Saturday, 30 November 2013

Christmas Book Advent

I'm not ready to start Christmas decorating yet, it still feels too early. But it is the first of December tomorrow which means we'll be into Advent time of year. Last year I came across a gorgeous Advent idea which we tried for the first time and loved. Unfortunately I can't remember where I originally came across the idea, so whoever you are out there who thought of this, I'm really sorry but I can't give you credit. The idea is to have a Christmas book Advent. Find 24 Christmas books, wrap each one and then your children get to open one each day during Advent and read it with you.

I've got a feeling that when I originally saw the idea they had wrapped their books in brown paper, which looked lovely. But I hate wrapping, and last year I made loads of fabric bags for wrapping instead of paper.(It was several hours of work, but well worth it, now all my wrapping - I use them for birthdays as well as Christmas - is so quick and easy and mess free, and they're obviously reusable again and again.) So I simply made extra bags to include the Christmas books, which meant that today it was incredibly easy to get my Christmas book advent ready all over again.

Last year they were piled high on a window sill, but this year our newly plundered treasure chest (Mum & Dad's attic!) seemed perfect for the books.

My fabric bags generally are all sorts of different colours, patterns and fabric types, but for the Christmas books I stuck to red fabric. The ribbons are all sewn on ready for tying.

You may think 24 Christmas books sounds a lot. But with 4 children over 13 years, it builds up very easily. Particularly when you enjoy visiting Charity Shops (as I do!), they're a great source of cheap, Christmas books at this time of year. I won't list all the books we have in our collection, but here are a few of our favourites:

We'll start with 'The Elf on the Shelf' tomorrow, and then the 'Elf' can come out and wander around the house each day to keep an eye on how well everyone is behaving (lots of creative ideas on Pinterest for where to have your elf each day).

I've always loved the song 'The twelve Days of Christmas' and the illustrations in this book of it are lovely and full of imaginative detail.

The Twelve Days of Christmas, Jane Ray.

(Talking of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas, I also love this version:

Find it here on Amazon.

But it's not really a children's book!)

Another one I love for the illustrations is Eric Carle's Dream Snow.

I'm a big Eric Carle fan generally but I think his pictures in this book might have to be my favourites of his work...

A few classics that I've picked up very cheaply...

There are also a couple of days with Christmas Activity/sticker/craft type books and a few'cheats', in that they're not completely Christmassy, but more Wintry and snowy. This story, for example, which we love and have read countless times. It's a lovely one to read snuggled under the duvet!

One Snowy Night

And one that's a new one for this year, recommended by a friend, it looks beautiful - story and pictures - and I'm really looking forward to reading it with the girls.

Snowflakes - this one is a new book written by the 'Cbeebies' presenter Cerrie Burnell.

Christmas Eve will, of course, be 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' - only I seem to have not taken a photo of it, sorry! If you like this idea but are really struggling for books, you could always do just the week before Christmas perhaps? Or head down to your local library and get Christmas books out from there to supplement your own supply over the festive period.

So how about you? Have you got any favourite Christmas books? Or any favourite Advent traditions?

Not sure whether I'll be back Monday or not - I feel like I have loads of things to post about at the moment, but it's the big moving in day, so I'll see how it goes and how I'm doing for time, Sally.

Friday, 29 November 2013

This Moment

I'm not sure Soulemama is having a 'moment' today, I think she might be having a Thanksgiving break, but here's a link to her blog in case, and here's my moment...

{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
. . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Tree Quilt

The tree quilt is finally finished, hurray! I stayed up half last night quilting it and then finished the binding this afternoon, so now I can't seem to stop yawning but at least it's done! And, after big worries about how it was going together a couple of days ago,  I'm really happy with the way it turned out.

I'm not sure I've made a quilt with this colour scheme before, and I hadn't expected this one to turn out with such a limited colour palette, but I like it. In fact, although I think it is quite different to any quilt I've made before, it is very much my kind of quilt. It's full of 'pictures' and hopefully it's very individual. And it's almost entirely made from recycled fabric. There are 6 old shirts, a pair of trousers, some pajama bottoms, 2 skirts and an old curtain cut up and used in this quilt. The only 'new' fabrics I used are the 'wood grain' pattern that just felt perfect for the binding, and the bright yellow with the brown acorns that I think works brilliantly framing a couple of the pictures and is dotted around in other places too. Despite the high proportion of recycled fabric I think the quilt looks very fresh and modern. The backing is made from an old cotton 'throw' I found in a charity shop.

Can you spot the 2 new fabrics - a wood grain pattern for the binding, and just a slight glimpse of the acorns on yellow at the bottom? Sometimes I find it quite hard to combine new fabrics with old, but these just seemed to work perfectly.

Here's a closer look at some of the pictures. This one is supposed to represent Autumn.

With a little squirrel...

This tree is supposed to represent Spring. I debated for quite a while how I could best create the blossoms before finally deciding on buttons.

And when it was done I wasn't convinced it looked quite Spring like enough so I added a little birds nest with a bird sitting in it.

Here's 'Winter', I wrote about this one back here.

And I ended up doing another Wintry tree, this one with a little robin and in machine embroidery...

One more season to go - Summer.

This one has individual hexagons for the foliage.
Here's a windy day tree.

And of course, I couldn't do a tree quilt without a Christmassy type tree...

