Saturday, December 18, 2010

My Handmade Christmas (pt 4) A card for life, not just for Christmas...

This year we (that is I, obviously, as it's generally me who buys, writes and distributes!) decided that we were going to keep cards to a minimum - immediate family, close friends and those good friends who live far away and whom we are not likely, but would dearly love to see over the festive period.

In keeping with the whole Handmade Christmas theme I decided it would be a really nice idea to make cards rather than buy them and way back in September I spotted a Cross Stitch magazine with a free 'make your own luxury cards' kit. The cards were cute, contemporary designs in bright colours and there were enough polka dots to keep even me happy. Perfect!! 

Now I, like many crafters, like to dabble, and I have done counted cross stitch in the past. In fact I'm sure there are two or three unfinished 'projects' floating around the place that I will get around to completing one day. The prospect of half a dozen simple motifs didn't phase me at all. 'Won't take long,' thinks I...

But cross stitch is a lot more time consuming than I remembered and each one of those little motifs actually took a lot longer than I thought they would...

...and several evenings were swallowed up putting needle and thread to aida...

Once all the motifs were stitched I ironed on some interfacing to the back of the aida and cut out each motif before combining them with other bits and bobs - sequins, felt shapes, buttons - to make up the cards.

I must confess I am quite chuffed with the results and I know they will be appreciated by those who receive them. I hope they will be kept and added to the decoration stash to be brought out year after year.

Despite my best intentions I really didn't have time to make everybody a card so I did the next best thing and sourced some really special cards in for everyone else...

These cards are designed by the lovely Becky Peabody, a Somerset based artist who creates fabulous collages from torn paper and, like me, has a passion for polka dots!  Her gorgeous collection of cards, postcards, notebooks, pictures and more are available from her website . Go and have a look - you won't be disappointed :)

So all that's left to do now is finish off the presents and wrapping and get stuck into some Christmas baking...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Handmade Christmas (pt 3) Dried Orange Garlands

What is it about oranges that so sums up Christmas? They are said to represent the gift of Gold in the Nativity story and in the days before electronic gadgets and must-have toys they were an essential, and much anticipated stocking gift. The glorious orangey scent blends so well with spices - cinnamon, cloves and ginger to create a quintessential Christmas fragrance that fills my home thanks to a couple of well placed essential oil burners that I keep topped up over the festive period.

Piles of mandarins and clementines in their little red net bags fill the fresh fruit section of the supermarket at this time of year and a fair few of them have found their way into my shopping basket and home, where they are currently residing in a basket with some unshelled walnuts looking oh-so-christmassy.

This year I decided to have a go at making some orange decorations and, rather than buy ready dried orange slices, I thought I'd do it from scratch and dry some myself. After all, how hard could it be?

So first of all you need a couple of nice firm oranges. Not the above mentioned clementines et al but the big ones you might juice for breakfast if you were feeling a bit decadent...

Cut them into fairly thick slices - about 5-10mm

and lay them all out on a baking tray.

Pop them in the oven on it's lowest setting for a couple of hours until they are completely dried out.

Then transfer them onto a wire rack to cool...

et voila! Dried orange slices ready to be made into pretty, festive decorations!

Well that's the theory anyway...

As you can see some of mine turned out a little too crispy round the edges and not quite as 'pretty' as the commercially dried slices. But I did them myself and that's what counts :)

And strung together on some red gingham ribbon I think they pass muster!

The rest look very pretty displayed in this little glass jar and, although they may not look perfect, they smell divine.
Which is, after all, the whole point!

Now I have some presents to finish off as there are only 10 sleeps till the big day :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Handmade Christmas (pt 2) Deck the Halls...

If there is one thing I have learned since having Riley it's that my time is no longer my own. In the old days the decorations would come down from the loft and we would spend a lazy weekend tinselling, hanging lights, dressing the tree and generally making the place look as festive as possible. Even last year Riley was small enough to nap for a couple of hours during the day so I could 'get on with it'. No more...

Now it has to be done in stages to accomodate a small boy's attention span and so as not to stretch mummy's patience too thin...

So the tree went up (see My Handmade Christmas (pt 1) ) and that was about as much as we could do in one day. Next job was to finish dressing the 'Christmas Room' (aka the conservatory).

The dresser has

This cute little Christmas clock I picked up from a charity shop a couple of years back. I love the little Santa pendulum, plus it plays Christmas tunes on the hour :)

Pride of place goes to this little Santa made by my other half when he was at primary school which makes it over 20 years old!(not going to tell you HOW much over - he might sulk) 
Who says family heirlooms have to be valuable pieces? It might just be some scraps of felt and a toilet roll but it's absolutely priceless.

