Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Don't mention the horses

Recently my friend Charlotte emailed me and asked if I would create some Christmas stockings for her and her family in Canada, kindly giving me a free reign on just about everything to do with their design. I was excited about this project for lots of reasons, but mostly because I loved the idea of creating something that would become a part of their family Christmas traditions. Charlotte is a natural home-maker and I remember her and her now-husband's flat in England as being cosy, homely, quirky and very much essence of Charlotte, so even though she feels very far away and I still haven't managed to make the flight to visit her new home in person, I feel that I can imagine exactly what her house might be like at Christmas time; delicious cinnamony smells, lovely decorations and wrappings, warm candlelight and twinkly white fairy lights that I know she coils around her veranda in December. And it is these imaginings that floated in and out of my head as I designed her stockings and I really hope that I've created something that fits in suitably with the reality of their Christmas, rather than just my imagined version of it.

I made the grown-up's stockings first, because I couldn't decide what direction to go in for their baby, Ella's. For Charlotte's stocking I used four of my favourite fabrics, one of which featured heavily in Zebra-girl's room scheme when she was small. When I started on Kevin's though I was slightly more indecisive about the fabrics as I wanted it to be manly, without being gloomy and dull for him next to the girlier stockings. In the end I laid out some fabric combinations, photographed them and then emailed them to Ian at work to ask him which he thought I should choose. When he didn't reply immediately I rang him (for these midday school pick-ups make morning sewing a pressured business)...but he was in a meeting. 'I'm in a meeting' he said tersely when he answered the telephone. I always think meetings where you are still able to answer the phone are probably fairly informal. And horay for meetings where they end up crowding around the computer screen and providing me with more than one opinion...it was almost like a special stocking conference call summit had been called. They chose the colours above and Kevin has them to thank for saving him from other more dubious colour schemes.

For Ella's I wanted a design that she might like while she's very small, but that might also be acceptable if it is still in existence when she's a teenager. I have no idea why I have such a strong association between rocking horses and Christmas, but we had a wooden one on our tree when I was a child...so perhaps it comes from that or perhaps because in my mind a rocking horse is the most perfect gift that a child could possibly be given...my father found a beautiful antique one for my mother and smuggled it into the house on Christmas Day a couple of years ago - her reaction suggested that it may well be the most perfect gift for a girl of any age. Below is one of my favourite photos; Zebra-girl two years ago at the height of her love affair with Disney Princesses resting on the head of Christmas, my mother's just-received horse. What a digression that turned out to be...I shall refrain from mentioning anything equestrian in the future for fear of taking myself off on tangents further still...and all this from a girl who dislikes horses after being kicked to the ground by a wild pony on an adventure in the New Forest!).

So here is the little family of stockings and they are now safely in Canada. I almost felt like I was there as they unwrapped them as Charlotte's lovely parents were visiting and thoughtfully photographed the unwrapping. Charlotte's photos often make me feel a little tearful, but in a good way, just because she is so lovely and I miss her and I'm so proud of how brave she has been in setting up a whole new life in a different country. I enjoyed making these stockings so much that I have now made another three which will soon be appearing in my shop.

I think I'd said in my last post that I would share some photographs of the curtains that I'd made for Zebra-girl. After hacking the old ones down with some shears so that I might use them as quilting material, my mother said that she would love to buy the fabrics for me to make some new ones so that she could give them as a birthday present. We picked this pink flowery loveliness together, discussed the merits of many of the colours on my velvet swatch chart (a prized possession) and then did some stressful shop-based research into which lining should be used (actually a new one that has a fleece thermal layer on one side - it faces inwards so you don't ever see that bit of unsightly furriness - and looks like normal curtain lining on the other side).

The pictures have a strange gloominess to them, so please imagine them with lovely streams of dappled evening sunlight on them and they will look much more appealing. Zebra-girl has the largest room in our house and her bay-window measures four metres long. I believe it is quite possible that I may still be suffering from post-traumatic stress as a result of the battles I had just attempting to move such a volume of fabric from the floor to my sewing machine (18 metres of fabric when combining the print with the lining and 18 metres of velvet to be stitched on), so I am yet to look at them without feeling slightly exhausted. I think that making excessively large curtains may be one of the few things that doesn't carry the same trick as childbirth of instantly forgetting the horrors - I haven't forgotten and I don't ever want to do it again...so if we ever move house again I shall have tiny windows on my wish list.

