Bright Silk Christmas Mice

Quite some time ago, I made little mice for Christmas, based on a vintage pattern that I had made when I was a kid.DSC_0139They were very typical of my taste at the time and of how my Christmas tree looked.DSC_0172But as happens, my taste has changed slightly and we’ve gone a bit more gaudy these days with ‘trash tree’ and it’s odd assortment of broken plastic deer, santas and 1980’s foil decorations.IMG_20181202_170900It seemed like a great opportunity to make new mice, something I’d always planned to do, but more fitting to our ‘new’ (to us!) decorations (well I say that, quite a few came from a trash bag Mum once started in the attic and I rescued them, like the sad little hoarder I am 🙂 ).

I had an image in my mind of white linen mice (the original ones were tweed) in bright silk skirts, no boys this time and I was quite fixed on blue and orange colours with something else for the third (hot pink?), channeling a tin of Quality Street for colour inspiration or maybe my newer love, Lindt truffles.DSC_0103Then I remembered my promise not to buy new fabric when I have plenty to use up. Boring. Oh well, orange and purple is not so bad and still fitted the brief. The  orange silk is lush, it  has a gold and hot pink crossweave, I will be very sad when it is all used as you can no longer buy it.

The first two girls were looking good, I was very pleased. I swapped out the bright white linen (as it looked wrong) for some oatmeal linen and added gold ric-rac for extra bling.

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Then I realised what the little mice really reminded me off – Cinderella mice!DSC_0106And I decided a little boy was needed after all, leading to a total inability to chose what colour he would be which went on for some days (as I carried on stitching the girls).IMG_20191122_145353Until I had a little girl mouse army going on.DSC_0107Then I bit the bullet and went for pink for the boys (I tried green and blue but that didn’t look right).IMG_20191129_121756After which followed more looooonnnng days of hand sewing. These mice take a really, really long time to make. Much longer than it appears.IMG_20191129_122027But I managed to binge watch all of Stranger Things (or re-watch, actually, as I’ve seen it all once) ready for a fantastic day out at Secret Cinema whilst drinking lots of peppermint tea from my new festive mug. Wild days. I know how to live.IMG_20191129_141710The final little touches!DSC_0140 2And a day of trying to photograph, edit and list them and they are finally done – hurrah!LindtMiceBoyI bought a box of Quality Street especially for photographing them with but they looked better with Lindt  chocolates…I think it’s the round shape, it  just seemed to work better…I may have eaten a few.LindtMice6 3You can find them here.IMG_20191204_132025For packaging the mice I had bought some cupcake boxes about 5 years ago (when I made the first batch of these!) and I decided to go ahead and use them, depsite the plastic I would never buy these days. I feel terribly guilty, the same way I do when using bags for flower brooches or sending things in jiffy packaging, but these things were bought in bulk in the early days of The Linen Cat (I have been selling and making since 2009 now) and I will use up the plastic I already have but won’t buy more. The alternative is to throw it away and that seems more wasteful.IMG_20191204_133913

Right, back to sewing something less jolly, probably back to the black spider purses as I’d like to get them finished too 🙂 I’m on a roll – ha ha!

Random thing  but my laptop is stuck on often doing two spaces….I think I might have got some food crumbs under the keyboard, that’ll teach me to show more respect. It’s driving me nuts, though!

