I love the simplicity of it. It pares the story of the nativity right back to the main characters. You will not find any St Nicholas or talking animals here**. There is a child like charm to Dick Bruna’s flour dusted angels with nearly there wisps of hair and brightly coloured wise men.
The story stepped out of the book and illustrated my childhood Christmases. Mum carefully sewed a sheep onto my stocking. My brother had a shepherd. My cousins were given stockings too as Mum sewed her way through the book. It seems only fitting that my children should get the same treatment.
I was delighted to see that the book was republished last year and mean to get hold of a copy for each of my daughters. For now, my “all the better for being loved” copy will be just perfect.
* The Christmas Book, Dick Bruna, First printed 1964, My copy -1978
** I have to admit my second favourite Christmas Story “Room for a Little One” features a few discreetly talking animals.
Father Christmas is coming to our house, whether we like it or not. I thought we were going to get some choice in the matter, but I was wrong. At the tender age of 18 months both of our girls were fully aware of the man in red and the magic surrounding him. In the interests of world peace, we are going with the masses on this.
I remember overhearing my 5 year old sister being told a few hard truths about the man in red. I could see her bottom lip crumpling as she asked me if her friend was right. There followed some explanations that not everyone believes the same thing and some arm waving about what you believe being the most important to you. All the while I was silently vowing that my children were not going to be that friend.
I like the idea of keeping to the bare bones of what Christmas means. No unnecessary snow or seasonal trimmings that tie you to one location. Perhaps Santa could be pulled back to the feast of St Nicholas on December 6th too? We had every intention of a simplified Christmas, until we had children. From the earliest age they started to bring home ideas that they picked up from elsewhere – Father Christmas, sleighs, reindeer.
It’s been fun listening to Little E sort out the logistics of Father Christmas. We have told her that adults don’t get presents from Father Christmas because there isn’t enough room in his sleigh. Little E has, sweetly, offered to help carry them for him.
Already there are signs that the illusion is waning – Little E turned to Grandad and pointed out “That’s You!” when she saw the above photo of herself waiting for her presents. There was some very quick denial and my father is considering hanging up the red hat next year, just in case. It seems that this moment of belief is, at best, fleeting. As the illusion fades, I wish for my children to treat others with a fair tolerance, understanding that what they believe and know, may be different from other children.
While it is true that we do have a choice in the matter, in the interests of world peace we will be letting Father Christmas in this year. Our children’s stockings will be hung over the fire and should we happen to hear the patter of reindeer hooves the door will be wide open.
When it comes to craft for public transport, felt generally does it for me. When it comes to Christmas crafts with felt, you really can't go past Jenny B Harris over at Allsorts. Her annual series of Christmas blogs is legendary. She has had me yearning for a white Christmas tree for years now. These trees above use her Festive Felt Trees pattern (and it's free!). If you are planning to make more than one, I'd suggest you cut them all out at once so that the pieces nest together nicely when you are laying them out on the fabric.
To print your own wrapping paper, with the help of small hands, you will need the following:
1 Roll of plain wrapping paper
Newspaper to cover everything
Aprons to cover the little ones
Step 1 - Carve your potato. This is a job for the adults. Cut the potato in half and draw lightly on the cut surface with a pen. Carve around the shape. Remember simple is good. The Santa hats you can see above did not turn out nearly as well as the crescent moons.
Step 2: Get your little one stamping. I started by inking up the potatoes myself before handing them over to stamp. Press carefully as the stamps can get a little slippery when the paint and potato mix.
Step 3 - Leave to dry.
There you have it. A quick, achievable way to involve the children in the gifts that every one is getting.
I find a Christmas without fresh berry fruit hard to imagine. How can you have the family photos after lunch, without the obligatory cherries draped over your ears? Actually how can you have family photos without going outside either?
Then there are the evenings. The combined scents of Christmas cake, coffee and chocolate are nothing with a long hot dusk and a cool porch.
I don’t much fancy the extremes of a Christmas day barbeque, a tree decorated with jandals. I would love to get to experience a white Christmas just once. Sometimes I can be a bit traditional, but I still embrace our summery Christmases with relish.
* Picture from a very summery Christmas Parade. Note the T shirts, beautiful singing reindeer and lack of snow.
Do you have soft spot for old cook books? The hand written marginalia telling you to cook it for a little less time or just that the result was only good as a paper weight? Sometime they read like a domestic history and other times a far fetched wish list.
