Fourth Quarter Challenge

Fourth Quarter Challenge

Although I don’t normally make a big deal out of Christmas the one thing I’ve always enjoyed, and can’t imagine not doing, is decorating my tree. The bigger the tree the better….in fact if it doesn’t touch the ceiling it isn’t up to the job! At this point I will come clean and admit that, as the trees got bigger and bigger, I made the shift from real trees to an 8 foot artificial one. I can hear the groans from those who wouldn’t dream of buying artificial, that used to be me, but it is what it is!

Most of my tree decorations have been homemade or received as gifts with some of the quirkiest, and most meaningful, coming from my Aunty Das who sadly isn’t with us any more. These lovely wooden decorations were gifted from Das to my partner who’s hobby is flying.

And these are a few I’ve made in the past…..

These rosette paper baubles took hours to make and won’t be repeated! The dark one is 17cm diameter and was made from black and white photos cut from magazines, the other two are 11cm and made from an old book.

With a big tree there’s always room for more baubles and with the fourth quarter challenge being Christmas Decorations it was the perfect excuse to make more. I found some 10cm and 8cm polystyrene balls locally and covered the large ones with four coordinating cream/black fabrics and the small ones with four green/red fabrics.

Some of the balls have been cut into eight segments and others have had extra horizontal cuts to create a patchwork effect.
I’ve found a stash of old baubles in the loft and these are getting a makeover this year, drawing on them with the hot glue gun and then covering them with Matt emulsion.

One of the first wet felting workshops I attended was run by Robyn Smith who taught how to make these gorgeous fairy boots…..I’ve made them as gifts every Christmas since then. With more time on my hands this year, and prompted by the Challenge, I’ve made myself some plus a few extras to sell.

As it’s the season to be jolly, and gnomes have always made me smile, I’ve had a go at making some of those too. The Scandinavian gnome is typically associated with the Winer Solstice and Christmas season so I thought I’d have a go at making my version of a Scandi gnome.

The gnomes came about by accident really. Spurred on by the challenge I’d ordered some 14cm high polystyrene cones online (by this time we were in lockdown) with the intention of making Christmas Tree shaped table decorations. When they arrived every one of the ten cones was damaged.

Rather than send them back, the challenge now was, what could I make with them that didn’t need to be a perfect cone shape? That’s when the gnomes came to mind….the wonky cones would make the perfect base!

Originally I thought about making flat felt for their clothes but then decided to use the same cream/black fabrics I had used for the large baubles, plus a few others. Being in lockdown and wanting to get straight on with them I searched around for something to make the beards out of and found an old cardigan at the back of my wardrobe that had a faux fur collar…..needless to say it doesn’t any more! The first beard I cut didn’t look right. With trial and error I’ve discovered that the way to cut faux fur is by working from the back and only cutting the backing fabric, not the fur itself, using a scalpel blade. That way you get a nice shaggy beard.

The females have Merino wool plaits and both sexes have felted button noses. I’ve machine sewn their outfits but if you were making these with children they could be made just with the glue gun for a quicker finish.

The clothes are simply a triangle for the hat, a semicircle for the jacket and a circle for the dress and/or gents undergarment.

The dress circle is simply hand stitched around the circumference, put on the cone and then pulled tight and the thread knotted. The front of the dress is then pulled up to approx 10cm from the base and hot glued in position.

I decided to use a belt and braces method to attach the nose as I was afraid it might get knocked off (really??) It’s been hand stitched to a strip of white fabric and that in turn is glued onto the cone. Thinking about it now, was this over engineered? Definitely!

The waistcoat was finished with a metal bead and the Merino fibre plaits attached either side of the nose using hot glue. The oversized hat has been glued in several places to create the sloppy look. To finish them off I’ve stood each gnome on a slice of wood.

I’ve had fun making these and I’m keeping a male and female on a shelf in my studio because I can’t look at them without smiling! Besides, a gnome isn’t just for Christmas!

Whatever you get up to over the Christmas period have fun and stay safe!

29 thoughts on “Fourth Quarter Challenge

  1. Excellent, Karen. They are all gorgeous. The gnomes certainly make me smile too though I think I love the shoes best of all. I want to slide my little finger in and imagine a fairy foot snuggling inside them.

    I agree that decorations can evoke strong and happy memories. The flying ones are wonderful. We have some gaudy glass ones with a favourite food for each of us (the lobster is mine – I think we bought them in Maine!) and some more tasteful painted pewter ones we bought having chosen one each at a German Christmas market in Nuremberg. The first thing everyone does when the tree is up is look for their ornaments. Happy times.

    1. Oh you’ve taken me back a few years there Lindsay. When I was younger I remember visiting a German Christmas market in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse and it was magical. Gaudy or not, I love the sound of your food themed baubles!

  2. Your piece really cheered me up this morning. I love them all! What a super idea for updating the old baubles with the glue gun and emulsion. I’ll definitely give this a go 😊 as for your gnomes …. I’m in love with them. They are fantastic.
    I also bought an artificial tree years ago and still looking good. As a child we had real ones and would still be finding needles in the room each summer 😅 happy memories. The only thing I miss is the small of pine.

