A breath of fresh air in the garden

perhIf you have been looking for an excuse to get out into the garden, there is no more gentle reminder of the seasonal fruits of your labours in the allotment than the delightful ‘Perpetual Harvest’, a set of 12 prints illustrated by Claudia Pearson (£14.99).

Each individual print, one for each month of the year, has a list of what to plant and what to harvest that month with fresh, colourful illustrations of the produce.

decph

Even December tempts the taste buds with a note to harvest kale, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, carrots and beets. There is a reminder to plant cabbage, broccoli, bare-root apple, peach and walnut trees.  The prints would look fantastic framed and hung together across a kitchen wall.

There are more comprehensive reminders, but few as attractive!  Quickcrop, for example, has an online growing calendar with sowing, planting and harvesting information as well as plant guides.  They specialise in providing ready to grow planters, particularly for the urban gardener.  Their plug plants have been organically grown, with out the use of peat.  A low maintenance gift to get the patio garden going.

As well as an encyclopedic  gardening calendar the Royal Horticultural Society’s website also has guides on how to attract more wildlife to your garden, establishing a wildflower garden and which plants attract pollinators.

bee_gy_product_thumbnail

Bold and Noble fuse pattern and nature to create clean, contemporary prints.  Pictured is ‘Bee Kind’, which is  a hand-pulled screen print of bee-friendly plants on recycled off-white card.  The print is 50cm x 70cm (so fits ‘off the peg’ frames), and £43.  15% of retail profits from  ‘Bee Kind’ will go to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, and if you order before 31st December you’ll get a free A4 special edition Christmas print.

For something more tactile, and textile, Stuart Gardiner Designs produces a range of seasonal calendars on tea towels, aprons and mugs, as well as screen prints. There are guides to fish, fruit and vegetables, and besgr_smalle-ing friendly.  There are also even more inspiring guides to plan your foraging for fungi, nuts, herbs and other edibles, and notes on which wild and garden flowers for creating a seasonal bouquet.  If it all seems a bit like a Gantt chart,  rest assured such useful information is rarely so beautifully presented.  Tea towels are £10 each. What perfectly practical stocking fillers!

5 of the best Christmas stockings

FELT-STOCKING

The Christmas tree is up, and the decorations are down from the loft.  If your stocking is looking a little moth-eaten, here is a small selection of replacements: five of the best stockings.

1. For an injection of colour, try the felt stocking made by Sew Heart Felt for Toast at £39.  The stocking is hand made by communities of women in the Kathmandu valley, Nepal, from organic Tibetan lambswool felt and finished with a multi-coloured hand-embroidered stars.  All the pigments to product the felt are environmentally friendly.  And you could kit out the family in felt slippers to complete the ensemble, which character would you chose from badger or bee, wise owl or fiendish fox?  Another felt stocking, also made in Nepal, by the Women Entrepreneurs Association of Nepal is available from Shared Earth (£6.49) in ice blue or hot pink.

Tori-Murphy-Chevy_Stocking_-_Pearl_Linen_-_Portrait_grande

2. Chevrons are all the rage, so if you or yours have been seduced by geometry, try this 100% Merino Lambswool stocking from Tori Murphy that is woven in Lancashire with a woollen cuff knitted in Yorkshire.  If you are more celestial than chevron, a similar stocking is available in a monochrome star pattern.

jaul_red_01_web_1024x10243. For a Scandinavian look,  you might be tempted by the Jaul stocking (£38) from  Anna Söderström, made of 100% British lambswool and handcrafted in London.
preview_recycled-ricebag-christmas-stocking4. A stocking made from recycled rice bags by a Fairtrade project in Cambodia (£7.50) available from Recycle Recycle.

5.  Make your own.  If your quick, there still might be space to join Emily Gibbs’ Make a Christmas stocking workshop on Monday 9th December.  Or Purlbee provides instructions to make a ‘super easy snowflake stocking’ (their words not mine!!).  Or, of course, you could always tie a huge bow of ribbon around an actual wellington boot!

P.S. To avoid any moths nibbling holes in the toes of your stockings for next year, try sandalwood or cedar balls.  Apparently Giles Deacon, the fashion designer and a keen insect collector, uses conkers as a natural deterrent.  Their brown skins contain a compound called triterpenoid saponin that wards off the pests.  Colibri make natural anti-moth sachets filled with sandalwood and essential oils packed in cotton paper that last up to six months , and available from John Lewis.

What’s on this weekend

79%2F700%2FChristmas+decs+on+stairs+mod_thumb_460x0Victorian, Georgian, Jacobean, Tudor or present day, there are National Trust events around the country exploring Christmas through the ages. There is still time to learn how to make a wreath from locally foraged materials and foliage.  Or you could make hand sewn felt tree decorations, hunt for baubles or enjoy costumed interpreters telling stories.  All safe in the knowledge mince pies, mulled wine and Santa’s Grotto are never far away.  And probably a Christmas market too!

If your stamina for the festive season is flagging, how about trying something different this weekend.  What about a bracing nature walk to clear the head?  Or learning a countryside skill such as hedge-laying?

These are just a selection of the wide variety of events that are taking place at National Trust properties around the country in the run up to the holiday season.  A comprehensive list of events is searchable by geography on the National Trust website.

 

Christmas fairs, craft collectives, open studios….seasonal shopping galore!

Image

This weekend seasonal shopping events are popping up all over the capitals and beyond.  Here are just a few of those on offer.  So maps, diaries and pens to the ready to curate your own excursion.