Christmas decorations 2018…

Yet again we have gone with ‘tat’ tree this year, decorated with an assortment of ‘vintage’ tinsel, plastic and glitter. It’s interesting how taste can change, a few years ago my tree had a kind of colourful but matched nature/Scandi feel but now I’m all for bright and garish all the way with plenty of clashes.IMG_20181202_170256I guess it’s just an extension of how my general taste has changed. This house was all white with wooden floors (a definite and intended Scandi feel) and although I’ve always liked bright accents of colour, colour is now creeping onto the walls too with bold colours in the kids’ bedrooms and green walls in mine.IMG_20181202_170900Some of the old favourites are back, though, including baubles on ‘the dog’.IMG_20181202_171338and a knitted Santa that my Gran made and that was always in my room at Christmas when I was a kid.IMG_20181211_124111The Pelham puppets are up again in the kitchen…the star lights never actually came down!IMG_20181211_124138 And some of my really old decorations have gone on a tinsel tree in the kitchen this year.IMG_20181211_124208When I think of Christmas I think of the colours of a box of Quality Street, all foil and bright with purples, greens, blues and golds. I guess it’s a childhood nostalgia thing. I recently bought a box of Quality Street to use as props for photos (of the Christmas Stockings) and it sadly reminded me that although I like the wrapper colours I don’t actually like the chocolates inside!IMG_20181209_104632So instead, I’m going to think of this bowl of Lindt chocolates bought for me as a gift last weekend….there is an entire Lindt shop in Bluewater – who knew! I just LOVE the colours (and the chocolate) and I have some plans for Shop makes for next season that will definitely be inspired by these.

Vintage Christmas Stockings

I loath using the word ‘vintage’. Not quite sure why, I think it’s because of it’s overuse and the fact I’ve been collecting antique clothing and objects since I was a child so I slightly hate how fashionable it has become (I was so before my time *joking*). It’s also an age thing, I think, I struggle to think of 1980’s as ‘vintage’….probably as I wore the stuff first time around. Still, it’s often the only word that fits, so welcome ‘Vintage Christmas Stockings’.DSC_0098It started as an idea a couple of years ago. I had bought some vintage (I’m going to use the word with abandon now) napkins when I was buying old Christmas stuff on Ebay and I couldn’t help but think they’d make great cuffs for Christmas stockings.DSC_0100The plan was to combine them with some stash busting, specifically reducing my tweeds and a few Christmas cottons that I have. The problem is, as always, I tend to imagine the finished thing in my head and I then struggle to compromise on that vision.DSC_0104The red tweed looked too ‘dull’ so I considered some linen, also from my stash, but that felt too similar in texture to the linen cuff. I like contrasts of texture 🙂DSC_0156I ended up buying some bouclĂ© wool in a crimson red. I also abandoned using the Christmas printed cotton for lining as the wool is a little stretchy and I wanted a matching stretchy lining so I opted for some nice, cosy, green brushed cotton.DSC_0208I’m not sure if it show in the photos, but I added a little shaping to the top cuff to make it kick out slightly (I like to think it’s these details that make my work my own).ChristmasStockingTeddy2Then I embarrassed myself by buying the newly arrived Christmas stuff from the local supermarket as photo props – coins, Quality Street, a Lindt Santa and some walnuts and oranges.ChristmasStockingBaubles1But I liked the photos taken with some of my vintage decorations best.ChristmasStockingsAllThe photos look really dark on here…it’s one of the problems when photographing red and at this time of year.ChristmasStocking2

You can find them in the shop and on Folksy.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Dove Aprons

After the success of the Winter Deer Aprons in 2013 I had planned to do a version with Santa heads, but when researching vintage Santa images I got distracted by doves and, as always, an idea got fixed in my head that I couldn’t shake.DSC_0067One of the first things I did was to buy some fabric. Again, I had VERY specific plans and knew I wanted something gold and patterned, with a vintage vibe. What I didn’t know I wanted was THE most expensive silk damask available, unfortunately, I fell in love with it so nothing else would do. Joel and Son supply the Queen…apparently….I’m not surprised as I doubt anyone else could afford to shop there, beautiful though their fabric is.DSC_0066After getting over the shock of the fabric price (my own fault entirely, I could have gone with manmade damask but it just wouldn’t have been the same as sumptuous silk), I got to work planning the placement of the dove I’d already designed. I scanned some of the fabric so I could understand how it would actually look and help see the edge stitching more accurately. I can get a bit disappointed with my head image and reality when doing applique pieces, as I tend to forget how the edge stitching will change the look of the finished item.

