Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Crafting Christmas Cheer

image of crochet Xmas tree on home-made card
I'd like to start this post with a HUGE thank you to those of you who left such wonderful comments on my crochet Christmas tree pattern. Your comments are always greatly received (- especially when I know how any of your spare time is precious at this busy time of year!). It gave me such a thrill to see other people create their own Christmas tree projects pictured on Ravelry because they were inspired by my design. It encourages me to believe in my own creative abilities and gives me the confidence to share my designs with you in the future. Thank You!

Some of my trees went onto the front of personalised Christmas cards for the teachers at my daughter's school, and for family and friends. I even had my first order from a member of the family to make ten of these cards for her colleagues at work. It was quite quite nerve racking actually because she hadn't seen the finished item yet so the pressure was on to produce a card that would be simple and yet have universal appeal. I'm so glad to say they were greatly received by all (phew!). I've really enjoyed my Crafternoons lately...of which there have been many! But it's not all about crochet trees....

image of home made Xmas wreath
A wreath like this one above is being sold in a local farm shop for £30 - yes £30! But this one cost the price of half an orange and a few cloves because... I made it! The straw wreath circle, the pine cones, berries, cinnamon sticks and the bow are thrifted from last years supermarket bought wreath. The evergreen fern is from my garden, the holly from my local woods, and the spiky bit of greenery is from the pine trees from Delamere Forest where we had a lovely day out with friends last weekend. The sweet little felted Robin is from the packaging from a Xmas present last year and the bells are from a broken Christmas decoration (I don't throw anything away!). It was so easy to put together - everything was simply threaded through the string bindings of the wreath - easy peasy. I thoroughly enjoyed making this, it looks so much nicer than a supermarket one and it's cost effective!

A good tip on drying orange slices is to place them on a radiator to dry out instead of drying them in the oven. Once they've been sliced, pat them with kitchen roll or a tea towel to absorb any excess moisture, then leave them on a hot radiator. They retain their fresh orange colour... if baked for too long in the oven it can result in them looking too dry, shrivelled, and brown. Plus there's no extra cost of having your oven on for 2-3 hours - another win win situation!

This is my latest cheap supermarket find...
image of a Santa tree topper I just couldn't resist it - only £5, and its really well made (I could never have made something like this). They did have a crochet Angel, but I much preferred the Santa - I know I know it's terrible that I should say that but I can and will make my own crochet Angel one year. Anyway the tree is covered with Angels and we do have an Angel on the girls Christmas tree, see...
image of pink Christmas tree
...this tree was meant to live on the landing outside my daughter's bedrooms, they decorated it last year here in the hall downstairs and it looked so nice that I just kept it there. Another supermarket bargain in the sales at just £5. I would have LOVED this tree as a little girl so here it stands again in the same spot this year. I think the Angel looks better suited sitting atop this girly tree! Just a few more gorgeous decs to show you...
image of Christmas decorations on mantelpiece
All the items on the mantelpiece are made from tin. The houses are tea-light holders and when the candles are lit it looks like the houses are aglow from the inside. They are full of traditional detail, wonderfully festive and very glittery. These are my Christmas treasures which I would love to see passed on to my Grandchildren. I have to admit they bring tears of joy when I unwrap them for the first time and tears of sorrow to see them packed away again for another year. I'm a big kid at heart! The Santa and snowman are also tea-light holders, and the heads wobble when touched. Love 'em I do!
image of christmas decorations on fireplace

image of fireplace Christmas decorations
It's so cosy of a night as the only lights we have on are the fairy lights on the tree and the fireplace, add to this the warm glow of the tea-lights on the mantelpiece and firelight and a cup of hot choc, and it really does wonders for the soul! Unfortunately I had to use the flash so I couldn't capture this for real. Can you see Santa's Express? It's made from wood and is choc-a-block with toys. This is another one of my Christmas treasures which will hopefully be cherished for years to come.

It's become a bit of a tradition each year for my husband and I to make each other a Christmas card. I didn't have time last year and he wasn't impressed with his shop bought card especially as he'd really gone to town with his which had fairy lights in it!
image of hand made Christmas tree card
Sorry I didn't have enough batteries to put the lights on to get the full effect and the light wasn't great but you get an idea of just how big it is! This year's is just as spectacular...
image of home made snowman card
image of hand made snowman card with fairy lights
I was banished to the living room whilst my husband and girls sat in the kitchen and giggled and squabbled for two hours making this. I adore it and it makes me feel very much loved and appreciated. Puts a big smile on my face every time I see it.

