What I do remember is finding a big orange in the toe, a nutritious filler that helped keep the cost down when dealing with Christmas on a budget. I was a pretty observant kid, probably would have made a good detective because I deduced that the piece of fruit looked very much like the ones in the fridge vegetable crisper. So one year I counted the oranges before going to bed and sure enough there were three missing the morning after. I asked my mother why Santa would take our oranges to give to us and she said Santa liked to make sure children ate fruit. On my own, I figured out that Santa was just being frugal, having to stretch that one, seemingly small bag of toys to last for all the world’s boys and girls. I didn't hold it against him, after all it was understandable why he cut a few corners and of course, I liked fruit. Interestingly, that was the last Christmas we found oranges in our stockings.
My mother scrimped and saved all year for Christmas and we were never disappointed, always getting the one big item we picked out of the Sears Wishbook and a lot of little but very significant things. There was always lots of ripping and tearing, squeals and laughter. We received practical things like new flannel PJ’s and maybe a new tam and scarf set, socks and mittens. Back then it wasn’t about high-tech presents, just simple things and necessary everyday items. Things we needed anyway that got dubbed Christmas presents, sort of killing two birds with one stone while saving money.
We didn’t own a fireplace which posed concern, but my father told me that Santa had a magic passkey for homes that didn’t have chimneys, so not to worry my pretty little head. On Christmas eve, we stuck the stocking tab to the side of a stair tread with a thumb tack and set out the milk and cookies, although my father convinced us that Santa was probably fed up with milk and might appreciate a cold beer. In the morning the bottle was empty and the plate had the telltale crumbs of an appreciated snack.
As a child my stocking was made of a thin, cottony, gauze like material. It was red and plain without any kind of Christmas motif. Not as large as the stockings I design but large enough to excite a small child with all the goodies Santa stuffed into them. There were three of us so Santa would leave our names scratched on a piece of paper to make sure we didn't get confused and it was truly amazing how his penmanship mirrored our fathers.
I like hooking Christmas stockings. They are short and sweet, usually no more than a three evening project and supply a fun canvas to play with colour. This one took the fourth night because of the smaller #4 cut, mostly for the show that was pixelated to conceal loop lines. I like this technique as it smoothly fills in the area without showing where one row starts or stops. Although simple in its design this piece had a lot of snow to hook and a flat white wouldn’t have given me the challenge I appreciate so it was fun to add the shading to break up the large expanse of white.
The sky was simple, a wash of blue over a piece of Copenhagen/Overcast Sky and hooked straight across but on a curve to match the stocking shape. I thought about doing a swirled effect but then decided to keep it simple as not to compete with the Gingerbread man and the candy cane skis. I didn’t hook the stars drawn on the trees in the initial design keeping once again the focus on the cookie and candy. I guess I took artistic license with my own artwork!
The colours used for the candy cane skis were Heart Red and Green With Envy and natural. The trees were hooked with two different spots, Emerald and Aquarius. The Gingerbread man was done in Walnut medium value and the darker value herringbone for the outline. The hat was Heart Red and the scarf was Green With Envy (lighter value than the candy cane, yellow and orange straight from the bottle for brights).
Because the scarf ends touched I had to use colour placement to separate them. Normally the back piece would have been hooked slight darker than the one in front but for the little bit of wool needed to create the difference I didn’t want to have to over dye the colours darker. I considered doing a painted wash of dye but hoped alternating the stripes would do the trick. It worked, fooling the eye enough to create a separation. If it wouldn’t have worked I would have done the dyeing but it’s only a little stocking, not a William Morris masterpiece and I figured I could cut that corner and pay more attention to detail elsewhere.
I had to be careful with the snow around the gingerbread man’s body because of the white icing piping surrounding his outline. I didn’t want it to appear like a hole through the cookie. Anytime you use background colour in the motif you run the risk of it appearing as if there is a hole in the design where the background shines through. I was careful to add the snow around the guy using the lightest values of a 6 value swatch called Snow & Ice so there was a subtle difference.
A couple of years ago I developed a 6 value swatch for hooking snow and ice. It’s a pale greyish blue that goes from dark to light with the lightest value being just a shade darker than Dorr Natural. One swatch goes a long way to add interest to snow giving you a gradual shading of dark to light for snow drifts, under bushes, wherever you need a shadow and it breaks up the blaring overuse of too much white. It might just be a little stocking for a child now, but it needs to grow with them into adulthood so the shading offers a bit of sophistication for the grownup.
Contrary to what you may think, snow is not perfectly white. It’s affected by the environment around it. Take a look the next time the backyard is carpeted in white. You will see many shadows around bushes, under trees and the hills and valley of snow drifts will tell a story of light to dark.
The hat trim is Curly Mohair or Mohair Boucle. I added a bit of shading there as well using Sooty Santa, curly mohair over-dyed with a very light black and some seal brown. Santa is only spiffy clean when he’s posing for pictures. On Christmas eve, his chimney detail insures soot staining on his beard and suit trim. Hooking with the Sooty Santa curly mohair provides a more antique old world appeal. I added a bit of this on the bottom of the pom pom and hat trim and then filled in with the natural on top adding a little bit more interest to the gingerbread’s stocking cap.
So I have to decide which one to do next. I’ve drawn off the Celtic Tree and I could whip that off quickly in a #6 cut but more exciting ideas keep popping up. Peacocks seems to be popular right now so I have a design in mind with the tail feathers sweeping into the toe of the sock. Then the idea for a Carousel with a mermaid horse popped up, the curling tail dipping down into the toe. What a colourful one it could be. I remember the carousel rides as a child, the hard bodied horses and the music, hanging on for dear life while riding up and down the pole in a stomach flopping motion. I see it so clearly in my head that I almost hear the tune that used to play......