Awesome finds at Renegade Craft Fair

Vases by Justine Free

The trouble with attending craft fairs, I find, is you go with every intention to buy hundreds of presents for other people but as soon as you get there you want all the things for yourself.

Just me? Ah.

I don’t go to nearly as many as I used to, due to a combo of having to drag little sproglets with me these days and a far higher density of that sort of event in Hackney where I used to live, compared to here in East Dulwich.

So Saturday’s trip to the Renegade Craft Fair in the Old Truman Brewery was a special effort but oh-so worth it.

I thought I’d share a few of my favourite finds with you in case you’re on the hunt for presents for yourself early Christmas presents too.

(By the way, excuse the slightly crappy pictures — I took most of them on my phone with no decent light.)

Justine Free ceramics

Firstly, my hands down favourite in the room, were these amazing ceramics by Justine Free. I persuaded the hubby to buy me these three single stem vases for Christmas. After photographing them to show you, I’ve had to wrap them back in the bubble wrap and put them away again til December. Still, something very much to look forward to then!

They’re unbelievably tactile, just begging to be picked up. I’m not sure if I will be able to put flowers in them for that reason, or just have them empty on an accessible shelf somewhere in a nice cluster.

Website:; instagram: @justinefree

Animal alphabet

Animal counting by Katie Viggers

B for bears by Katie ViggersWe got these two illustrated animal alphabet / counting books by Katie Viggers. The intention is to give them as a present to someone else’s children… …but I suspect they might just stay with our kids, they’re so blooming lovely.

If you like them, they’re also available as prints and cards. Gorgeous.

Website:; instagram: eightbear

Here be monsters

And I couldn’t resist this “Here be monsters” tea towel by Woah there Pickle. At £9.50, I have to confess I don’t think I could ever skank it up by doing the dishes, so instead I plan to frame it for the kids bedroom.

Website:; instagram: @woah_there_pickle

Grain and Knot chopping board

Grain and Knot chopping board

I’ve spent the best part of the last few years yearning to head off to the hills and whittle spoons, so I couldn’t pass up on the stall of Sophie Sellu, Grain & Knot, which was stuffed full with spoons and other wooden delights. I bought my sister this beautiful beech chopping board for her birthday.

Just getting the website details now, I’ve seen she also runs workshops in London. I shall be off to learn a new skill pronto!

Website: Grain & Knot; instagram: @grainandknot

London print

I also bought my sister’s birthday card, this stunningly intricate print by The City Works. We’d run out of money by the time we reached his stall, so I could only afford a couple of cards, but I’ve since bought the brilliant colouring-in poster for the sproglet online.

Website:; instagram: @thecityworks

Monti by Monti stall at Renegade Craft Fair

Monti by Monti also blew me away – geometric shaped plant stands in simple glass and black frames, that you can hang directly onto the wall. I picked up a few air plants at the RHS Frost Fair the weekend before and I now have the distinct feeling that they absolutely must live inside one of these very, very soon.

Instagram: @montibymonti

Verdantica collage

For a while, a year or so ago, I decided that I wanted to photograph every tutorial for this blog with a tiny person in each photo. Assisting, if you will. (I never saw through on it, because I tend to only actually execute about one in every 500 ideas I have…)

So, I fell head over heels in love with Verdantica’s stall; a selection of little people in scenes inside salt and pepper shakers, compact mirrors or jars. My photos above aren’t very good, but this was seriously one of the very best things I’ve seen in ages, do go to the website to see some much better photos and get an idea of just how awesome they were.

