Wednesday, November 26

Handmade Scandinavian Christmas



A little while ago I was asked by Stitch Craft Create whether I was interested in taking part in a book tour about Handmade Christmas Decorations. One of the books immediately caught my eye: Handmade Scandinavian Christmas by Hege Barnholt.*



Having spent a few years in Norway I'm familiar with some of the Scandinavian Winter/Christmas traditions. To me a Scandinavian Christmas means: light, warmth and bringing nature inside your home. I was pleased to find all of these elements in this book.



The projects in Handmade Scandinavian Christmas are not just 'inspired by' but 100% Scandinavian. There are too many projects to mention: they range from knitting projects (more about that in the interview) to decorations for your home made with berries, branches and pine cones to wrapping ideas. There are typical Scandinavian recipes (I for one can't wait to make the Rice Pudding with Cinnamon!), a chapter about flowers and also simple projects involving food that make great Christmas Gifts. Another thing I definitely want to try are these cute bird feeders.



The project descriptions are rather concise at times but with a little common sense you can work it out. I must admit that the simplicity of many of the projects make it all seem very doable even if you are not especially gifted in cooking, crafting or making decorations. Some of the projects in the book (like the one pictured below) however involve sawing branches and using a drill, which is a little outside my comfort zone. ;)


Me and my daughter Luna opted for the safer paper ornaments (no sawing required) and we were pretty successful! Also: it's hard to stop at one so we made several :)


We did change a little detail, using needle and thread rather than a paperclip to bring the whole thing together. We also made a paper 'woven heart' which again was easy to do with very satisfactory results. There is actually a separate chapter in the book with projects for kids but I found that these paper Christmas decorations were very suitable to make with children too.


I thought it would be nice to learn a bit more about the author of the book, Hege Barnholt and she kindly agreed to answer the questions I sent her! Hege lives in Norway with her husband (a photographer) and works as an interior stylist. Their blog and Instagram account are well worth a visit/follow because of the beautiful photography and styling.

Is there much difference between the Swedish, Danish and Norwegian Christmas Traditions?
The original Scandinavian Christmas is in the colours red and white. And we use a lot of natural materials. The Swedish and Danish Christmas are almost similar. Only the food is a little bit different.



The book has many projects and I read that some of the recipes were passed down from your grandmother but how did you source the many other projects? Where they also passed down from your family or did you make new ones in a traditional style?
I made all the projects my self.  Some in traditional style but also some with a new design or look. All the Christmas cakes are old recipes from my grandmother and mother. My mother made them for me, she died last January. So this book means a lot to me. She made me to the creative person I'm today. 



There are quite a few projects in the book that require knitting. What is it with Scandinavians and knitting? It’s seems immensely popular in the Nordic countries!

We live in a country where part of the year is darkest and cold. We stay inside and love to have crafty projects. And we love to wear them when its cold. The Scandinavian design use a lot of old pattern in a new way,  and the wool is typical Scandinavian style.


Do you have a special Christmas tradition in your family?
I loved when my family sat around the table preparing for Christmas with scissors and paper needles and thread. Making homemade presents and decorations for Christmas. We also used all things we had collected from the nature in the autumn such as cones, moss and crooked branches. And my husband and I always make each other an advent calendar, Its so nice all the 24 surprises until Christmas.



Santa or Julenisse (the Norwegian Santa, but a little different)?
Of course - Julenisse,  it is the cutest. 


Thank you for a lovely interview Hege, God Jul!
***

Handmade Scandinavian Christmas is perfect if you want to bring a genuine piece of Scandinavian Christmas into your home. Many of the projects are easy to do and require little expertise. 



Now if you'd like a chance to win £100 to spend at Stitch Craft Create you can share a picture of your own handmade Christmas on the share board of Stitch Craft Create or use the hashtag #SCCXmas on Twitter or Instagram. Definitely worth a try I think :) 

Happy Crafting everyone! 


*I received an e-book version of the book for the review. All my opinions are my own. :)


Thursday, November 20

New Things...


So...I have (therapeutically?) been stitching on a Very Interesting Project recently. That is to say, I think it will be quite lovely when it's finished but as I'm embroidering it I'm already thinking of a thousand different ways I could have approached this project. The stitches aren't perfect but overall the effect that I'm after is definitely reached. A bit cryptic I know but it in this case it will be so much nicer if you see the finished piece first and perhaps in progress photos afterwards (although I don't have too many). The red rectangle isn't part of the project. I wanted to add an appropriate text there but in the end I couldn't think of anything.... it contrasts nicely with the rest though. :)

Also new is this Wave Goodbye... pattern. As you probably know this pattern was published in Australian Homespun magazine a few months ago and I'm now releasing it for all to enjoy.


