Stockings and tit mice and Conductor 71….

weeny red stocking with red stars

I’m just finishing off a few last minute stockings for Clutter City tomorrow, I find it easier to sew the linings in by hand and tend to wait til there’s half a dozen or so stockings to sew in one one session, these all get piled into a basket then I sit and watch a Christmas movie or a black and white film, all the while trying not to drop pins on the carpet…..and budging Bernard away from what I’m ding….

green weeny sized stocking with blue ribbon

I’m really pleased with how these little stockings have turned out, especially the ones where I get to incorporate the original blanket stitching around the top of the stockings….sometimes keeping it simple works best and while I’m all for a little bit of pom pom trim, there’s something about the pared down stockings that makes me so happy when I see a pile of them all piled up around me.

I needed to go into town yesterday and it was so busy, I just felt so overwhelmed with the noise, people, gaudiness and buy buy buy what was going on….I didn’t need to buy much, but it still took me all day.  I was just happy to finally get the key in the door and get indoors, kettle on, squeeze and cuddle with Bernard, and then some quiet time knitting on the sofa before getting tea ready.

purple bird hot water bottle cosy

Along with finishing up the stockings I’ve also finished some more hot water bottles, like the stockings there’s a selection in my Folksy shop.  I don’t often make purple things but I had some dyed blanket left over from when I used to make fragrant bunnies (the bunnies were purple with lavender embroidery on their tummies and then they were filled with lavender and linseed)…..I’ve actually found some woolly templates for what looked like the start of my own little bunny warren that I’d all cut out and began embroidering but hadn’t finished sewing up so fingers crossed I’ll have them all ready for the start of the new year. (both the lavender and rose smell so nice and they look pretty tucked into drawers or under your pillow).

 

green hot water bottle cosie with brown bird applique

This was probably my favorite of the latest batch of cosies, I really liked the brown and green together and if it doesn’t sell this weekend may very well find itself tucked beneath my bed covers Saturday night…..it makes me think of the little brown birds we get in our garden, the sparrows and dunnocks that aren’t are flashily coloured as the chaffinches or tits but which can still keep me entertained for hours as I sit and watch them hop about under the raspberries or on the feeders.

I had some laundry to put out this morning and kept hearing the squeekiest chirp noise, I looked up at the big sycamore tree which overlooks our garden and the branches were filled with a right banditry of tit-mice..then about half of them flittered over the fence and balanced themselves on the raspberry canes, bird feeders and apple trees…one brave little fellow perched on the washing line and chirped at me with all his might…I’d put plenty of food out this morning so I don’t think it was a request for more, perhaps compliments to the chef….these are my favourite bird and it’s always so lovely to see them in the garden as Long tailed tits are nearly always in groups of at least half a dozen…..their colouring is so gorgeous all chalky powder white with rose tints and grey and black flecks of fluff…I can’t help but think of the powdered mice from Beatrice Potter books when I see them…or Conductor 71 from A Matter of Life and Death……(while David Niven is all dapper and charm, it’s Marius Goring who I really adore…)

The Clutter City fair is on tomorrow (Saturday 12th December) from 11 til 4 at Norwich Arts Centre on St Benedicts Street.

As I mentioned the other day there’s 10% off if you tell me the magic word*

(*the fluffiest, sleepiest, trumpety trumpster in the whole wide world)

a little stocking round up…..

hand embroidered Christmas stockings

I’m still busy putting finishing touches to pieces I’m making for tomorrow’s Green Party Christmas fair at Chantry Hall…..this is a last little round up of the Christmas stockings I’ve been embroidering over the past couple of weeks…..as I said yesterday these are probably my favourite thing to make.

I’ve tried to keep the embroidery and over all look of the stockings pretty simple as I wanted them to have that nice vintagey, nostalgia feel about them…..

pink Christmas stockings with original blanket stitch feature

Where some of my other stockings have a pom pom trim sewn around the top, I thought these really worked best left as they were, and apart from the velvet loop at the side, all the materials used to make them are either vintage or re-cycled/re-purposed…the main body of the socking is made from vintage blankets which has been embroidered with vintage tapestry and crewel wool, and inside I use brightly coloured fabrics which started life as bed linen or skirts and shirts to line the stockings.

pure wool fabric Christmas stockings

It’s surprising  what can be fitted in to the stockings, traditional gifts are always a good idea so chocolate coins and pepermint sticks, a couple of little oranges…small toys or puzzle books…..penny whistles and kazoos perhaps not the best option if you are going to be hearing them toot toot toot around the house in the early hours…..(when I take the photos I stuff the stockings with socks or balls of wool and I’m always amazed at how many I need to shove in to make them nice and plump looking.)