Once upon a time I collected old cookbooks. I was fascinated with old preserving recipes that might have fallen out of favour and colour spreads of contrived feasts. If only everything could taste so good with a deluge of gelatine glaze. With the advent of kids, we whittled down the collection to only the essential and the entertaining. Somehow we thought “Christmas at Home” would fall into the first category. I always fancied the idea of creating a nostalgic menu, perhaps roasting a goose and how could I resist a goose that happy? Bear with me while I indulge in my nostalgic fantasy. While the book has been useful, entertaining even, I won’t be cooking a thing from it.
This recipe book comes complete with shopping lists, menu plans and price lists. I love the handy hints. Did you know that one bottle of gin will satisfy 20 guests? I’m not quite sure what guests they are planning to invite, but the sort that can ration gin out like that, would probably prefer that the party were dry anyway. Perhaps they were planning to keep themselves satiated with some of the other refreshments to hand. That’s ok, because at 11s. (shillings, maybe?) a bottle of sherry, they can knock themselves out. The prices are deliciously retro too.
One shouldn’t despair at the measly portions, because as the perfect retro host, I will be providing the cigarettes. We will temporarily ignore the fact that I do not smoke. Never have. In fact, the only smoking relative at our family Christmas party does so while retrieving toys from the street below the balcony. It’s a symbiotic relationship that works well for the kids. The hallowed “Christmas at Home” will have us forgetting our nanny state ways, ignoring healthy resolutions, and merrily smoking up a storm.
The Christmas Day menu reads like a gastronomic explosion. No high class culinary feats here, just food and lots of it. Roast goose with brussel sprouts. I’m not sure that goose should be so happy now and with the brussel sprouts cooked to a mush, I wonder about the guests too.
In case you thought fast food was a recent event the menu gets a little simpler on Boxing Day.
The recipe for mushroom soup is one that should be loved by all. It consists of one ingredient – Can of Mushroom Soup. I’m pleased to see that the authors did not feel the need to include instructions. It reads like they had either run out of disasters to cook or space to print instructions.
Cheap cocktail parties, canned mushroom soup and smoke for all have me giggling away and clinging very firmly to the present. Maybe I will keep an eye out for the companion recipe books – Summer Parties and Caravan Holidays or even Teenage Parties.
I have taken a few liberties with their backs as I was short of wool felt. Instead of an unstitched white backing, they have swatches of red and white fabric to cover my embroidery. I hadn’t anticipated the pink tones from our summer sun shining through and maybe next time would go with a cream on cream background. The project was just the right size for my daily commute and I was so carried away that I used every inch of the felt that I had to make extra birds for myself and a garland to send to some friends overseas.
For more Christmas Swapping, check out the flickr pool over here.
I want to believe the hype. I want to believe that I can make this the most memorable Christmas ever if only I buy the right things. My Christmas memories blend in to one long stream of continuous Christmas days and really, I haven’t had a most memorable one yet. What I do remember is the time spent preparing and celebrating with friends. I want to believe, because that would be easier.
My favourite memories are not ones of particular decorations or even presents. I know that there was a pink and black leotard and electronic keyboard somewhere in the eighties but I couldn’t tell you when.
My Gran took the time to polish the silver ware every Christmas and made it out like a treat to be able to help her. It is one of my fondest Christmas memories. Polishing wasn’t to my liking and I never had the heart to tell Gran. What I really enjoyed was the time spent telling the tales of each piece. Together we would get out the Pears Encyclopaedia and look up the hall marks and tell the tales about the relatives they belonged to. Domestic history has appealed to me ever since. It was the time taken with love that stuck in my memory rather than how brightly the silver shone.
Cooking with my mother was also an annual ritual. The highlight was always the afternoon tea where we would eat the left over pastry that had been magically transformed into a jam tart. Of course we couldn’t eat the cooling mince pies as they were for Christmas Day. The hustle and stress of keeping the oven stuffed with baking for an entire morning only served to make the time together afterwards better.
I need to take time while I am plotting Christmas menus, and present shopping in the hopes that these will make it a better than ever Christmas. When I justify buying that third Christmas tree to myself, I need to take time to remember that this is not what makes memories. I will endeavour to take the time to pack the kids off to Grandma’s for some festive baking, especially for the jam tarts. If I forget, and get carried away with the hype, please remind me.
Caliban in the Coal Mines
GOD, we don't like to complain;
We know that the mine is no lark.
But — there's the pools from the rain;
But — there's the cold and the dark.
