Last Minute Xmas Rush

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It is less than two weeks before Christmas!! It is so hard to believe that it has crept up so quickly. With the way life is at the moment and with not going out and socialising (or shopping) it has been hard to keep up with time.

I have to admit that my heart really isn’t into Christmas this year. There will just be the two of us at home this year, so I think that aside from the ‘essential’ presents, it will be a small and quiet Christmas. I am focusing more on handmade gifts and getting something that is asked for. I have a few presents that need to be made, drawstring bags for storing tree decorations being one. I made these bags around ten years ago to store my tree decorations in and they have been great for keeping all the decorations in one place. My daughter asked me to make her some for Christmas, so I have taken out my original bags and drawn up new improved designs for the bags. I also thought they would make a great pattern so will be taking notes and photos while making the three bags and get it into pattern form in the New year. I also planned on sewing up an appliqued play mat for my grandson as well as a panelled duvet cover and pillow cases for Alyssa. I definitely think that I need to start having some days at the sewing machine.

As I am writing this, I am thinking back on past Christmases. It is the time when we were busy with Christmas themed workshops and enjoying the workshops for the treats, laughter and gathering together to share in a common love, crafting and learning new skills. It is hard not having that this Christmas, not being together and crafting. It was a time that we could all relax, have some fun and create in the middle of such a hectic period with the run up to Christmas.

For many of us, it will be a very different Christmas. We may not have the numbers gathering around on Christmas Day for the meal and celebrations, but hopefully, we can enjoy the day regardless of the restrictions and keep safe. I think it will be a quiet day for many of us, but hopefully, we can enjoy the day in whatever way we have planned.

This year has been different for small businesses and having to close during the run up to Christmas has been especially difficult for many businesses and shops. It is usually the time when the local businesses do well. People would be out buying their Christmas presents locally and supporting our local businesses and shops. It has now become the norm to buy everything online as we are not able to get into the shops in one way or another. Many of the local shops have had to look at other ways to bring in the income to keep themselves going and riding out the storm that COVID and the government restrictions have caused. We had to look at creating a website where I could sell online and if we hadn’t of done this, then we would not have been able to keep going and ride out this storm. Being able to offer an online service has been great for us and I want to thank everyone that has supported us and been with us as we have expanded and created new products. It has certainly kept us busy over the last nine months.

In mentioning the website, did you know that we offer gift vouchers? Such a great Christmas gift for the person who loves to craft and you are unsure on what to buy for them. With our gift cards, you are able to spend the money on anything in the online shop. You don’t need to spend your voucher all in one go either, the website keeps track of your balance so you can come back as often as you like.

Gift Card

We are still posting out for Christmas, so if you are looking for something to gift, then have a look at what we have to offer. Our craft kits are very popular and make great presents to give, either as a kit or as a finished item. We have some lovely Christmas themed needlework kits that would be lovely to stitch over the Christmas period and to display year after year.

Alyssa has her birthday 3 days before Christmas, which has always been a strange time to celebrate her birthday and we always kept her birthday and Christmas separate. We had made the tradition of going out for her birthday meal and it was always a lovely way to relax before Christmas and enjoy abit of celebration and a delicious meal out. I know that this year, we will not be going out as an extended family to celebrate her birthday with a meal out. It had become a tradition to go to Cosmos Restaurant in Victoria Square, Belfast, which was lovely as we got to see the wonderful Christmas display that Victoria Square always put on. The atmosphere was incredible and so festive with late night shoppers and meal goers. It certainly gave everything a festive buzz and a great start for our Christmas celebrations as a family.  It will definitely be a meal out when everything is safe to do so. It is a shame as she turns eighteen this year which marks a special milestone. It is so hard to believe that she is eighteen years old! We will be doing something special at home together.

The weather is certainly dropping and looking more like winter weather. We woke up this morning to a heavy frost and thick mist. The frost just doesn’t seem to lift at all during the day and the temperatures stay near zero. It is the time to stay warm inside and do some crafting. I am finding it hard to get going in the mornings.

