Making

Festive Stained-Glass Luminary Cards

Luminary Bauble Cards

Hello! Are you feeling festive yet?  We’ve had a Christmassy weekend, hunting down the perfect tree (I love the smell of resin and fir; even the myriad of inevitable small needle puncture-wounds that track my hands and arms are worth it…) and crunching through nearby fields of frost. Yesterday afternoon we lit a fire and retreated indoors, and made batches of these tissue-paper luminaries, which look beautiful on their own and even better with small battery t-lights placed behind them…

Tissue paper bauble holiday cards

We made Christmas trees, baubles and stained glass windows; once you get the hang of the glue and the tissue (it’s a messy sport, but a lovely one), they are deliciously simple, whilst looking like they have taken great mastery and hours of dedication.  Perfect.

DIY Stained Glass tissue paper cards

To make these you’ll need…

  • Cardstock for the cards
  • Tissue paper in different colours
  • Shaped punches or a craft knife to cut out your shapes
  • Tracing paper or vellum to layer your ‘stained glass’ onto
  • Glue and scissors
  • Christmas CD, glass of mulled wine (optional; but hey, why not?)

We started by punching out the circle shape from our cardstock..

Stained glass cards step 1

Then, take the circle shape and place a square of tracing paper or vellum over it, taping it into place.  Cover it with glue from a gluestick (less messy and more forgiving than runnier white glue).  Cut strips of your tissue paper and place them in uneven, overlapping layers of the shape;

Stained glass cards step 2

Repeat as many times as you like, and then draw a circle around the edge of your shape, slightly larger than the shape itself (this makes for a much neater silhouette when you stick it in the card ‘window’, especially when you’re using a t-light with it and having a lot of light shine through)…

Stained glass cards step 3

Take your original cut-out card and add a tin line of glue around the inside of the circle shape, and then press the tissue-bauble into place, with the tracing-paper side facing inwards, like so (below).  Cut a freehand shape for the top of the bauble; we used gold card but any colour will do;

Stained glass cards step 4

Fold into half and trim if needed.

Ta-da!!

Stained glass bauble cards

Stained glass christmas bauble cards

The christmas tree cards are made in exactly the same way, though are a bit more complex – I cut out a triangle shape, punched a star above and then used this hole punch (a favourite tool) to punch random holes around the tree to simulate fairy lights.  Don’t invest in one unless you’re a regular crafter; just use the point of a compass to poke holes through (carefully, of course…)

Christmas tree stained glass effect cards

Christmas tree tissue cards

Then place a battery light behind each one to make them glow;

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Package each card up in an envelope with a battery t-light attached (best to save this for hand-delivered cards) – I bought a bulk pack of these and they’re fantastic.

Final step?  Walk away from the scene of devastation you have created.  Tell yourself that it will look better when you return.  Take a bath instead.

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DIY Driftwood Boats

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I love the sea.  Specifically, I love wild, empty beaches and the magic of a newly-washed shoreline and all the treasures that the tide leaves behind. Whether it’s Christchurch, New England or Monterey, my family has become wearily attuned to coming home with a large, suspiciously-smelling bag full of beach finds.  I keep a big bucket in the art room, labelled ‘Driftwood and the Sea’, and last weekend I finally had a rummage through and began to craft a small fishing fleet…

How to make a driftwood boat

DIY Driftwood fishing boats

And because every fisherman needs a warm and and inviting home to navigate back to as dawn breaks; a couple of cottages too, complete with chimneys and freshly laundered sheets drying on the line…

Fishing cottage made from driftwood

I started by sorting out some of the most interesting looking bits of wood I’ve collected over the months (ok, years..)

Driftwood

…and then rummaged through the art room to gather together all kinds of bits and bobs I might need.  I used…

  • Old nails and screws to make masts, chimney pots and washing line posts.  If you don’t have any old or rusty ones to hand (we have an ancient shed full of them), you can paint them or even rust them yourself with tutorials like this (but really, you could so something much more exciting instead I’m sure)
  • Eyelets, to make windows and portholes
  • Wire, for sails and bunting and washing lines
  • Paint – any paint – and sanding paper, so that when it’s dry you can gently buff it and make it look more weathered and aged
  • Beads, shells, bells and any other things you have lying around
  • Scraps of linen (from a favourite, ancient pair of trousers that finally became too holey and revealing to wear)

Materials for making driftwood boats

Painting the wood is simple; I used a couple of layers of colour, blended unevenly, in complementary sea-like tones…

painting wood for driftwood boats

And as for the rest?  It’s entirely upto your imagination and whatever you have to hand.  After all, each boat should be unique, and none of them need to be remotely sea-worthy.  In case you’re interested in giving this project a go, and have a similar haul of driftwood (or an opportunity to go collecting), here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how I made each of these.