God, You don't know what it is —
You, in Your well-lighted sky —
Watching the meteors whizz;
Warm, with a sun always by.
God, if You had but the moon
Stuck in Your cap for a lamp,
Even You'd tire of it soon,
Down in the dark and the damp.
Nothing but blackness above
And nothing that moves but the cars …
God, if You wish for our love,
Fling us a handful of stars!
It has been a hard week for many people in a small town. The whole nation watched as the story of the 29 Pike River Miners unfolded, everyone holding their breath until the devasting news of a second and surely fatal explosion on Wednesday. We'd like to think that events like this happen in another time or country.
I had read this poem years ago, thinking of an older style of industry, but it reads just as bleak today.
Crafters doing what crafter do are looking for ways to help. One I know of is Shirley Goodwin who is collecting heart blocks to make quilts for the families. I have checked with her and stars would be most welcome too.
She is looking for blocks measuring 6.5", white or cream background, stars or hearts. Her details are at the link above.
I'm sorry, no pictures, not really appropriate to try and liven up the post.
All adults should be equipped with Super Powers that can impress kids. You don’t have to be a parent to be working on those skills and hell, you don’t need to ask the parents either. Think of it as a wholesome party trick.
My superpower is being able to blow big bubbles using only my hands and shampoo. This super power is very handy for distracting kids and then slathering their enchanted heads with shampoo. I have to share out the shampoo so they can give it a go too.
Not all super powers need to be quite so useful. My brother can hypnotise teddy bears. I’m still baffled as to how this is useful, but my children are delighted to watch.
He has other super powers of which I don’t approve. One in particular, is making snotty noses out of green play dough. Little E has been trying it any chance she gets. For some reason I have been reluctant to make green play dough ever since.
Edit: Just found the perfect Christmas gift for my talented brother.
The pattern is based on the Picnic Blanket in Warm Fuzzies by Betz White. I counted up and there are over 19 different black, white and grey jerseys in there. I had an enjoyable afternoon cutting it all out, sometime in July last year.
The first time I finished it, in November 2009, there was some very careful measuring and squaring up before I attached the blanket ribbon. I have fond memories of blanket ribbon. I’m sure given a chance all children would run the silky edges of blankets through their fingers or along their top lip. Most of my friends had favourite blankets with the ribbon almost worn out. In this case I couldn’t find any black ribbon so settled for French Navy. I convinced myself that you couldn’t tell.
A few days after sewing it on, I proudly showed my mum who exclaimed “But it’s blue!” That was the prompt end of that finish. There was some unpicking and some muttering under breath before the blanket was left unfinished again. It was just as well as I had some teething problems with sewing the woven edging onto the stretch blanket.
I though about silver grosgrain, but nothing further came of that. In fact, I really didn’t want to go near it again. It was that defeating.
The blanket stayed unfinished for another year, until I spied the tomato ties. I had picked up a roll of merino ribbing at the op shop to tie my tomatoes with. When cleaning up my sewing space I discovered that the ribbing was perfect for stitching too.
I love the way the blanket stretches around you when it wraps you up. I keep finding different textures amongst the soft woollens. It’s like a very large woollen hug. I have been assured that it is at home in its new location. I hope it finds some new people to hug there too.
For the longest time I have had a block about machine quilting. I just couldn’t enjoy it. I learnt with stitch-in-the-ditch methods and methodically rolled and revealed my quilts as I worked, all the while, wrestling with a long and hefty weight resting over my shoulders. It’s going to take some convincing to get me to go back. The stippling was so much easier and enjoyable. I might yet tackle that pile of un-quilted tops in my sewing space.
I am not one to let a perfect opportunity to have fun piecing a back and so here it is too.
This is an achievement for me considering I started it in July, this year. Accentuated by the fact that the children had not seen me pin a quilt before. Long may the momentum keep up.
Viv has suggested that there be more about the books I’m reading. Viv has seen me regularly turn up to Monday night sewing with a new crafty library book under my arm. The little ones have me trawling through the picture books too. Once I get over my initial “If you haven’t any thing nice to say..” expect to see a little more on the books we are taking home. There are some reserves in my name at all my local libraries. I will even try to include the ones I will not be taking home again with some sort of objectivity.
It has been suggested that I include something about the job I commute for. I am treading this area with caution as I am very aware of the pitfalls. Bear with me as I choose my words carefully on this post. My profession does tend to leave its finger prints on most things I do. It is very important to me and I have had to make some big decisions this year, so expect to see some words on this in the near future, and some very cool links.