BTW, in a totally off-topic aside, I can highly recommend the HP Instant Ink plan for anyone who spends half their life printing out their kids’ homework. You pay a set fee per month and they make sure you always have ink by sending it out in advance, it’s saved us loads and I no longer stress about printing colour over black and white as I pay for a set number of pages regardless of the format.DSC_0070Back to doves. I remember I’d planned to take photos of the dove at each stage of the making process, in the same position, and I clearly started out well.DSC_0071DSC_0105Before I then forgot.DSC_0100DSC_0109Still, I’m quite surprised that I took so many photos as I often get too involved in the sewing to remember. DSC_0108It might not appear impressive, but all that neat zigzagging on the edges and wings took FOREVER and there are multiple scallop lines on the wings with various gold threads…again difficult to see in photos.DSC_0112I spent some time deciding on the bias binding colour. I was originally thinking gold but it looked a bit drab in real life and in the end I went with a dark, wine red. I also considered the second piece of mistletoe but abandoned that, too.DSC_0180At this point, I decided they needed more bling so extra sequins and beads were sewn onto the wings.DSC_0185Back shot!DoveApron5And finished dove, with mistletoe as that’s what I liked the most (I tried holly and an olive branch).DSC_0183The truth is that I completed these in December, last year, but I just didn’t get them photographed in time. Red is always hard to capture, but especially so in winter light and I am not the best photographer around.DoveApronCutOutShadowsEven then, I completely forgot to take images this summer and I have just spent a frantic day doing my best in really crappy, grey light. But, as above, it’s always amazing what you can do in Photoshop to edit the colours. Sadly, the blue/grey background above was beyond saving so I had to add a new one and a terrible fake shadow.DSC_0016And here is another example of an entire day of using the Photoshop eraser and altering the colours. One of this Summer’s stunning, cunning plans was to set up specific places for taking photographs and to that end, I bought some beautiful, brass dragonfly hooks, only there isn’t enough room by the door (the only spare bit of wall!) to get a square image without the door frame being in – Doh!DoveApron15 2So more Photoshop with dodgy shadows. I need to cover or remove the black plastic parts of the hanger too….gold glitter and a glue gun??DoveApron4MORE cutouts. I had finger fatigue by the end of the day.DoveApron6But they get the images across and I could easily spend hours and hours trying to edit and photograph products; as it was this took me an entire day (including listing them in my shop and Folksy) so they will have to do.

I’m really happy with the finished aprons though, they worked out exactly as I’d imagined and I wore mine for the first time last year for all my Christmas cooking. I’ll be getting it out again on Sunday to make the pudding and will enjoy wearing it on the big day itself as I do enjoy putting on a pretty apron and pretending I’m a domestic goddess 🙂

Merry Christmas

Well, we’re as ready as we’ll ever be, and I’m about to log off, relax and enjoy an afternoon glass of wine with (hopefully) some crap Christmas telly.dsc_0206I did finish some of the new aprons, but there wasn’t a chance to photograph them (red is very difficult in good light, but in winter, almost impossible). I’m happy to have the ‘reject’ one to keep and wear on Sunday (I always keep the one I am least happy with), the rest will be for next year now.dsc_0002I bought an extremely cheap box of tat from Ebay…dsc_0004to use with some tree rejects (the things that weren’t strung etc) to make a wreath. It’s not to everyone’s taste, but I love it. It only took about 20 mins to make and then a painful hour to fix to the door!dsc_0007It’s on just in time for the weather to turn nasty, as the remains of Storm Barbara head our way. The door has a small overhead porch so I’m hoping it survives alright, but as pretty much everything on there is plastic, it should be OK.freddieSo that’s it. I’m quite excited about not leaving the house for a few days and for the first time in forever, we genuinely don’t have anything planned for almost a week (we do have guests, here and there, but I have a stocked freezer and cupboards, ready). I’m thankful we’re all healthy and happy and together for Christmas so I hope for the same for everyone I know.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful 20017.

