Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Countdown .... Christmas Day

Christmas Countdown ... Christmas Day
May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace,
The gladness of Christmas give you hope,
The warmth of Christmas grant you love

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Countdown ....2... Santa ( by any other name)

Christmas Countdown ...2...
Santa by any other name: The original Santa was Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (Turkey) who became known for his generosity and kindness, especially to the poor and children. After his death in 350AD, stories about the good St Nicholas became legends associated with Christmas in many other parts of the world.  In some countries, children still receive gifts on the feast day of St Nicholas, 6 December and in most countries, a mythical character, with the virtues of St. Nicholas, is a symbol of Christmas giving.
In USA, Canada , Australia and other western countries, he is Santa Claus. (from the Dutch SinterKlaas) He is also called Kris Kringle - which comes from the German term “the Christ Child”. In England, he is also known as Father Christmas and in France, Pere Noel. In Germany, children get presents from Christindl, the Christ Child. In Morocco he is known as Black Peter. In Sweden Jultomten visits the evening before Christmas day, pulling a big bag of julklappar (Christmas presents) in the deep snow. Pã Norsk  (in Norwegian ) “Julenissen” arrives on Christmas eve. In Finland, he is called Joulupukki.
Sinter Klaas in Dutch is much thinner than the American Santa Claus. He rides a white horse and gets help from numerous Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes) handing out gifts and candy.  In Russia, he is called Grandfather Frost that is “ded moroz”.   In Japan, Santa Claus is called Santa Claus or just “Santa”. Children often call him “Santa no ojisan”, which means “Uncle Santa .  In China, he is called Shengdan Laoren

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Countdown ...3... Christmas Tree

Christmas Countdown ...3... Christmas Tree :  The symbolic meaning of Christmas trees actually originates in pagan culture where the evergreen represents life and renewal.  In Scandinavia, decorating evergreens was a practice associated with the Winter Solstice and often brought into homes, as symbols of protection against evil spirits. In many sources, Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer,  has been credited with the first decorated Christmas tree – with candles. 
Although this could just be a story, German Christians are known to have decorated evergreens in their home as early as the mid-16th century.  It wasn’t until the nineteenth century in other countries that Christmas trees became the bright " giving"  symbol of Christmas as we know it. The first Christmas tree in England was set up in Windsor Castle by Prince Albert of Saxony, Queen Victoria’s husband in 1841. Franklin Pierce was the first US president to introduce a Christmas tree in the White House in 1856.

 O Christmas Tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches!
In beauty green will always grow
Through summer sun and winter snow.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How lovely are your branches
Community 'giving' tree' - Wallsend : Rotary Club of Wallsend-Maryland project. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Countdown ...4... Christmas Cards.

Christmas Countdown ...4...   Christmas Cards are another tradition started in England in 1843 by Henry Cole by John Horsley who was the designer of the first Christmas card which was quite expensive – one shilling. As railways were built, postal services became cheaper (only halfpenny for a Christmas card in an unsealed envelope), and printing methods improved, Christmas cards became popular by the 1870’s . At first nativity scenes were depicted on cards, and then images of red robins and winter snow scenes. 
the first Christmas card 1843 ( from l

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Countdown ... 5... Candy Canes

Christmas Countdown ...5... Candy Canes 

The first historical reference to a candy cane at Christmas goes back to 1670 in Cologne, Germany. The choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral gave out sweet sticks to children in the hope of quietening them during the Nativity church service on Christmas Eve. To justify giving out sweets, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to them to represent the staff belonging to the shepherds who visited the baby Jesus. 
 A German immigrant August Imgard allegedly took the idea of candy canes to America. The candy canes remained white.  On Christmas cards after 1900, the red and white stripes which we now know, appear although the history of the stripes and the now traditional peppermint flavour is unknown. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Countdown ...6... Crackers

Christmas Countdown ... 6... Crackers 
Christmas crackers or bons bons are traditionally English. In the 1840’s in London, Tom Smith, disappointed that his sweets based on the French sweet almonds wrapped in pretty paper were not selling very well, included a “snap” to make a sound when they were opened. Crackers were originally called ‘cosaques’ and were thought to be named after Cossacks whose reputation for riding horses and firing pistols in the air wildly.
 Some of the early crackers had love poems inside them, but when Tom died, and his sons took over the business, poetry was replaced by jokes, a paper crown was added and little toys or charms were included as special gifts inside the crackers. There were even “themed” crackers, with special tokens added for bachelors, spinsters and even Suffragettes!
 In our family, there is a tradition of making handmade crackers. This year, one of our grandsons has provided the jokes! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Countdown ...7...Pudding Coins

Christmas Countdown ...7... Pudding Coins 
We all love Christmas pudding, but have you ever wondered where the practice of putting coins in the pudding came from? Getting a silver coin with your serving of pudding is said to bring good luck. This came possibly from the 1300s in Britain when a “Twelfth Night Cake” was eaten during the festivities on the twelfth night of Christmas. A dried bean or pea was baked inside the cake and whoever got it was “king” or “queen” for the night. The bean was sometimes a silver ring. Then it turned into a farthing or a penny and then after World War 1, a silver threepence or sixpence.  There was also a practice of using tokens in a pudding, which held predictions for the finder – a bachelor or spinster for the following year, or the prospect of marriage. These days, silver coins are no longer currency, but many (like me) have kept a few silver coins just to put in the pudding on Christmas Day. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Countdown...8.. Wreaths .

