Friday, 28 October 2011

Ho ho oh

As it’s nearly November, I can feel my Christmas self start twitching – as a crafty sort, you need to start planning early to make things (that's my excuse) and often this can cause a lot of tension with other not-so-excited-by-Christmas types who get twitchy when you start discussing the merits of reindeer over snowmen in October.  What odd people they are, but there’s no way of overcoming that type of prejudice so I rise above, button my lip and sit on my hands desperately waiting for the 1 November.  When they gawp, horrified at me, I feign embarrassment (most of it, some of it is genuine as I do know better really) and blame it on the fact I made my Christmas cakes in early September.  This means they’re nearly weapons grade when I take the lids off for feeding and am sure my eyebrows are looking thinner – they smell delicious but are not for tee-totallers as they will make granny drunk at 50 paces).  On that note, I’ve made six of varying sizes as I thought they might make nice gifts.  What I hadn’t realised is how much looking after and space six cakes need and really hadn’t considered in any detail how I might think about decorating them when I’ve never decorated a cake before (apart from a blob of icing on fairy cakes) in a kitchen the size of a postage stamp.  Anyway, those worries are for later in the year.

This year I rebelled against the pressure to ignore Christmas until December and came out in favour of the supermarkets.  Early in October I covertly found all the fabric I wanted for Christmas stockings for the nieces and nephews and on Wednesday evening, I started cutting out the shapes.  I wasn’t really anticipating how much moulting would go on with the plush for the top of the stocking so am not sure my brother or sister will thank me for this addition to their homes but at least their children will have personalised Christmas stockings that, no matter how much they loathe them, they must put out every year for the arrival of their “favourite” auntie.  Cough cough.  Ah, families are lovely. 

I got the shape just by accident really – it’s a Christmas stocking, there are definitely precedents out there so it’s not that I was pushing myself creatively here; in fact, if it had gone wrong I’d have hung up my scissors and shelved Bobby for good for shame.  The fabrics I’d chosen were deliberately evocative of German Christmases of my childhood as I was hoping that, although they’re for my siblings’ children, they might be a bit nostalgic for them too.  I love how the little skiers material has been modernised with a little girl snowboarder, also very appropriate for my niece as both of her parents snowboard (actually, my sister-in-law snowboards while my brother, from what I gather, typically nurses flu in the chalet).

For my brother’s children, it was easy to decide how to personalise the stockings.  My nephew has a reindeer stocking with ho ho hO (he’s called The O for short) appliquéd on in red and cream stripes which match the back of the stocking; and my niece has her name appliquéd under the snowboarding girl, surfing over her own name.  I plan to sew a little bell onto the top of her hat as well.

As ever, apologies for the poor quality of the photographs - I have now borrowed a proper camera but the lender can't find the charger.  This is also just the cut out shapes from the first night - last night I appliqued etc, but haven't taken photos of them yet.

My sister’s children are a bit trickier as their names don’t start with anything I can figure out how to make festive but I do want to make them personal.  Given I started pondering this a while ago I should have had some ideas by now but it’s typically only once the scissors are in my paws that I actually start thinking things through although often after I’ve made the disastrous cut that means I don’t have enough of the fabric I want in the shape I want left to do it and need to improvise wildly.

The nicest thing is that work has been a bit of a downer over the last couple of weeks and doing this over the last week has totally given me a new Zen perspective on it – not watching telly and instead doing something more stimulating has meant I’ve slept better and everything really does look better after a good night’s kip.  Even my zigzag stitch which I’m very happy to say is no longer my arch-nemesis.  Running out of one shade of red halfway round the “A” of my niece’s name was irritating but other than that I was quite delighted with my zigzagging.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Talking of windowless rooms, I actually have a very lovely light and sunny spare room and I'm finally going to take it to task to turn it into project knitting headquarters.  No more Miss Messing about getting into yarn tangled frustration as I try and unpick my way through the living room over mountains of crafty stuff.

There's one wall that needs to come down, and various bits of making good that will need a professional decorator in but once the revamp starts I'll take some pictures and post them here as I'm hoping the transformation will be really rather marvellous.

* The picture above is not what my room looks like at the moment, but I hope I get somewhere near this lovely looking room.

Tricky cornering

My fingers were twitching all weekend for making but the sun was glorious and not necessarily conducive to working with merino wool. 

Saturday was spent in a windowless room pursuing the gentle but complicated art of quilting.  I managed to spend so long pulling together a convoluted patchwork that I didn’t actually get to the quilting but I have lots of ideas – although once out in daylight I realised that the colours that worked under tube lighting looked pretty sickly in the real world so Saturday’s work is being relegated to the “tutorial” pile for future reference.  Sunday I realised that my garden has been completely overwhelmed by Triffids and I couldn’t sit out there to sew or knit without risking knitting some wee beasties into the baby blanket I’m making and am not sure that would do at all.  So I threw open all of my windows and sat basking in the sunshine, blinding myself with my needles; I have sun spots from the light bouncing off my Addi turbos so I’m only reading three letters in every five as I type this – apologies for any typos as a result. 

Over lunch last week, my father and I had what we thought was a lively and interesting chat about the drive to craft and make things – this can’t be simply a recession led love of all things retro.  Man wasn’t designed to sell only services.  Without wanting to sound too Pretty Woman about it, people love creating and building things from model railways to stamp collections, wonky shelves and bobble hats – that drive doesn’t disappear because we’re sitting in our offices making money or selling services (although in my job I definitely don’t make money and HR services are a tricky sell at the best of times).  Perhaps the reversal to wanting to make and grow things represents an appreciation of a more nurturing, recycling and appreciative approach to things, a recognition that new isn’t always better (although it’s not always bad either).

Given how much I love learning about the techniques and history of crafts I’ve also recognised a propensity for analysis paralysis.  A couple of years ago it wouldn’t have occurred to me to stop and think before launching into something – I’d have just had a go.  Now I’ve gone to so many workshops and read so many different books on techniques that I’ve almost worked myself into a corner and can’t get to the point. 

I’d have got the scissors out and taken them to the tunic that’s been in my peripheral vision (as a ruffled tee shirt) for ages and “had a tinker” to see what I could make of it.  Since I got Bobby (my trusty Janome) and actually learnt some of the skills that would help mitigate likely disasters I find it harder to get started.  Knowledge isn’t always power.  Sometimes knowing how things work make the risk of failure that much harder to swallow.