fir lady

The Fir Lady is back…thanks to some woodland helpers!

The Fir Lady 2019

It’s become a tradition that each year the Fir Lady visits us, and this weekend she rose up from the forest floor one night, a tangle of roots and vines becoming a magnificent woman by sunrise. A flurry of woodland animals gathered to help her, clambering onto the toadstools that grew around her skirts and bringing ladders and pulleys to adorn her with golden acorns;

Mouse details from the fir lady 2019

Details from The Fir Lady by katescreativespace blog

For some (even a  forest has introverts), it was easier just to clamber safely out of the fray and enjoy watching the festive preparations with a book.

Fir Lady 2019 Detail

Every forest has its leaders, and it seems the foxes were the self-appointed project-managers, cheerfully directing operations whilst everyone else cheerfully ignored them;

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Teamwork is everything.

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To make the Fir Lady this year…

I used the mannequin I prepared last year, and in a bid to spend less and think of the environment I sourced the greenery for her skirts from our garden (we’re lucky to have a legion of fir trees!)

Fir branches in trughIMG_9231

  • The mice and other woodland animals are all tree decorations; I bought mine in the post-Christmas sales last year, but you can find them in many UK stores and garden centres this year too.  Online, OKA, White Stuff and Cox and Cox have a range in stock.
  • The toadstools were inexpensive wooden craft shapes I painted.  Mine were from a local garden centre (or try Hobbycraft in the UK, or Michaels in the US); I gave them a basic wash of off-white and then painted the hoods in a khaki shade before dry brushing the same colour over the stems.  I rolled tiny balls of white clay for the polka dots on top.
  • The gilded acorns the mice are carrying are from a wired wreath pick; I unravelled them and trimmed the wires so the mice could carry them easily (and they wrap well around a fir sprig!)
  • The ladders were made by snipping up fallen twigs and hot glueing them together
  • And because I’m often asked… my backdrop is the ‘chalkboard’ backdrop from here – and I’ve used a sheer length of cloth on the floor for these pics too.

Have a great week, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing!

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The Fir Lady 2018

Kate's Fir Lady for 2018

The Fir Lady is back!

Regular followers will know that each year I build a Christmas fir lady from boughs of pine and whatever else is to hand; each year she has a slightly different character but always the same sweeping glamour and presence.  This year, we’re in the midst of building work (so exciting; I’ll post a tour of it all in January :-) ), so I’ve built her in what will soon be a brand new orangery.  For now though it’s an empty, gallery-like space that harnesses the weak winter light and gives her an ethereal glow for most of the day.

She’s a little more elaborate than in previous years.  Here’s the story behind her costume…

I have a 1950′s dress form that I use for her.  Usually I wrap the bodice in hessian or a give her a berry-red jacket to wear, but this year I wrapped her in cling-film (bear with me; it’s nothing Fifty Shades..) and then used plaster bandages to create a solid corset around her.

fir lady bodice

I then tacked strips of flexible birch all around the shape to make a wintery forest-like corset (I was tempted to try it on myself; can you imagine rocking up at a holiday party in this?).

fir lady in progress

When I’d finished, I tucked a length of pheasant-feather trim along the top of the bodice, for added seasonal flair;

IMG_3347Once she was in place, I began wiring branches of fir to form her skirts, shaping and trimming as I went to get the right shape..

fir lady being built

and then the accessorising; this year with dried limes strung like baubles, pine cones tucked in amongst the branches and also tiny wooden birdhouses so that the garden birds can come and go and live in her skirts…IMG_3815kate's christmas fir lady

Have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing; we’ll be decorating the house now that the builders have hung up their paintbrushes and downed-tools for the holidays… more pictures to follow!

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It’s beginning to feel a lot like…

Fir Lady 2017…Christmas!

So here she is; the Fir Lady returned in from the cold, this year with an old and much-mended sack as her elegant shawl, and a sprinkling of dried limes and pinecones to decorate her skirts.  Oh, and twinkling lights of course, because everyone deserves to sparkle at Christmas.  This year she’s taken up residence in the hallway, where she lights up the entrance and welcomes friends in from the cold.  And also in the hall;

IMG_3039An oversized wire star (from here), threaded with white lights and hung against a wall of logs, catching my eye and making me smile whenever I move about the kitchen.

IMG_3002In the bedroom, a more tranquil nod to the holidays; a simple driftwood wreath on the mantel.

