• Nicola

From my Sketchbook: Danish Hearts

Did you grow up making those little woven-heart Christmas decorations? I think I was shown at school and when I first had a home of my own (and not much money to spend on it) I made them to decorate my first Christmas tree, along with some salt-dough ornaments made with biscuit cutters. They were only retired when my children were small and I discovered Gisela Graham.


And why, you may ask, am I wittering on about Danish Christmas decorations in August? Well this weekend I happen to be in Copenhagen and I have a new pattern to share with you inspired by those decorations.


Nyhavn, Copenhagen


Woven hearts - or Julehjerter as they're known in Denmark - are said to have been created by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) and there is an example made by him in the Hans Christian Andersen Museum in Odense. Although we know him best as the author of children's fairy tales, he was an accomplished paper cutter and declared it to be “the prelude to writing".



Paper cutting - papirclip - was a popular leisure activity during his lifetime and Andersen was taught by his father, a cobbler, who created paper-cut toy theatres and puppets for him to play with. That childhood skill blossomed: his dexterity and imagination had found their perfect expression.


Andersen was often seen with a pair of scissors sticking out of his pocket (along with his pen) snipping away as he shared stories and gifting most of his creations. When visiting friend and fellow author Charles Dickens, young Henry Dickens recalled him entertaining the children with his paper cutting by making “lovely little figures of sprites and elves, gnomes, fairies, and animals of all kinds, which might have stepped out of the pages of his books. These figures turned out to be quite delightful in their refinement and delicacy in design and touch.”


That first, simple little Julehjerter basket would have taken him mere moments to create, but its popularity has endured and they are now made by children throughout Scandinavia - and further afield - during advent. They’ve also inspired me to tweak my Heartsease quilt block and create a lovely new runner to adorn your festive table, which I’ve called Danish Hearts.



Danish Hearts just happens to have 24 blocks - making it the perfect quilter's Advent calendar - and I thought you might like to make some matching Julehjerter for your tree. I actually prefer to make mine from felt rather than paper, which is much more forgiving, especially if you're making them with children. Here's how...


 

To make each decoration you will need...


2 3" x 9" contrast pieces of felt

a cup or jar approximately 3" in diameter

5" piece of ribbon (for the hanger)

Washable pen/chalk pencil to draw around the cup



Cutting...


1. Fold a piece of felt in half, press and pin.


2. Using your acrylic ruler mark two 3¼" long parallel lines perpendicular to the fold, 1" apart and 1" from each edge. Then cut along the two lines.



3. Using the cup/jar draw a curve on the top corners and trim before removing the pins.


4. Repeat steps 1 - 3 with the second piece of felt (at this point I also spritzed my units with water, to remove the lines, and re-pressed them).


5. Place the two halves of the decoration at right angles - so that the curved ends create a heart shape - and weave them together, as shown in the photos.



6. Slip each end of the ribbon hanger between the felt layers on opposite sides of the decoration. Glue in place or secure with a few stiches.



Wasn't that fun? Pop a wrapped chocolate inside and hang on the tree.

 

The woven sections can be a bit fiddly when you first try them, but felt is very forgiving and you can tidy it up with another quick press when you've finished. And don't they look just like nine-patches?



The 24 blocks in my Danish Hearts table runner can be made with just nine Fat Eighths, but would be a wonderful way of using up your precious scraps of Christmas fabric. You can find both PDF and Paper versions in the shop.


Look out for more Christmas inspiration posts in October when I'll be introducing the individual blocks from my Twelve Days of Christmas sampler and sharing a few more ideas for homemade decorations. Until then, the Tivoli Gardens are beckoning!


Nicola xx



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