I bought a lovely green wreath from the last Christmas Fair I was selling at. It is packed full of holly, evergreens and berries and I have added some of our glittery pine cones and dried orange slices (more on those in part 3!).

Even the kitchen has been properly pimped...

I added some cute mini glass baubles filled with 'angel hair' to my red gingham heart garland and some fab 'crystal' LED lights and tinsel to the stainless steel pan shelf...

More baubles in a glass vase on the window sill.

And finally, hanging on the tree ready to be filled with treats for him to find on Christmas morning,
 is the stocking Riley decorated with 'In the Night Garden' stickers.

His own little contribution to our Handmade Christmas.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Baby it's cold out there...

In fact cold is an understatement - someone told me it was -13 in the Forest today (7th December)! Most of last weeks snow had melted away by Sunday to be replaced by the most incredible 'frosting' I have ever seen :)

Jack has certainly been busy painting pretty pictures on our conservatory windows...

...not to mention my herbs.

Freeze dried sage? It looks so brittle it would just crumble between your fingers.

So me and the little man wrapped ourselves up nice and warm and ventured out into the chilly morning. The sun was actually shining when we set off but had disappeared behind a bank of cloud by the time we reached the end of the road. We are pretty exposed up here at one of the highest points of the Forest and the grey skies leant a certain bleakness to the view.

It's almost as if all the colour has been bleached out of the landscape...

...only the occasional flash of green leaf clinging on to the otherwise skeletal hedgerows.

But the cold wasn't going to stop Riley smiling...

...he loves the way the frosty grass crunches under his feet!

He also loved seeing the horses in their winter coats :)

But it's not all black, white and grey...

The bright scarlet berries look so pretty nestled among the shiny dark green holly leaves.

The extreme cold, frost and snow have been inconvenient for many people with some areas getting it much,much worse than we have, but it's unusual for us to experience it this side of Christmas. And, lets be honest, it makes snuggling up at home with the mulled wine, mince pies, pretty lights and colours of our decorations all the more appealing.

Stay warm people :)

Monday, December 06, 2010

My Handmade Christmas (pt 1) The Tree!!

So I have been a naughty blogger... I have completey failed to post anything since November 1st but I do have an excuse. To be fair I have a number of them but among the more relevent ones are 'I have been really busy making things and attending craft fairs and Christmas Shopping events (as a seller and shopper both)', 'I have a lot of paperwork to catch up on...', 'I'm soooo tired...' and 'I've been gearing up for my own handmade Christmas...'

Actually it's the first and the last one that have taken up the most of my time. My plush scented decorations have sold really well and kept me busy since the end of August - there are only a few left now (I don't want to think how many of them I actually made...) and they have ended up on my own tree :) The Christmas Fayre Frenzy has more or less finished and most of my Christmas stock has been sold (for the few remaining things check out my Folky shop and if you are on Twitter search #handmadechristmas for loads of other fabulous present and decoration ideas.)

And now on to my own Handmade Christmas...

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that this has been my project for the second part of 2010 - promoting the idea of a Handmade Christmas to the world and encouraging you all to ditch some of the more commercial trappings of the festive season in favour of a more homespun approach. So have I been doing my bit? You betcha!!!

So first up is the tree...

Now I will confess that not all the decorations are handmade - I have been collecting baubles, stars, garlands, lights and tinsel for some years now and it would be a shame to waste them...

I love my red mirror baubles...

...and my glittery snowflakes. (The snowman was bought for Riley's 1st Christmas)

And I can't get enough of fairy lights!

But nestled in amongst the regular decorations are a few of my handmade scented ones, adding their festive fragrance to the room...

There are also a number of pine cones that I have collected with Riley over the past few months. Last week we had great fun painting them with glue and dipping them in silver glitter. I think you'll agree, the effect is lovely :)

and here's how it looks altogether...

So how many of you have your tree up now? I hope you had as much fun decorating it as we did!

Monday, November 01, 2010

**HANDMADE CHRISTMAS GIVEAWAY** And the winner is...

Firstly can I say I am overwhelmed by the response to my giveaway! Thank you so much to everyone who has taken part and a big "HELLO!!" to all new followers of the blog, Forest Flower facebook page and Twitter.

So now for the result you have all been waiting for........ Drum roll please......

Gosh this is nearly as exciting as X-factor!!!

