Four Christmas Decorating Themes and How To Create Them

With less than five weeks to go, you have most likely started thinking about Christmas by now. Which means you’ve probably bought a present or two, or at least made a list. Wondered where you’re going for dinner, or how many you’re cooking for, and if you’re even slightly into home décor, you’ll definitely have imagined your perfect Christmas scene. If you’re drawing a blank and need a little extra inspiration, keep reading for four of my favourite themes, and some tips on how to create them.

Scandi Ski Lodge

Image from www.pippajamesoninteriors.co.uk

If you’re craving the feeling of a roaring fire in a cozy cabin, chances are you’ll love the Scandinavian look for Christmas. Red, white and grey are your key colours, and felt and wood are your top textures. There’s still plenty of room to play around as well, you can go more traditional and erring on the rustic side, more modern and playful, up the white for a real snowy vibe, and add extra ski imagery for that holiday at home feeling. I think of red and white fairisle knits, snowflakes of course, and also stars. But the odd pair of skiers in a snowglobe wouldn’t go amiss, and neither would a rustic wooden deer or two. Pass the cocoa and marshmallows please!

Rustic Goodness

Image from www.craftaholicsanonymous.net

This is my kind of traditional look. It’s more outdoorsy than a lot of people’s ‘traditional’ Christmas. I love rich fragrant evergreens, pine cones aplenty and deep, glossy red holly berries. I like tartan and hessian and, I guess, a slightly different kind of cabin vibe. Perhaps I’m sensing a theme here, and a desire for that roaring fire, now that we no longer have our fireplace! It’s simply my favourite Christmas look, as I mentioned in my November Top Picks post. The key is keeping it simple – not in terms of quantity, but in terms of variety. Have plenty, have too much, garlands and wreaths and boughs, but keep the non-plant (whether real or artificial) elements to a minimum. Perhaps you’ll pick hessian and plain red, or a tartan and deep green, a stag or a robin theme. Just don’t overdo it and mix in glittery stars and cartoon Santas or you’ll lose the natural outdoorsy tone.

Whimsical Wonderland

Image from www.pier1.com

This was my main rival in my décor contenders for Christmas this year. Sometimes you fancy a change, and again, there are little elements of this that could be shared with the two previous categories. For my idea of the Forest Wonderland, however, you are losing the lushness of the greenery that the Rustic look has, and gaining a lot more wooden and snowy elements. Unlike the Scandinavian look however, the focus is still on more natural imagery, and especially animals, than simple, more graphic styles. Think stags and owls, foxes and squirrels. Lots of bare wood and the odd pine cone, and oodles of snow, or snow themed pieces. White fur trimmed stocking, and feathers and natural elements go hand in hand to create this ethereal, magical wonderland. Maybe next year.

All That Glitters

Image from christmas.365greetings.com

This will always be a popular theme. If you’re not usually into metallics and shiny things, this is certainly the time of year you can overindulge and get your once-a-year fix. I think festive decorations are supposed to do that. Completely transform and take over your home, just until you have chance to get used to them, and then before you know it, it all comes down and everything looks so bare, and your regular old house looks almost unrecognizable for day or two. You’re not limited to gold or silver (I happen to like both together, especially when mixed in with a few white pieces). Red and silver looks particularly festive, but still “metallic” as opposed to the “traditional” look red and gold can have. And of course you can mix blue with silver, or black and gold. This is also great for colour matching your with your décor, and works particularly well with minimalist rooms. Stars and classy, elegant images work best for this theme.

What’s your favourite Christmas decorating style? Leave a comment below and let me know!

For now, with love,
Ellen

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DIY Dip-Dyed Ombre Curtains

A few weeks ago, I posted a picture on Instagram of a practice dye run on a large piece of fabric. I wanted to perfect the technique of dip dying / ombre ahead of making some from-scratch curtains. The lovely people at Dylon saw my post and got in touch, and I was super pleased that they wanted to send some fabric dye my way to help me create these curtains.