Christmas Countdown ...8...Wreaths have been used as Christmas decorations for hundreds of years, mostly on doors, in windows and over mantles. They are a symbol of growth and everlasting life. Wreaths were usually made of evergreen branches and decorated  with holly, pine cones, fruit or berries, and nowadays are  more than often artificial, with all kinds of decorations. From a Christian perspective, a wreath represents eternal life. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Countdown ...9... Stars

Stars are very common symbols of Christmas. The Christmas Star, the Star of Bethlehem, is said to have led the Magi to Bethlehem where Christ was born. In many cultures, the star plays a very special part in Christmas and religious celebrations, as a symbol of high hopes, and good fortune   For example in Alaska, children sing carols and carry a star shaped figure from house to house  in the hope of receiving treats.  In Hungary, a star is carved into half of an apple, supposedly for good luck. Here's wishing you a starry night! 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Countdown ... 10 ... Baubles.

The first “Christmas” trees were decorated with apples, strings of popcorn and pastry treats in the shapes of stars, hearts and flowers. They were illuminated later by candles.  The first glass baubles were said to be made in Lauscha, Germany by Hans Greiner –  at first, garlands of glass balls and then glass figurines.  In 1840’s, illustrations of Queen Victoria and family around a Christmas tree festooned with lights, and  ornamental glass baubles appeared in a London newspaper and also in  the American Godey’s Lady Book in 1860’s . These illustrations encouraged  a more widespread practice of decorating trees with ornaments and baubles in both Britain and America. Until the 1880's when the mass production of glass and moulded  tree baubles began in earnest,  tree decorations were created at home usually from paper, and lovingly used year after year. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Countdown ... 11... Stockings

Christmas Countdown...11...  Have you ever wondered where the idea of a Christmas stocking came from? Here's a story.... Very long ago, there lived a poor man and his three very beautiful daughters. He had no money to get his daughters married, and he was worried what would happen to them after his death. He thought they would become prostitutes.  Saint Nicholas was passing through when he heard the villagers talking about the girls. St. Nicholas wanted to help, but knew that the old man wouldn't accept charity. He decided to help in secret. After dark he threw three bags of gold through an open window, one landed in a stocking. When the girls and their father woke up the next morning they found the bags of gold and were, of course, overjoyed. The girls were able to get married and live happily ever after. Other versions of the story say that Saint Nicholas threw the 3 bags of gold directly into the stockings which were hung by the fireplace to dry.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Countdown ...12... 12 Days of Christmas.

The twelve days of Christmas are the twelve days between Christmas Day, 25 December   and the Epiphany, 6 January,  the day Christians celebrate the arrival of the Magi (Wise Men) . 

   The Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is a well known song which enumerates gifts, each day something more elaborate. There are many parodies .... here  is a modern Australian version. However, the song actually had its origins in religious symbolism - and with a serious purpose. It dates from a time of religious persecution. The song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," was written as a kind of secret catechism that could  be sung in public without fear of arrest - a learning or memory aid to Christians.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas Countdown ...13... Christmas Beetle

Christmas Countdown ... 13.... 
Christmas beetle is the common name for an Australian beetle Anonplognathus. They are known as Christmas beetles because they are abundant in both urban and rural areas close to Christmas  Christmas beetles are large (20-30 mm long) members of the scarab family that are noisy and clumsy fliers. They are easily spotted in the sunshine because of their iridescent colours. It's not all good news about Christmas beetles, as some of the species have been implicated in dieback of Australian eucalypt trees. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Countdown ...14... Three Wise Men

Christmas Countdown ....14 ...  
Three Wise Men;  The Magi , known as Three Wise Men or Three Kings  in Christian tradition were a group of distinguished foreigners who visited Christ after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations of  ChristmasIn Matthew's Gospel, they "came from the east" and while a number is not mentioned, it is widely assumed because of the three gifts that there were three men.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Countdown ...15...Red & White

Christmas Colours? I always thought red and white were traditional colours of Christmas because theywere the colours associated with Santa Claus, but  the origin of Santa dressing in red costume comes from a marketing strategy rather than a tradition. It was adopted by Coca Cola when an artist depicted their soda brand with the colour red during winter season. This was in 1890. Previously, Santa was dressed in green ever since the Victorian era.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Countdown...16 ...Elf

Christmas Countdown ... 16... 