And the winner is....

Kerry LouLou Milne

(better known to many of us on Twitter and Folksy as LouLou'sLuxeries)

Kerry chose the Vintage Patchwork design as her favourite and her bespoke set of Scented Tree Ornaments will be winging their way to her shortly. :)

Congratulations Kerry and thanks again everyone else for taking part.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Showcase Sunday - Feyth Crafts

Every now and then I stumble across a shop on Folksy that makes me stop and go 'Wow!' It might be something bright and colourful or beautifully simple, sometimes it's the uniqueness or sheer craftsmanship that catches my eye and that is what makes sites like Folksy so special.
The other day, whilst refreshing the home page over and over in the vain hope that I might spot one of my items there a beautiful face beamed up at me and I fell in love - head over heels. I truly hope my OH won't get jealous when he reads this but I must confess Mr Dimbleby stole my heart from the very first moment I laid eyes on him...
Mr Dimbleby
I simply had to see more so I clicked on the image and went to the shop of his creator Traci Howard,  Feyth Crafts and found a whole collection of fabulous fantasy creatures.

Now I have a life long obsession the artwork of Arthur Rackham whose illustrations filled a childhood copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales that I loved. (If you are not familiar with his work you could start here) His art is not your typical cute fluffy fairytale artwork we are used to seeing in kids books these days but quite dark and gloomy and at times even creepy - look closely at the twisted branches of his trees and you will see faces, old, wizened and utterly fascinating to me when I was 7 and still now 30 years on... At around the same time (when I was 6 or 7) my dad took me to see the amazing Jim Henson movie The Dark Crystal a fantasy collaboration with the artist Brian Froud (you may also recognise his style in another Jim Henson movie Labyrinth ) whose fairies, goblins and other fantasy creatures have captured my imagination ever since.


So you see Mr Dimbleby and his associates (including Nerval here) immediately resonated with me - it was like discovering a physical manifestation of all my childhood fantasies. Here were the tiny, wizened Little People and Tree People I had always been looking for whenever we went for a walk in the woods or set up a den behind the garden shed...

Sleeping Elf

So why not let a little magic into your life and add introduce a Twog to your garden :)


 Exquisite is not a word I bandy about unnecessarily but I think it perfectly sums up Traci's work!
For more Twogs, Dragons and other fantasy creatures please visit Traci Howard's lovely shop Feyth Crafts or her website 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

**Handmade Christmas Giveaway**

Well, approximately 24 hours ago I had 196 'likers' of my Forest Flower Facebook page so I suggested that if I could get 4 more I would do a little giveaway...

I have been truly overwhelmed by the response - I seem to have attracted over 100 more likers overnight!! In fact the current number is now 330, well over the 200 I was aiming for!

So as a big thank you to all you gorgeous peeps I am giving you the chance to win some of my handmade lovelies for your very own Handmade Christmas - in fact I am giving you several chances!! (more about that later...)

Here is what is up for grabs

First up we have a pair of felt birds in traditional festive red and green. Made from quality wool mix felt and stuffed with soft high grade polyester toy stuffing and a generous scoop of 'Christmas Spice' scented aroma beads for a warm, welcoming festive fragrance wherever you hang them. The cute gingham wings are blanket stitched in place by hand and decorated with matching buttons. Each bird has a little metal hoop so you can hang them from decorative tree ornament hooks or tie pretty ribbon through them - however you choose.

As if that wasn't enough I am also offering a custom made complete set of my 'Christmas Spice' scented plush tree decorations. The set of four - a heart, bird,stocking and star- will be handmade to your specifications from a choice of fabrics. You can have ribbon hanging loops as shown in the pictures or you could opt for simple metal hoops as seen on the felt birds above and hang them from decorative tree ornament hangers. Each decoration measures approx. 10cm and includes a generous helping of the wonderfully festive 'Christmas Spice' scented aroma beads.  For more information and pictures please visit my Folksy shop

So how can you win these gorgeous handmade lovelies?

I am offering each of you not one but FOUR chances to win this great prize

First you need to pick which one (or more!) of these fabrics you'd like your decorations made with.
(1) Modern 'Dark Green with Gold Swirls'
 (2) 'Vintage Patchwork'
(3) Pretty 'Holly and Berries'
(4) Fun and Contemporary 'Modern Patchwork'
(5) Country Chic Red and/or Green Gingham or
(6) Pure and Simple 'White on White Stars'

Next leave a comment below stating your choice (that's one chance to win)

You could also become a blog follower (that's two chances...)