Website:; instagram: @verdantica

Business cards from Renegade Craft Fair

Then there were other stalls that I loved but didn’t photograph and had run out of money to buy anything from, so just had to satisfy myself by taking their business cards. Here are a few more places to visit, if you’re inclined:

Geo-fleur have a range of amazing succulents, cacti and air plants, along with some lovely concrete pots and macramé plant hangers. (I have to confess, I’m not buying into the macramé trend because I am just (just!) old enough to remember it from the first time round…) The plants and pots, though, I love. There are also some Japanese hanging moss ball planters, called kokedama – a trend I am 100% into. I meant to pick something up from the stall (I had actually been insta-stalking them for a while before the fair) but the wallet was dry by the time I got there. I think I’ll have to go and visit their shop in Walthamstow sometime soon instead…

Website:; instagram: @geo_fleur

Cactus Club had a brilliant cactus print that I would have bought had I not been busy arguing its merits with the husband over a whale print that he preferred. In the end, we just had to wander off…

Website:; instagram: @cactusclubpaper

Sarah K. Benning does “contemporary embroidery” for which read the BEST ever embroidered samplers of plants. (See the top right card in the photo above.) I would have insisted on buying one of these, but I had a feeling my husband was remembering the name for another time and I might be surprised with one in future…

Instagram: @sarahkbenning

Hazel Adams business card

I really loved the insect illustrations by Hazel Adams. The hubby’s birthday is in a few weeks and he is a serious insectophile, so I think I might have to buy him one.


Finally, Pygmy Cloud had some utterly irresistible bear and mountain cushions, as well as lots of beautiful wooden cloud shapes. I think the sproglets will probably be finding one of the bears in their stocking each. Father Christmas has excellent taste, doesn’t he?

Online shop:; instagram: @pygmycloud

So, yes, ha! If you’ve got similar tastes to me then I apologise (somewhat) for this deluge of amazingness tugging at your wallet strings. Roll on December, so I can start spending without guilt!

A snowflake bedroom

Hello hello! Happy Tuesday-in-that-odd-bit-between-Christmas-and-New-Year. I hope you had wonderful Christmases and are ready for amazing 2015s.

I’d meant to post this in the run-up to Christmas but, of course, what with everything else, I got a bit sidetracked and it never managed to make it out of draft mode. Still, it’s not specifically about Christmas, just winter, I suppose, so hopefully still of some small interest in these last few breaths of December…

Paper snowflakes | Wolves in London
Scuse the graininess, there’s no blinking light at all up by the ceiling in the middle of winter…

Because my Mum lives 90 minutes away from us, whenever she looks after one of the boys for the day, she spends the night beforehand in our guest room.

The term “guest room” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s more like a “dump the junk that won’t fit anywhere else room,” stuffed full with car seats, concertinaed spare prams and teetering piles of craft supplies.

Ever since we renovated the house about a year ago (and then ran out of money before finishing the decorating, just like in every TV property show ever broadcast) it’s had some curtains tacked in place across the window, not able to open or close. It used to be the bathroom, before the big house reshuffle, and the window has been specifically designed to be permanently open a crack, an icy breeze filtering through at this time of year.

So my poor old Mum has spent many a night picking her way to a bed through a floor full of detritus, sleeping overlooked by stacks of boxes and, though mostly cosy under our warmest, thickest duvet, she has confessed to me that she sometimes puts a pillow over her head to try and keep her face warm from the draught.

As she spent Christmas with us this year she had five whole nights to enjoy the delights of our spare room. And, it being Christmas’n’all, I wanted to actually make it a pleasant experience for her.

The boxes and spare prams were banished to a desultory corner of our bedroom, the car seats stashed in her car on arrival and, most exciting of all, we actually put a curtain pole up, so the curtains could be opened in the morning, woohoo.

And then I thought, oh wouldn’t it be fun to make it like a proper white Christmas in there?

So, one evening, the hubby and I (well, mostly the hubby, really) made hundreds of snowflakes to hang from the ceiling.

Now she’s gone back home, I’ve brought them all down into the sitting room, where they sway endlessly in the breeze from the window and the heat from the radiator. What do you think? Quite festive, no?!

Paper snowflakes | Wolves in London
The one on the top right of this picture is my fave

I think the overall effect is actually quite classy.

Okay, maybe only a little bit classy and a lot kitschy.

