I suspect that like many crafters, I go into, or at least I’d like to go into, a crafting overdrive at Christmas. Craft magazines are filled with various beautiful, festive related creations that just make me want to lock myself up and create for days on end. But as many of us know Christmas, or at least the run up to it, can be one of the most stressful and busiest times of the year with far less time for creating than usual. This is doubly so if you happen, like myself, to work in retail. I haven’t had Christmas eve off for 8 years: when I do make it home, usually at about 5pm after having been up since 5am and at work since 6 or 7am, all I can manage is to cook an easy but relatively special christmas eve dinner for my partner and his mum who joins us, finish wrapping any presents, prepare whatever I can for the impending feast on the morrow and conclude the day by flopping down into a sofa coma to nurse a strong drink and gaze at the bejewelled tree in the twilight glow of dozens of fairy lights. I can’t help but glare in envy of office workers who, coming to buy their christmas food on the 23rd/24th have had, compared to me, a relaxed run up of parties, get-togethers, and shopping outings. Thank goodness I don’t have any friends who expect me to throw parties because they’d be disappointed every year.
By the time I get around to making anything, it’s usually January: such is the case with the Dala Horse. The reason for the scenic route into this post is that I only bought the christmas edition of the Cross Stitcher magazine, which contained the pattern for the dala horse, because it came with a free kit to stitch a robin ornament for the christmas tree. I did stitch this kit in time for christmas but alas I didn’t have time to put it together in order to hang so it’s been stuffed into my sewing box until I remember to buy some fabric glue and finish it.
Embroidery and cross stitching is another craft I did quite a bit as a child but never touched it again until late last year. Even so, as I child I never stitched anything complicated. My mum would buy big bits of aida (which she pronounced eye-ee-dah, I’m still unsure of the pronunciation), cut me squares or rectangles of it and I would stitch freestyle borders or my name, or sister’s name or ‘mum’, using lengths of unsplit, ie. 6 strands, embroidery silks. We’d occasionally go into Canterbury on the weekends where there was a large fabrics shop called C&H Fabrics (which a quick search reveals is still standing, I’m pleased to say). My mum would peruse fabrics to makes curtains and I’d head straight down to the haberdashery section to pick colourful silks off the towering display wheels adorned with its rainbow colours.
I was so happy to partly recreate this part of my childhood when I came to stitching to the dala horse. The suggested fabric was 20 count linen which I had to buy online as I couldn’t find anywhere local that stocked it despite living 5 minutes from 2 fabric shops and a knitting shop that sells embroidery silks to boot. Progress was immensely slow as I have never in my life stitched on linen, which is much finer than aida. Indeed the pattern suggested aida for a faster finish, but I don’t mind spending the time when I know it’s something that I’m going to keep forever. Having never stitched on linen, or with split thread, or read a cross stitching pattern for that matter I made a fair few mistakes in my counting which then I dutifully unpicked, determined to make the dala horse perfect. Three months of stitching solidly in my free time gave me everything that I wanted and I was awash with pride at my creation. I bought a cushion pad and some red striped cotton fabric and quickly machine stitched an enveloped cushion for the dala horse to reside on.
Unfortunately, with there only being two of us in our house, and our house being very little, I don’t have a charming, cosy armchair for him to reside on. There simply isn’t the space or need for a third chair, as much as I would love one, so the cushion tends to reside on one of the dining chairs. However, as we’ve got a nice sunny day, I took it into the garden to photograph, coincidentally enough next to a miniature christmas tree that I bought in December that is still going strong despite my neglect.
I have since cross stitched a couple more things, but again, mainly due to monetary constraints they are, like poor christmas robin, awaiting finishing.