You can also 'like' my facebook page if you haven't already and leave a comment on the discussion board post *Handmade Christmas Giveaway* (that's three chances...)

and finally if you are on Twitter you can follow me here and tweet the message 'I have entered Forest Flower's #handmadechristmas giveaway. Have you? '  just so I know and that's your fourth entry.

So there you have it. Simples :)

You have until midnight on October 31st to enter and the winner will be announced on November 1st at around 8pm (ish)


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Christmas is coming!! (no, really...)

 I know many people like to avoid even a sniff of the 'C' word before the second week of December, but these are probably the same people who moan and whinge about the 'commercialisation of a holy day' and the 'heaving crowds of desperate last minute shoppers' (of which they are a part!) They are also probably the same people who would sulk a bit if you 'forgot' their pressie!!

But putting the 'holy day' issue to one side for the moment I really think that anyone who leaves it all to the very last minute is really missing the point. It's not about buying as many gifts for as many people as you can think of in the shortest time possible or maxing out your credit card to keep everyone happy. It's about taking time to find something special for the people who mean the most to you.

As a crafter I have been thinking about Christmas all year, looking for ideas for presents, both to make myself and by other artists and crafters I have discovered on sites such as Folksy .

As a crafter who makes things to sell I have been fully immersed in Christmas since about the middle of August!!

This is my first Christmas as a seller on Folksy so I really don't know what to expect but I have been beavering away to produce, amongst other things, a line of gorgeous plush hanging decorations in a range of christmassy fabrics and ribbons all beautifully finished by hand and filled with the fabulously festive 'Christmas Spice' scented stuffing. They are very versatile and could be used as tree decorations or hung on door handles or in bundles around the hallway to welcome your guests. They would also make lovely additions to your Christmas present wrapping and are an extra present in themselves! Some are available in larger quantities (maximum of 5 listed but can make more to order). Some have been made from my stash and are limited. I am booked in for several Christmas craft fairs over the next two months and expect (hope) to sell the bulk of these to customers who can pick them up, appreciate the workmanship and most of all the divine fragrance but I would love to see some go further afield :)

There are three designs available from my Folksy shop right now but I will be adding more soon.

Here is a little glimpse of more of my handmade Christmas goodies...

In keeping with the whole spirit of giving I am currently planning my first blog/ facebook / twitter giveaway so if you like what you see above keep your eyes peeled for posts on how you can get your hands on some of my handmade lovelies for free!!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Letting the picture speak for itself

Ok - so for this Wednesday only it's not strictly wordless.
This is an idea I spotted on another blog whilst idly blog hopping round the net one day. I believe someone once said 'A picture is worth a thousand words' so as I have so many random pictures lurking on my hard drive I thought I'd give your virtual ears a rest and present you with a feast for your eyes once a week.
The image may be artistic, structural, historic, beautiful, funny, cute or just plain random.
Please feel free to comment, or not, as you choose :)
Sometimes there is no need for words.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

An Autumn Walk Round Newent Lake.

Don't you just love this time of year? The weather today is horrendous - torrential rain, gusty winds that rattle our letter box and make the poor fir tree in our back garden sway alarmingly. It's proper 'staying-in-under-the-duvet-watching-tv' weather. Yesterday, however, was gorgeous.
Me and the little man went into Newent with Daddy and ran a few errands while he opened up the bike shop. Then, finding ourselves with some time on our hands we decided to get a bag of duck food from the local green grocers (30p!!) and go for a walk around Newent Lake, a tranquil spot just a stones throw from the Old Shambles Village .

The ducks formed and orderly queue...
...but quickly got stuck in!

It was warm in the sunshine but there was a definite autumn nip in the air and the signs of the changing season were everywhere. Fallen leaves, changing colours, berries and nuts and busy squirrels preparing for winter scarcity.

The water was very still and perfectly reflected the trees and sky...

In fact it was so still I had trouble working out which way up was the right way with this picture!

Riley loves the water and always stops at the bridges to gaze at the water running beneath...

How lucky we are to have such a beautiful place to visit so close by :)

Edited 28th May 2011

ShowOff Showcase
Whilst blog hopping (as you do) I stumbled across this lovely idea at The Boy and Me . An opportunity to show off a previous post that didn't do as well as you'd hoped, didn't get the views you would have liked and give it a second chance. This post was first published in October 2010 before I got involved in the mummy blogging community and Twitter. I chose this one mainly because I just love the photos so much. Hope you enjoy it this time round too :)

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