Monday, 31 December 2012


Spotted these inspiring handmade Christmas decorations in the window of a pub in Bermondsey Street, on a recent trip to London. The decs instantly combine the trend for handmade and vintage objects, while also reflecting the pub's hip, yet traditional atmosphere. A great project using heirloom pieces of lace and embroidery, your own sewing masterpieces or Charity Shop finds. I love the simple hand-painted and plain wooden frames and the way the light shines through the sheer fabrics. I'll definitely be making some of these for next Christmas.

A unique and simple festive display at The Garrison Public House in Bermondsey Street, London, that boasts
its own cinema room for relaxed Sunday viewing 

If you want to make these and don't own any wooden embroidery hoops, you can pick them up at haberdashery- and hobby shops or keep an eye out for vintage designs. You can paint the hoops using a chalk-based paint, such as Annie Sloan's excellent Old White chalk paint, which is water based and can be watered-down for sheerer coverage. This type of paint doesn't smell strongly so you can happily paint indoors. Alternatively leave the wooden surfaces plain - but they do look good white...

Using varying sizes of hoops adds interest to the display

Vintage or modern wooden embroidery hoops in varying sizes
Chalk paint or similar water-based paint 
Small paint brush
Clean jam jar or similar
Fine sandpaper
Suitably sized pieces of lace, embroidery, doilies or similar
Sharp scissors
Dressmaker pencil
Tea towel
Lengths of ribbon for hanging
Small screw-in hooks or sharp drawing pins

1. Divide the hoops and paint each section with a thin layer of paint. Repeat if necessary, but ensure that you don't add too much additional thickness to each section as you want the hoops to fit together easily. Allow to dry completely - overnight if possible and clean the brush in a jam jar full of water.
2. Once dry, check that the hoops join together again - use fine sandpaper to buff down any thickness between co-joining hoops. It doesn't matter if the paint comes off here as the insides won't show.
3. Iron the pieces of fabric/lace that you have selected using a cool iron -  if the fabric is very old and fragile then protect the surface with a tea-towel before ironing.
4. Decide which hoop fits your chosen fabric the best and lay it over the design. Draw around the circumference of the hoop using a dressmakers pencil allowing approx. 1 cm additional width and then cut out the circle.
5. Divide the embroidery hoop and place the fabric facing upwards over the smaller hoop, so that the design lines up with the closing mechanism at the top. Place the larger hoop over the fabric to secure it between the two hoops. Secure the hoops using the closing mechanism.
6. Trim off any excess fabric protruding on the reverse side of the hoop.
7. Cut ribbon to the desired length and secure it around the closing mechanism of the hoop.
8. If you don't have somewhere to hang the decoration from, then screw in a small hook or hang the ribbon using a small drawing pin or similar.
9. Repeat the above method for multiple hoops.

These hoops aren't just for Christmas; they provide a unique way for displaying favourite textiles all year round and can be hung or simply propped against a wall.

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