I followed various different templates and patterns I found on Pinterest (obvs) — but mostly just hacked out little shapes from folded triangles of paper to see how they would end up. If you feel like brightening up your room in January, you can find all the patterns saved in my Pinterest board Homemade Christmas.

But, even better than this veritable paper wonderland for my poor old Mum, I also made a draught excluder from an old pair of pyjamas to lie across the gaping hole in the window. Otherwise, she may well have woken on Christmas day, a glacial breeze wafting across her face and — yet to put her glasses on — glanced up to the ceiling and thought she had woken to a genuine white Christmas.

So on that icy note, happy 2015 to you all! I hope you’ve got something lovely planned for New Year’s Eve. Me, I’ll be digging something out of the freezer to eat, scoffing the odd mouthful, inbetween the wake up calls of my two never-great-sleeping children who have entered all manner of horrendous sleep regressions over the Christmas week, downing as much wine as I can manage when free to do so and possibly watching an episode of Modern Family before, most likely, flaking out on the sofa at about 10pm. I know, I know, I’ll stop now for fear of making whatever plans you’ve got seem completely anticlimactic in comparison.


On the mantel: December

Ahhh, the Christmas mantelpiece.

It’s the one I remember most fondly from my childhood. Hundreds of cards jostling for space. An ever-growing nativity scene, ultimately boasting four baby Jesuses made out of clay, the child/sculptor’s name scrawled into the bottom and the constant pestering to my Mum to decide which of us had made the “best Jesus.” An advent calendar and advent candle hiding in there somewhere, the candle lit ceremoniously in the evening – though we’d frequently forget it for days on end, or leave it burning for longer than we should, so it rarely showed the right date.

Christmas is really all about creating traditions for kids, isn’t it? It’s something I look forward to with more excitement each year as the sproglets get older and more able to understand what’s going on.

December mantelpiece | Wolves in London
Oh so hard to take photos in these dark days!

My mantelpiece now is nowhere near as full, riotous or jolly as those we used to have when I was little, but I’ve got a nod to some of the same elements.

On the right, perhaps my favourite Christmas decoration of all time: an angel candle holder. The angels spin round and round when the tea light is lit… I’ve had it for four years now, but it was only when examining in closely with the sprog, that I realised each angel is carrying a different offering.

Angel candle holder
I could watch these spin round for hours…

The beautiful poppy illustration to the left is an RHS 2014 calendar that I discovered in the attic just last week… I must have put it away when we moved out last Autumn for the building work and then forgotten about it once we moved back in. It is absolutely stunning, so I’m pleased to be enjoying it for the last few weeks of the year, anyhow, ha ha.

All is not lost, however, as I plan to cut out some of the illustrations and frame them, so they can have a more permanent position in the room.

RHS calendar | Wolves in London
This is a poppy illustration in festive Christmas colours…

Of course, we don’t only have one Christmas card, the rest are on the bookshelves in the alcoves surrounding the mantelpiece. But I am quite fond of this little polar bear in his woolly hat…

Polar bear card
It must get cold in the Arctic. I’d want a woolly hat too…

On the far left, a fabulously kitsch Mary, Joseph and Jesus, nestle next to an offcut of our Christmas tree and some pinecones. The little nativity trio were sent to me by one of my oldest friends a few Christmases ago when we were out in Hong Kong, as part of a fabulous Christmas bundle to bring a bit of the classic British Chrimbo to our little patch in China. (Also included, The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, a CD of Christmas songs and some Christmas tree hairclips.) It might well be the favourite parcel I’ve ever received.

Nativity | Wolves in London
Shiny shiny

In a slight aside, I’ve been pondering a lot this year how to explain the whole Christmas thing to the sproglet. I was raised (very loosely) CofE, but am not religious at all anymore.

(For anyone interested, the nutshell version of what I believe is that this short life we have here on Earth is all there is, so let’s all be nice to each other and try and make it as enjoyable and as much fun as we can. )

I’m not quite sure, though, what line to take with the sproglet when explaining various (mainly Christian) religious things. Obviously, we are actually celebrating Christmas, so do I just give him the story of Jesus, or do I preface everything with “some people believe that…”?

