Kate Sproston Design

Behind the scenes at Kate Sproston Design, making beautifully embroidered textiles for the home.


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Filming Our First Video

We have been very busy over the last couple of weeks, not only attending the Handmade Fair but also trying to shoot a short instructional video on how to fill our reusable Christmas crackers. In between sending orders and making stock,  we have been rearranging props, furniture and my living room in general to capture the best shots possible. It’s something we have never tried before which proved quite challenging. Luckily I was able to call upon the expertise of my good friend Felicity, who had some great tips and advice, plus an endless supply of patience. The whole experience also highlighted the fact that my Brummie accent is quite a bit stronger than I originally suspected; luckily there was no need to hear me talk on this occasion!

Shooting out video in my living room

Christmas comes to my living room in the middle of Summer!

The video includes a demonstration on how to fill our crackers, and some lovely gift ideas for all the family. Since their launch we have enjoyed chatting to customers who have used our crackers to send some extra special surprises which we have also included in the film.

Photoshoot props

We had great fun raiding my neighbors silverware and whiskey collection for props!

You can check out the video below or follow this link to view on YouTube. We hope you enjoy and if you have any comments or suggestions of what you would put in our crackers we would love to hear from you.

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New Dachshund Napkins

We have been enjoying some incredibly hot weather recently, which meant that none of us wanted to get anywhere near the iron to press and pack a nice big order for devotedtodachshunds.co.uk. After a bit of a reshuffle to find the coolest spot in the studio, we got cracking and they have been sent on their way.

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Wire haired dachshunds looking smart in their red ribbon and bow tie.

Boxed Napkins and Folding

Newly embroidered and ready to be folded with our super technical napkin folding board!

Following on from the success of the dachshund Christmas crackers, we have been asked to create some large napkins. Each set of two napkins is beautifully embroidered with a Mr. & Mrs. Dachshund. The boys are embroidered sporting a smart red bow tie and the girls an elegant ribbon tied in a bow. There are four designs available, including the black and tan, red and new wire haired and long haired dachshunds.

Finished Napkins Small

All the napkins rolled and ready to go.

Complete Dachshund Napkin Collection Small

All four new designs shown in ivory cotton and natural linen versions.

We are really pleased with the final outcome and we can’t wait to hear what the customers at devotedtodachshunds.co.uk think. In the meantime we are off to celebrate with an ice lolly!


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The Origins of the Christmas Cracker

When we designed and created our first reusable Christmas crackers back in 2012, we never realised how quintessentially British they were. It was only upon talking to buyers in Europe that we were told they are not recognised as much of a traditional part of the festive season outside of the UK. This got us to wondering how the Christmas cracker came to be, and lead us to discover this quaint little bit of British history.

Tom Smith's Christmas Crackers Catalogue front cover

Tom Smith’s Christmas Crackers full of ‘Mirth, Wit and Fun’, 1910-11 catalogue front cover. (Image from Tom Smith’s Christmas Crackers An Illustrated History by Peter Kimpton, 2004).

Back in the mid 1800’s, a seller of confectionery and ornamental icing named Tom Smith, was inspired to sell single sweets wrapped in paper after a trip to Paris. He noticed that these paper wrapped sweets, or bonbons, were very popular with the Parisians and decided to introduce the idea to his customers who visited his London shop. The new sweets were a great success, with Tom’s addition of love tokens and verses inside the wrapper. They soon became a sure fire hit, especially with young men and women.

Unfortunately after the Christmas period sales slumped, and Tom began to ponder the problem of how to increase their popularity. According to legend, it was whilst throwing a log onto the fire that Tom heard the “pop” or “crack” sound of the wood starting to burn, and came up with the idea of adding a bang to his paper sweets. To accommodate the bang, the packaging would have to be enlarged, with a small gift and paper hat added along the way, the cracker we recognise today was born.

Tom Smith's box of Victory Christmas Crackers

‘Victory Crackers’ bordered with Union Jack flags and featuring the armed forces. (Image from Tom Smith’s Christmas Crackers An Illustrated History by Peter Kimpton, 2004).

The new improved bonbons soon became known as ‘Cosaques’, supposedly after the crack noise a Cossack’s whip was meant to make. This was later dropped, and they soon became know as crackers. The Tom Smith name would go on to become synonymous with Christmas, and the company would continue producing crackers and decorations for the next 150 years, even supplying the Royal Family.