Christmas Dec 2nd 019

I’m a big believer in stockings for all, and certainly not just for children….I don’t think it matters how old you are, the antipation of a stocking all lumpy and bumpy is quite exciting and I love seeing the ones we fill for my boyfriends’ family all propped up waiting for them to take them home….(and in case Sharonn is wondering…Bernard is very good, he rarely knocks them over to inspect the contents….)

I like theming stockings for older friends and family, filling them with bits and pieces contected with someone’s hobby, a mix of little treats they might not ordinarily buy alongside cheaper pieces they’ll use all the time…..

This is one of the stockings I made the other year with a selection of haberdashery items….everything fitted in the stocking apart from the book with room to squeeze in some edible gifts too….we often have a tin or two of brightly wrapped chocolates on hand to use to fill out stockings or the advent calender if it’s been a two window day in the office.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’ll be at The Green Party Christmas fair tomorrow (5th December) which is at Chantry Hall (just behind Wagamama’s Restautant) and the fair is on from 11 to 3 in the afternoon…. and if you can’t make that one I’ll be down at Norwich Art’s Centre the following week at The Clutter City Christmas Fair.

 

 

Woolly botanical embroideries, wee Christmas stockings and the cutest little bear with one ear……

its always easiest to tidy when you have an empty tin to chuck all the clutter into

It doesn’t seem five minutes ago that I was making lists of things I wanted to make this year for craft fairs and thinking I had plenty of time to make everything and then some..I’ve barely turned round and now find myself in the middle of a pile of sewing and am sorting out what to finish and what will have to be put to one side…I’m bewildered as to where the year has gone….my work table goes from absolute chaos with everything piled up around me, to what counts as order when a deadline is looming…..having an empty tin to hand helps, big things get put away but all the small pieces that I’m going to use again in five minutes can be swept up and for a minute or two it seems tidy (ish)…..loooking at my work table makes me laugh, even though I have umpteen needlecases I always revert back to using tatty old scraps of blanket fabric when I’m embroidering.

 

embroidering cats eye speedwell

At the moment I’m working on some little woolly botanicals, embroidering on pieces of vintage linen to make into glasses cases and brooches.  This Summer our garden was full of cat’s eye speedwell and it’s now creeping into some of my work…tiny blue petals with a fleck of white in the centre….

I’m not truly sure where this fabric is from, possibly it’s from my friend Sylvia, the orange is such a soft colour and it’s lovely to embroider on….the tweed is pure wool and is one of my favourite fabrics. Ideally there’d have been enough to make a nice nineteen thirties style waistcoat or a nice A-line skirt…perfect with a knitted tank top.

As well as using thumbnails and sketches I’ve made when I’m out walking, I also like referring to old wildflower books, their illustrations are often so clear and simple, they’re always a good source of inspiration.

embroidered goldenrod on linen

Along with the woolly botanicals I’ve also been embroidering on some soft linen, most of what I’m embroidering has been inspired by walks over the marshes and meadows that are behind where I live.  In the Summer the pastures were so full of flowers, in June one pasture was a mass of yellow and mustard, as all the golden blossomed flowers seemed to appear at once.

One of the most abundant growing plants has been goldenrod, there’s always lots of it about but this year was amazing…especially as so much of it was growing alongside the red sorrel, so it was all mustard and rust together….

The embroideries on linen are going to be project bags, something you can pop your knitting or crochet into to keep it safe from kitties and such like.

 

green Christmas stockings with tiny blue snowflakes

Along with the botanical embroidering I’ve been finishing off some more of the little stockings and putting them into my Folksy shop….these are probably my favourite item to make, I love seeing peoples faces at fairs when they see these…they really do light up and I’ve seen even the most sour-pussed old grouch beam when they see them, picking them up and often I get told how they either had one very similar when they were small, or had to have one of their dad’s old socks….eyes begin to twinkle and often I have to blow my nose after they leave…. (I’m just a daft old silly)….

As I’ve said before, we just have Bernard (I shouldn’t say “just” as he’s my treasure and I love him with all my heart) and don’t have little ones but when I make these I do get a bit broody…it’s hard not to as these are so cute and I imagine them getting filled with all sorts of tiny treats….but also they are so difficult for me to turn right side out, I’ve got very long fingers and there are times I wish Saski and Hania (the sister’s of Ivo who I made the quilt for) lived nearby so they could help me with the fiddly bits.

I like the wee green one on the left, I’ve left off the pom pom trimming as I wanted to make something really simple, but thought leaving the original blanket stitched edge makes for a nice little detail.

