Christmas is without a doubt my favorite time of year. When I was little, my father wouldn’t let my family start putting out Christmas decorations until Christmas Eve; here at Stately IPB Manor we make up for all those lost years by putting all kinds of decorations out starting December 1st. There are advent calendars everywhere, candle pyramids, stockings, little felt santas and snowmen Boomer made ages ago, and of course, seasonal stitching. Schnookie put up a post highlighting her contributions to this and I was eagerly looking forward to doing the same. Then I lined up all my pieces to photograph them and realized that I’ve a lot less here than I thought! Looks like I need to start prioritizing Christmas stitching for next year. But in the meantime, here’s what’s hanging on the walls this holiday season.
I didn’t realize it until putting this post in order that these four pieces fall are done by two designers. The first are from Prairie Schooler. Prairie Schnooler holds a ginormous place in my stitching heart, as their designs were the first real ones I ever did. The overall look of their work is very simple, with big blocks of solid colors that are perfect for beginners. They’re also very country, which is something that does not factor into IPB Manor’s general eclectic style (which we call Modwardian — one part masculine Victorian, one part modern, and 98 parts “hey, this looks cool!”) but because they are imbued with some 20 years worth of sentimental value, I overlook the country. PS Christmas pieces somehow manage to exude “the Christmas of your childhood” in their every stitch. I think it’s in the distinctive Santa-red that dominates the designs.
This one is from a four-part series of “Woodland Santas”:
The palate of basically one green, two reds and two browns makes for a simple piece that speaks to the peacefulness of a winter night. The little candle is another PS design addition that fills my heart with the glow of the Christmas tree in an otherwise dark living room in the wee hours of Christmas Eve. While the charts are always intended to be done with cotton floss, I substituted silk threads, which are a little tough to match perfectly. I think it worked well here, particularly with the flax colored, slightly homespun-looking linen. The evergreen frame was a perfect finishing touch.
This second one is a little distinctive for us in that we, being not religious at all, don’t generally have a lot of Christ in our Christmas decorations (a family heirloom creche is the other notable exception):
As with the previous one, this one has big blocks of a few colors, but the vines around the manger bring a down-to-earth elegance to this piece. This detail of the donkey shows the gentleness of PS pieces that never fails to make me sigh with Christmas happiness:
There are few, few things that remind me of what Christmas meant to me as a child than a Prairie Schooler Christmas design.
The other two designs are from Shepherd’s Bush. A dear friend of mine has a term for things that are too elaborately decorated with tiny details — “seedy ducky” (her family had some gee-gaw that was a duck decorated entirely with tiny seeds). Shepherd’s Bush designs are the needlework equivalent of seedy ducky with beads and curlicues and flowery custom-cut mattes, and as a result, I generally avoid them like the plague. But then they started a series of samplers based on traditional Christmas carols. And they made them in as non-seedy-ducky a style as they could. And I discovered I couldn’t resist!
The first in the series was “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”:
This piece was especially fun because it’s a true sampler. This means, at the top, the design includes a simple version of some kind of pattern — in this case, Swedish weaving and whitework. As you move down the bands, the patterns grow more and more complicated. This lets you practice the pattern, until at the bottom, you can execute an intricate and involved version of the top band. The Swedish weaving looks easy at first, but as I worked the piece I realized the counting involved was a lot harder than I expected. But because it was a true sampler, I was able to slowly work my through it with a bit of a safety net.
The finishing of this piece included a custom-painted matte and a gorgeously carved frame. My only complaint with this is that I was a far, far lazier stitcher in 2002 than I am now, and so I didn’t take the time to center the verse. The chart had a seedy-ducky font, which I substituted something more staid, but wanted the thing to be done, so I just barreled ahead. This was an awful, awful mistake. If this piece was going to be hung up for more than just 30 days a year, I’d fix it. But since it doesn’t, I just let it serve as a reminder to not be a lazy.
The second in the series was “Angels We Have Heard on High”:
Remember what I said about being lazy? Well, apparently I didn’t learn my lesson. This chart included a ridiculously ugly angel at the top — which you’ll see I included. Why? Because I was too lazy to think to not follow the chart step-by-step. Why don’t I just rip it out? Because I’m lazy! We’ve been over this! Fortunately, the rest of the design is so darling I can easily overlook the ugly-assed angel.
I keep hoping they’ll do another, preferably for “Hark the Herald”, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” or “I Saw Three Ships” (my favorite carols). I also think, every year, that I’d like to design my own piece that would be all the verses of “I Heard the Bells” done in some simple, Quakery alphabet, but then I realize that… I’m lazy! And as long as there are Prairie Schooler Christmas designs, I’ll be pretty much set.