Tom Smith's Suffragette Crackerettes and Golliwog Crackers

Left: ‘Suffragette Crackerettes’ featuring a ‘Vote for Tom Smith’ slogan, 1910-11. Right: Tom Smith’s ‘Golliwog Crackers’, 1910-11. (Both images from Tom Smith’s Christmas Crackers An Illustrated History by Peter Kimpton, 2004).

Hundreds of boxes of crackers were designed and produced over the course of the company’s lifetime, many of which reflected the political and economic climate of the day. Boxes included ‘Suffragette Crackerettes’, ‘Golliwog Crackers’ and ‘Victory Crackers’ from the First World War. Crackers for spinsters, bachelors and married couples were also available, the contents of which we can only guess!

Even though our embroidered Reusable Crackers do not contain the classic snap, we are still pretty pleased to be part of a British Christmas tradition. And ever the romantics, we love to hear all about the special messages and gifts our customers fill our crackers with.

Monogrammed Cracker from the Kate Sproston Design Scandi Collection

Monogrammed Cracker from our Scandi Collection.

All images taken from ‘Tom Smith’s Christmas Crackers An Illustrated History’ by Peter Kimpton. Published by Tempus, 2004.


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Country Living Fair People’s Choice Exhibitor Award 2015

We are very excited to announce that one of our products has been shortlisted for the Country Living Fair People’s Choice Exhibitor Award 2015!

Woodland Christmas Crackers in Gift Box by Kate Sproston Design

Complete set of Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers in our new gift box.

The organizers at the Country Living Christmas Fair asked all exhibitors to tell them about their favorite product. We entered our Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers and have been lucky enough to be selected for the shortlist.

Woodland Reusable Christmas Crackers by Kate Sproston Design

Wreath, mistletoe and pine tree reusable Christmas crackers.

All the shortlisted products will be on display at the front of the London show, and visitors will be able to vote for their favorite. Every voter will also be in with the chance of winning the People’s Choice Hamper containing every single item on the list.

banner_london_15_exhibsThe fair takes place at the Business Design Center, Islington between the 11th – 15th November 2015. You can find us on stand MF19, so why not pop by and say “hello” and don’t forget to vote!

We will be keeping our fingers crossed so wish us luck!

P.S. We will also be giving away four free tickets to the London show in the next few days, so if you haven’t got yours yet, watch this space to be in with a chance to win.


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Our New Dachshund Reusable Crackers

Having teased you all for quite a while now, we are very excited to share our new Dachshund Reusable Christmas Crackers. Designed especially for the lovely Selina, founder of the Devoted to Dachshunds website (devotedtodachshunds.co.uk). The site is a heaven for all sausage dog lovers everywhere, and since embarking on this project we can safely say we all want our own four legged sausage friend!

Dachshund Reusable Christmas Cracker by Kate Sproston Design.

Our brand new reusable Christmas crackers featuring beautifully embroidered festive dachshunds.

The design process starts with some initial research and sketches of possible ideas. We then make some detailed drawings and recreate the chosen image on the computer, converting it to stitch.

Research and original sketches for dachshund motif - Kate Sproston Design

Research and original sketches for the dachshund motifs.

Once we had created the first samples on our own embroidery machines, we took them to the Benton & Johnson factory in Bedworth. They have a huge twelve head embroidery machines which meant twelve crackers could be embroidered at once. We were absolutely fascinated when the machines were in motion, but please excuse the rookie mistake of incorrect camera rotation!

Each cracker was then pressed, crimped and tied. We then added one of our brand new swing tags and boxed them up ready to be sent to their new home.

Reusable Dachshund Christmas Crackers by Kate Sproston Design.

Left: A big pile of the embroidered crackers ready to by rolled and tied. Right: The finished crackers complete with tags ready to be dispatched.

There are four designs to choose from (our favorite is the one in the Christmas jumper) and will be ready to purchase in the Autumn 2015.

Dachshund in Jumper Chrisrmas Cracker by Kate Sproston Design

Our favorite design, a little sausage dog proudly wearing a Christmas jumper.


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Our 5 Favourite Christmas Trends for 2014

Although we are finally enjoying a bit of sunshine, we have been doing some trend research over the last few weeks in anticipation of Christmas 2014. The research has sparked off a flurry of new ideas, as well as shaped some existing ones. Below are our favourite picks from the emerging trends that we wanted to share with you.

 1. Scandi/Nordic

Last year the Scandi or Nordic trend was very popular, incorporating the bold red and white colour scheme with Scandinavian motifs. It seems that the trend will continue throughout this Christmas too, and we were very excited to see the image of our Reusable Christmas Crackers, used as part of a Nordic trend board on the decorazill.com interior decoration blog.