In American folklore, a Christmas elf is a diminutive creature that lives with Santa Claus in the North Pole and acts as his helper. Christmas elves are usually depicted as green or red clad with pointy ears and pointy hats. Santa's elves are often said to make the toys in Santa's workshop and take care of his reindeer, among other tasks.
They were first introduced by Louisa May Alcott in 1856. The association of Christmas presents with elves has precedents in the first half of the 19th century with the Tomte in Scandinavia.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Countdown ...17... Angels

... Good tidings we bring ....
 Angels played an important role in the first Christmas. Gabriel, the archangel of revelation, informed Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ on Earth. An angel visited Joseph in a dream to tell him that he would serve as Jesus' father on Earth, and a vast amount of angels appeared in the sky over Bethlehem to announce and celebrate the birth  of Christ. Considering the vital role that angels played in the first Christmas, it's not surprising that they began to take prominent places on Christmas trees soon after people developed the tradition of decorating trees for Christmas.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Countdown Trivia

 I have been counting down Christmas from 1 December on my Facebook page... here is some trivia I have been uncovering during the process.
Christmas Bells...  In older times he very shape of the bell is reminiscent to dome of heaven. In Christianity the ringing of a bell is a sacred announcement to the presence of Christ at mass. In Buddhism, the sounding of a bell is the resonance of pure wisdom - a tonal symbol of perfect harmony & clarity. In Asian thought the bell is also a harmonic symbol - the bell itself considered female, the clapper or pendulum within the bell is male. The two working as one to create a beautiful tone is symbolic of the union between male and female (yin and yang) to create perfect cooperation and balance 
 I use these pillow cases every December and have done so for about 30+ years? I have enough for everyone in the family so now I guess I have a set of "vintage" Christmas pillow cases  To see a pillow in your dream represents comfort. relaxation, ease, and/or luxury. You need to take it easy on yourself 
 Christmas is celebrated all over the world  but there are many different traditions and there are some Christmas celebrations even in countries where the majority of people are non-Christian. Celebrate Christmas by giving an "ethnic " gift .... some ideas? 
 According to research commissioned by eBay , this year Australians each spent an average of $662 to buy 12.7 Christmas presents, with an average cost of just over $52 per gift. Yet despite this $8.5 billion spend on gifts, more than half the respondents still received at least one unwanted present on Christmas day. 



 In "The Father Christmas Letters", which Tolkien wrote for his children, Red Gnomes are helpful creatures who come from Norway to the North Pole to assist Father Christmas and his Elves in fighting the wicked Goblins.

Before electricity, people used candles to light their homes and to decorate their Christmas trees. Today electric lights have replaced candles. Candles and Christmas lights represent Christ, the Light of the World. "I am the light of the world. No follower of mine shall ever walk in darkness; no, he shall possess the light of life" (John 8:12). "


Gingerbread dates back to the15th century, and figural biscuit-making was practised in the 16th century.[1 The first documented instance of figure-shaped gingerbread-biscuits appearing was in the court of Elizabeth I of England. She had the gingerbread figures made and presented in the likeness of some of her important guests
"Run, run, run as fast as you can.
You’ll never catch me, I’m the gingerbread man.
I ran from the baker and his wife too.
You’ll never catch me, not any of you"


Did you know that holly is associated with males and is considered to bring men good luck and protection; the female counterpart to holly is ivy? 
 Early Christians recognized deeper symbolism in Holly by associating the leaves as the "crown of thorns" and the red berries as the blood of Christ.... 

From now until Christmas .... I will add a brief post daily to countdown the next three weeks to Christmas Day. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Arty Places #13 - New Acton

This week I spent a few days in Canberra (Australian Capital Territory)  for Rotary training and had a little bit of time to myself one afternoon to discover the wonderful art just in one Canberra precinct , New Acton. The sculptures "Time Thief" captivated me and I  sat for some time admiring the three elements  of Robin Blua's concept.

The commission was co-ordinated by Pamille Berg Consulting, the Molonglo Group's public art consultant for the New Acton Precinct for the past seven years.Ms Berg said the sculptures ''show all of us what can happen when a developer is committed to ''doing things right'' in properly employing the superb skills of the professional artists and craftspeople in our midst.'...'Read more: here  
The other sculptures in the precinct are just as engaging and interesting, some even more imposing and thought provoking.