It seems like there’s quite a fine line to tread in there somewhere, explaining about all religious festivals, but why we only celebrate certain ones of them if we’re not, ourselves, actually of that religion. And why other people, such as friends or relatives, believe things different to what we (or rather I) do.

Anyway, he’s only two still, so perhaps I can worry about all that another year.

On a much lighter note, the ginkgo garland below is still hanging since last month (missing on a central leaf). I had planned to take it down and replace it with something more Christmassy, but I just love it so much, it’s stayed up there. I’ll leave it til Christmas Eve and then put some stockings up.

The fireplace remains unlit, again something for Christmas Eve, I think. Meanwhile, the wicker basket is full of blankets, for snuggling up under in these dark cold nights.

Candlelight, blankets and kitsch ornaments: I need nothing more from Christmas!

I’ve been showing you my mantelpiece each month since September, but have decided not to carry on in 2015. I’ve become aware that there are lots (and lots and lots!) of other bloggers out there showing beautifully styled, beautifully photographed vignettes from around their houses. Now, I’m not a stylist, nor an especially proficient photographer (see my struggle to get these images in gloomy winter weather) so I started to think I’m not really adding anything especially interesting to the mix…

I’m planning on sticking a bit more to what I’m good at: crafting, gardening and a lot of wittering, ha ha.

I’ll be popping back in tomorrow (Christmas preps all going well, at any rate) to show you a little crafty / papery project I made for my guest room and then it’s off to the mulled wine and mince pies and duck that we’ve got planned. Hope you’re all settling down to enjoy festivities…

Print your own Christmas wrapping paper {and free printable}

Home printed Christmas wrapping paper
My wrapping paper this year

I have to confess to suffering a little from blogger’s fatigue around Christmas time.

Scrolling through my feed on Bloglovin is a bit of a groundhog day experience. It starts sometime in November. Ah, a homemade advent calendar, another homemade advent calendar, oooh, that’s interesting, a homemade advent calendar.

And so on, through the month. Homemade wreath for the door. Mince pies. Christmas wish list. Homemade gift tags. Homemade baubles. Homemade wrapping paper.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everyone isn’t making lovely homemade wotnots (nor that I’m not joining in myself, I too have shared most of these ideas/tutorials) it’s just that it ends up a little… …samey.

Anyway, all of this is perhaps the oddest intro in the world to say: hey, look at my homemade wrapping paper!

Home printed reindeer wrapping paper
This reindeer is my fave of the three

If you’re not bored stiff with people telling you how they’ve gone about Christmas this year, then I’ve got my latest contribution to add to the pile: home printed wrapping paper.

I tried out the idea of printing my own paper a while ago, and was pretty pleased with the results, with the (rather large) caveat that it only works if you’re wrapping something small that fits inside A4 paper.

Home printed penguin Christmas wrapping paper
Perhaps I should have added a ribbon or something here…

This Christmas I’ve added a few more designs, one with a rather wonderful reindeer, one with a little Christmas tree of birds and one with some penguins.

Home printed Christmas wrapping paper
Christmas tree birds…
Home printed Christmas wrapping paper
…and the close up

The file is attached here, with all three designs, if you like them and fancy using them yourselves:

Download Christmas wrapping paper file

And if you prefer to make your own, there is a more detailed tutorial on my older post: print your own wrapping paper. (But basically: get a design. Copy across the page. Print.)

The illustrations are found, as usual, from the wonderful Graphics Fairy website.

So, advent calendar made, baubles made, decorations up (more on that tomorrow…) and now the presents are wrapped. Well, the three small presents that fit inside the A4 paper, anyway.

Pretty much the perfect time to sink into a mulled wine haze, isn’t it?