Driftwood Fishing Boat deconstructed

Driftwood Fishing Boat 2

Driftwood Fishing Village 3

p.s. three other nautical projects; paper boats, beachcomber table settings and cork boats… and one of my favourites ever; Harry’s Ark.

Have a wonderful week!

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DIY Projects: The Book Vase

DIY Vintage Book Vase

Our village has an extraordinary supply of second-hand bookshops, including one that gives away books for free that have been rescued from landfill.  Every weekend we have a browse, and usually come back with new treasures.  As a result, my shelves are creaking and my supply grows faster than I can read or repurpose them. I used a vintage graphic atlas bought last year to make this gift for a friend’s new baby..

Matilda's Map Dress

I also use illustrations from childrens books to make colourful envelope liners, and make secret boxes from the covers of interesting-looking books, by removing the text block (tutorial here).

Kates secret book box

This time I used an old book full of tips for gardeners to make a simple vase for fresh flowers (I love the title; these days it would be the ‘Dummies Guide’ or similar; not quite the same..).  Here’s what you need;

Making a book vase

  • And old hardback book with a sturdy, undamaged spine
  • A cardboard box that fits inside the book, and is the same depth as the spine
  • A water bottle, with the top sawn off
  • Glue, craft knife, ruler and pencil.  Coffee, chocolate, good music all optional but recommended.

Firstly carefully remove the book text from the spine by slicing down either side of the pages that hold the book pasted to the cover. Remove the book and set aside, leaving your hardback cover which should lie flat.  Place the box (without lid) inside it to check for fit.

Carefully slice out one side of the box, leaving an inch around the edges for stability and to help it maintain its shape.  Press the long side edge of the box against the spine and then glue the box into the book cover, as shown below.  It’s best to leave several hours for the glue to set; lie it flat and place something heavy on top of it to encourage the adhesion.

making a book vase step 1

Once the glue is dry and secure, slide your water bottle into the open ‘book box’ so that it is resting on the bottom.  Use a jug to carefully fill it with water…

Making a book vase step 2

And then just add your flowers!

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Add twigs for artistic effect.  Regret never having had any training in the art of floral arrangement.  Decide life is too short.

Book Vase

And then when your flowers are past their best glory, simply remove them and the bottle, and either clean out the bottle or replace it. Job done!

DIY Book Vasr

Have a wonderful weekend, when it comes!

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Altered Books for Little People

 

Making Creative Colouring Books for Kids

It’s that stage of the Easter Holidays where time seems to drag and even Harry occasionally thinks wistfully of school restarting, so we’ve been extra-resourceful this week and have had a go at making altered sketchbooks, inspired by this lovely – and very simple – idea from Rock & Pebble; a kids’ sketchbook shaped like a house, ready to be filled with drawings and pictures.  Aren’t they cool?

Dollhouse book by Rock & Pebble

You can’t buy these in the UK (and at $27, you might just pause anyway), so we thought we’d have a go ourselves and raided Harry’s art cupboard, where I always keep a stash of bulk-buy sketchbooks.  We decided to have a go at making a castle book, so I carefully measured and drew turrets, and used a craft knife and safety ruler to cut them out (metal rulers like these with a finger groove are ideal and minimise the risk of profuse amounts of blood on your castle, however authentic that may look)…

Making altered notebooks

We then took a second notebook and drew and cut out a simple slanted roof, and added doors to each, like so…

Altered notebooks for kids

I had some leftover brick-printed paper from Harry’s knights and castles party last year, so we glued this onto the castle book and added a couple of paper flags for extra style..