Nordic Trend Board Featuring Kate Sproston Design Reusable Crackers and Nordic Christmas Stocking by Cherie Wheeler Designs.

Left: Our Scandi Reusable Christmas Crackers as part of the Nordic Trend Board, found on http://www.decorazilla.com interior design blog. Right: Nordic Christmas Stocking by Cherie Wheeler Designs on Etsy.

2. Woodland Creatures

You may have noticed that fox and owl imagery has been present in interior décor for quite some time now. Well this Christmas you can fill your home with a whole menagerie of woodland critters. Deer, hedgehogs, racoons, robins, hares and squirrels can all be incorporated in this theme, and add to a fantasy, mystical feel for the home.

Woodland Creature Bottle Brush Christmas Decorations and Woodland Animals Biscuits.

Left: Woodland Creature Bottle Brush Christmas Decorations. Image from unruly-things.com via Pinterest. Right: Woodland Animals Biscuits. Image from Pinterest.

3. Forest Foliage

Quirky and surprising additions to this trend are mushrooms. Not traditionally associated with Christmas, there has been an increase in the popularity of mushrooms to add a woodland statement to a festive room. Couple this with the familiar holly and ivy; branches of berries, nuts and wreaths mean the green foliage of the Christmas tree encompasses the whole room to create a magical forest scene.

Mushroom Christmas Decorations and Evergreen Garland with Pine Cones

Left: Mushroom Christmas Decorations from Fairy Folk on Etsy. Right: Evergreen Christmas Garland with Pine Cones. Image from pinsofmandy.posterous.com via Pinterest.

4. Natural materials

Decorations will be created in a range of natural materials including wood, burlap, linen, tree branches, brown paper and (faux) fur. As well as tying in nicely with the woodland and foliage themes, these natural colours are great as a base to add gold, silver and white accents to.

Lazer Cut Christmas Houses and White Shelves with White, Silver and Gold Christmas Decorations

Left: Lazer Cut Wooden Houses. Image from decorazilla.com via Pinterest. Right: Shelves Displaying a mix of Natural Christmas Ornaments with Touches of Gold and Silver. Image from centsationalgirl.com via Pinterest.

These materials may also be a nod to an increased awareness of natural and eco-friendly fabrics, and our carbon footprint, which brings us onto our final pick of the trends which is…

5. Handmade

As we hand make all our products, this trend is very close to our hearts. Especially at Christmas time when surrounded by friends and family who not only appreciate a handmade gift, but often give us handmade gifts too. Over the last few years this particular trend has become very popular, with individuals wanting to create personal pieces that make for a unique and cosy home. After all, with those long cold nights ahead of us, we may as well grab our knitting needles or sewing thread, and settle down in front of a lovely log fire to wile the hours away until Father Christmas arrives.

 Cookie Mix in a Jar Christmas Gift and Embroidered Heart Brooch Kit.

Left: Cookie Mix in a Jar Christmas Gift. Image from emma-courtney.com via Pinterest. Right: Embroidered Heart Brooch Kit. Image from blog.maggiemakes.com via Pinterest.

In the meantime we had better get busy creating some new products with all the fantastic inspiration we have collected. We look forward to sharing our new designs with you in time for the holidays!

For more inspiration check out our ‘Red Work Christmas’ http://www.pinterest.com/katesproston/red-work-christmas/ and ‘Linen Christmas’ http://www.pinterest.com/katesproston/linen-christmas/ Pinterest boards.


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“Hi there and hello” from Kate Sproston Design

Welcome to the brand new Kate Sproston Design Blog. Through our posts we hope to give you a look behind the scenes of our company, designing and making embroidered gifts and home wares in the Midlands, UK.

Cockerel Digital Embroidery File

Ready to stitch cockerel image, created using digital embroidery program.

Founded in 2012, we find inspiration in all forms of craft and traditional embroidery, but also enjoy illustration and picture books of all kinds. Each of our products is designed by Kate through a combination of scribbles, sketches and stitch, with the initial image then transferred to computer and recreated to be sewn using a digital embroidery machine.

Cockerel in Progress

Cockerel being stitched using a digital embroidery machine.

We hope you will enjoy a glimpse into our creative process and see a little bit of what makes us who we are. If you have any comments or questions about what we do or our products we would love to hear from you.

Cockerel with Added Detail

Adding the finishing touches to our embroidered cockerel.