Three free Christmas wrapping paper downloads, including these reindeer | Wolves in London

5 free Christmas gift tag printables

Well, I might not have got round to actually buying any Christmas presents yet, but, let me tell you, I am all over my plans for wrapping them up…

I’m on an eco bent this year once again, and intend to make all my wrapping paper this weekend (more on that next week, assuming it actually looks nice enough to photograph). Meanwhile, I’ve been building up a collection of really beautiful free downloadable gift tags for a few years now and though that – hey, with the Christmas spirit of sharing’n’all – you might like to see them as well.

Of course, if you just print these on normal printer paper, it’s not much more environmentally friendly than just buying gift tags (though still cheaper, which is always a bonus round this time of year). But if you use some of the endless (endless!) pieces of paper that come into the house and normally go straight out to recycling, this is not only a great money-saving idea, but a good ol’ planet saving (well, tree saving) idea too.

I’m cutting up the estate agent letters (no, thanks, I don’t want a free valuation on my home), the weekly special offers from Virgin Media, even the blank bits on the side of our veg box contents list and turning the scrap pieces of paper and card into my gift tags.

But, without further ado, here are the lovely tags themselves:

1. Graphics Fairy vintage images

Graphics Fairy vintage gift tags
Lovely Graphics Fairy tags

From the Graphics Fairy, these fabulous vintage image tags. Of course I love these, I even used some of the same images for my advent calendar last year. The Graphics Fairy site has hundreds (probably thousands) of amazing vintage Christmas images, but these tags use some of the nicest…

Find them here: Graphics Fairy

 2. Decorator’s Notebook flora and fauna

Gift tags from Decorator's Notebook
Grouse, deer, the full range!

Last year’s gift tag from Decorator’s Notebook combined vintage with flora and fauna… Be still my beating heart! Not only are these utterly beautiful but the subjects are oh-so-very up my street right now as I am completely fixated with old horticultural drawings.

Find them here: Decorator’s Notebook.

3. Fellow Fellow’s acorns and leaves

Fellow Fellow gift tags
Heaven, no?

More on the nature theme; of course, but of course, I love these acorns, leaves and pine cones.

Find them here: Fellow Fellow.

4. We Lived Happily Ever After’s hand drawn tags


We Lived Happily Ever After gift tags
Beautiful hand drawn vibes

I love the simplicity of these tags, which look stunning printed on brown craft paper. I’m hoping to make lots of my wrapping paper out of brown recycled (Amazon packaging) paper, so these would work a treat alongside…

Find them here: We Lived Happily Ever After

5. Sweet Paul’s animals

Sweet Paul gift tags
A safari of presents

One for the kids (perhaps?!) – I used these for the sproglet’s tags last year and he was absolutely delighted to have a lion and elephant give him presents…

Find them here: Sweet Paul.

Please do let me know if you’ve come across any other amazing printables. And for more of this sort of thing, plus everything homemade for Chrimbo, check out my Pinterest board Homemade Christmas.

5 lovely Letterpress Christmas cards

5 Letterpress Christmas cards | Wolves in London

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that my sister set up her own Letterpress card business a year or so ago.

She’s super talented (and I don’t say that just because I’m her big sister) and her wedding invitations and cards are always beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that one of her Christmas cards was just featured in Elle Deco magazine. She’s going places that one…

Anyway, it got me thinking how nice it is to receive (and send) really special, unique, original, handmade cards. So I’ve done a little research and come up with five of my favourite Letterpress Christmas cards, and here they are, my lovely readers, just for you.

I’m a big fan of supporting independent makers, so this year I’m doing my best to avoid Amazon and to shop, instead with the likes of Etsy, Folksy, Not on the High Street, et al. And the cards are the perfect place to start, no?!

1. Penguins by Wolf & Ink

Wolf & Ink penguin Christmas card
Wolf & Ink penguin card

Of course, sis must have number one spot. She’s got a great selection of cards (and wedding invitations if you’re getting hitched and feeling classy!), but this amazing penguin tree is my personal favourite.

