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Heather Gib­son, Fort Wil­liam, Scot­land

In win­ter the High­lands take on a life of their own, the land is trans­formed from the rugged land­scape into a Nar­nia, an oa­sis of trans­par­ent beauty. You know that win­ter is well on its way when all through Oc­to­ber you live with the haunt­ing bel­low­ing of the stags in the rutt. Of­ten we will find our­selves sat on the porch af­ter dark qui­etly lis­ten­ing to the stags stage their yearly per­for­mance, it’s a hal­low­ing sound that sends shiv­ers down your spine, na­ture do­ing what she does best.

We can see Ben Ne­vis, the UK’s high­est moun­tain from the sit­ting room win­dow and it’s won­der­ful to see her in all her moods,she turns pink as the sun sets and rises above its snow caps, the snow on her doesn’t prop­erly melt un­til around May which ben­e­fits the lo­cal out­door in­dus­try greatly.

Last year as the dogs were com­pet­ing we raised money for Lochaber Moun­tain res­cue team as we are al­ways on the hills with the dogs and you never know when you may get into dif­fi­culty and need their as­sis­tance. It costs them £1000 each for the big ropes they use to res­cue climbers and is solely run by vol­un­teers who give up their spare time and risk their own lives to save oth­ers.

Christ­mas and New Year in the High­lands is cel­e­brated in the tra­di­tional style with first foot­ing when mid­night chimes at the be­gin­ning of the New Year and all the tra­di­tional Scot­tish Fayre such as short­bread, plum pud­ding and clootie dumpling.

It is also in­ter­est­ing to see what wildlife comes by the house. I cur­rently have a spar­row hawk, wood­pecker and barn owl vis­it­ing daily along with pine martins and var­i­ous species of gar­den birds. The gar­den birds have taken to tap­ping the win­dow with their beaks when­ever the feed­ers are empty and need filled, they are a joy to watch. Some cus­tomers from Hol­land came by to buy some work and were amazed to see the spar­row hawk land just out­side the sit­ting room win­dow.

Win­ter is also a very busy time for the dogs as they pick up on shoots on an es­tate near Oban, they love it. It’s what they are bred for and what we train all year for. You know you have done a good job with the dogs when you get a round of ap­plause from the guns and beat­ers for a good day’s work. Our pick­ing up sea­son runs from Oc­to­ber to Jan­uary then we are very much back into com­pe­ti­tion mode for the spring.

Win­ter also her­alds cosy nights in front of the fire with com­fort­ing food and, a nice dram of whisky, and, of course, stitch­ing. As Christ­mas gets closer you’ll find me busily stitch­ing many gifts for friends but also work­ing on gun dog com­mis­sions. I have now com­pleted the one I was work­ing on and have started a cross stitch of a cus­tomer’s house as a Christ­mas gift for his wife. I thor­oughly en­joy work­ing on these. Wish­ing ev­ery­one a won­der­ful 2018 and may it bring much joy, wealth hap­pi­ness and stitch­ing. The High­lands are a stun­ning wonderland in mid-win­ter This cairn is in mem­ory of Ral­ston Claud

Muir at Glen­coe My com­pleted gun dog framed with the pho­to­graph I was work­ing from Heather is 33 years old, and is a pro­fes­sional wa­ter­colour artist. She lives near Fort Wil­liam in the Scot­tish High­lands on a stalk­ing es­tate on the banks of Loch Eil, with her part­ner and step­son, where she also trains gun dogs. www.hgartist.com

Alesya Tyshke­vich, Moscow, Rus­sia

In Rus­sia Christ­mas is cel­e­brated on the 7th of Jan­uary that’s why in De­cem­ber we get ready for the ev­ery­one’s favourite hol­i­day; New Year’s Eve. Although first dec­o­ra­tions ap­pear on the streets in November, De­cem­ber is still the pe­riod of hol­i­day fuss and ex­pec­ta­tions.

While other peo­ple think of what to buy for presents, me – I choose what to stitch.

It’s a com­mon tra­di­tion in my fam­ily (and I be­lieve it’s not only mine) to pre­pare self-made sou­venirs. I’m glad to do some­thing special for my beloved ones.