In the mean time I will be doing some tidying around here and updating some links. The local love and admiring from afar links need a refresh. Some are staying but some are no-longer active. You can expect some new and exciting blogs to meet there. I will let you know when it has happened so those using reader can stop and have a look around.
Now for the bit you have been waiting for – the winners:
National – Miss Smith
International – notice only two entries there so..
They are both winners , Joanna at Appliqué Today and Jules at Relish
The following tutorial looks at how to make a Grandmother’s Fan quilt block. This is a traditional block that was very popular in the 1930’s and reflects the sunburst motifs of Art Deco. It is much like a Dresden Plate block but allows for a little more tolerance as it is only a quarter circle. This tutorial includes making the templates for a 10" finished block. The applique is done with vliesofix and machine top stitching.
Materials for 1 block:
10 ½” Square of background fabric
5 fat eighths or
5 fabric scraps measuring at least 6 ½” x 3”
7” square for centre
Vliesofix (about 10” )
Thread to match centre
Thread to blend in with fan
Step 1 – Cut Rectangles
Cut the fabric for your blades into rectangles measuring 6 ½ x 3”. If you are using fat eighths cut a 3’ strip across the fabric, and then cut the rectangles. Square up the left over rectangle and keep for the boarder.
Step 2 – Make Points
Fold each blade in half and stitch ¼” from the end. Clip the inside corner and turn the point. Press the blade to create a 45 degree point. Take care not to break through if you are using scissors to turn the corners. A plastic point turner is very useful here.
Step 3 – Create Template
Using the dimensions below, trace the shape onto some template plastic. The sides are at a 9 degree angle. Score the outlines with a sharp object i.e. compass or edge of scissors, and cut out along the score lines. I found plastic with an imperial grid (inches and ¼ inches) on it to be very useful. A transparent ice-cream container lid would work also.
Step 3 – Trim Blades
Tuck the template into the point of the blade and trim the sides. I mark the sides of the base on the blade and then line up a ruler from hip of the blade to the waist before cutting.
Step 4 – Assemble Fan
Arrange a fan of 5 blades. Alternating light and dark or different colours helps to give each block a balanced look. Starting with a backstitch at the outside and stitching towards the waist, sew the blades together. Press the seams to one side.
Step 5 – Back the Fan
Trace around the fan onto some cardboard and cut out the template. Using this template, trace a fan shape onto vliesofix and cut out. The template is especially handy if you are making more than one block. Iron the vliesofix onto the back of the fan.
Step 6 – Locate Fan
Finger crease the background square to create a diagonal line. Remove the vliesofix backing and Line up the fan with the central point on the crease line. Press the fan into place. Depending on your stitching, the edges of the blades may extend a little beyond the background fabric. This can be trimmed before joining the blocks together.
Step 7 – Fix Fan
With the blending thread, edgestitch the fan into place. In this example I have used cream thread.
Step 8 – Create Inner Circle
Cut a 7 1/4 ” (corrected to 7 1/4", April 2016) circle out of cardboard or template plastic. Trace circle onto vliesofix and cut out. Iron the circle of vliesofix onto the centre fabric. Cut the circle out with a half inch seam allowance.
Step 9 – Edging Inner Circle
Baste around the circle, ¼” from the edge of the vliesofix. Place the template over the vliesofix and pull the threads tight. Press the circle to give a smooth edge before removing the template.
Step 10 – Quarter Circle
Cut the circle into 4. Leave the vliesofix paper on the back of the quarters.
Step 11 – Trim Up
Remove the vliesofix backing paper from one quarter. Place one quarter over the block. Hold this up to the light to check to see if any of the fans extend beyond the seam allowance of the circle. If needed, trim the inner ends of the blades so that they cannot be seen through the circle.
Step 12 – Finishing
Place the quarter circle in the corner of the block and press into place. Edge stitch, using a thread to match the circle, and you have finished.
This pattern can be adjusted for different size blocks. Drop me a line if you need help with the dimensions.
There are a number of ways the blocks can be set out - on point, all facing one way, radiating out from a point or my favourite - alternating like butterfly wings.
The proportions of blade to centre circle are traditionally 2:1 i.e 6" blade, 3" centre
The finished block size of 10" work well with using the remnant squares (2 1/2" finished) in the border.
Using an odd number of blades in each quarter helps to keep each block balanced. For example, if you are alternating 2 blade colours, each block will start and finish with the same colour.
I would love to know how you get on with your blocks and if there are any parts I can help with drop me a line too.