Originally, I had been thinking about making some for our in-progress living room, however we found some perfect ones for that room, but I had my heart set on making some now. As we will be having the white and blue theme throughout the whole house, I went ahead and created some curtains for one of the spare rooms.

Fabric dye will always work best and most true to colour on 100% cotton, so I purchased some extra wide (a whopping 110″ wide) pure cotton calico in a medium weight. I’ve never seen such huge fabric! I use hand dye for this technique, but if you’re dying solid colour pieces, I really recommend the machine dye – I’ve had great success in the past. With the hand dye, you’ll need salt to fix the colour. I had some Dylon salt from the previous practice run, and some regular cooking/table salt to make up the quantity.
A measuring tape and my rotary cutter and I was pretty set. (You’ll also need a large container, a jug, something to stir with and a water spray bottle etc. but I’m never that prepared with my photos!)

I wanted my pencil pleat curtains to be very full, so would be using 90″ width for each curtain panel, for my 72″ (or 180cm) window. First step then, was to cut 20″ inches off of the width of my huge fabric. I measured, made a small snip with some scissors, and was able to tear a nice straight line down the length of the fabric. My finished curtains would be around 48″ (122cm) long, and so I had purchased three metres, and left this as one piece. By keeping the fabric folded in half, I could dip dye the ends of the fabric together in one go, and end up with two very evenly dyed pieces.

Before we get ahead of ourselves though, it’s important to weigh your fabric to work out how much dye and salt you will need. One sachet of hand dye will colour 250g fabric to the full, pictured shade, or result in a more subtle effect on something larger. I wanted to dye around a third of my fabric, so ended up using two sachets.

It’s also important to pre-wash the fabric, especially if you’re using brand new. Any potential shrinkage will occur here instead of with the final product, and as you need to start the dyeing process with wet fabric, it’s a great time to do it. In the machine it goes.

Each sachet of dye needs mixing with 500ml of warm water. I used one navy and one ocean blue dye to give me a more medium toned blue. In the big box it went. I used an ‘under the bed’ storage box as it’s wide opening meant I had more control for dip dying such a wide width.

Next up, salt. 250g of the stuff per sachet of dye. In the box that goes too. Next was 12 litres of warm (hot tap) water, and we’re pretty good to go. Just stir it really well to dissolve the salt and dye, and make sure it’s all thoroughly mixed.

I also used a clothes airer to peg my fabric to, which worked perfectly. I’m lucky in that, as our living room is currently a work space / building site, I could do this indoors, however I would recommend tackling such a big project outdoors to prevent any mishaps. You’ll notice dye on the floor in one of my photos, but that’s because I knew I could afford to be a little carefree!

So, you’re ready to dip your damp fabric! This first bit is so exciting. I had pegged the fold of the fabric to the top of the airer, giving me the two free ends to dip. It’s a little tricky to get a perfectly even dip line with something so wide, but don’t worry.

After the first initial dip and swish (this is to the highest point you want your dye to be) spray it like crazy with a water bottle. The extra water will run down the fabric and create a much smoother gradient or ombre effect.

Agitate the fabric often, but steadily (every 5-10 minutes) lift more and more of the fabric out of the dye. Make sure the front and back are equally saturated (especially if your fabric is two layers like mine) and that there are no undyed spots. Leave the last few inches of fabric in for another 15-30 minutes, and hey presto! you’ve dip dyed your first curtain panel.

Next you need to rinse it in cold water. Off to the bathroom we go. I couldn’t take a photo of this as I only have the two arms, but I ended up placing the dyed section of the fabric into a polythene bag to help carry it up to the bathroom. You may find it easier to rinse in the kitchen, but I preferred the bath for it’s size. You don’t want to run any loose dye into your undyed white fabric, so it’s important to hold your fabric up as you rinse, and run the water down the fabric. The shower head was really helpful for this. The white you see at the bottom of the tub is the plastic bag I mentioned, not the fabric.