When we first moved in we put Zebra-girl's bed in the length of the bay window and painted the ceiling of the bay in a warm pink to create a cocoon-like feel, in an otherwise cream-coloured room. I loved how cosy this felt...but sadly Zebra-girl has the bug that I too suffered from as a child: she loves to change her room around as often as I will allow it...

I have yet to tell her that these are the curtains she will have until she leaves home...I do hope they have long-lasting appeal.

11 comments:

  1. Beautiful stockings Florence - I particularly like the grown up versions, your friend will be very pleased indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh such a lovely post to read with my coffee (and yes, I am here when I shoudn't be again!). So much to comment on.
    Christmas - the perfect name for a rocking horse. I love it and I love the image of little zebra girl in her princess dress too.

    The stockings are lovely Florence. I know just what you mean about creating something that becomes part of someone elses family history. I made stockings, fairies, etc and the thought of them being unwrapped each year and joining in with another faily's festivities was so special to me.

    And those curtains are just beautiful. Just the lovelest fabric, though I am so relieved someone else despises making curtains too - I do them but oh I hate every moment! Yours are so pretty and just think, you'll easily manage to make a double quilt for you and Ian after all the practice at manoeuvering the fabric weight!
    P.S. 7 children = 3 older ones, 2 lovely step-children (hate that word) & our 2 littlies...phew!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Those stockings are just lovely and I am VERY impressed with your curtains - well done you!

    April xx

    ReplyDelete
  4. the stockings are wonderful!!! And I am so impressed you made those HUGE curtains!!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. More loveliness!! That curtain fabric is so pretty. My girls are all about to change bedrooms again as Daphne is getting a 'big girl's bed'. It means new curtains for them all and I'm slighly daunted by the prospect of making them. Lucky for me though they are not such an enormous size!! Well done!

    ReplyDelete
  6. What lovely stockings I'm sure your friend will love them. And what a lovely description of your images of her christmas house.
    K

    ReplyDelete
  7. Miss Florence --

    This was great to hear about all the background story to the Christmas stockings -- and quite reasonably priced considering the team of consultants that were called upon to choose the man-fabrics!!!

    I'm totally chuffed with these additions to our Christmas traditions and thought of our 10 month old daughter racing to see what was inside at 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, 18 years old... maybe hanging next to her girl's stocking one day... fortunately by then the "Made by Florence" brand should be available in all local shops to get a companion stocking for grandchild! :)

    So thank you again, great job, i'm amazed at the detail etc, and be sure to pass on my tipping of the hat to the serious men in a meeting who helped point the way to "manly-but-not-dreary" fabric choices!!

    Big love!
    Kev

    ReplyDelete
  8. Lovely stockins. They will tresure those.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oh dear .. the wild pony story sounds like the stuff of nightmares!! but the stockings are lovely. I know what you mean about those terse "i'm in a meeting" moments!! Very tiresome when you need information right at that particular moment! Oh and btw .. Jimmy is still excited by the prospect of his xmas morning stocking now, and I made his when he was tiny. I think it will be one of those things he will have forever. A vessel for his xmas memories, so I have absolutely no doubt that Ella's will be too. x

    ReplyDelete
  10. just beautiful...love the twist of the Chrisitmas colours...

    ReplyDelete
  11. Florence you are too kind! How exciting to read your post about the stockings! Kevin had seen it too (which means he was reading your blog at work,in a meeting perhaps?!) We adore them, so lovingly created with such thoughtful detail and special fabric - it really feels like Christmas came early in our house, they will be a treasured part of our Christmas, which will be an even better Christmas this year with our trip to England, I am over the moon excited to see you and the teacake family again!! Love the curtains too, so pretty. Also must tell you that I was so entranced by your beautiful online store that dinner didn't get made. love charlotte x

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x