I hope you’re all enjoying the festive season. Presuming we’ve all avoided the dreaded norovirus (youngest) and flu (Mum), Christmas competes with the summer holidays as my very favourite time of year. Parties, pantos, good food, carols, the joy and excitement of the big day and precious time with family and friends is all wonderful, if pretty intense. These quieter days afterwards when work, school and all the clubs are closed are something I really look forward to. It’s not often we get the chance to read a book, cook in a leisurely way, watch a film or craft uninterrupted. These are some of my new reads that I’ll be dipping into over coming days.
Recently a dinnertime conversation was ‘which celebrity would you be if you could choose anyone?’ Kirstie Allsopp was who I thought of immediately – to the family’s amusement. How I look forward to Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas returning every December (the Christmas jumper episode is always my favourite). Lucky Kirstie gets to meet so many talented makers and have a go at all those different crafts. The start of the series always inspires me to get the house trimmed up and so back up went the bunting, and lanterns I made last year.
Then the advent calendar I made a few years back for my husband was refilled with his favourite Quality Street. Did you know the coloured wrappers are biodegradable and can be composted with garden waste, while the foil wrappers and container are recyclable? That’s if you’ve not already claimed it for a button box!
So many memories are associated with decorations. There’s those brought back from holidays, plus many I’ve made over the years, some given by kind friends and those the kids created when they were little. At the bottom of the tree we always have a few sacrificial baubles for the kitty to play football with so the treasured ones are safe!
Raggy wreaths like this are so simple to make for internal doors. You can finish one in just an evening in front of the telly. I keep my fabric and ribbon scraps that are too small for anything else in colour themed bags. Strips cut to similar lengths are simply tied around inexpensive wire frames.
Pom-pom Christmas puds are easy for little hands to make and dangle from the doorknobs.
Very few parts of our house escape a festive makeover! These fun crochet rainbow Christmas lights were designed by the lovely Marinke Slump and they always make me smile when I get them out of the box. Find the free pattern here.
Stocking fabric panels I bought in the sales last year were cut out, embellished and stitched up while I watched Kirstie and friends. I knew I was keeping that big white furry pipe cleaner for something. It was perfect for Santa’s hat!
Also new for 2019 are the little wooden trees a friend has been making. When I saw them I spent a happy time choosing some that worked together. Later I decided to order another 15 that I could give as presents. Confession. I know this is terribly bad and selfish but I loved them so much when I saw them I wanted to keep them ALL! I did manage to part with three but the rest have grown into a lovely forest on the fireplace.
At our Knit and Natter group we have a Christmas handmade gift swap for anyone that wants to take part. You give one, you get one – simple. My contribution this time was a pair of hand-stitched decorations.
I embroidered in a snowflake design onto wool felt and embellished with beads (thanks to Jane at the Embroiderer’s Guild for the idea). In return I was delighted to receive a beautifully knitted and cosy scarfette.
I’ve tried to up my game making Christmas more handmade, ethical and local. There are limits. Delicious cheeses are easy to find at farmers markets but inevitably I’ll need the supermarket for something and there’s not a lot I can do for a teen who only wants a set of headphones. Of course some of my handmade intentions will not materialise in time (or at all). This project below should have been on my husband’s head by now!
Obviously the hat I was making for my husband is not finished. No matter, it’s not that cold yet! This fisherman style fits all and is a nice easy one you can hook up while still being sociable or watching a film (Paddington & Toy Story 3) so I’ve really no excuse. It’s free on Martin Up North’s blog but I bought the printable PDF. It’s good to support designers and I really love this blog. Hubby did have other presents to open in case you are wondering!
We cut right down on the number of cards this year, donating the money we’d have spent to a charity instead. It was still appropriate to send a small number so I made some from leftover fabric and beads and some scrappy tree decorations with a note tied to the top. You can find a tutorial of how to make similar trees here.
I bought far less presents this year but tried to make those I did special and meaningful. Kate Lycett is one of my favourite local artists and one of her new prints, ‘Seedlings’ was my parents’ present. My Dad and I spend time together each spring sowing seeds in the greenhouses and this makes me think of him.
Handmade gifts undoubtedly take more time and planning so I do try to make sure that they will be used and appreciated. All year round I’m making gifts for Christmas. Back in summer, jams, chutneys and gin were put away for foodie friends and in October half term I made mini Christmas cakes to mature in brandy for a couple of months.
Beeswax wraps were a new thing I tried this year that worked out well. They are a good alternative to disposable food coverings made from fabric and food grade beeswax. The heat of your hands moulds them to the shape of your bowl.
The wax is naturally antibacterial, they can be rinsed clean in cool water, refreshed by ironing between baking parchment and can be composted at the end of their life. I’ve had my homemade ones for well over a year and they are still going strong. There’s lots of advice online of how to make them. For gifting I made sets of three sizes to roll together, tied up with a ribbon.
The reality of handmade is that not everything will turn out as you hoped. There will be disasters, there will be mess and there are some things just not worth it. This was the state of my kitchen after I’d made mini Maids of Honour last year!
Believe it or not they looked and tasted amazing when they came out of the oven and there was demand for more this year – but no way was I spend hours of my time creating that level of carnage! You can have my tried and tested mince pies instead!
Last month I made vegan mincemeat. Not sure why. No-one in our family is vegan! It probably tastes OK, particularly as it’s a Delia recipe and Delia is always right. But it’s such an unappetizing colour, it’s still sitting there in unopened jars.
Fat quarter gift bags were one of this year’s successes. I hope they will be passed on and re-used for a good few years. My girls gave them to their friends with some little treats inside and I made some that were bottle sized for the grown-ups. I enjoyed making these so much I made loads and will definitely do more for birthdays whenever the sewing machine is out.
My middle daughter and I found this recipe for dog biscuits that were also a hit. We spent a lovely couple of hours last week making treats so our furry friends. (We didn’t have cornmeal in so replaced with semolina, also omitted the salt and used low-salt chicken bouillon.)
My friend Sharon is very kind and thoughtful. She has often made me a vegetarian dish for my Christmas dinner or popped round with little treats for the kids. When I saw a lovely teacosy pattern by Christa Veenstra in Scheepjes ‘Yarn’, I knew I had to make it for her. The matching coaster pattern is free here on Christa’s blog.
So now I’ll spend the last days of 2019 enjoying this quiet time to relax, reflect and make some more! To anyone that’s ever given me something handmade, I want you to know I feel it’s a real privilege. We’re all busy and that you have chosen to spend hours of your time choosing or creating something thoughtful and unique for me is amazing so thank you!