I debated whether to show you my husband's card I made. So (er-hem) here it is..
image of home made Christmas card
I giggled a lot during the TWO hours this took to make. The girls were happy watching Christmas movies so I had a more peaceful time creating this on my own. Although I am looking forward to spending time with them in the kitchen  today to make some festive Christmas cookies. Hopefully things will be cleared away by 1.10pm as I will be watching It's A Wonderful Life on Ch4 this afternoon. Can't wait as I don't think I've seen this movie all the way through.

There'll be no running around frantically like a headless chicken for us this year because we're spending Christmas Day with my sister-in-law. This time last year was sooo different as we had 15 family members to cater for! We did have a great day though, and the meal was a complete success, but I really am looking forward to taking it easy, and who knows I may even get some hooky time in too!

So my friends from my family to yours we wish you a Very Merry Christmas, and a Peaceful and Prosperous New year XXXXXX
image of  inside of amjaylou's Christmas card wishing you a Merry Christmas

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Legend of The Christmas Spider

image of beaded Christmas spider decoration on tree
On Christmas Eve, a long time ago, a gentle mother was busily cleaning the house for the most wonderful day of the year... Christmas day, not a speck of dust was left. Even the spiders had been banished from their cozy corner on the ceiling. They had fled to the farthest corner of the attic. The Christmas tree was beautifully decorated. The poor spiders were frantic, for they could not see the tree, nor be present for Santa's impending visit. Then the oldest and wisest spider suggested that perhaps they could wait until everyone went to bed and then get a closer look. When the house was dark and silent, the spiders crept out of their hiding place. When they neared the Christmas tree, they were delighted with the beauty of it. The spiders crept all over the tree, up and down, over the branches and twigs and saw every one of the pretty things. The spiders loved the Christmas tree. All night long they danced in the branches, leaving them covered with spider webs. When Santa Claus came with the gifts for the children, he saw the tree covered in spider webs, and smiled to see how happy the spiders were, but he knew the mother, who had worked so hard to make everything perfect, would not be pleased when she saw what the spiders had done. With love in his heart and a smile on his lips, Santa reached out and gently touched the spider webs. The spider webs started to sparkle and shine! They had all turned into sparkling, shimmering silver and gold. Ever since this happened, people have hung tinsel on their Christmas trees. It has also become a custom to include a spider among the decorations on the Christmas tree.

Isn't it lovely! This folklore story originates from Germany and the Ukraine. There are many different versions of it which you can find online...the other popular version replaces Santa Claus with the Infant Child Jesus who comes to bless the house. I have never come across these folklore stories before and I love both of them. 

I received this wonderful beaded spider from my mum. She bought it from a friend who was selling them at her school Christmas Fair. I was thrilled to bits to receive it - it looks quite at home on my daughter's very pink and bejewelled Xmas tree. Not in a million years would I have ever associated spiders with Christmas!

Looks like I just can't get away from them lately. Spiders have been a permanent fixture hanging on my Autumn bunting for the last few months (which I'll be sorry to see go this week in favour of something a little more festive), and I also mentioned them recently on this post. I'd created tiny crocheted spiders for my bunting but I wanted one a little more appropriately festive to adorn the main Christmas tree in the living room. The first one I made was more like a huge hairy tarantula! The yarn, although very pretty and glitzy looking on the tree resulted in a bulky looking spider...just look at it - it's a beast!
image of crochet spider
I did have much more success with the legs though. Crocheted legs didn't work with this yarn - they were just too floppy. So I strengthened them by cutting a length of silver pipe cleaner, threaded it through the body of the spider to form two legs, then simply wrapped the yarn around it till it was sufficiently covered. Getting them to bend into the right shape was a doddle.

image of crochet Christmas Spider
This one is a much better size. Not too big (or hairy!). If you want to crochet yourself a Christmas Spider you can find the pattern on my spider web bunting post. 

This is such a lovely tradition that I think we'll be hanging a Christmas Spider on the tree every year from now on. Will you be doing the same? Not so scary now are they?! XX