Then there are a few other pictures sprinkled around. A machine embroidery leaf and acorn.

A little squirrel, again machine embroidery, and I think this one might be my favourite. Harry was convinced I'd drawn this one on in pencil rather than sewing it, and since that's just the kind of effect I like from machine embroidery that was good to hear!

And a couple of appliques hiding behind oak leaf 'flaps'...

The squirrel has hidden his stash of acorns!

And here's another squirrel hiding.
Lastly a machine embroidered name.

Excuse the creasing on this picture in particular, and probably a few more above too. I had to rush out and photograph it before all the daylight disappeared and then the quilt went straight in the wash afterwards. It'll get a quick iron first thing tomorrow when, fingers crossed, it'll be dry, then it'll be straight into a waiting 'quilt bag' to be given. Nothing like finishing things in plenty of time!

Back tomorrow, with a photo, Sally.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Machine Embroidery

I've been cracking on with the Tree Quilt today and it's been a bit of a challenge. It's more full of squares that have, individually, taken a lot of time to make, than pretty much any quilt I can remember making. And I think that's partly been prevarication on my part, because I haven't had a really clear idea of what it's going to look like as a whole.

I've shown you a bit of the appliqued trees and the bleaching of the snowflakes, but the other thing I've done on there, in my efforts to put off the moment when I have to work out how I'm going to put it all together, is some machine embroidery. So I've got a few pictures of those squares to show you today, before I, hopefully, have a finished quilt to show you later in the week.

Just a simple oak leaf and acorn...

Another Wintry tree...

With loads of bark detail...

And even a little robin...

And lastly, a squirrel...

Machine embroidery has been lots of fun, and a good way of getting more of a feel for my new sewing machine. But the trouble is, that the more time I've invested into the individual squares of the quilt, the scarier the piecing of the whole quilt has become. Since if it doesn't all work together then I've just wasted far too much of my time. And so far I really like all my squares individually, they're like lots of mini tree related pictures, but I'm seriously worried about how they're looking together!

Back again tomorrow, Sally.

Monday, 25 November 2013

More Jar Lights

I've got some more lights to show you from my jars. This lot are up in the new Conservatory. I'm hoping there's going to be a bit of a seaside theme going on in there at some point, so I found a piece of driftwood on a nearby beach to help with this light.

Last week the piece of driftwood went up with the initial wiring done...

And now this week, the jars are in!

Just like the lights last week, these jars cast some lovely shadows too.

And the weight of the jars has meant those wires now hang straight. The driftwood is a little lost right up high on the ceiling...

Or maybe it's just that the jars look so lovely you don't bother looking any higher!

It looks just as lovely at night time too, almost like candles dangling down.

That's almost the end of the jars, just 2 smaller ones to finish, which are half converted into bedside lights already. Remember there's lots of information on the lighting we've put in on my Pinterest Board.

I'm hoping I'm going to get lots and lots of sewing done in the next couple of days - I need to get my Tree Quilt finished before the end of the week. And I've got a few smaller bits and pieces to sew by the weekend too. It feels like ages and ages since there's been a quilt finished round here, far too long. But there's nothing like a deadline for helping get something done!

I'll be back again tomorrow, in a quick sewing break! Sally

Friday, 22 November 2013

This Moment

Here's a link to Soulemama's moment, and here's mine...

{this moment}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.
. . . . . . . . . .

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Jar Lights

The lighting is now going up in our extension, so far the bedroom and stairs have their jars hanging and looking beautiful. Do you remember I started out with these jars and a helpful electrician?

I had a slight problem with some of the jars - the ones that had glass discs in their lids rather than rusty metal discs.

Since we needed to drill holes in the lids (to get the light bulbs through) the glass discs were no good. But after a bit of experimenting I discovered that I could cut down the lid of a tin of tuna (just with ordinary kitchen scissors) to the right size to replace the glass disc, and that was something we could drill through.

I think we may all get fed up with tuna sandwiches now though! After that, it was just a matter of the electrician working his magic, and this is what we've got hanging now:

I wish you could all come and see them in person, because it really is hard to do them justice in a photo. There are 5 lights like these over the stairs and in the bedroom, and since the ceilings are very high they're all dangling down a long way. Here's an attempt at what they look like when they're off:

But I think they look best on, and they cast lovely shadows on the walls, especially as some of the jars have patterns in the glass.


And do you remember that one big jar in the photo at the top? Here's that one:

And off:


Sometimes things turn out just as you hope, and this was one of those times. There are lots of examples of this type of lighting across the web, some with useful tutorials. If you're interested in finding out more about them then have a look on my Pinterest - Lighting Board. I collected lots of tutorials and pictures on there and then sent the link to my electrician to see if he could duplicate them for me. If you'd just like to buy something along these lines, then have a look at this Etsy shop - BootsNGus. They have some gorgeous lights for sale. Unfortunately, given the number of lights I needed and the fact that postage and Import Taxes would be high (from America), there was no way I could go down that route. But I did buy the ceiling fittings from there (details on Pinterest) - we needed extra strong ones to take the weight of the jars and this was the only place I could find them.

There are still jar bedside lights to finish and a jar light fitting in the conservatory - hopefully they might be done for me to show you early next week.

Back tomorrow with a photo, Sally.