(originally published 7th December 2015)
Some people say they have everything done and dusted for Christmas by now - such people are not to be believed…
Bizarrely, I'm feeling very festive, happy and buzzy about Christmas this year, and I wasn't expecting to - my gorgeous Mum passed away this time last year, and it was a really sad time for her daughters (and grandson) - but an eventful year has turned; here we are, nearly a year on and I'm planning the baking, the cards, the outings, the gifts, and the traditional kitschy cross-stitch kit.
Thanksgiving for Canadians is in the middle of October and (with a side trip for Hallowe’en) is considered the starter’s pistol for Christmas preparations, particularly for crafters and bakers! There’s a slightly bizarre fortnight when witch’s hats and pumpkins share shelf space with advent calendars and mince pies…
Growing up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, my sister and I were used to getting a special ‘frock’ for the festivities - mum would sit at her monster of a Singer sewing machine in the weeks leading up to December, and we would often be required to stand on a chair while she checked hemlines. Unfortunately, the outfits were usually matching, which would drive my sister crazy but would make me proud!
Needless to say, these festive outfits were phased out by the time we hit our teens, but the handmade gifts continued. I have a pair of ‘Christmouses’ which have pride of place each year, made by mum in the 1980’s - they sit next to the pair she made in 2000, and very fine they look all together!
Handmade decorations, whether for the tree, the front door, the dining table or the mantlepiece, are always special, and are like old friends coming out of their hiding place each December. Each piece has a story, and every year I like to add to the collection. The Stitching Tree (as I like to call it) is now displayed at my studio at The Old School House in Bristol - everything on it is either stitched, or associated with stitch (like my collection of antique wooden spools, threaded on ribbon and adding a lovely patina to the other decorations). Some of my friends, family and students have added to the tree with more hand-made ornaments, which is simply delightful! I’m hoping to get to the point where you can’t actually see the tree for the ornaments…
At home however, I love the smell of a real tree, and this year I’m having a go at making some ‘natural’ ornaments - dried fruit slices, orange pomanders, cinnamon sticks, popcorn garlands, and pinecones galore - I’ll heap the mantlepiece with natural greenery, and my long-since-stitched Polar Santa will preside over it.
Christmas is an odd thing when you really think about it - it’s a day (and a ‘season’) that is unlike any other time in the year, bringing very specific identifying markers with it - decorations only seen at that time, food only eaten then, music limited to a few weeks, entertainment tailored for the festivities - it is all-encompassing, and changes every aspect of our lives for a brief moment, every year. Of course we remember earlier years, other trees, family traditions, and above all, stories. Which leads me back to the Christmouses on the mantlepiece - they have an important story to add to the collection, and in putting my time and heart into a new decoration each year, the layers of tradition and memory grow.
What will I be stitching this holiday? Now and then I treat myself to kit ‘series’ - and some years ago I bought half a dozen bird/envelope designs - each one with a wish for the season. I’m not sure which one I’m on now! Once they’re all finished, I shall turn them into wee doorknob scented hangs, to carry the spicy smells of the season throughout my home.
Have a glorious Yule one and all, enjoy all your hobbies amongst the bustle and rush of the season!
Love ’n Stitches,