It is also around the time that I start to think about knitting winter woollies, jumpers, mitts and shawls. I enjoy knitting from wool that I have spun up on the spinning wheel. Actually, in the past week, I have been spending a few hours each day at the spinning wheel. I find it so relaxing and therapeutic. I have built up a small pile of handspun yarn, all hand dyed and ready to be made into that special lacy shawls or snood, a pair of mitts for the cold days that are ahead of us.

I am planning on putting up some skeins of the handspun yarn which are ideal for knitting into shawls and mitts for the freezing days. A special, one off skein of beautifully dyed natural fibre would make an ideal Christmas present for the person that knits or crochets. They can be assured that the wool they use to make a shawl or mitts is completed unique and one of a kind. There really isn’t anything more special than knowing you have made something and know that it is the only one out there. Being hand dyed and hand spun means that it is not mass-produced. So, do keep an eye out.

If you are still looking for those last-minute Christmas gifts, then please remember to support the small local businesses. Your purchases mean so much to us. We actually do a wee happy dance every time we get a sale. Finally, I want to wish everyone a safe and relaxing Christmas and I hope you all get to enjoy the day, in whatever way you are spending it.

Whitework Christmas Lights

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Contents

Background

With the launch of my latest kit design, I thought I would write about it and some of the background. If you have been following my blogs, I volunteered to write this without any prompting from the team.

Early last year, a hen party approached me to do a small workshop on Whitework.  This workshop was my first time doing a craft workshop for a group of ladies at a hen party. They wanted a small craft session and had asked me to design a suitable Whitework design for the Bride to be and then show everybody how to do the needlework. This was a fun task, coming up with a suitable design with the guidelines being – the Bride to be loved ‘folksy’ designs and to keep in line with a wedding.

So, the design that came together for that workshop was my “Floral Heart” design. I did not think that when I designed it for the hen party group it would have proved as popular as it has this year. With lockdown and not being able to hold workshops, I developed kits which enabled everyone to try out new crafts at home. The Floral Heart continues to be one of the most popular needlework kits.

Later the same year I was asked to facilitate a six-week course covering Traditional Needlework. This got me thinking about the different methods of needlework and the history of each one. It was an interesting project and even though I had done lots of needlework in the past, it was great to get more in-depth with each one and the history of each craft.

Whitework was one of the crafts that I was teaching and it is such an elegant embroidery. It is funny how there are different names for the different types of needlework and yet they use the same stitches at times. Redwork uses the same stitches (at times) and yet it is different from Whitework.

The Origin of Whitework

Whitework embroidery originated in India and China, then became popular in the West during the 15th century. It refers to any embroidery technique in which the stitching is the same colour as the foundation fabric. Whitework was traditionally worked with white thread on white fabric and used for church linens, underwear, bridal and christening wear. It is also the forerunner to the fabric Broderie Anglaise which is a whitework needlework technique consisting of embroidery, cutwork and needle lace. I am sure many of us remember wearing dresses or shirts made from Broderie Anglaise.

It seems that many countries or regions have their own form of Whitework. Ayrshire work, a form of Whitework used mostly for christening gowns was developed in Scotland during the 19th century. Ireland also has their own form of Whitework which is known as Mountmellick and has quite a distinctive finish to the Whitework as it had a crocheted edge to the work. There is also drawn thread work, pulled thread work, Hardanger, just to name a few, which are all really connected back to Whitework. So really Whitework covers such a range of different needlework techniques.

Various techniques were employed to make the stitches stand out against the white background. The type of thread that is used to help give it the look, is a Perle cotton or Coton a border. This thread tends to be thicker than 6-stranded embroidery cotton and has a matt finish which sets off the white embroidery against the white fabric.