First of all, I pay at­ten­tion to the time-man­age­ment, as I know that it’s not my strong point. I do find a lot of great (in size) and in­spir­ing (be­cause of the lovely at­mos­phere) de­signs, but as I’m a slow stitcher I pre­fer lit­tle projects to fin­ish in a few days. First point in my to-do-list is given to nu­mer­ous Christ­mas tree dec­o­ra­tions – lit­tle time, easy to make, per­fect de­ci­sion. If I know that there is some time left or one of the fam­ily mem­bers asked for a “special treat”, I look for a de­sign with the de­sir­able topic. That is the sec­ond point in my list. And the third one al­ways hides some­thing special for me.

I have a stitcher’s dream to find a de­sign that suits my vi­sion of Fa­ther Frost. Maybe this De­cem­ber my “some­thing special” will come true.

Con­grat­u­la­tions, stitch­ers of the world, with the win­ter hol­i­days!

Happy stitch­ing x Christ­mas tree dec­o­ra­tions Special treats for Mum and Granny Alesya is 29 years old, mar­ried and has re­cently had her first child, a baby daugh­ter. She works in a school and has been stitch­ing for four years. Find her YouTube chan­nel at www.youtube. com/ri­ca­ma­trice.

Rachel Dove, Wake­field, West York­shire, UK

The nights have drawn in, the flip flops are in the cup­board for an­other year, and I have re­alised that I haven’t fin­ished the two kits from last Christ­mas that my hus­band bought me. (Don’t tell him, be­cause I have some more on my list for Santa!)

With a sum­mer of camp­ing, work­ing and par­ent­ing, cinema days avoid­ing the tra­di­tional English rainy weather, days on the beach catch­ing the sun­shine, I am ac­tu­ally look­ing for­ward to the dark nights un­der a blan­ket stitch­ing. Nice cup of tea, box set on the TV, project on the go. This got me think­ing, are you a year round stitcher or sea­sonal? Do you wait for the dark nights, or stitch out in the sun too?

I must ad­mit, I haven’t done much

this sum­mer, so my stock­pile of mags and charts and gor­geous ma­te­rial has built up nicely and I am ex­cited to whack the heat­ing up and start some­thing new. I have two kits to fin­ish and then I plan to get a new kit made, of my son and our new puppy. I haven’t done a photo kit be­fore, but I have de­cided that I am go­ing to make time ev­ery day to stitch a lit­tle, get some nice projects done, and make some Christ­mas cards. I haven’t made any for a while, but I have de­cided that this year I am go­ing to use my stitch­ing time to make gifts for loved ones and for my newly dec­o­rated house. I am go­ing to make some New Year res­o­lu­tions too, to re­ally push the boat out in 2018 and test my stitch­ing skills. I have seen a huge Harry Pot­ter chart that would look amaz­ing in my house…

What­ever you are do­ing this win­ter, stay warm, and have a lovely time stitch­ing! My next project – my son and our new dog! Rachel is mar­ried with two boys, writes for Mills & Boon, and is the win­ner of the Prima Flirty Fic­tion Com­pe­ti­tion.

An­neMarie Zel­tenri­jch, St.Ul­rich am Pillersee, Aus­tria

Gruss Gott, dear CrossStitcher read­ers. In the lit­tle alpine vil­lage where I live, Christ­mas and New Year is a very special time. It is an au­then­tic win­ter scene, moun­tains cov­ered with plenty of snow, Christ­mas trees in­side and out with lights and Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions and the aroma of home­made bis­cuits. Aus­trian housewives bake many prior to Christ­mas and they all taste delicious. Peo­ple bless their homes with in­cense and on Christ­mas Eve fam­i­lies come to­gether for supper and the giv­ing of presents.

On 6 Jan­uary chil­dren dressed as the three Holy Kings Balthasar, Mel­chior and Cas­par ring on your door­bells and sing re­li­gious songs. The house is then blessed for the fol­low­ing year as the date is writ­ten in chalk above the front door.

I en­joy liv­ing here. Aus­trian peo­ple are kind and en­joy it when you join in with their cel­e­bra­tions. In win­ter I like to go down­hill ski­ing or cross coun­try ski­ing or sit­ting be­side the fire work­ing on my next small or big em­broi­dery project. It has been my hobby for many years now. Have a cosy win­ter, greet­ings from sunny white Aus­tria. The moun­tains near my house and the Holy Kings & My em­broi­dery of the dog of my par­ents, Donna A small de­sign of two cats I made for their 50th wed­ding an­niver­sary. A flower de­sign where the pic­ture is made by stitch­ing around the pat­tern An­neMarie Zel­tenri­jch lives in Aus­tria, with her hus­band and cat Bhumi, but is Dutch. She re­tired last year.

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