    1. Yes, I miss the smell of a real tree too Helene and as a child I used to love going with my Dad to buy the tree. I hope you try the glue gun baubles and be sure to post a photo of what you make.

  3. I love all your decorations and your Tomte gnomes are such fun. My tree is covered in hand made decorations, some made by my mum with the kids when they were little. I wouldn’t want anything else. Although the husband tries every year to sneak shop bought on.

    1. Not having had kids I don’t have the luxury of children’s decorations on my tree Jo, that must be lovely bringing those out every year. Your husbands shop bought decorations might come in useful if you fancy a seasonal handicraft makeover the following year?!

  4. Handcrafted ornaments are the best. The wooden flying ones are real treasures. I love your baubles and the elf shoes but the gnomes are absolutely awesome. What fun and well made! Enjoy the holiday season 🙂

    1. Thanks Ruth. Everyone seems to love the gnomes so, rather than keep these, I might take them to the shop I’ve started selling from….nothing ventured! I can always make myself two more of these sell.

  5. Oh I so agree about having a real tree – it’s the scent isn’t it? – however, I’ve got old and lazy and I too have a tall, artificial one now.

    Aunty Das made some wonderfully quirky tree decorations – I’m sure they will be treasured for ever.

    The fabric covered baubles are lovely and your fairy boots are divine! They look so sweet with their teeny embellishments.

    Your pictorial tutorial for the gnome is great, thanks. Love them! The colours you used are ideal and the gnomes look fab on the wood against your felty background.

    1. Thanks Lyn. Das would be thrilled that you thought she had made those decorations. She was very artistic but those were all bought on the aisle of Wight where she lived. I’m so, pleased you liked the gnomes. I had seen a couple of tutorials for making them from socks stuffed with rice, and with everything glued, but wanted to make something a bit better. The fairy boots are beautiful once they are finished but I really can’t say I enjoy making them because they are so fiddly and take forever!

  6. I love all these decorations, although I have to say that I’d find another way of displaying them as I am one of those boring women who prefer a co-ordinated colour schemed tree – which incidentally is artificial. When I was a child we had a real tree which was in a container and which went out into the garden after Christmas to keep growing until next year. When it got too big it was planted in the garden and another one bought to replace it. I have never liked the idea of buying a new tree every year because I hate killing even plants that are still alive. So now my tree is artificial and will be 22 years old this year. I suspect that it will see me out! Then I suppose it will end up as land fill.

    1. Reading of your preference for a colour coordinated tree took me back to when I was a visual merchandiser Ann. I was sent to Wales on a training course to learn how to dress a Christmas Tree….who knew there was such a course? It was absolutely brilliant! It was run by a company that specialised in Christmas decorations and there were huge rooms, crammed with products, each dedicated to a particular colour scheme. I was in heaven for two days but brought back down to earth on my return when I had to dress nearly thirty trees for the company I worked for!

  7. I love the flying Santas. they are fabulous and would be some of our favourites even though none of us fly. I love the old shiny probably very cheap ones we had as kids. Your gnomes are wonderful and very festive. I am sure they will sell quickly if you send them to the store. The shoes are so charming I think I may have to have a go at those.

    1. Thanks Ann. It was a lot of fun doing this challenge and I’m sure it’s got us all in the mood for Christmas. I hope you enjoy making the fairy shoes. Mine are a combined weight of 5g including the beads and measure 8cm in length. My first attempt turned out like wellies….they were far too bulky!

  8. Karen you have really whet our appetites for the festive season.

    I love your offerings & the story of Aunty Das’s wonderful quirky ornaments. She must have been quite a character.

    My favourites are definitely the gnomes (well played to use the damaged cones) & the fairy shoes. Placing your gnomes on the wood slices really enhances them & I’m sure they will be snapped up.

    Warning – you may see some parallels in 2 weeks!!!

    1. Thanks Antje. Das certainly was a unique character and I do miss my trips to stay with her in Ventnor. Her house was on the edge of the cliff and everywhere you looked she had driftwood, pebbles, shells, books, photos, local art, etc, etc….a very creative space to be in.
      Glad you liked the decorations and looking forward to seeing what you’ve been up to in a couple of weeks!

  9. Love all the decorations! Those gnomes are adorable. I won’t have a tree this year (I won’t be flying abroad to my mum’s and, frankly, lack the spirit to decorate my own place), so looking at other people’s cheery creations truly makes me happy ^_^

    1. Thanks Leonor. With the exception of the fairy slippers I doubt I would have bothered to make decorations this year if it hadn’t been for the encouragement of this challenge. They’ve all gone to the shop this afternoon so if I want any new ones on my tree this year I’m going to have to make more. Hopefully next year you will get back to travelling to your parents for Christmas but in the meantime it’s nice to hear you are enjoying seeing what others have done.

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