Rinse, rinse, and rinse again until the water is running clear. Next, it was back into the washing machine for a final rinse and spin. The reason you need to rinse with the cold water so well is to really fix the dye, but also prevent any mishaps in the machine. Any loose dye could mark your undyed sections, so take the time to do it properly and you’ll be happier in the long run.

Pop it on the line, ignore the crazy overgrown grass, and admire your handiwork. You’re a dip-dyeing genius! Ombre queen!

Once dry, you can start thinking about turning your fabric into actual curtains. Finally, you can cut across the fold line, and turn your one piece of very long fabric into your two curtain lengths. And now you’re going to get very well acquainted with your iron. Go over the whole fabric to give yourself a nice smooth piece to work with, and then prepare your hems. Starting with the sides of your fabric, fold over once, about 1.5cm and press well.

Turn this over again, and re-press.

And finally you’re ready to sew. Pop it under the machine and stitch a lovely long seam across both of your freshly pressed edges.

Next up is the bottom hem (the darkest edge). This should be much deeper than the side hems. It’s how professional curtains are done, and just looks right. I went for about 6cm in total. Fold over once, press, fold again, re-press. And now, shock horror, we’re going to hand-sew.
I mean, I actually love hand-sewing, I feel I have maximum control, but I know many hate it. Well, suck it up, because this is really going to be worth it. If you don’t already know how, google Blind Stitch, and then spend the next three hours hand hemming and perfecting it.

To see the finished result of those tiny itty bitty nearly invisble stitches from the front is so worth it.

And the back of it is pretty damn neat too. So, three hems down and now we just need to make a curtain out of the damn thing!

Fold over the top edge once, approximately 2cm, and press with the iron. I’d purchased some curtain header tape online that arrived just in time, cut it to size, allowing a little extra to tuck underneath for neat edges, pinned, and sewed with the sewing machine. Once on the top edge of the curtain tape…

…and once on the bottom.

Next up, iron the whole thing AGAIN. Ironing before you gather the tape will be much easier. But then, with the help of a tape measure, gather and knot the panel to size in the same way you would with any pencil pleat curtain. Pop in your curtain hooks and ta-da!

A curtain! Stand up, admire, pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself. You did it. And then take that iron out again, because you have a second curtain to make.

Once we get around to decorating the spare room I’ll show you photos of the curtains up in more detail. For now, I popped this one up in our bedroom so I could show you how it turned out, and I have to say, I couldn’t be more pleased.

A big thank you to Dylon for the dye, which gave me the kick I needed to get this project done! Check out the different products in the range for yourself at www.dylon.co.uk. And check back here soon too, because I’m going to have another fabric dyeing post for you in the next couple of weeks, and more Christmas posts even sooner than that.

For now, with love,
Ellen

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Top Picks Under £10: November

11-november_mood_boardWe’ve had Halloween, we’ve had Bonfire Night, and now it seems the whole country is in Christmas mode. You won’t be ready to put decorations up yet (at least, you shouldn’t be!) but it’s definitely a good time to start thinking about them. A lot happens at Christmas. The more you can prepare in advance, the easier the festive period becomes, and decorations start popping into shops mid-October, and as something you can buy and put away for a month or two, there’s no reason not to get home décor accessories ticked off the list.

Besides, it’s so much less stressful than present shopping.

There’s so many themes to pick from these days, Nordic, Traditional, Vintage, Luxe, Retro, Metallics, Red, White, Blue, Gold Green or Pink, there’s a Christmas theme to fit every single taste.

I have to say I prefer more traditional tastes and colours – they just feel the most Christmassy to me. I do vary from one year to another, but it’s usually on a similar note. I like outdoorsy, rustic, traditional colours. Red, green, lots of wicker and berries and pinecones. Sometimes I may go for a slightly more metallic red gold and green look, or maybe more woodland with lots of animals, but that general idea just suits my personal tastes.