As always the pattern has a Stitch and Colour key and valuable tips from yours truly. :) There's still enough time to stitch this in time for Christmas for the VW van or cute animal fan in your life!

Thursday, November 13

Saying goodbye to Tijger


On Monday we had to say goodbye to our beautiful cat Tijger. I took her to the vet only the Wednesday before because she wasn't able to keep the little food she ate down and had actually stopped eating the days before the appointment. It turned out she had an inflammation of the pancreas and in the days that followed she was in and out the animal hospital and back again and our hopes that it was going to end well diminished quickly. But still... you keep on hoping that things will miraculously improve. Sadly they didn't.

Tijger wasn't very old yet although we don't know her exact age because we adopted Tijger from the animal shelter a few years ago. When we just got her I actually was a little afraid of her. She kept attacking my feet guerilla-style, when I least expected it. You can only guess at what happened before she ended up in the shelter. She had a fear of garbage trucks and vacuum cleaners but loved sitting in the sun and licking drops of water from the bathroom tiles. This seemed a little bit out of character as she was a stylish cat with a gift for giving the most delicate head bunting on the planet. We always called her walking to the bathroom after we had just finished showering 'the walk of shame', as she always looked at us as if to say 'yes, I know it's odd but I just got to lick the tiles dry'.

'Guerilla'-Tijger turned out to be a shy, but very sweet cat with a good dose of 'cattitude' and we all miss her a lot (except Milo our other cat, they never got along). I still expect to see her waiting on the stairs when I walk in the front door, or sleeping on our bed. Or waiting by the bathroom for her shower-inspection. We will miss her amazingly soft fur, the tiny dark patch between her white toes that made it look like she wore flip-flops, the white spot on her dark nose, the kitten-like 'meow' (she was quite small) when she was about to get her dinner.

We tried everything (well the vet and animal hospital did) to save her but couldn't. At least there is some comfort in the thought that we gave this fabulous, charming cat a good home for a couple of years. So...give your pet an extra cuddle today from me and keep an eye on your cat if they are not eating. Even if it's just for a day or two.

p.s. Many thanks to all the lovely people who commented on my Instagram post about Tijger. I really appreciate it. xo

Tuesday, November 4

Interesting find: Inspiration for Embroidery


Every few months or so I like to search on the internets for Embroidery (or sewing) related things; mostly old books and patterns. Recently I bought a particularly lovely book: Inspiration for Embroidery by Constance Howard, first published in 1966.

I had heard of Constance Howard but knew next to nothing about her. A quick Google search led me to this lovely post by Jenny Hart and a few obituaries from British newspapers after Ms Howard had passed away in 2000. Turns out that Ms Howard was quite the eccentric, colouring her hair green (in the 1930's!) and fluorescent colours later on. Obviously this isn't what made her famous. Her pioneering work in embroidery in the second half of the 20th century is. She wrote a good number of books too, including Inspiration for Embroidery.

Inspiration for Embroidery helps you to make design choices and to (re)consider the materials and techniques you are using. There are lots of examples on how to get started on a design and how to find inspiration in everyday objects, materials and nature. It's aimed at the creative, exploring stitcher. Sure, the designs and examples might seem very mid 20th century to us (which I happen to like, check out that funky metallic Hedgehog!) but there is much we can learn from this book. "What is creative embroidery if not a trying out of original design and methods of approach not previously attempted?" Still true, even after 60 years.

Find this and other of Constance Howard's books in second hand shops or (like I did) on Ebay for a few quid. It's well worth it.

Tuesday, October 28

Small Bear, Big City


A little while ago I tried out water soluble canvas (more about that in another post) and used it to stitch a lacy border.  I then added a Bear (as you do), the outline of a big city and instead of embroidering random stars I stitched the Ursa Major (Big Bear or Big Dipper) constellation. The bear is approx. 2 inches high so not that 'big' at all. :)

Friday, October 24

Tips for Making No Fuss Blog Photos

Let me start by saying that I'm not a fantastic (craft) photographer. I don't particularly enjoy making photos, it's not my passion and I don't really want to spend *too* much time on it. But it's undeniable that photography is a not to be ignored aspect of blogging and selling your crafty things on internet. This is not an ultimate guide on how to make perfect photos, I'm simply sharing a few things I've learned over the years while making photos for my blog. Because even if I don't have a passion for photography, I do like nice looking photos. :)

Your To Be Photographed Object

Keep it clean. Let's assume you want to share a photo of something you made. Make sure that the object you want to photograph is clean (no cat hairs), not frumpy (iron your fabrics and embroidery, hoop your embroidery) and obviously relevant to whatever you are writing about.