DIY Castle Sketchbook

And Harry immediately settled down to colouring and creating, drawing knights, arrows, shields and battles…

Altered Castle Notebook

Castle colouring book DIY Knights colouring book DIY

Yesterday, we decorated the cover of the house book together, adding brick paper, shingle roof tiles and other bits and bobs of decoration.  We love how it turned out…

Harrys House Book customised drawing book for kids

Harrys House Book DIY Colouring book for kids

The inside is still invitingly blank, and our plan for tonight is to take the Ikea catalogue, a pair of scissors each, some glue and a huge array of snacks (it is the holidays after all), and collage a room full of all of our favourite things onto the pages… watch this space!

Have a wonderful rest of the weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing….

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DIY customised drawing books for kids

The Archivist

Yearbooks together

Welcome back! and Happy Easter (almost) ..I’m looking forward to the chance to catch breath once again after a frenzied few weeks at work, and the chaos of the end of term at school for Harry.  The weather looks grim, but we are undaunted; it is as easy to eat vast amounts of chocolate in the rain as in the sunshine (easier! No risk of melting).

One thing that has been a lovely distraction in recent evenings has been completing last year’s Family Yearbook; an annual project to document all the best bits of the year before, and to translate the thousands of odd photos on my Mac into something physical that we can all flick through and talk about.  I began when Harry was two, and we now have four books in a nook in the Snug, which are regularly taken down and explored all over again..

Family Yearbooks

The biggest part of our yearbooks is always the family photographs, but it’s also a place to capture stories, passions, events and moments in time, like the time last year when the Tooth Fairy made her grand entrance…

Capturing the tooth fairies visit

And my brief flirtation with gardening in 2014 which produced an intense flurry of of interesting botanicals over a period of about 8 weeks before I got bored and forgot to water anything…

Gardening yearbook

And the funny things that you want to remember, like the time when Harry was just learning how to write, and was frustrated by the number of adult conversations that seemed to go on FOREVER without a long enough break for him to interject.  These notes were passed to us in the kitchen one evening by a stony-faced Harry, and were too good not to capture for posterity..

Notes

And I’ve also documented our gradual renovation of the house, like the guest room last year;

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Inevitably, the design and format of the yearbooks has changed over time, and it’s fun to look back on that too, as my own style has evolved and my comfort with the camera increased.  In some years I’ve grouped the book by season…

IMG_0187  Memory book seasons

And in others, by month..

January

Some things remain constant; in each book I have a section at the back for a gallery of Harry’s projects from the year; it’s fun to see the difference (and the things that stay the same; my thigh gap will never reduce; I am reconciled to this now..)

IMG_6479kids art in a yearbook

2013

I use a software programme that allows to you to choose different designs for the front and back covers (these below are the paper fruit we made in 2014, which miraculously have survived 18 months in the playroom without incident, beyond mild denting);

Yearbook back cover

Family yearbook back cover

I’ve learned the hard way that the best way of building a yearbook is to do it as the year unfolds (sitting on New Year’s day staring down the barrel of 3,426 photographs and a blank book template is no fun at all), so this year I am finally ahead of myself and have the 2016 book saved permanently as a work-in-progress that I add to every couple of weeks; my goal is that on New Year’s Eve I can just click save for one final time and press the Order button..

If you’re tackling a project ike this for the first time, I shared some thoughts on what to include here.  But I’d love to know other ways you use photographs and preserve memories – all tips welcome in the Comments section.  We have the Memory Jar, and hidden in the loft, the Time Capsule, and of course the blog itself; but I’m always looking for other ideas…

Have a wonderful long weekend!
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DIY Secret Message Bowls

Homemade Message Bowls

Hello, Happy Sunday! And Happy Mothers Day to those in the UK.  I was greeted at sunrise with a BIG cuddle and this gorgeous drawing; it’s funny (and very lovely) to know I am perceived.  Whilst my thigh gap hasn’t got any smaller in this picture, I am coveting the dress (less so the green tights; I’m not quite so fashion-forward).

