Kate Sproston Design

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


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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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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.