Starting in the east, it is open studios at the Chocolate Factory in Hackney on Saturday 30th and Sunday 1st December.  You can meet the artists, talk about their work and buy direct from each of the 27 studios with fine art, design, illustration and ceramics.  Close by there is also the Dalston Christmas Market on Sunday 1st December.

Made in Clerkenwell, kicks off this evening, Thursday 28th November (5-8pm), with an open studios in conjunction with Goldsmiths’ Centre featuring 150 designers and makers across 3 venues in Clerkenwell selling fashion, jewellery, accessories, ceramics, printmaking, illustration and interior products.  This little polar scene is a card by Decarbonice, purchasing the card will offset a week’s work of Christmas carbon, and that must be a heavy load with festive lights, paper, and travel.  MIC is open over the weekend, for actual times check the website.  Tickets are £3, and free for under 16s.

From east London, we head to central London, and the Cockpit Arts Open studios in Holborn (the Deptford open studios is 6-8th December).   Tickets are £5 for entry all weekend, and under 15s go free.  We all enjoyed the summer Cockpit Arts, with my daughter enjoying the show and tell element as well as the delicious food from the Hand Made Food cafe.  This weekend highlights will include a kids competition to create a woolly jumper for Baatholomew the sheep with Mary Kilvert and the Head Buyer of Paul Smith is sharing her top picks from the Cockpit collection.  You could even try your hand at weaving with Bonnie Kirkwood who will be giving a demonstration on her hand loom.

A little bit north in Queens Park, it is the Homeworks Christmas Bazaar coral wallight in coral red smallon Sunday 1st December from 10am-2pm in the Salusbury Road Rooms.  Homeworks was set up by a group of like-minded women who work from home, and like to make and buy things that are made with care.  A couple of the highlights are this coral light from Charlotte Peake, colourful felt accessories from Isolyn, and Lou Rota‘s beautiful flora and fauna designs on vintage china.

Further west to the Chelsea Old Town Hall where the third Selvedge Winter Fair is taking  place on the 29th and 30th of November.   As the name would suggest Selvedge’ speciality is all things textiles.  There will be over 100 stands of antique textiles, talented designer makers and vintage haberdashery.  Tickets are £5 or £7.50 for both days.

A little bit south it is the Boutique Christmas Market in Kew Gardens.  Organised in conjunction with We Make London, Kew Gardens is opening up after hours with an illuminated trail and the opportunity to buy distinctive ceramics, textiles, prints, fine art, home wares, jewellery, kids toys, needlework and accessories.

Westward ho to the Bath Christmas Markets which run from Thursday 28th November to Sunday 15th December.  The streets  and square between the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey are colonised by over 150 wooden chalets selling unusual and handmade gifts and decorations.

On the east side of the River Severn the Made in Bristol Christmas Gift Fair is taking place this Saturday 30th November with handmade jewellery, original illustrations, interior products in ceramic, glass, paper, metal, wood and textiles, as well as clothing from established and emerging designers and makers from the region.

A leap across the River Severn to the Cardiff Arts Collective Christmas fair taking place this Saturday 30th November with over 30 designers and makers from South Wales selling jewellery, textiles, decorations and cards.  Among my top picks would be the lighting ByKirsty and textiles and fantastic geometric prints on cushions, textiles and wallpaper by Sian Elin.

And I am sure there are many more in a town near you.  If there are, please and them to the comments!!

 

Christmas trees that are greener than meets the eye

logoAt last a seemingly simple alternative to a real, cut Christmas tree.  My Mum has been planting her Christmas trees for years, but then she is in North Wales.  For those of us, in urban areas, our options have not been as green, so I was delighted to come across Lovely Branches.  If you are living in Greater London, you can rent a Christmas tree from Lovely Branches.  They will deliver a tree that has been grown within a 100 miles of the M25, and then collect it and replant it after the festivities are over, to grow for next year.   You can also rent decorations in either a red, silver or pearl theme.  If you are overwhelmed by the whole enterprise, then Lovely Branches premium service includes installation and decoration of your tree.  You could order a decorated tree for an infirm relative or friend, or to brighten up your office.

Of the 8 million real Christmas trees sold in the UK every year to retail customers, about 5 million are imported from abroad, so if you prefer a cut tree, Lovely Branches offer those too, only theirs are grown here in the UK.

I placed our order yesterday, and it was a swift, straightforward process.  Prices start at £38 for a 4-5 ft tree + delivery and collection (from £16 combined).  I can’t wait to see the Norwegian spruce we have rented.  It was sobering to watch my daughter’s face when she saw the enormous pile of discarded, fading trees striped of their magical decorations being marshalled by tractors and fed into the wood chipper in our local park last January.  Returning our tree to be replanted is a much more positive prospect to start the new year.

Stocking fillers

t300_9642007425512a1a3dcb4ba8d988d604

It is time to embrace the inevitable march towards seasonal festivities and the hunt for gifts that give that little bit extra! I have my eye on some stocking fillers for the kids from Bigjigs, one of the leading wooden toy designers in the UK.  I like the colourful set of 72 interlocking wooden discs that creative, dextrous kids (and adults), can build into endless shapes (£6.99).  The bright, slightly retro look appeals, and the fact that all of Bigjigs’ wooden toys are made from rubberwood from managed forests.  Rubberwood  is from trees that are only felled after completing the latex producing cycle, generally after 25-30 years.

There will be more festive pointers to follow, this is just a little heads up about Bigjigs as they are currently running a competition, on their Facebook page to win their  Top 10 Stocking Fillers, which runs until Friday 22nd November.