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I’ve had a little more time this week for crafting, so I did something I’ve wanted to do for ages and had a go at ceramic transfers, and made a surprise for Harry’s cereal bowl.  I got a bit carried away and worked my way through our china cupboard,  leaving little messages hidden at the bottom of a range of bowls and mugs…

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I found a script-like font (the lovely Helena, which you can download for free here) and made up some messages which I printed onto Lazertran paper.  There are various makes of transfer paper which will work with ceramics, in slightly different ways; ask your local craftshop what they have.  With the Lazertran paper, you print in reverse (choose ‘mirror image’ when printing), then dry the paper in a low oven to ensure the ink is properly fused to the paper.  Once the ink had dried, I cut around the words, soaked the paper in a shallow dish of water to release the transfer film and placed one in the base of each bowl, face down.

Sponge gently to release any air bubbles, and place in the oven on a low heat for about 15 minutes.  When the 15 mins are up, gradually increase the temperature over the course of 90mins until it reaches about 200 degrees C / 350 F; at that point the text will fuse completely to the ceramic and take on a glazed appearance like in the pictures above.  Leave to cool and you’re ready to go!

Lazertran printing

Flushed with success, I found these quotes on Pinterest and used them to create messages-in-a-mug; they look lovely when used with fruit teas, where the message can shine through the berry or lime colours of the tea.  They’d  look equally good on the outside of the mugs too…

Message in a Mug

Of course you can transfer images too, which would also look lovely – a child’s drawing perhaps, or a photograph… but I do quite like my secret messages.

Have fun exploring this if you decide to give it a go (try on something inexpensive first whilst you master the subtleties of transfering and baking)…and let me know how you get on!

Have a great rest of the weekend, wherever you are and whatever you have planned…

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Bowls with a message

Now We Are Six

This is 6

Whilst for Harry, life moves infinitely slowly, with the space between breakfast and lunch sometimes seeming to be as long as a whole year, for me it is moving very fast indeed.  Growth spurts can occur during the time it takes me to gaze blankly into my coffee as I come awake, and I am always surprised at the frequency of birthdays (Harry’s and mine, in fact – how did I get so old??).

Harry turned six a couple of months ago, which for him signified the onset of adulthood, pretty much, and for me caused to me pause and think about all of the favourite things which make up his world in this moment – the objects with a story behind them, or those which represent abiding passions over the years.  I gathered some of them together, bit by bit, and created a photo montage that we can keep and look at together in the years to come.  It includes:

1. The Militaria collection (or a selection thereof).

For a very equable, peaceful boy, Harry has always had his head turned by a decent plastic sword.  His collection spans various phases from pirate to buccaneer, brave medeival knight to Jedi knight, with silver duck tape providing necessary repairs over the years.  We have all become skilled in the art of swordplay, which mostly involves bluffing, waving your weapon flamboyantly around in the air air and shouting ‘ahhaaarrgghh!’ at intervals.  We are such amateurs.

Slide1 2. The Food Pyramid

I don’t think Harry consciously leans towards round-shaped food, but we certainly eat a lot of it.  From Cheerios (the breakfast of  champions), to cucumber – a hands-down favourite among vegetables, though both he and my husband maintain that eating lettuce is inexplicably dull and bizarre and to be avoided at all costs.  Chocolate donuts are a treat breakfast for holidays only, and thus have a near-mythical status and powerful associations.  The Charley Bear lunchbag is at least 4yrs old, but appears whenever we have a roadtrip to anywhere longer than an hour, and must always be filled with ‘just-in-case snacks’, although the snacks are invariably eaten and the just-in-case scenario is never actually verbalised.

food

 3. The Passions

Lego, Thunderbirds, Star Wars and making-things-out-of-cardboard-and-paper are abiding passions of Harry’s that show no signs of abating, and in fact gain steady momentum.  I captured some of them here, and expect that they’ll feature for many years to come.  I pulled out and photographed some of the items from his craft stash to remind me of this year…

craft

 4. The Random Ones That Make Me Smile

Amongst the rest there are a number of items that defy easy categorisation; the microphone that we mime with on Friday nights in the kitchen whilst music blares and the family dance-off unfolds (unravels, really).  The Ukelele that Father Christmas bought and which is strummed, endlessly and usually accompanied by Freddie Mercury-esque poses and strutting.  The commencement of pocket money, which has led to much discussion about the joy/torture of spending vs saving, and has introduced Harry to the novel thrill of having independent wealth to jingle in your pocket as you rummage through charity shops in search of a bargain. And Uno, a card game that Harry mastered at Christmas and will now attempt to persuade all those who cross our threshold to play.  He can now hold around 15 cards without dropping them all, has developed a cheery cackle to deploy gleefully whenever he is winning, and is an expert, charming manipulator who will try to recruit you to ‘join my team!’ whenever you look like you might be ahead.  He is still working on the poker face.