NewActon South is the striking centrepiece of NewActon precinct; a sensuous glass, steel and concrete curvilinear apartment tower that transcends the everyday through its quality of thought, exacting craftsmanship, distinctive materiality and ever-present integration of contemporary art ... from
This photo  above also shows at ground level a little cafe, called Mocan and Green Grout , described as" an ethical café and bike maker under the label Goodspeed Bicycle Co that’s as much an art and design experience as a place to enjoy good coffee and food "  My friend Pam and I sat in the  double garden chair  on the footpath you can see in this photo. and we ate cauliflower,quinoa ,barberry and  lemon myrtle and snapper fillets with pink grapefruit and fennel - absolutely delicious !  Of course, I took the photo to highlight the sculpture and the rooftop garden, but couldn't help adding the details about the fantastic food.and mentioning the beautiful scenes along the walking path around  Lake Burley Griffin  adjacent to this arty precinct. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wise Words Wednesday is a Story

Stitched tag : Theme "All Stitched Up' - The Emperor's New Clothes
Hand stitched calico& metal embellishment
Instead of just wise words this Wednesday.. here is a favourite story. "The Emperor's New Clothes"
 A vain Emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two swindlers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or "hopelessly stupid". The Emperor's ministers cannot see the clothing themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions and the Emperor does the same. Finally the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretence not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretence, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspecting the assertion is true, but continues the procession. from  Wikipedia
Moral of the story - Always tell the truth? Look before you leap? Those with authority are not always right?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Workshop - Tumbuna Sculpture /Message Stick Art Doll

 Date:  Sunday, 24 November 2013
Times: 9.30am – 4.00pm 
Venue:  Lambton NSW  
Exact address supplied once you have registered for this workshop. 

 Lunch, morning tea, afternoon tea provided.
Please notify of any special dietary requirements.

Contact  Timeless Textiles via contact 
or leave a comment at the end of this post with an email address, please 

Information for participants: This workshop is a combined workshop (two projects in one) and while you will learn most of the techniques for both creating an ancestor bottle of your own and a message stick doll, it is recommended that you focus on creating either one on the day. You do not need to bring anything very much at all, depending on whether you have something specific in mind to create on the day. Please bring a basic sewing kit - scissors, needle and neutral coloured thread, pins Please also bring any favourite sculpting tools if you have any.

 Tumbuna Bottle Sculpture:  The morning is spent on sculpting a head. In my samples I have created heads which are inspired by wise men and women in Papua New Guinea. Of course, you can create your own “ancestor” and base it on any culture or your own family.

Requirements list: Most of this is optional as I will have additional bottles and embellishments for you to choose from.
  • A photo or image of a human head which will inspire your sculpture. 
  • A bottle you would like to use as a base
  • Trinkets, souvenirs, memories which you would like to add to the bottle.
I will supply clay and other bits and pieces for sculpting the head. You will be able to use any paints, waxes, tools and equipment required for sculpting and finishing the head.

Message Stick Art Doll: You can choose to sculpt a unique head or use one of the commercial moulds to create a head for your stick doll.  You will spend most of the morning making the head and learning the wrapping technique. The remaining time will be used to add the stitching and embellishments.

Requirements List: Again, most of this is optional as I will have extras of most of what you need.
  • A stick/twig,/branch 40-50cm in length   
  •  Some  strips of your favourite fabric
I will supply foil, first wrap stretch fabric, and as for the Tumbuna bottle, sculpting tools, materials and equipment.

 I look forward to helping you to create something very special. 
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Quick and Easy Handmade Gifts

It's THAT time of the year! 
For most of  the year, my work can be purchased at  my Etsy shop and Timeless Textiles, a Gallery and Centre for Fibre Artists. But, at this time of the year, there are pop-up shops, markets and bazaars for local artists and artisans. Every year, I then frantically search for good ideas for small, inexpensive, quick and easy handmade gift ideas for markets. This year, I made quite a few fabric fridge magnets...  I will explain the basic steps and perhaps you might like to try some for yourself. 
1. Choose a bright and simple print on heavy cotton or linen. For these magnets, I chose a mushroom silk screened fabric from Thea and Sami. 
Thea and Sami printed fabric 

2. Use a backing fabric like heavy calico, linen or ticking in a similar colour to the print fabric. 
3. With both fabrics together sew around the print and then trim leaving a small edge. 
4. Make a very small slit in the back, cutting through only the backing fabric. 
5. Stuff very lightly through the slit, with fibre fill . 
6. Stitch closed the slit and then using strong glue, attach a magnet. 
7. Apply fabric sealer on both sides and leave to dry thoroughly. 

Here are some additional  hints ....  choose simple shapes 
and a fabric where the print motifs  are not too close to one another. With this fabric, I needed to sew with an open toe foot on my machine as the little doll prints are quite close together. Use small very sharp scissors for trimming. 
These are great small Christmas gifts, easily posted, tucked inside a card. Hope you will try to make some yourself. Or you can purchase these  here -  all ready to pop into someone's stocking! 
Thea and Sami Printed Linen