Friday, 31 December 2010

Christmas 2010

Is there any day of the year better than Christmas Eve? I think it's the most exciting day of the year and over the last few years, we've created our own little family traditions to which we all look forward. Once Mr HenHouse finishes work, we feel we can really start celebrating! So early evening, it was off to the Christingle service...

Awww, for how many more years can we hang onto him looking this angelic (if a little "shaggy dog" in the hair department!)

Then it's out for dinner. A relief for me from all the cooking to come!

Can't stay out too late though! There's essential jobs to be done at home if the man in red is to visit...

Ahh, this is the best bit, pjs on in front of the fire, snuggling under the eidy, tin of Quality Street out, everything to look forward to the next day!

We are incredibly lucky with the Munchkin in that he is not a child who starts jumping up and down at some horrendous hour half way through the night but waits for us to get up at a sensible time for the festivities to begin on Christmas Day. And the reward for this good behaviour?!

Ah yes, Father Christmas has not disappointed! Jacky-Ginge is wondering what on earth is going on and why he's being made to wear a stupid red bow? He's enjoying having so many people sitting down and having a choice of laps on which to station himself, however.

Seems other gifts were well received, too!

Even if the Munchkin did think it was a cat, not a fox!

Yum yum, all that present opening is hard work...

So, that was Christmas, over in a flash, all to quickly, as usual. We've finally been able to get together with family, despite most of us being at various stages of the dreaded cold bug and it was a joy to see homemade gifts being appreciated as they found new homes...

Me? Well I did rather well in the gifts department, too. The eagle eyed amongst you (my sister!) will recognise this gorgeous vintage crazy patchwork throw from my Bridport post. A certain someone managed to slip back and wrap it up for me for Christmas Day. Jacky approves!

I also received this gorgeous Orla radio which I wanted for my "new" quilting room upstairs.

However, it seems I have competition for the lovely big table in my quilting room. Ohhh, the Munchkin has been busy since Christmas Day!

All aboard the Hornby express!

Chuff chuff!

You can visit the shops (or the farm!)

Whoosh! There goes Clan Line!

Clan Line is hauling The Orient Express (as in real life) complete with Pullman coaches. Want a ride? Your table awaits with its working lamp!

Yes indeedy, there is one happy chap. The Munchkin? No, his Dad, of course!

Now my friends, New Year awaits us so we wave goodbye to you for a while and indeed to 2010. It has, as they say, been a very good year.


Monday, 27 December 2010

What to Give?

... to the people who have everything? Namely my parents!

I was in a quandry, as usual, as to what to get them for Christmas and only decided a few weeks before Christmas that the obvious answer was of course, a quilt! I scoured the web for some fabric suitable for my parents' home and decided on the Fresh Cottons collection by Moda. Of course, the snow meant that my parcel took an age to arrive, it didn't land at HenHouse central until about the 13 December, the exact same day as the civil war fabric from America which I had also been waiting on to complete a Christmas gift. Aaarrgghh!!!

I had seen a quilt design way back on a blog somewhere (apologies that I have no idea where) and mentally kept an image of it in my head. It seemed simple enough to recreate: nine patch blocks combined with heart applique blocks on a white background. I bought a layer cake of the Fresh Cottons fabric (this is a pack of 40 10" squares) which is a good and easy way to get a co-ordinated palette of fabrics. It's not the way I usually work, piecing miscellaneous fabrics together, but it was very refreshing to have the colour and design leg work done for me, especially at such a late stage! And so began a very busy week. Up working on the quilt at 7am, sometimes hand quilting at 11pm at night!

Thank you, Mr HenHouse for your very-long-quilt-holding-arms!

I drew out the design on paper, I needed 24 of each type of block to reach the desired size. The quilt can be a throw on the sofa (my intention I suppose) but I made it large enough to go across the foot of a double bed if desired. I was aware I needed to be careful in my cutting to get the most out of the limited fabric. So I first cut out 24 hearts using a handmade cardboard template using the more vibrant coloured and patterned fabrics (as these were to be appliqued onto a white cotton background). I was then able to cut the remaining 10" squares into 3" strips. I strip pieced these and cross-cut them for the nine-patch blocks. I also cut out small 3" squares from the fabric left after the hearts had been cut and laboriously pieced these individually too until I had the correct number of nine-patch blocks. Phew!

I used spray baste to temporarily position the hearts on the white background squares. I then used the blanket stitch on my machine to secure them, using co-ordinated thread. Once the quilt "sandwich" was together, I hand quilted round each one with a simple running stitch in different shades of Perle cotton.