treasures

When thinking about what to choose, it also struck me what’s missing from this list, like books; Harry loves being read to, and increasingly enjoys reading now that the struggle of navigating new words is outweighed by the momentum of those he knows and the pleasure and discovery of a new story – but at this moment there are no particular favourites or books he returns to over and over; there were in toddlerhood, and there will be again (Harry Potter, here we come..), but for now they don’t feature here.

To make the montage….

I gathered up all the items on our list and took photos of each against a contrasting-coloured background, then imported the pictures into Powerpoint (free trial here), and used the ‘remove background’ tool to isolate each picture so it would work against the white backdrop of the slide.  For some of the toy figures I used stock shots online which was infinitely easier.  If you’re an afficionado of Photoshop you’ll be able to create a montage like this easily using that, but I am a luddite and use .ppt.

But… the main value of this is to capture the memories and the snapshot of life at this age, so the method is much less important than the purpose.  You could just as easily make a scrapbook together with photos (or drawings!) of all precious items and write a line about each (we’ll be adding notes to our montage when I paste it into this year’s Family Yearbook, so we remember the story behind each one).

Just looking at ours makes me smile – a little mistily, in truth – and is the beginning of an annual tradition, I think.

Have a great week, when it comes!

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Last-minute Christmas decorations: Simple 3D Stars

Simple 3D Stars tutorial

How are you, are you all set for Christmas?  We’re feeling festive  tucked away here in our small corner of the world, after a weekend of visits from family and friends, the official end of school and work, and the house now bedecked with lights and decorations (I’ll share a few pics tomorrow in a final post).  One last-minute addition has been these simple paper stars (above and below), made using this brilliant template created by Kate Lilley at Minieco… they look like beautifully crafted origami stars, but are a little easier for those who are quickly baffled by the dexterity needed in the twisting and folding of the authentic Japanese versions.

Simple 3D Stars for Christmas

We made ours  using old sample sheets of wallpaper leftover from when I decorated the chimney breast in our bedroom; I simply printed the template directly onto the A4 tester sheets (below) and then cut and folded the stars, which led to a beautifully tonal pile of petite étoiles which we’ve scattered along the mantel.  They’d look beautifulstrung into a garland, or even filled with small treats and used as place-markers on the holiday table; just leave one flap of the star unglued…

Making 3d stars

How to make simple 3D stars

3D stars to make

Have a wonderful rest of the day; we’re off to see Father Christmas later as darkness falls; rumour has it that his workshop can be found in a local forest if you take a compass and follow very specific directions, looking out for elves amongst the trees as you go.  Anticipation is very, very high….

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Brown paper packages, tied up with string…

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String

This year – and particularly the last few months – have been crazily, insanely busy.  Good busy, but still intense and pretty relentless, and as a result I feel ready for a pared-back, simple Christmas.  The fir lady is a decadent splash of colour and finery in our kitchen, but when it comes to gift-wrapping and other decor, undertstated and simple appeals.  Harry and I have been playing this weekend with brown paper and the craft cupboard, wrapping and decorating presents for family to stack under the tree…

Starting with Sarah’s gift, which we made by glueing a ring of these miniature wood slices around a piece of black paper to form a holiday wreath…

Wood slice wreath parcel

We then rolled out a sheet of paper and Harry stamped white stars randomly up and down it (we used different sized punches from hoobycraft in the UK and Paper Source in the US).  DIY gift wrap made to order for any size of present (in fact the hardest bit is getting your small, festive helper to stop…)

Festive stamped paper parcels

And then for a fun present, I created three folds in a sheet of paper and used it to wrap this gift below, tucking a couple of eucalyptus cuttings in to make a mini forest, and adding some birch moose decorations (these, if you’re in the US, bought recently on a work trip).  Because any gift is enhanced by the addition of a moose.

