Saturday, 21 December 2013

Winter Solstice, Mistletoe & the Kissing Hat....

Happy Winter Solstice!  

As if you couldn't tell, today is the shortest day and longest night of the year.  It's quite a dusky, magical, eerie sort of day and one I've decided to spend quietly after almost over-doing-it Christmas shopping yesterday (well, I say quietly, which usually translates into making something...)

I wasn't sure if I would get the time to do another festive make before the 25th and even if I did, what I would do it about, but in the end it was the Solstice that inspired me.  Whilst I'm not about to go running off to dance around Stonehenge (even though it's not too far from here) I have taken a little piece of the druid related folklore about Mistletoe - which is also another iconic symbol of Christmas.

Christmas Mistletoe

Mistletoe is a parasite growing at the tops of 'host' trees which it uses to sustain it. It manages to survive and spread because birds eat the berries then 'expel' the seeds naturally which then lands on the branches of trees and begin to grow. It has been used medicinally in various guises and was called 'Allheal' by the Celts...but don't be fooled as those sweet little white berries can be quite toxic to us humans.

But back to the Druids.  They considered Mistletoe to be a sacred plant, largely because it appeared to grow 'up in the air' and which they therefore associated with the sun. Of course the Druids were great sun worshippers and used to cut swathes of it around the time of the Winter Solstice. 

In Medieval times it was also used for both medicinal and magical purposes and it was hung it up in bunches all over the place as 'protection' from evil.  It was believed to be some kind of love protection talisman and one of our oldest traditions, that of kissing-under-the-mistletoe,  is likely to have stemmed from that.  It can actually be quite hard to come by this time of year, or at best quite pricey so I thought I'd have a go at making some... somehow... and crochet was the thing that sprung to mind which, with a few additional beady embellishments went towards a sweet little sprig to wear on a jumper or hat.

Mistletoe crochet brooch

So, how was it made you wonder... well, just follow the step-by-steps here (there are a lot of pictures for this one but it should make explaining it easier!)

First of all you will need some green yarn, a 3.omm crochet hook and scissors...

Begin by making a row of 12 chain stitches..

Then make a dc in the 2nd ch from the hook, followed by 1htr, 1tr and 1 dtr...

Make 1tr stitch in each ch until the last 3 ch....

Then 1htr in next 2 ch, ending with 1dc....

Next, catch a thread from the other side of the chain row so you have 2 loops on the hook...

Pull the thread through both to give a single loop. That completes the first leaf.

Now make another row of 12 ch stitches 

Repeat all the steps necessary to make a second leaf...

Once again, catch a thread from the other side of the chain row to make 2 loops...

.... and pull the thread through to leave you with one loop.

From this point on, I basically made a thick row of chain by catching the thread through the previous stitch and making a dc on top (repeatedly)....

Work it until long enough to turn back onto itself in a loop...

Push the crochet hook through the other side and pull the thread through as shown here... 

Then make a row of 12 chain ready for your next leaf....

When you've made a new pair of leaves, use ss to work your thread down the 'stem' and make another pair...

Then crochet back up and around the top of your stem to both close the 'loop' and thicken it...

Fasten off and use the thread end to sew the thick top of the stem into a more stem-like shape...

You should now have a little cluster of leaves like this...

I used some white glass pearls for my 'berries' but any small white beads of around 8mm will do...

I also decided to make my beads into small charms which I could attach to the leaf cluster and which would give it a bit of weight...

Finally it just needed a little bit of scarlet ribbon tied into a bow...
crochet Mistletoe

Hope you got all that?  It's really not that complicated but I just wanted to make sure you had enough pictures to follow it through! Don't over-worry about the organic nature of the stems - just work up and down them until you feel it works for you.

how to make a Mistletoe brooch

I'm quite pleased with how this little project turned out and, with it clipped to my woolly hat (an ordinary safety pin works well) and it means I can go off gathering my kisses all over the festive season now - what fun!

Happy Making xx

Monday, 16 December 2013

Festive beading & Snowman Earrings...

beaded snowman charms

Only 9 days to go until the big day! 

For us that breaks out into 5 days of school/work followed by 4 days of last minute shopping, making and generally feeling over-excited! There's also a couple of Christmas parties coming up which led to todays festive theme tutorial which is, as you can see above,  a pair of cute Snowman Charm Earrings! 

As well as being nearly Christmas, it's also nearly the winter solstice and don't we know it with all these dark & dreary mornings (it's definately made photographing the step-by-steps a bit trickier today!)  We haven't actually had any snow here yet - or even a hard frost to speak of but I keep reading that we are going to be hit by 'arctic' weather this winter so I guess we'll just have to see.

Anyway, back to the earrings. You will need to gather up some beads & bits as follows: 2 x 8mm white beads, 2 x 6mm white beads, 2 x large black sequins, 2 x large seed beads in black, 2 x small seed beads in orange & blue plus a couple of long head pins.
free step by step tutorials

You will also need a black marker pen, glue, pin and some fine red crochet thread.
addicted to making tutorials

I used a variety of tools such as a small crochet hook, scissors, and various jewellery pliers.