And so, along that theme, I have my Top Picks for the month of rustic Christmas décor. Think hessian and tartan, wood and green firs with red berries. There’s plenty out there to pick for this theme, and here are a few favourites I’ve noticed:

1. George Home Stag’s Head Ornament – George – £10.00
I really like this wooden stag head. It could also work well within a Nordic or Ski Lodge theme, but the carved wood effect (it’s actually resin) looks super rustic and outdoorsy.

2. 10in Mini Red Berry Wreath – M&S – £10.00
There are wreaths available within budget for this Top Picks, but for a lovely large outdoor one, you may want to spend a little more. For the price though, this mini one is super cute, and would make a great indoor accessory.

3. Tartan Decoration Set- The Range – £1.99
This set of 9 tree decorations are so cute, and a total bargain. I love tartan for this Christmas theme as it adds red and green but again, in a more rustic way. I think I’m going to have to pick some of these up, although I already have something very similar, so will check first that they don’t clash!

4. Tartan Tree Garland Reel – Dunelm – £4.00
I’m not a fan of tinsel. It’s one childhood Christmas decoration that I feel hasn’t really made a comeback. Some people still love it, and good for them – always go with what you enjoy. Personally, I usually just got for baubles on my tree, but this tartan ribbon garland would look super cute, and at £4.00 for 4 metres, it’s also a bargain. And doesn’t have to be limited to the tree!

5. Hessian Stag Christmas Stocking – Matalan – £6.00
Hessian – check. Tartan – check. Stags – Check. This just screams rustic Christmas. I adore it.

6. 8m Hessian Jute Roll – B&Q – £6.00
This would also look great draped around the tree. Or to make your own bows from. Or to tie around your dining chairs, or twirl around fireplace garlands. If you’ve found the perfect green wreath, that just needs an extra touch, items like this are perfect to add that rustic charm.

7. 3 Pack Red Berry Tree Picks – M&S – £5.00
Along with the jute roll, these berry picks are perfect to add into plain wreaths and fireplace garlands, onto presents and other decorations to add a little colour and texture in a lovely natural (at least in style) way.

8. Rattan Noel Hanging Sign – Wilko – £6.00
Adding little signs and decorations around your home really adds to the atmosphere. This small Noel hanging sign would be perfect in the hallway or kitchen, to continue your chosen theme around the house.

9. Red Flocked Bell with Floristry Detail – B&Q – £3.00
There are so many baubles that fit this theme and come in under budget. Literally, hundreds. But I chose this one for my Top Picks because it ticks so many boxes – the colour, the flocked finish, the design, the little needles and pine cone detail. Perfect.

So there’s just a little taster of what’s available for this Outdoorsy Rustic theme. I can’t wait to share photos of our décor this Christmas. There haven’t been a lot of house updates as progress has been slow, but it should all come together for Christmas, and I can’t wait to share.

There will be more Christmas posts coming up, so stay tuned for those.

For now, with love,
Ellen

Upcycled Cable Knit Jumper Cushion Cover Tutorial

The clocks recently went back here in the UK, and now the nights seem darker and colder, it’s time to amp up the cozy in your home. If candles alone aren’t adding that snuggly feeling, it’s time to bring out the blankets, and double up on cushions and pillows.

I love the look of cable knit cushions come Autumn/Winter. I saw this Ralph Lauren one online, with it’s simple cable design, and minus the cashmere blend, knew I could create something very similar for a fraction of it’s £89 price tag.

I decided to look for a cream cable knit jumper I could upcycle, and scored the jackpot, when in the first charity shop I looked in, I found this cricket style jumper for a mere £1. Although the collar looked a little worn, the body of the garment is in excellent condition, and although it’s acrylic rather than cashmere, at least I have the added bonus of being able to chuck it in the washing machine, which is the very first step.

You will ideally need an overlocker for this tutorial. It is possible you could make it work with a couple of rows of zig zag stitches instead, but as that isn’t a method I’ve tried, I’ll let you make your own mind up on that one.