West Elm Wonderfulness

I’m writing this very early, whilst sitting in bed and drinking coffee, because the very rare occurrence of the boys being away for the weekend means that I can – hurrah! (Sods law I still woke at the crack of dawn, though)dsc_0196I’ve spent a lot of time recently trying to work out the best way for me to balance making a living, with looking after the boys. My oldest finally has his official diagnosis and Charlie will (hopefully) be getting his in the coming year. Having children ‘on the spectrum’ means I am quite restricted in the hours I can work, especially with being a single parent, and having gone through a quite difficult transition into Secondary with Felix it just demonstrates to me how dependant the boys will be during certain periods of their lives. So, it really does have to be working from home (for the moment, anyway) as that offers the flexibility I need, and it has to be sewing, as I’ve already invested so much time into establishing a ‘business’, plus it’s the only thing I really know how to do. The difficulty is it’s getting increasingly hard to compete with commercially made items, especially now that ‘vintage’ (sorry, there are lots of quotation marks today…..always makes me thing of Ross in Friends and I cringe slightly that I use them so often!) is so mainstream, and handmade (resisted the urge to stick quotation marks there) is also so fashionable. I’m not complaining, I love how much lovely stuff you can buy these days, I just need to take some time out properly in January and plan how best to present my work to either differentiate it from commercially made things, or to compete on price. I see beautiful pieces of work on a daily basis where I think about the price versus how much I would have to charge for something similar in order to make it scale. Tricky, but doable. I have faith in me 🙂

So, in a slightly tenuous link to above, I’m bringing you some eye candy that you will thank me for.screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-06-59-33Every year, I buy the boys some form of decoration critter that goes in their stocking, usually it comes from Anthropologie (See the top photo for this year’s bits and pieces) but as I was reading Facebook this morning, the cutest thing popped up in my targeted adverts from West Elm UK. screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-06-59-18Clearly I’ve shopped there before, for their link to appear in my social media, but I haven’t had a look for ages and I got sucked into a good browse this morning.screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-08-08-24I love the collaborations with artists pieces and this year, I’m really excited to see they’re working with Erika Barratt again (I write again, but to be honest I didn’t know they’d worked with her before until I did some research). How cute are these little ornaments? They are in the sale at the moment on the UK site (sold out in the US, I think).screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-02-15They also have Mimi Kirchner owls!!! screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-06-13Sooooo cute.screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-05-22I was a bit gutted to miss out on a Doug the Pug from the ASPCA Animal ornaments (F would have LOVED one of those!)screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-00-31but I did get a couple of Brimley Cats, which the boys will be very exited about (in case you don’t have internet crazy kids, this collection is inspired by famous internet pets).screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-08-23-29On the US site you can even get tea towels!screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-01-39If the above don’t work for you, what about some Fair Trade handmade ornaments?screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-07-03-01or (and this is probably more my kind of thing, at the moment) some sequin clip-on birds?screen-shot-2016-12-17-at-08-29-57They have quite a few pretty Christmas bits, much at half price right now, so it is worth popping over for a look.

It’s interesting as having put this post together, I realise that at full price many of the little ornaments are actually more expensive than mine, relatively, so perhaps I do need to be more brave with my pricing? One to think on, anyway.dsc_0193We’ve gone for retro tack again this year, our favourite thing being the foil flowers Mum took off some crackers in the 1980’s. You don’t have to try hard to work out who I get my hoarding tendencies from, I mean, who keeps tacky cracker decorations for 30 years!!dsc_0203My plan for today is to wrap gifts, write cards, and it was to photograph a new Christmas apron for the shop, but the light is so bad I don’t think that’s going to be possible…dsc_0187I might even find time to watch Elf and eat a mince pie 🙂