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And then once I’d prised the rubber stamping set out of Harry’s hands, we got to work making snowball gift wrap, by gluing different shaped white pom-poms to our kraft paper.  You can either do this straight off the roll or onto the actual presents once you’ve wrapped them.

Making snowball giftwrap

DIY Snowball Giftwrap

We have a couple of friends we’re not seeing until New Year, so I wrapped up their gifts with paper ribbon, butchers twine and old corks and cages from my collection (this particularly expensive and delicious champagne was a birthday present that I drank very, very slowly indeed…).

Brown paper packages tied with champagne corks

Brown paper celebration wrapping

And finally, a gift not for me (I’m not immune to buying presents for myself but rarely do I wrap them), but for Harry’s godmother, decorated with a chalkboard tag and a stick-on mini christmas tree, topped with a tiny, starshaped button.  A hopeless suggestion for any gifts you need to send by mail, but rather lovely for those that can sit, fetchingly, under the tree…

brown paper parcels for christmas

A productive weekend, then…and not over yet.  We’re off to see Bridge of Spies tonight and I’m so looking forward to it; a Sunday-night date feels decadent somehow, but infinitely more fun than packing briefcases and school bags and the setting of alarms.  All that can wait.

Have a wonderful rest of the day!

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A homemade Christmas

How was your week, has it been a good one?  It’s been a crazy busy one here; a mix of work and play, of Christmas parties and Nativity plays, of late nights and early mornings (Harry’s latest trick; to slip into our bed at an ungodly hour and whisper hoarsely in my ear ‘I love you to infinity Mummy.  Now can I stay?’).  We’re looking forward to a relaxing weekend and some festive crafting and decorating.

If you’re feeling similarly inclined, here are a few ideas from the archives for homemade gifts for those you love…

Like pinecone firelighters, for everyone you know with an open fire or wood burner;

DIY Pinecone firelights

Bake-at-home cookies for the students in your life who eat you out of house and home but wouldn’t dream of making their own unless you made it this simple..

Christmas Cookies in a jar

Or perhaps a tinful of these simple DIY bird-feeders, which are easy for small hands and will be a gift for the birds in your garden too…

DIY Bird feeders from katescreativespace

You could make batches of these fun striped holiday candles and tie them up as stocking-filler gifts…

Striped Holiday Candles

Or fill mason jars with their favourite sweets

candy jars as christmas gifts

Three different types of cookies to make and take to your holiday parties..

Gifting Christmas Cookies

Or why not make a 2015 mini photobook for grandparents or friends of some of the best photos from the year?  They look beautiful on the mantle..

DIY Vacation Photobook

And one of my favourites; DIY personalised pencils, made by printing onto washi tape.  If you haven’t tried this, you really should…

Magic tape printing DIY

And finally if you’re choosing gifts for a book-lover, why not make them some of these whale-tail bookmarks to keep their place each night…

whale tales bookmarks

I’ll be back after the weekend; I hope you have a wonderful one!

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The Fir Lady returns once again

Christmas Lady

Christmas began to arrive in our home yesterday, as I staggered back from the garden centre with armfuls of pine, eucalyptus and berries.  Now the house is filled with resiny scent, as is my hair, my clothes, my hands… it’s intoxicating.

And the fir lady has once again come in from the cold and taken shelter in a corner of the kitchen; this year she is sporting a bright red military-style jacket (a charity shop find) and standing 9ft tall, thanks to an old chest we dragged in from the back of the shed.  Pine cones are dotted amongst her skirts, and boughs of red berries peek around her hem.

The Fir Lady close up

Fir Lady Skirts

Here’s last year’s Fir Lady, who sported a hessian bodice and a skirt adorned with simple wooden stars..

The Fir Lady 2014

And the original, 2013 Lady who had a rather more risqué skirt and a nipped-in waist..

Fir Lady for Christmas

If you have a spare mannequin lying around (and who doesn’t?) I gave a vague tutorial last year, with tips about how to build up a skirt and thread all the greenery together (tip: chicken wire is your secret weapon).  Mostly though it just requires trial and error, and is aided by a glass of red wine.  Or mulled wine.  Any wine in fact, but probably just the one glass, especially if using a ladder.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend; we’re lighting the fire and curling up for a Christmas movie; Elf and Arthur Christmas are the top contenders; popcorn and hot chocolate will be crucial.

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