If you have a sweater without such a large V, you could make two simply rectangles or squares, insert a zip and have a nice straightforward cushion cover, not unlike the basic design of the Ralph Lauren one.

As my jumper had the deep V neck, I didn’t have the length I wanted in the front, and the back wasn’t large enough to create two squares from, so I knew I’d be doing a fold over design.

You want to overlock your pieces straight from the jumper. With a knitted piece like this, the chances are if you cut it first, it will be part way unravelled before you get it through your machine. I carefully serged up the sides, and across the top. Be careful to pay attention to the direction of your sewing, and that you are serging/overlocking your centre pieces, and not the edges around them.

imag3455imag3457Once you have your two rectangular pieces, you can play around with where you want to fold them, and work out if and how much excess you’ll need to overlock and cut off to give you your desired shape.

The next step is to sew the two wide, overlocked edges together (right sides facing). I recommend using pins to keep the two pieces in place, and try and line up the cables as best you can for the most professional finish.

Next, fold down the top, and then fold up the bottom section, and pin together. Where they overlap, in the middle, you will have a section that is three layers deep. Be careful with your machine, pin everything, and sew slowly.

imag3461Because of the deep folded over section, there is no need to add a closure, however if you want to, you could always add buttons and button holes, a zipper, velcro, whatever you fancy. I left mine as is because it worked fine, and kept the final cushion nice and soft with no harsh bits in the centre back.

Et voila! Your very own cable knit jumper cushion. I’m really pleased with how it turned it. If you decide to try it out, please let me know in the comments below!

For now, with love,
Ellen

Most Disappointing Autumn Candle of the Season

imag3189 I don’t like to post negative things, and so I was going to give this a miss, but then I realised that was unfair – this was such a bad experience, I’d like to advise you against the same.

Although Autumn/Fall is coming to an end, I’ll still leave my thoughts here, should you be buying out of season, or pick this post up a year from now.

So, back at the start of September, I was really ready for some Autumnal scents, and was particularly enjoying my Yankee Famer’s Market at the time, and thinking of more pumpkin noted fragrances ahead of Halloween. Cue, seeing these little lovelies from TK Maxx. The brand is Chesapeake Bay, which appears to be much more widely available in the US than here in the UK. I saw these tealight candles in ‘Creamy Pumpkin’ and the pillar in ‘Wild Pumpkin’ and knew I had to buy both.

On cold sniff, they seemed gorgeous. Not overpoweringly strong, but delightful scents. The creamy pumpkin was very much of a cream cheese and cinnamon noted, almost carrot cake vibe, whereas the wild pumpkin was much more of that Autumnal vegetable scent, but with a hint of spice. Both super lovely. I took plenty of photos assuming I’d be blogging about all their great features.

And then I burned a tealight. And another. And another. Such a huge disappointment! The smell was completely non-existent when being burned. If I got really close, I got the scent of the wick burning, and that was it. No delicate, cakey goodness, no sugar and spice, no pumpkin, no nothing. And not only that, the burn on them was terrible.

They are in plastic containers as opposed to metal, as I’ve always been used to with tealights, but they burned so unevenly, and never to the very end. Either the wick would drown and go out, or they’d burn so unevenly, the surrounding wax would melt away whilst one side was very much full. Very wasteful, and resulted in a pitifully short burn time.

I ended up returning the Wild Pumpkin pillar candle without trying it out, as I was certain it would be of similar quality and didn’t fancy wasting any more money. I paid the discounted TK Maxx prices of £4.99 for the tealights, and the pillar was £3.99. I would say that I’d use up the tealights with my melt warmers, but to be honest, the IKEA tealights I normally use burn so much better, I’m not sure I’ll even bother.

I appreciate I may just have had a single bad experience from this brand, however, it’s put me off enough that I won’t be trying them again any time soon. Oh well, you win some, you lose some!

See you soon for some more positive talk!!

For now, with love,
Ellen