniature nutcrackers. I have three of these all in different colours. One of these days, I really must go to a German Christmas market (with a spare suitcase!)

The kitchen has also had a mini festive update. Good job really, as an awful lot of my time gets spent in here in December. The oilcloth has gone red and spotty along with the cloths and another nutcracker has found a home here, having been ousted from the mantelpiece by the snowy village.

Back in the family room, the Christmas cushions covers I made last year are happily back out. There's a rather gorgeous granny blanket on the sofa (a good find on eBay recently) which is in lovely, bright, Christmassy colours. A great hit with the furry friends, too.

This weekend, snow permitting, we are expecting family to visit and in an attempt to get a little organised, I have laid the table in the dining room already. I've also put up the artificial tree I used to have in my flat (when space was more of a premium) and the Munchkin has done sterling work with the paperchains once more.

My tablecloth which I bought in the charity shop in Bridport last weekend is freshly washed and ironed and on the table along with a few other festive touches at each place. Oh golly, I can see I've forgotten the spoons!

Finally (still with me?!), let's head upstairs then.

Ah, my most beloved den. I've treated the den to a glitzy pink door wreath this year.

Inside, the fairy lights are always there, but a couple of sparkly trees are on the mantelpiece in wonderful pink and turquoise colours. Ok, they are quite hard to spot amongst all those bits 'n' pieces!

But I know they are there and I enjoy looking at them each day.

The shelves have a little decoration, too.

Phew, that tour was quite exhausting, my poor little fingers are aching from all this typing!

Lots of festive fun is taking place in the den as I type; there he is, the Munchy one, getting on with his cards. He's giving you a wave, just in case you can't see him!

He'd like to show you his creations, his cards and some snowmen he made in school.

And just to tip Michela over the edge(!), here is the Munchkin looking his most angelic at his school play on Wednesday...

Have a great weekend, snow or no snow! See you all next week.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Winter Wonderland

Hello, back again, here I am! I am wondering if there's anybody out there, you've all gone remarkably quiet on me...

Well, I shall whitter on regardless because I have something to share with you today. Do you remember me showing you this photo last week?

Something unusual was going on in the den, not the usual fabric-induced sewing frenzy, but something of a decidedly cardboardy nature. I blame Alicia of that fabulous blog, Posie Gets Cosy (I blame her in the nicest possible way, you understand, in fact in a very grateful way).

That little white card house was just the tip of the crafty iceberg. You see, I didn't need just one house...

...I needed a church too. And LOTS of other houses, oh yes, indeedy.

I also needed glue, paint, shiny paper, glitter and fluffy pretend snow. As you do. Golly, I tell you, my den is never normally this messy, I found that bit quite stressful.

And the tin of Quality Street, yes that was essential too. You'll see why.

Now much as I would love to be able to paint or consider myself an arty type, I'm really rather well... not. But I have a go, all the same. Things never seem to turn out quite as fantastic as I want them to. That's because you need a lot of talent for this arty stuff. It's a lot harder than it looks!

So, there I was, mooching on the 'net through my favourite blogs about a week ago, and my breath caught at the sight of Alicia's stunning village. What can I say? I needed a village of my very own, my own Winter Wonderland. I was transported back to Christmases in years gone by, to my aunt's house in Chester where she always used to have a party on the evening of Christmas day. She owned a small hotel so she had the room to entertain us all. Looking back, I can feel an amused smile forming on my lips. We girls (being me and my three sisters) used to have a sort of love/hate relationship with this party. Think the Christmas party scene in Bridget Jones. Yes, I bet you know the sort of party I'm talking about. There would be my aunt's boxer dogs under the table, slobbering away and hoping for a dropped sausage; the frankly rather naff Christmas presents; and her other half who was always eager to plant a yuckily sloppy kiss on your cheek. You really wanted to be at home listening to your new LP, stuffing your face with Quality Street and watching James Bond.

But the best thing about the party, and really it was always quite a jolly party to be fair, was the display my aunt habitually had each Christmas on the sideboard in her hallway. It was a complete (enormous) Christmas scene, though more of a nativity than a winter village, and I remember being mesmerised by it. The landscape, the undulating hills, were fashioned from crumpled up brown paper; there was a pool of shiny blue acetate; there was textured sand in the desert over which the Three Wise Men were travelling; and there was a proper stable, where the crib was to be found with a tiny Baby Jesus and all the animals. Oh, it was just magical. I do wonder what on earth happened to it.

I'm not a particularly religious person, perhaps that is why I am drawn to the winter village over a nativity (although the Munchkin does have a nativity set). So, for several days I toiled: glue over my fingers; paint on my hands; glitter just about everywhere. I'd like to think this is a work in progress; as I find little accessories, I might add to it, I might even make different houses (but I am pretty well all housed-out by now). May I present to you my own snowy village?

Of course, it really looks better once night sets in...

At the centre, up on the hill, there is of course, the church complete with its stained glass windows. (I had to eat all the orange and strawberry cremes from the Quality Street tin to make the windows. It's a hard job and all that.)

In the hills to the West, there's a small clutch of houses, nestling among their bottle brush trees.

There are a few more fine residences to the East.

Some have their curtains drawn to keep out the snowy cold. Vintage fabric curtains, of course!

And some households are decorating their front doors with Christmas wreaths (pipe cleaner wreaths!)

My snowy village, born 2009...

Hopefully around for many years to come. On a practical note, when I was wobbling a bit over my (lack of) painting skills, I wondered if I should have tried to buy a load of rather more professional looking houses. But the cardboard was pretty much instantly on hand. And it was thrifty too, oh yes indeedy. I had all the mount board hanging around, glue stick, glue gun, glittery card, craft knife, fabric off-cuts, pipe cleaners and all that. I did buy a few tubs of glitter from eBay and my local craft shop, oh and the green and gold bottle brush trees from Sainsburys. But, the white fabric was a remnant from my local sewing shop, just £1. It has a sort of sheen to it which is really rather nice, very snowy. The other coloured bottle brush trees (they're even nicer than the Sainsbury's ones) came from Poundland (yes, really), three trees for £1. I can tell you, I was very chuffed about that! Bottle brush trees in pink, turquoise and silver - for a pound! I picked up the little snowman and the glittery snowflakes in the RSPCA charity shop in Bridport at the weekend. All told, my snowy village has been a remarkably thrifty venture, I think it has cost me less than £20. Many ever-resourceful bloggers left comments on Alicia's blog which Alicia then formed into a list of links, directing to templates for houses or houses to buy. I did print the templates off, only to find I apparently needed to enlarge them. Lacking the ability to do so, and having to get on with my project instantly, (as I always have to), I just drew up my own to appropriate proportions.

I hope you enjoyed seeing my snowy village and a massive thank you to Alicia for inspiring me and to all the crafty bloggers for the links and inspiration. The glitter is just about out of my hair so I am going to go and sit in front of the fire and survey my village!