A cotton-reel Christmas tree

As many of you know, I have a studio at Ushaw, Durham (here). There are a company of artists and makers there and we were all invited to contribute to a second Christmas tree festival this year (see here for last year’s contribution). I made a hundred ornaments from cotton-reels for my tree. Some were vintage reels where the thread was too weak to use but the colour still pretty. Others were empty reels with a strip of coloured felt stitched on, to represent the thread. All of them had a button at the top and a red bead beneath so they would hang nicely. There’s a cone of red thread on the top. Here was the tree being set up.

And here are some close-ups of the decorations:

a tray of cotton-reel decorations

Of course I put a Christmas Tree skirt beneath! I chose the modern blue and green version.

‘Christmas Tree Skirt’ from Amanda Jane Textiles: you can find the pattern here

In the end, the planned indoor Christmas Tree Festival at Ushaw could not take place because of Covid-19 restrictions (we emerged from the second lockdown into Tier 3). However, Ushaw was able to go ahead with ‘Illuminating Ushaw’ which all took place outside. I went to the opening night and thoroughly enjoyed it, despite some December rain. The front of the main building was lit up like an Advent calendar:

Here’s a closer look:

The path around the displays was illuminated:

Lights and decorations in the trees were magical:

One of the outdoor trees was decorated by my own WI (Women’s Institute), the Broompark and District WI. It was an eco-themed tree, with bird feeders and ‘bug hotels’ (to encourage insects), all made from recycled materials.

A highlight of the event for me was seeing once again Mick Stephenson’s ‘Rose Window’ sculpture, which I have loved since I first saw it at Lumiere 2015 – and blogged about it here. It looked splendid against the games court walls at Ushaw:

You can get some idea of the scale (and from my clothing, of how wet it was the night we went!) here:

My cotton-reel tree does make an appearance in ‘Illuminating Ushaw’ – it is now standing in one of the windows of the East Wing.

It looks pretty at night, as one of a row of illuminated trees, shining out into the darkness,

So it’s playing its part after all.

Next Monday’s blog post includes a present for you – don’t miss it!

Thank you for reading my blog. Quilt patterns are here, Fabrics are here, Classes are here

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