Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Quick Handmade Christmas Traditions

Not the catchiest of post titles, I'll admit, but it does exactly what it says on the tin! I'm keen to start some little quirky family traditions of our own - things that will remind Wiss of his christmasses in many years to come, as they get brought out of the loft yet again. But I'm mindful that there's less than a week to go so these future bits of history need to be done quickly!

Homemade decorations:
I much prefer homemade decorations to shop bought ones but paper chains just don't last. This year I've made a whole bunch of twisted felt streamers which can be used over and over, and can even be washed! I used acrylic felt in bright colours and white, but any two contrasting colours will do. Cut a strip of felt 5cm wide and as long as you can from each of the two colours. Sew these together with a straight stitch 5mm from the edges, all the way around. I included a loop of ribbon at either end to help to hang it. Using a scalpel or craft knife cut approx 5cm slots approx 7cm apart, through both layers of felt.
Then all you need to do is feed one end into the slot furthest away from it, and pull it through to create the twist. Then feed the same end into the next slot, and pull through. Then the next. Repeat all the way down your streamer and you'll end up with something like this:

Santa's Key:
We were given this idea by a family member who has four children and I thought it was genius! Questions are often asked by clever kids who have noticed that while Father Christmas usually comes down the chimney, most houses these days don't have one! How will Santa be able to get in??? Using his magic key that we will leave under the mat/on a hook outside/under a flower pot of course! I have bought a large old key from ebay (but any spare key will do) and will add a ribbon to hang it with.

Christmas Pillowcases:
We all have stockings to hang up, and although I loved the idea of making everyone christmas pyjamas I just don't have enough time. However, there is time to make christmas pillowcases! I saw this tutorial via I'm a Ginger Monkey and thought it would be great way to continue the festive decorations into the bedrooms. As soon as I've stopped blogging I'm going to be knocking up some pillowcases using these fab fabrics:

Reusable Santa Sack for Presents:
I made this Santa Sack as a special commission but I liked it so much myself I will definitely be making some more next year. It is lined inside with contrasting fabric to make it stronger, and has a drawstring top to keep all those presents safe inside. I improvised a pattern using a cross between one of my waterproof bags, and a toiletry bag just scaled up! If you'd like a proper tutorial to follow then check out Dana's Hobo Sack and just make it bigger.

And there you have it! Four little ideas that won't take long to make but will add to the magic that is christmas!

If you have any more ideas then I'd love to hear them. Please leave a comment below or link to your own blog so I can see what you're up to. Even if they are more involved projects than these, let me know so I can add them to my 'Things to Do for Next Christmas' List!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like christmas!

My last Christmas market of 2012 was on the 8 December. A huge thank you to all the lovely people who came and chatted, and especially to those who bought things! It was a great event, busy all day and the Horniman Museum was an amazing venue in the bright winter sun. Thank you to Lucy and the Horniman for putting it on!

I have to admit, I was pretty shattered after three weekends of markets in a row, and weeks of making stock, but I had the next challenge to concentrate on so after one night of R&R (a Chinese take-away and the X-Factor final!) it was time to DIY!

We moved house in August but months later there were still loads of packing boxes in each room. With a Christmas deadline to get downstairs presentable at least I needed to get busy in the workshop! Our dining room has two large alcoves, and I own about a gazillion books so it made sense to build in floor to ceiling shelves to house our 'library'. I made these thick 'floating' shelves from mdf and timber (and am happy to provide details should anyone wish to make some themselves) They are pretty easy to make and relatively easy to install (although I speak from experience when I recommend that someone should always hold the ladder. Poor Kieran!)

With the addition of some ultra cool Star Wars inspired retro prints from Etsy and our gorgeous old wooden table purchased from Ardingly antiques fair, it's finally starting to feel like a home. We also made time to tackle the enormous box mountain that was in the corner of the front room: a couple of hours later and the corner looked like this!
Hooray! It's beginning to look a lot like christmas.....finally! We are hosting our first ever christmas lunch with both families round to us. The husband is in charge of food and I am in charge of spatial design (ie making sure we can all fit!) and decorations. A pretty good deal I think? Even though there's less than a week to go, there's still time to make some lovely festive decorations, and great finishing touches.

As this is our first Christmas with a child who understands what it's all about, I'm really keen to start some family traditions of our own. My next post will be all about quick, simple handmade christmas ideas that could become part of your festive rituals. I'd love to hear about any quirky traditions that your family have at this time of year too!

Thanks for reading :)

Friday, 7 December 2012

A Fair Christmas Fayre

The Fair Christmas Fayre starts tomorrow at the Horniman Museum and runs on both days of the weekend. It is London's longest running ethical market place and this weekend there will be over 30 stalls selling fair trade, recycled and Eco gifts to help make your Christmas feel good!

I am thrilled to be part of this fantastic event (and that it is being held at the Horniman, South London's gem makes it even better) and although This is Wiss is not an obviously Eco company I do share many of the principles of the Fair Christmas Fayre.

Since becoming older, wiser, and a mother I have become increasingly Eco aware. We do as much as we can in our day to day lives - recycling, grow our own veg, waste as little food as possible etc - and this philosophy continues into my designs and materials used for my products.

Because my target market is babies and children, and of course their parents, I think carefully about what materials I use and where possible I use natural fabrics. My Square Bear & Square Hare comforters are made using organic cotton and bamboo blended terry towelling. Bamboo has natural antiseptic properties and is very absorbent but just as important, it washes well too!

My Changing Mats and Waterproof bags are made with 100% cotton outer layers. I used washable nappies when my son was a baby, and these waterproof bags made it simple to use them whilst out and about. I swapped the clean nappies for the soiled ones, plus any wet clothes, and the bags kept everything away from the other contents of my bag. At the end of the day the bags could just be washed along with our clothes.

I use a lot of felt in my products; it comes in a range of great colours and is easy to work with. I use a 50/50 wool blend felt because it feels so much nicer than a synthetic equivalent. It can only be surface washed as the wool makes it shrink, but it gets softer as it gets older. Natural fabrics age beautifully and I like to think that my toys will be played with for many years.

As a parent, I prefer to buy toys that will last not only materially, but that will engage the child over a long period of time, and maybe lend itself to many ways of being played with. I try to design with this in mind too.

However, practicality comes above everything else - my products must function well or what's the point? Sometimes a natural fabric just won't work in which case I choose the best synthetic substitute. My squishy dice need to be able to withstand a lot of manhandling, throwing and usually a lot more chewing! The first range I made weren't able to be washed so I sourced a replacement. The new range of bright dice are made from neoprene, which is machine washable. So although they aren't the greenest option it does mean that the dice should be able to last for many more years.
Above all, my main claim is that all This is Wiss products are 100% handmade in the UK! I've had to enlist my mum to do some sewing in Suffolk this year, but everything else is made by me in South London!

There are many things that I can do to make This is Wiss a greener company, and in the new year I will be looking into what more I can do. I am starting to send out more orders so the first thing will be to source some recycled packaging! If anyone has recommendations I'd love to hear about them.

I can't wait for this weekend and will enjoy being part of The Fair Christmas Fayre both as a seller and a customer. You too can have a green Christmas! See you there?