Little bear with Christmas Stocking

This little fellow hasn’t made an appearance lately, a tiny one eared treasure from Oxfam a few years ago….I love his little face and the fact he only has one ear means he once meant the world to somebody and now means it to me…..he often finds his way downstairs around now as I think he looks so Christmassy…perhaps he needs a new bow tie this year though as on closer inspection the one he’s wearing is terribly sun faded.

If you like the stockings and are local I’ll be at The Green Party Christmas Fair this Saturday (5th December ) and I’ll be popping one in to their Christmas raffle.

The fair is on between 11 and 3 and is at Chantry Hall in Norwich (if you’re not sure where that is, go up to Chapelfield Mall, and you’ll see  Wangamama’s Restaurant is on your right, walk round the back of there and Chantry Hall is front of you …..the regular walk way in from Theatre Street is having work done to it at the moment apparently)

My friend Ian will also be there and he sells produce on behalf of Zaytoun…their olive oil is really good and they also make a za’atar herb mix which is brilliant for winter casseroles or adding into dumplings.

 

 

a proper old pickle and a sleepy shawl stealing cat……

it's all a bit of a pickle

This is the current state of play in one corner on my work table….it’s a proper old pickle as I’m on “craft fair countdown” mode…..next Monday there’ll be a quick tidy up then chaos will resume within hours….I always try and be neat and tidy but it never lasts for long…as soon as I start putting things away I always then need them straight away or just forget where I’ve put them.

Little piles of embroidery silks tumble over scraps of wool felt, I try to snip up the smallest pieces as I go along so I always have a ready supply of stuffing to hand….strands of silk I’m using for applique sewing float around everywhere and my footsteps down the stairs have become rather rainbow coloured the past few days…..

There’s a pointy tipped heap of skinny black pins, they were part of a birthday present, they come from Merchant and Mills and are wonderful to use…very sharp and they don’t rumple or bulge the felt as I lay out my applique…they’re also nice to use in finer fabrics as they’re so fine they don’t mark the cloth in the slightest.

work table chaos

I had the devil of a time yesterday trying to buy red velvet ribbon in the city…neither little haberdashery/sewing stall on the market carried it which is fair enough, but then when I went into a larger shop the girl in there looked at me like I’d asked for something really bizarre…to be honest she didn’t actually know what it was and then when I explained, said no she didn’t think they still made it. Sigh…so I ended up trekking down to Anglian Fashion Fabric on Magdalen Street which never lets me down, but was a bit further out then I’d intended to walk….I had a roll of lovely vintagey velvet ribbon from a car boot and now I’ve used it all up, I never thought it would be so hard to replace.

And I found 5 minutes to quickly pop into St Gregory’s Antique Centre as I was nearly all out of cream thread for sewing in the linings of my hot water bottles.  There is a very good haberdashery stall in there run by a lovely lady called Jenny, and it’s a rare old trip that doesn’t see me leave without a few brightly coloured reels of vintage cotton thread in a paper bag…memories of leaving sweet shops with a little bag of penny sweets always come to mind when I step out into the cold air.

detail of hand sewn applique

I’ve been sewing up hot water bottle cosies all week, hand sewing and embroidering little birds made out of pure wool felt onto vintage blanket fabric…at least with a pile of these on my lap I’m not feeling the cold.

detail of red bird applique

They’ve just gone into my Folksy shop as I’m trying to keep that nicely stocked up now til Christmas….

Originally the birds began life as brooches, just a couple of inches across, then slowly they grew a little larger and began to appear on notebook covers before they found their final home on tea cosies and hot water bottle covers.

I really like sewing using wool felt, it costs a bit more than the wool mix which a lot of shops seem to sell instead so I have to buy mine online…Handmade Presents is very good, they also sell wool felt which is plant dyed.  And the other place I buy from is Myriad (I’m also really tempted with their lovely wooden animals….

paws for a kitty toy

This is a bit of a secret sewing share now….between us (that’s me and my boyfriend)  we have five nieces, the ones on my side are all grown up now but in the past when they were all small and chubby of knee I’ve made them fairy dolls and mermaid ones (including one that came out so big she looked like she could have wrestled Moby Dick), but our other two are still pretty wee….I’ve made them both stockings and crochet blankets, but only Maggie has had any dolls made for her.  I ran out of time last year but this year I wanted to make Eliza an animal doll…her mum told me she really likes cats so I’ve started work on what I’m calling “licky paws”…(when I was asked for baby names licky paws was one of my suggestions and thought it would be a good working name for this little kitty).

The body is made from a Llama hair coat I bought years ago in Wells, it’s lovely and soft, yet the fabric is nice and robust and you can stuff it really firmly….the kitty pads are hole punched pieces of wool felt, made from the tiniest of scraps I get left with after cutting out my applique birds.

