Now that Christmas is over and life creeps back to ‘normal’ I was hoping to find a bit more time and mental space to ease into the new year with some more ornaments from this set. I’ve sometimes caught a bit of time in the evening, but the low light and my increasing reliance on my reading glasses for anything close up means that I do not take that time for granted and have to limit myself, else eye strain and a headache follow on my thread tails.

On The Fourth Day Of Christmas…

The Colly Bird. Before I started making this ornament set, Bean, with all of the wonder that an eight year old carries inside them, discovered that the calling bird of the song had originally been colly bird, and asked what it meant and why it changed. It’s an oft rolled-out bit of Christmas trivia (of which I am a human encyclopaedia), so I had the answers at my disposal. I have always sung the modern calling birds, but Bean changed his sung words on the spot, and I felt encouraged to do the same. He may have been the only kid singing it at the Christmas concert, but blackbirds were definitely in the air somewhere in that cacophony of voices.

In Mirth without Mischief a collection of children’s games published in London in 1780, which includes the first recorded instance of The Twelve Days of Christmas, on the fourth day four ‘Colly birds’ were given. Joseph Wright’s (1855-1930) English Dialect Dictionary first published in 1898 includes an entry for ‘Coll[e]y’ found in Gloucestershire, Somersetshire and Devon defined as ‘The blackbird, Turdus merula. Also known as Colley-bird.’ 

Dr James P. Bowen of Leeds Trinity University

On The Fifth Day Of Christmas…

When not pillaging the countryside for its feathered wildlife or the even more problematic idea of gifting people (or maybe they were hired for a short time of fun and frolics, like some Georgian version of a Red Letter Experience Day?), true love brings jewellery.

In felt form this provides a brief break from the feathers and beaks and results in a nice change of pace in the construction of the ornament. I love this ornament both for its simplicity but also the perspective play. Also, my eight year old discovered that he can wear it like a bracelet, so it has multiple uses.

On The Sixth Day Of Christmas…

A goose a-laying. Though I hope she did not lay that egg, as it is bigger than her. Much like when I birthed a 9lb baby, it isn’t practical.

Of all the ornaments I have made so far, the goose is the one that I am least convinced with. I think it is the nest. All of the felt pieces that make up the other pieces are finished with stitching around the edges, usually double or triple layered and given some heft with some especially firm stabiliser, but the layers of straw that make up the nest are just cut from sheets of felt and left raw. I’m not sure about either the effect nor convinced by the longevity of this detail, and may revisit this particular ornament at the end if I haven’t grown to like it more by then.

A Very Stabilised Bit Of Genius

One of the slight difficulties in starting these ornaments is that they call for a very specific product to transfer the embroidery guides to the pieces of felt. A printable, self-adhesive, water soluble stabiliser.

It’s a genius way of ensuring very precise pattern pieces and stitch guides to keep your embroidery elements centred and in place, but it does have some drawbacks, not least of all being that it isn’t actually available in the U.K.

I bought an initial pack of this stabiliser for a highly inflated price, off of an importer, but it was so expensive that I couldn’t afford to buy the two packs that I would need to finish the project. Now that I am a few ornaments into the set and quite sure that I wish to complete them, I have ordered a second pack, but this time I have ordered it directly from the U.S., and am awaiting the post-Christmas mail snail to bring the goods to me.

I can’t really progress without it beyond the next couple of ornaments that I have printed out. I could cut the pieces without it, but I can’t think of a better way of transferring the embroidery guides tot he felt pieces. It really does work well and is worth the downsides of the slightly tacky feeling and drag to the needle. All residue disappears once the pieces are soaked (and I soak all pieces after stitching, even the ones that say they don’t require it and to simply peel the stabiliser off, as the residue gives me the ick). But like those pieces, I am sticky. Not quite stuck yet, but soon to be if the delivery van doesn’t bring me a few more sheets of this magical stabiliser.

Six down, and six to go.