So first, prepare your snowman 'head' and 'body' beads - which basically means drawing some black buttons on the large white bead and a face on the small one.

Then make a small 'scarf' by crocheting a row or about 8 chain stitches with a very fine crochet hook (leave the ends and inch or so long for now as it makes tying it much easier)
addicted to making tutorials

Now you can start to assemble the snowman by slipping one of the tiny blue seed beads onto a headpin followed by the 'body' bead.

Then tie the scarf around the pin and add a dot of glue before adding the 'head' bead and holding them together for a moment while they set.

Once set, you can trim the thread ends off the scarf.
how to make snowman

Add another dot of glue and slide on a large sequin and large seed bead for the 'hat'.

Then, the last but most fiddly bit, use a pin to add a minute dot of glue to the snowman's face and pop a tiny orange seed bead on for the 'nose'.  Leave it to dry.
How to make snowman earrings

Repeat the process to make a second snowman with the remaining beads...

Once the glue on the Snowmen has set, you can bend the wire tips over at right angles and trim, leaving just enough to turn a loop.

Use round nose pliers to turn a loop on the tops of each Snowman and straighten up a little if necessary.

Now just add your charms to a couple of earring findings!

If you're not off to a party, these would always make a sweet little christmas gift too...
Snowman Charms

Who could resist these Christmas cuties?!

With not long to go to the 25th the question now arises: will I manage to get another yule tide tutorial done'll have to check back to see :-)

Happy Making!

(p.s. my snowflake background paper for the main picture was from the Christmas issue of Homes & Antiques)

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Partridges, Pear Trees & Quilling

Hello Again!

Here we are in December and how quickly it has arrived!  The Robin is back and happily singing his heart out at the top of his favourite tree each morning while our house is full of advent calendar openings & munching sounds.  The current calendar count = 7  and apparently there's another 2 on the way from Grandparents...all that choccy before breakfast feels a tiny bit decadent ;-)

Of course we've also had the obligatory trip up into the attic to get down all the tubs of trimmings (..I can never remember which tub has what in..) and we've rescued our trusty old fake tree!  It'll just about last for another year by the looks of it and with a curious puppy around it's probably better than a pine-needle-in-the-paw drama! Maybe next year we'll splash out on a new one.

The other thing that the beginning of December brings is Christmas card writing and this year I thought I'd make a few cards too , especially being as I had all my card making stuff out following a recent magazine commission (sorry.. can't tell you any more about that right now... 

Anyway button cards are sweet & easy, you only really need a good stash of buttons and a glue gun.  I really like this simple tree design..

button christmas tree

A button heart could be for Christmas or any other occasion come to that -  and who doesn't like hearts?

cards with buttons

I also wanted to try something I haven't done for a while... quilling.  I discovered all my quilling bits and tools hiding at the bottom of my card making stash and decided to buy a new pack of paper strips and some glue when I went shopping at the weekend. That's pretty much all you need really.  Oh, and maybe a little patience as it can be fiddly.


As I was starting the project on 1st Dec I got inspired by the whole 'Partridge in a Pear Tree' vibe and started out with a rough sketch of a partridge-like-bird and pinned it to a piece of corrugated cardboard..

Then I began making a small yellow coil with the Quilling Tool which, for those who have never used one, has a split in the end that holds the paper strip while you start to wind.

simply quilling techniques

I then put a tiny dot of glue on the end..

Let it uncoil slightly before pressing the end down to make a basic circle shape.

When it was dry I squeezed one side to make a tear drop shape.

Then I tried it out to see if it fitted the 'beak' of my bird and pinned it into place so I could go on working the rest of the piece around it.

I used lots of pins to help hold the paper strips in place and some longish strips to create the outline of the bird..

quilling partridge in a pear tree

It's quite useful and time saving to make up a batch of paper coils in various colours and sizes as then you can pick, shape and place them without having to keep stopping.

paper quilling

Gradually I filled in the outline with shaped coils and used tiny dots of glue to stick them together.  Every now and then I checked I was able to slide a blade underneath the bird and that it wasn't all stuck to the paper.

Eventually, when dry, I was able to lift the whole piece off the paper.  At this point you can still shape it a little by gently squeezing the sides.

I made a few yellow coils and shaped them to looked like 'pears'..

quilling techniques

After quite a lot of  experimenting with a whole tree design I decided that just a branch might look better and, more practically, would fit on a card a bit better.  And then, because it didn't look partridge-y enough for my liking - more like the plump wood pigeons I see in the garden - I added a couple of coils to it's head. I'm hoping the pears are a good clue to theme too ;-)

quilling designs for christmas

The cards just need a suitable sentiment to finish them off and maybe a little hand stamp on the back.

'Tis truly the season to be jolly and I'm sure I will be back soon with another festive inspired make but for now....

 Happy Making!