Turning the arms and legs right ways out always makes me feel like I’m going to bust something and have a hernia pop out…I seriously do not know how Sasha manages to make her dolls without doing herself a proper mischief as she often uses blanket fabric and I can’t turn that for toffee.

For now I’ve sewn the arms and legs, and need to stuff all of them before wedging them in the body but I won’t have time until after the 12th of December which is the date of my last fair.

the sleepiest cat in the world

The weather here has been pretty rotten…Bernard seems to dash out, do the world’s quickest wee then is back and nestled down in my shawl (it’s mine, not his even though he’s covering it in cat licky smell, and the look he gave me the other night when I went to put it round my shoulders was hilarious…puffed out cheeks and whiskers right forward….)

He’s feeling all sorry for himself at the moment, the kittens from next door beat him up…well we think it was them as they don’t seem to get on too well.  Bernard’s face is all scratches and he’s a bit flinchy when we stroke his head…the kittens are like 4/ 5 months old max, so he’s a bit of a wussy really.

He’s still jumping up on the sofa and cuddling alongside me in the early hours though the time is now spent embroidering snowflakes on stockings rather than knitting….but he’s been very good with the knitting wool.  I’ve been knitting up a couple of swatches for the British Breed swatch kal on Ravelry and the wool I used was lovely and sheepy scented so maybe he can smell the animal so leaves the wool alone…he sniffs it, rubs his face on it and there was a bit of licking at first…but he’s not run off with it or thrown it on the floor like he’s done in the past…..anyway, this one is for mon ami Celine….

It’s beginning to feel a lot like…….

A stocking for Charlie

I’ve spent the past couple of days quietly playing Christmassy music while I update my Folksy shop with Christmas stockings….and while it’s still too early for Johnny Mathius to be playing, I’m happy to listen to a little Enya* and Kate Bush** to help me feel a bit more seasonal…..

One of my favourite things I’ve made over the past few years have been these Christmas stockings…originally I made wee ones for my sisters and mum, filling them with a variety of old style gifts, walnuts, a handful of quality street, chocolate coins, a tiny bottle of Baileys, satsumas, a couple of hand made presents squished in there too….but I also make these proper big ones which if you’re little you can almost wiggle right down to the bottom of.

Kornelias stocking

These are some commissions that I had last year, Charlie’s stocking went off to Ireland, and Kornelia’s went to Norway.

ivos finished stocking

This one was made as a gift for our friends Adam and Goska, Ivo was the latest addition to their family of poppets….(I’m waving a big hello to Saski and Hania at this point….I think Hania can eat more pink smarties than anyone else I’ve ever met)

All the embroidery on the stockings is sewn by hand using a selection of tapestry wools.  The applique is all stitched too (yep, even those pink cheeks are sewn not glued)…I only use pure wool felt, the colours are lovely and soft and the felt itself is much nicer to work with.

little pink stockings

These are probably my favourite ones….I really like the small size, I think they’re ideal for filling with little things to keep anyone who wakes up too early entertained while you go and get the kettle on….crayons, tiny colouring books, a couple of chocolates or a satsuama….and I’ve checked, they’re also a perfect fit for posh bottles of scent or those little boxes that are lined in velvet and which have something expensive and twinkly inside.

stockings for the boys 005

These stockings were made for my friend Debbie’s two nephews Kielan and Nate…..I like to incorporate the soft stripes at the top of the vintage blanket but then I try not to overwhelm with too much applique…even for me, sometimes less is more.

All the stockings are fully lined using either recycled or vintage fabrics….

When I have a big pile of these on my table, embroidery wools and scraps of wool felt around me, I feel a bit like an extra from Santa’s workroom (I’m sorely tempted to make myself a hat like the elves wear in Elf….)

Christmas Dec 2nd 019

I’ve also made them for friends who like vintage things…it’s not hard to put together a nice present that doesn’t cost the earth (literally and for your purse)……admittedly the book didn’t quite fit but everything else fitted in fine, along with a little bottle of “Christmas Spirit”, nuts and a satsuama.

The first of the Christmas fairs where you can find me is a two day weekend event at Norwich Assembly House on 28th and 29th of November, on the 5th December I’ll be at Chantry Hall in Norwich for the Green Party Christmas Fair, and on the 12th December I’ll be at Norwich Arts Centre for the Clutter City Fair (and my friend Sasha who makes the wonderful toys will also be there, she’ll also be at Glory Days in Holt on the 28th November with a selection of toys, bunting and cushions.)

cat napping

And a quick picture for my friend Celine…here is your darling Bernard…he was my little assistant yesterday though he seemed to spend most of the time just napping, gently snoring and thankfully no trumpety tunes from his bottom.

*Enya …And Winter Came

**Kate Bush…50 Words for Snow