Christmas mantelAnd then in readiness for the weekend …festive baking!

rosemary christmas cakeI decorated this simple jam sponge with thick white icing, a rosemary-sprig forest (topped with tiny pieces of gold leaf) and amaretti biscuits providing a rocky woodland path for the miniature model deer.  And then I took it all off and experimented with something a little different; a felt-mouse snowball fight!  I still haven’t decided which topping to go with…

Fun and festive Christmas cake

Making notes, for the creatively-minded

- The fir lady is an annual creation, made using branches of fir (from my local garden centre) wired around an old shop mannequin.  I secure a length of chicken wire around her waist and then attach the branches one by one, overlapping and occasionally trimming branches which stick out at peculiar angles.  After the first year, I learned to wear rubber gloves to avoid becoming a human pin cushion.

- I used a string of 750 warm white lights to wrap around the hallway star, and then taped the cable to the floor with transparent packaging tape for safety’s sake.  The star is hang on a wooden baton secured between the logs, but for an ordinary wall just use a standard picture hook.

- For the cake, I wired stems of rosemary to cocktail sticks to stop them wilting, and pushed the sticks into the cake.  A light sprinkling of powdered sugar simulates snow.  The paper tape and ribbon wrapped around the cake are previous year’s purchases from Anthropologie and John Lewis.

- for the ‘snowball’ cake, I used felted mouse tree-decorations and snipped off the hanging cord, sticking them into place on the cake top with a dab of icing.  The snowballs are made of fondant paste, and the rosemary makes a reappearance as the forest backdrop.  Felted holiday ornaments are everywhere this year; try White Stuff, Anthropologie, Oka, Pottery Barn and John Lewis.

….and now the weekend is here, and school is at last finished for the year for a jubilant, exhausted Harry.  I have a few more days of work to go, but before then a weekend filled with friends and family, with the making of eucalyptus garlands and stringing of ornaments and mulling of wine, and of log fires and duvets.  And possibly, just possibly……snow!

IMG_7556Have a wonderful weekend wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

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The Fir Lady returns once again

Christmas Lady

Christmas began to arrive in our home yesterday, as I staggered back from the garden centre with armfuls of pine, eucalyptus and berries.  Now the house is filled with resiny scent, as is my hair, my clothes, my hands… it’s intoxicating.

And the fir lady has once again come in from the cold and taken shelter in a corner of the kitchen; this year she is sporting a bright red military-style jacket (a charity shop find) and standing 9ft tall, thanks to an old chest we dragged in from the back of the shed.  Pine cones are dotted amongst her skirts, and boughs of red berries peek around her hem.

The Fir Lady close up

Fir Lady Skirts

Here’s last year’s Fir Lady, who sported a hessian bodice and a skirt adorned with simple wooden stars..

The Fir Lady 2014

And the original, 2013 Lady who had a rather more risqué skirt and a nipped-in waist..

Fir Lady for Christmas

If you have a spare mannequin lying around (and who doesn’t?) I gave a vague tutorial last year, with tips about how to build up a skirt and thread all the greenery together (tip: chicken wire is your secret weapon).  Mostly though it just requires trial and error, and is aided by a glass of red wine.  Or mulled wine.  Any wine in fact, but probably just the one glass, especially if using a ladder.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend; we’re lighting the fire and curling up for a Christmas movie; Elf and Arthur Christmas are the top contenders; popcorn and hot chocolate will be crucial.

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The Fir Lady Returns…

The Fir Lady 2014

In early December last year I experimented with attaching boughs of fir to chicken wire to craft a wintery skirt for the dress mannequin that sits in our kitchen.  The result was a quirky, 50s-style fir minidress that added a dash of festive sparkle to the room…

Fir Lady 2013

This year I decided on a more decadent and formal, full-skirted look, so the Fir Lady has flowing, floor-length boughs and an elegant hessian shawl, fastened with a red corset-style belt from my wardrobe…

Fir Lady belt

I followed the same steps as before, securing some chicken wire around the dress form and then simply pushing fir branches up into the wire, twisting it tight as I went to hold the boughs in place (excuse the poor photo; my usual moonlight crafting takes place when the rest of the house is asleep.. )

Making a fir dress

Once the skirt was complete, I folded a length of raw hessian fabric in half and just draped it around the top of the mannequin, to cover the tops of the branches and ends of the wire.  A wrap-around belt cinched tight holds it all in place (and it looks far better on her than me, so unfair..)

Fir Lady with hessian Shawl

As a final touch, I scattered birch wood stars randomly over the fir skirt, leaving them where they fell, nestled half-in, half-out of the greenery.

Fir Lady Dress with stars

And here she stands, as if she has swept in from the garden to escape the chill; a little bit majestic, a little bit fun.  The inevitable gentle flurries of pine needles underfoot at breakfast time will probably be less fun, but we’ll manage…

Fir Lady in the kitchen

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