I used for the first time, the deluxe weight of my favourite Dream Cotton batting. This has a thick loft and it did feel very pleasingly snuggly! It did make the quilting a bit heavy going due to the weight but as this was only simple "in the ditch" quilting, it was no big deal once the machine was adjusted to the correct tension.

Once all that was done, my quandry was what to use to bind the quilt. I hadn't bought any yardage of the co-ordinating fabric and there was nothing in my stash in a large enough piece as these were not really my usual colours (I usually find I need about half a metre to bind a quilt, depending on the size, of course). I decided therefore to make a scrappy binding. This was the first time I had done this and I absolutely loved the result! I used any tiny little bits of fabric I had left from the layer cake and cut them all to a uniform 2.5" wide. I added in two dotty fabrics in suitable colours from my stash and simply end-pieced all the strips together before making double-fold binding in the usual way. I think it suits the homely, folky feel of this quilt and wasn't actually that time consuming.

I backed the quilt with a 108" wide backing fabric which I did still cut in half and piece to save on wastage. I was really pleased with this. It was a gorgeous fabric that had a really soft feel to it. A vintage embroidered patch was the finishing touch.

My mum and dad seemed to be very pleased with it. Phew!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

I wish could be Christmas every day-yyyyyy!

Are you all ready then, ready for the big day? Oooooh, it's almost here, I'm so excited, Mr HenHouse finishes work tomorrow lunchtime and then the festivities can really begin. I've been beavering away here at home: cooking, wrapping, shopping, crafting, worrying over parcels which have not turned up, being pleased at parcels that have turned up..!

The jukey is loaded with seasonal tunes...

...and is looking a tad festive itself.

Yes, there has been quite a bit of this...

Not just in the hall!

The Christmas cake, baked long ago and diligently "fed" ever since, has been iced and it's all I can do to stop myself ploughing into it before Christmas Day. I've been making do with the gingerbreads (how stoic of you, Hen!)

Today, I even found the time to lay the table in the dining room as this is one thing I can do without having to do on the big day.

The Munchkin gets most excited about the choccies left by each person's place. This year there are two so he'll be a happy chappy!

Of course, there has still been much crafty stuff going on. Last week, I felt so tired with all the gifts I was making but this week with them all safely finished, I am really able to enjoy things and take everything at a more leisurely pace. I have even found time to make more gifts I hadn't expected to. Like this cushion, for example. Oh lovely red patchworky cushion, you.

Now I'm blushing a little as I write this as I had no idea this morning when I bought this cushion down from my Den to photograph it (before wrapping it), that I was going to like it so much on this chair in the dining room! Aaaarrrrgghhh!

I'm sorry but it simply has to stay!

I also managed to finish our Christmas quilt last week and am pleased with its ability to look bright and cheery and to be useful, too!

Along with the star blocks, I found a pattern for this tree block in a book which my sister gave to me and thought: a ha, Christmas tree, Christmas quilt!

The Munchkin has been poorly with a cold this last week so has been a little less exuberant. There has been much snuggling with the quilt and his ever constant furry friend.

Talking of furry friends, here I am attempting to hand sew my hexagons - under my latest, and very bouffey, ginger eidy - and two very large and furry ginger toms!

Back to the makes then, some things shall have to wait until after the big day to be revealed. However, I can keep the Munchkin away from my blog and show you this furry foxy friend I made for him to add to his menagerie...

I hope he is well received, he looks mightily sly, I think! So once the presents are bought, or mainly made in this house this year, there's all that wrapping to be done. Groan!

One benefit of the Munchkin being a little older is that he was keen to help this year so he wrapped all of his presents for Daddy himself, right down to the ribbons and tags.

I, meanwhile, was having a tad more trouble.

Aaarrrgghh, Jacky Ginge!


Vorey's expression says it all!

As in the end, does a frustrated Jacky Ginger's!

Well, in fact it was not so much of a chore; fire roaring, mulled wine, furry friends for company, Christmas tunes on the jukey, and before long, the space under the tree was filling up with goodies...

And what a splendid tree it is!

I have also brought out my snowy village onto the mantelpiece, below the vintage Christmas-themed Eileen Soper print.

The lights are on, ready for all those pressies to arrive...

...carols are maybe being sung in the church on the hill...

...ssshhh, looks like the presents are on their way!

Our newest form of decoration this year is this rather fab drawing which the Munchy one brought home from school. It's Father Christmas dancing, but then you knew that, didn't you?

And so my friends, all that remains is to wish you all, from our house to yours, all the very best and a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!