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 ūüôāDSC_0156I ended up buying some boucl√© 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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

 

Linen Mice Specials: The Red Shoes

First, thanks lovely ladies, who were kind enough to comment on my last post (you know who you are!), it’s really nice of you to still be reading, let alone commenting after my serious blog neglect and I really do appreciate it.

OK…where to start. The title says it all really, I guess.3965748679_4e68ed8727

Every year I find myself saying I’ll never make linen mice specials again. They are time-consuming and expensive to make, verses the price I feel I can sell them for; but then, every year, I get an idea into my head (I already have one for next year!) and I really struggle to let it go.1200

Like many little girls, I went through a phase of wanting to be a ballet dancer (somewhere between wanting to be a fairy and a nurse, probably) and I did dance for quite a few years as a child, before getting bored in secondary school and giving it up, something I later regretted. That and my¬†penchant for watching old movies, again something I’ve done since I was a kid (we didn’t have many channels, you know, and only very limited kids TV….and we walked to school barefoot and were lucky to get jam on our bread, ha ha) meant I got obsessed with the idea of ‘The Red Shoes’ mice. I wont bang on about the movie, only say it’s fabulous and a classic and if you haven’t ever seen it, it’s definitely worth watching.

(On a side note, I just LOVE the colour of Moira Shearer’s hair….I’ve just comeback from the hairdressers and have gone my usual, similar, bright, fake red…wish I had her figure too!)dsc_0139I started them back in January, which is often the case for winter specials. I do quite a bit of designing and planning for the next festive season, just after one has passed; I think I just want to commit to some of the new ideas I’ve had that I don’t find time to make with all the craziness that happens in the run up to Christmas . dsc_0143There were mistakes, as always, with the odd swear word used, dsc_0140but I’ve managed to refine the making technique of mice to avoid the past pain of turning the whole thing out, skirts and all, through a teeny, tiny gap in the side. Bonus.img_20160415_135723On another side note, one Secret Cinema event I’d have loved to have attended, was ‘The Red Shoes’. A blogger at the time (no longer blogging, sadly) had a stall there and it was one of my first introductions to how Secret Cinema works. Oh, just looked and they have a very¬†short movie/link¬†to the experience if you want to get a feeling for how it works.dsc_0013I worked on them over the summer,¬†Instagrammed them (and subsequently sold a few before I got to blog and list them, sorry);resshoesmouseeditedbut the last few have just gone live in the shop.dsc_0004dsc_0024I really am supposed to be winding down the things that don’t make a great profit, but at the same time, I really enjoy making them and they are always fun to photograph, usually because of the skirts and shoes…..we’ll see, maybe there will be more next year ¬†after all ūüôā

The Plan and How Christmas Went

997001_546611032164849_2806534199451118964_nThis is how I’m planning to approach the New Year! ¬†Ha ha, although I do admit that The Linen Cat is due for a very big shake up. Decisions have to be made about what I intend to make in the future and certain lines are going to be resigned to the sale section. I need my sewing to be more profitable, although the main reason my shop has been so stagnant is all the blind and curtain sewing I have been doing, and that has probably brought in a more consistent ‘salary’ so it can’t be sniffed at. Clearly I still need to get my blog mojo back, both writing and reading, or perhaps move onto Facebook? I think that Twitter has defeated me and my Instagram account has about one photo on it. I also think I should open an Etsy shop and start shipping worldwide, but I’ve said that before and not quite got on with it.

DSC_0153(Miss Bumbles little deer and rabbits came out again)

For now, I’ll quickly show my Christmas photos before it’s indecent to do so.DSC_0150I got off to a good start, with pretty much all my gifts bought and even wrapped in early December, which was good as then the kids got sick, and I mean properly sick as in days and days off school and lots of vomiting all over beds. ¬†I then also got sick, but as always didn’t have time to be ill, so just got on with it, as you do. ¬†Not quite as bad as the pneumonia year, but heading that way.DSC_0147 (1)Then Tuppence broke her leg, right when Buster was due in for his SECOND hip operation, so I had two cats hopping about the living room, not allowed outdoors. ¬†Thank goodness for pet insurance or I’d have had to sell one of the children by now.DSC_0138For our tree, I was inspired by Maison Bentley Style and I pulled out all the 70’s and 80’s decorations.¬†DSC_0144A few of these came¬†from home, when Mum and I cleaned out the attic years ago and she put a box of ‘Christmas tat’ aside for the bin and I rescued it, because I’m a hoarder and I can’t help it!DSC_0148It mostly contained these foil baubles, from the early 90’s, I think, and some amazingly hideous but fab foil flowers things she took off some crackers one year. ¬†DSC_0147A lot of the other things came from the mixed Ebay batches I bought years ago when I was buying true vintage (vintage to me still means the first half of the¬†2oth century) baubles. ¬†I quite often bid on big lots that were very mixed with things from the 30’s to the 90’s as they tended to go very cheaply. It’s funny how things come around again, the foil things rescued from home can now be bought for a handsome price on Ebay, which did make me laugh, as a couple of years ago you couldn’t have given them away.

DSC_0140I took some time this year to go through and pack up decorations in proper storage boxes. I’ve kept one large box of modern things, (my vintage stuff is kept separately) and it was interesting to see how my taste has changed, this layer was from when I first owned my own home, I was all set to send it to the charity shop but the boys objected.

DSC_0144 (1)This is the style I’ve had for the last few years, lots of glass mushrooms and fircones etc, that I mix in with my own shop Little Birds and Christmas Mice.¬† It made me wonder, as we had a new style tree this year if perhaps my work designs might change too? ¬†I can definitely feel a shift coming, but I can’t imagine ever designing totally differently, I think my work will always have a common thread and be very ‘me’.

DSC_0146I did also have a mini tree in the hallway window (as they are very deep) complete with tiny coloured lights so I could put some of my more delicate and older decorations up – sorry, I forgot to photograph it!

boys and lunchChristmas itself was fab. We had all recovered from our various sicknesses in good time and were lucky to be invited out to France again, with my Sister and other half.beth apron

I’m sorry, I didn’t really take many photos worth sharing here (they are all quite grainy, although I did take lots of the boys opening their gifts, as with secondary school looming, I think this will be the last year they believe plus I don’t actually like having my own photo taken) but my Sister snapped one of me in my ‘posh’ outfit, complete with deer apron.

charlie christmas jumperI love it that the boys also like to dress up for Christmas, Charlie spent quite a bit of time planning his outfits¬†and was insistent that we brought along three different jumpers….for the whole three days we were going to be away!IMG_3112 copy (1)

charlie walkWe did some nice¬†walking (no skiing this year, which was good as there was no snow anyway!).airportAnd ended our stay with the usual 2 hour delay at Geneva airport on or way back. ¬†Oh, we flew from Southend Airport, which I didn’t even know existed and is now my top favourite. ¬†There is easy parking and no waiting for customs etc….it’s a winner for me.

That’s it for now, really. ¬†Most of the dodgy photos of us are for the relatives that read this blog, so sorry about the quality. ¬†I need to go clean the house now as it’s had animals and children running around it for two weeks and looks like a pigsty, but hopefully I’ll find time to catch up on my blog reading later, it’ll be nice to read what everyone else has been up to ūüôā