Vintage Whitework
Vintage Whitework

Whitework Designs

With teaching the Whitework to groups, I designed a few simple designs which proved to be a great success. With lockdown this year and not being able to conduct workshops, I decided to release kits and the two whitework designs that I had taught previously, proved to be very popular as kits. It is great to see how popular this needlework is and it got me thinking of how elegant Whitework would be with a Christmas theme. It was also due to the fact that I had been asked during the year to teach a Christmas whitework class during November. I think we were all hoping that lockdown would be over and workshops could resume as before. Unfortunately, that workshop was cancelled due to restrictions being in place. However, I was able to teach it to another group which was great to be able to do. The class stitched one of the designs and thoroughly enjoyed learning the techniques.

After that workshop, I came home and decided that the design would be lovely in a free-standing frame and have two different designs. Which is what I did, I wrote the pattern and decided on the stitches to be used and stitched the two designs up in the white cotton and added a bit of sparkle in the design by using silver thread to stitch the stars. It certainly adds that bit of elegance into a simple needlework design and I will be displaying it with pride over the Christmas period.

Christmas Kits

So, in time for Christmas, I am releasing the kits to make these two whitework designs. They would make great presents to give to someone, or even for yourself so you can make the designs to display in your home over Christmas. The kits contain everything you need to stitch the two designs. I also have them available in pattern form. The anchor Coton a Broder and metallic silver thread is also available online, along with the freestanding duo black picture frame to complete your two whitework designs.

If you enjoy needlework and hand stitch, I know you will enjoy stitching these two whitework Christmas Lights.

Christmas Twenty Twenty

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Is it that time already?

It is now the start of November, and we are still in a semi lockdown situation with COVID. We are all pretty fed up with the whole thing or starting to accept that this could be the ‘new normal’. I know that I don’t want to accept either option, but 2020 has been a year that we want to forget. It is hard to believe that Christmas is only a few weeks away and we may not be able to have our customary Christmas celebrations. As we may not be able to socialise, it will be a very quiet Christmas for many of us.

I have already started to accept that it will be a quiet Christmas and we may not have the same day planned as we usually would have. However, I am still planning on putting up my decorations and creating a lovely peaceful Christmas theme in the house, so we have something to look forward to.

I know I don’t want to be dwelling on what we are missing out on with the restrictions, BUT, focusing on What we are thankful for.

During the months coming up to Christmas I love making new decorations to put up in the house and even making Christmas themed gifts for friends and family. I really start to get into the whole Christmas spirit in this way. I thought I would share with you, photos from our past Christmases and all the handmade Christmas decorations I have up around the house. I take down all of my pictures on the walls and replace them with Christmas themed wall-hangings and pictures. The collection grows each year as I usually end up doing a new one (sometimes two or three) each year. Some of them are 15 years old. These are from when we moved to Northern Ireland, though I did bring one or two really special ones. It was nice starting again and building up the collection each year. Since I had the opportunity to ‘rebuild’ my Christmas collection, I decided that most of it would be handmade. Our tree decorations are all handmade over the years and they bring so memories each year as we decorate the year, as we had spent many an evening as a family enjoying the crafting and being together.

Christmas Decorations

Future Designs

I love to design Christmas designs/patterns. My favourite designs would be the Christmas mice that I did last year and they have proved to be very popular to everyone. I have plans to add to the collection and unfortunately I was unable to do the one I had planned next …. But I will be working on that one in the New Year to be added to the design collection. I know that I am a bit behind this year in releasing new Christmas designs but the year has crept up on me ….

I have quite a few Christmas themed designs that I did last year and never got round to actually releasing them so I thought it would be a great opportunity to do it this month and give you the opportunity to start making some new Christmas themed designs for either yourself or someone else. There is a good variety coming up, from Inktense/Stitchery designs; Redwork designs and machine piecing. I am teaching a Whitework workshop (hopefully) this month where I designed a special Christmas themed whitework design. I will be releasing this design in a kit form as well this month.

So there are plenty of new designs and projects to look forward to. I look forward to showing you sneak photos closer to their releases throughout the month of November.