Backdrop/surface



Keep it simple. Find out what works for you. I often use a brick wall on my balcony as backdrop. It has an iron fire escape ladder in front that is perfect for hanging my crafty stuff from and it's outside so I can make use of the natural light (see 'Light'). The only downside is that it can get a bit boring if you use the same backdrop over and over again.



Another thing I found out that wallpaper can make an interesting backdrop or surface for your photos. I happen to have awesome wallpaper in my living room so that's a bonus. But for smaller objects and a little more variety I like to use wall paper left overs and samples. You can get free wall paper samples on the internet or simply ask stylish re-decorating family and friends for samples.



Get creative. For this photo of the fabulous Flossy the Sheep  bobbin I used a simple water coloured drawing as background.



If everything fails (sometimes it does) just go with white.  A white wall,  sheets of printer paper, white fabric,  a white laminate floor. As long as it's not frumpy or dirty. I got this tip from my pal Carina. She knows much more about photography than I do and sometimes she even hosts online courses on the subject!

Props



Use what you have in and around your home. Depending on the style of your blog you can use toys as quirky prop in your photo. Not the drooled over 'well loved' toys from the toy basket obviously.




Other things I used in my photos in the past are bowls (nice ones but plain white would definitely be useful to have) and books. I also sometimes include my cats in a photo if they happen to be around, because you know it's impossible to *make* a cat pose for a photo. :)

For a more natural, rustic look you can use leaves, flowers and branches from your garden.

Light

I assume by now everyone knows that natural light is the best for taking photos. Non-too-sunny, slightly cloudy days are perfect so if possible grab your camera when the circumstances are best. You can go outside or find a spot by a large window. If light is a little low it helps to hold a sheet of printer paper just out of view, to reflect light up on your object. Sometimes there is just too little natural light to work with (like in the photo with Milo, taken mid winter) and you have to 'lighten up' the photo a bit afterwards (see After the Photo is made).




Making photos on the go

I rarely take my fancy camera with me (yes, I have invested in a 'proper' camera) and make photos on the go with my phone/camera. You can make perfectly adequate blog photos with the phones that are available nowadays. Just snap away if you are on a city trip or attending a crafty event. :) You can also make photos that might be useful one day in your posts. I made a photo of Polar Bear Eric (he lives in my local Zoo) and used it later when I wrote about Furry Stitching.  Besides animals you can also think of making photos of objects with numbers (anniversary posts!), nice looking doors, trees, thrifty finds etc.

After the Photo is made

Sometimes your photo can use a little lift. It's too dark or too big for example. If you are really into photography you will probably improve your photos in Photoshop or some similar program. If you don't have Photoshop (like me) and want a quick tweak then websites like Picmonkey are great or Pixlr if you want something more similar to Photoshop. Simply upload your photo and you can brighten the image, crop, add a watermark etc. Instagram-like filters, text (except your watermark) and other additions are nice but use them sparingly.

Wednesday, October 15

Couture Birds

Embroidery & design by Nicola Jarvis. photo used with permission


While I was browsing the website of the Royal School of Needlework I stumbled upon a fabulous looking workshop called Couture Birds (Kings and Queens) hosted by Nicola Jarvis. I first found out about Nicola Jarvis' work last year when I read about her beautiful embroidery work in a William Morris inspired exhibition (read a review here). Besides the Morris' Birds Nicola has done lots of other exquisite highly creative embroidery work in different techniques.

So I needed very little time to think it over and very spontaneously booked my place in the class. Without worrying about details of how to get there and where to stay or that I don't know anyone there. It's next July so I still have some time to figure all that out. :) Incidentally I also forgot to check whether my embroidery skills were good enough to take part. It's Crewel and Gold work, two techniques I haven't tried before. At least not Crewel work with wool, because apparently you can also do Crewel with regular stranded thread which to me sounds much like surface embroidery. And that is something I happen to do quite a lot! I'm not particularly keen on formal gatherings but the RSN says the classes are small and friendly (just like me!) so I should be ok. I'm just incredibly excited to be taking a class with Nicola and I expect to learn lots from the experience!

As I write this I saw there was only one spot left in the Couture Birds class (come join me!) but there are lots and lots of other interesting courses available through the Royal School of Needlework for all skill levels and on different locations as well. The majority is in the UK but there are also classes taught abroad.

Do check out Nicola Jarvis' shop where you can find gorgeous Embroidery kits, including several William Morris inspired Bird kits.

In preparation for my class I will go and explore Crewel Embroidery a bit more. Obviously I will share my findings here on the blog. :)