Tuesday, 27 December 2011

I know Christmas was two days ago... but

At Christmas time, one other thing comes down out of the cupboard for its yearly visit - The Christmas crib. Of course my Christmas crib is hand knitted.

The pattern is from Jean Greenhowe's Christmas Special pictured below. The yarn is a variety of 8ply acrylic and wool from my stash and 3mm needles were used.

The Christmas crib figures as shown in the Jean Greenhowe knitting booklet

I made the first set of Christmas crib figures not long after I got married twenty something years ago. They are getting a little bit battered up now. I was mending a few figures today: just standard wear and tear, the veils come loose and arms tend to fall off. However Mary required a more substantial repair with a large hole having appeared in the middle of her skirt. I personally suspect the cat had a major disagreement with her behind my back. Oh well, just as well I can darn. While I was at it I had them pose for photos.
The whole gang

Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. (Mary looks surly and has a dodgy neck).
"We three kings of Orient are....."
A few cute little sheep

The shepherds' staffs are the one thing I am not really happy with. They are made of drinking straws. tightly wrapped with wool which is glued to the straw. However I used bendy straws and over the years the bendy bit has gone weird and now there are visible gaps in the wrapping. I think the pieces of twig I used on my sister's set (see below) look much more authentic and will be more durable.

Close up of one of the King's faces. The eyes are just french knots.
When my youngest sister, Naomi, moved out and built her own home, I rashly promised her that I would make her her own set of Christmas crib figures. This has been a three year work in progress. I knitted the basics of most of the figures during a week or so whilst on holidays down at the caravan a couple of years ago. However, knitting the bits is the easy part. Sewing up is tedious. So I got most of the figures finished ready to move in for Naomi's first Christmas in her house last year except that baby Jesus did not have a manger to lie in. I finally finished that this week. And the sheep are still coming. Maybe next year....

I did make one other modification when I making the second set. The original figures have bases which are made of two layers of cardboard. The years have not been kind to these. They have softened and warped over the years and I can't replace them as they go into the figures before you stuff them. Consequently a few of my figures stand a little drunkenly at times. So the new ones have bases made out of the lids of ice-cream containers. Hopefully the plastic will stand up to things much better.

This year Naomi's crib is set up on the top of the wall unit as her dog thinks all stuffed animals exist solely to be chewed on.
Naomi's Christmas crib figures
This baby Jesus has a mouth (and Mary is smiling)
The completed baby Jesus in his manger.
I much prefer the twigs as staffs. They are glued on with hot glue.
This one is fondly referred to as the gay shepherd. He is overly fond of pink.
There is a Christmas crib which goes with both of these. Mine is beautifully made, scale model of our gazebo completely made from a gorgeous red pine. However, one of the supporting pillars is loose and it is in the shed waiting for repairs. The boys made Naomi a little wooden shed for hers. However, the figures are taller than the overhanging porch and they don't really fit. So back to the drawing board.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

I went Christmas shopping today and was fairly rudely reminded that there is only one more shopping weekend till Christmas. The car parks were full. I had to weave my way around a queue of small wriggly children and ridiculously large prams waiting to sit on the fake Santa's knee. There was a random elf waiting in the queue at the coffee shop. There were obnoxious Christmas carols playing over the sound systems of the shops. There were however the pre-Christmas bargains. I love lots of things about Christmas but the squash of frantic last minute Christmas shopping is not one of them.

One thing I really do love is a handmade Christmas ornament. The kids put up the Christmas tree early this week; the eldest daughter have made us all solemnly promise not to do it until she was home from University. Our Christmas tree is on the small side and is getting to the end of its useful life, and the kids have been nagging me to get a new one of a more reasonable size. The son who is heading towards six foot claims it is sacrilege if Christmas tree is not taller than you. This years Christmas tree has been said to look like "Santa threw up on it".

The decorated tree may not look like the designer Christmas trees you see in the shops and magazines with their colour themed matching ornaments and minimalist decorations but I still love it. I think of it as a mini time capsule, a story tapestry of the last 20 something years of our family life told in handmade decorations: some made by me, some by the children and some by deceased family members. (There are also an inordinate number of ornaments from various fast food restaurants' kids meals)!

For example, I love the wonky pink pipe-cleaner angel on the top tree, testimony to the eldest daughter's first efforts with a glue gun. There is nothing angelic about its facial expression and it brings back memories of both scorched finger tips and its extremely proud creator.
This is my first knitted Christmas ornament photographed on my mother's tree where it still hangs. In my early teenage years, I made a number of these for my sisters and cousins filled with lollies and new school pens. I think this is the last one still on one of family Christmas trees. It evokes memories of Christmas dinner for 30+ with my Aunty and Uncle and assorted cousins, followed by afternoon naps to sleep off the excess by the males of the family and then crazy theatricals. I remember being an Angel one year in the Christmas play with a broken arm, a very fetching sheet robe and a tinsel halo. Here's a photo of the pattern from one of my early scrapbooks of magazine clippings.
I made a few more in  recent years for our tree but stuffed them to make them ornaments.
Stockings are a bit of a theme. This one for example is made of thin foam shapes stuck on a backing from a kit. (More burnt finger tips. Hot glue is hazardous).
These stockings I knit one year for the ballet Christmas hamper raffle. I love the little pine-cones.
A knitted Christmas angel from Jean Greenhowe's Christmas Special.
I think this is the last remaining kindergarten decoration. The misshapen blue thing splattered in glitter is a reindeer made by my little boy (now a tall, deep voiced, walking eating machine). You can also see a gold glitter ballerina in this picture. There are lots ballerinas on our tree.
The first ballerina is the one to right of the photo below with a slight rainbow iridescence and a double layer skirt. We bought this one Christmas at the Arts Centre as a memento of the first professional musical my eldest daughter had ever seen - Fame which was her 12th birthday present. Ever since, we add a new ballerina to the tree whenever we find one in our pre-Christmas shopping. The 2011 model is the silver glitter one to the extreme right of the photo. When the daughter leaves home and gets her own Christmas tree she will get a veritable corps de ballet of ballerinas to start her decoration collection.
There are beaded ornaments mainly made from kits. Making the Christmas tree here kept the boy occupied for a whole afternoon a few years ago. There are also a few beaded stars and different Christmas tree hanging on the back of the Christmas tree. The little Christmas tree in the background is actually a handmade pencil eraser.

The silver star you can see in the background here has to have been made in the weirdest place: as part of a children's church service as the children were all completing their individual part of the ceremony. The organizer had provided a basket of pre-formed metal stars and silver thread to wind around them. One of these stars graced the inside of one of my daughters' school locker for a few years sort of like the silver star on a actor's dressing room door.
The husband's grandmother made the macaroni angel. Its amazing what you can do with assorted pasta and a spray can of gold paint. She is no longer with us but the angel lives on (with the occasional running repair. Pasta is not exactly the most robust construction material).
There are cross stitched ornaments. These bells for example. I couldn't get a good shot of the finished version as they are near the bottom of the tree.
A sequined ball. I kept wondering why there were no sewing pins in my pin tin after the kids made this. It did use up a whole packet of leftover sequins from some ballet costume though. Oscar the Grouch is destined to go off to live with the ballerinas at some later stage.

Just to finish up on:
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me:
A cat about to destroy a Christmas tree!