Available from Not on the High Street.

 2. Tree by SteelPetalPress

Christmas card by SteelPetalPress
Tree by SteelPetalPress

I love trees, you know that, right? I’d put a tree on every card if I could, so this Christmas one is hugely appealing.

Available from Etsy

 3. White Christmas card from dittodittoworks

Christmas card from dittodittoworks

I love this gorgeous reflection of a row of trees (oh goodness, I just realised the first three I’ve selected are all some form of tree!) with the stamped forms above and the green shadows below…

Available from Etsy

4. Happy Holidays by Artcadia

Christmas card by Artcadia

It doesn’t get more jolly than red stockings and snowflakes. I’m a sucker for the red-and-white Christmas colour combo (brings out the green of the tree, y’know) so this is close to my ideal card for the mantelpiece.

Available from Not on the High Street

5. Father Christmas by Rococo Rose

Rococo Rose Christmas card

What’s that, you say? I’m ever predictable? Well, yes, I know, but I just can’t resist a good old vintage image at any time of year and at Christmas those old fashioned pictures just call to me even more strongly. This wonderful Father Christmas is from Rococo Rose made from a vintage engraving.

Available from Not on the High Street

Related articles:

Homemade Christmas decorations: 7 of the best

The best homemade Christmas decorations | Wolves in LondonThere’s something about Christmas that never fails to bring out my inner crafting obsessive.

Perhaps it’s memories of endless paper chains and papier mache bells and baubles as a child (the latter usually too heavy to actually be strung up anywhere in the house, for fear of head injuries if they pulled down the bit of string, or perhaps even the bit of plaster, to which they were attached…)

Whatever the reason, the minute I start thinking about Christmas, I start thinking about what I can make. Presents, food, wrapping paper, decorations… …someone stop me because I just want to make it all!

Sanity usually (usually!) prevails and I realise that – short of sending the kids down the mine for a few weeks to give myself a bit of peace and quiet – there’s no way I will find the time to make everything I would like to.

This year, rather than homemade presents, I think I’m going to focus on homemade decorations.

Here’s a round up of seven of my favourites from the wonderful world of the web (really, truth be told, the wonderful world of Pinterest…)

1. Snowflake garland

Homemade Christmas decorations | Wolves in London
© Martha Stewart

First of all, let’s revisit some childhood memories with a paper chain display. Not having an amazing clapboard porch, like this house in the Martha Stewart photo, I won’t need to make these snowflakes out of weatherproof paper as suggested, but some bog standard normal printer paper would do the trick, I’ll warrant, just as well.

I’ll also hang these horizontally, rather than vertically, and festoon them across my entire house I suspect…

Full tutorial here: Martha Stewart’s frosty banners

2. Christmas village window display

Homemade Christmas decorations round-up | Wolves in London

Okay, this isn’t a tutorial at all, but a set of stickers you can buy from Cox and Cox. However, I don’t think it would take a genius to make these from scratch. (I have yet to actually *try* and make these from scratch, so I may be later eating my words…)

Some stiff cardboard, a knife and a pencil is surely enough to get the same effect? (Though, I do wonder about combatting condensation on the window. Hmmm. Perhaps a white plastic bag would work better?)

At any rate, I had to include these because I definitely intend to replicate this on my window this year in some form or other.

3. Fabric baubles

Fabric baubles DIYI made these last year and was really very delighted with them. Now packed in a box somewhere, exact location unknown, I think I’d better whip up a few more before December strikes. Find more info on last year’s post: Liberty fabric baubles.

4. Paper baubles

Homemade Christmas decorations round-up | Wolves in London
© The Guardian

Last year, I also made a lovely collection of paper concertina baubles, following this tutorial in the Guardian.

I printed off lots of vintage sheet music (from the Graphics Fairy, of course) and then cut it all into circles and assembled into lots of lovely, pretty baubles. (I’m now trying to wonder why on earth I didn’t photograph them at the time…)

However, by the end of the festivities, they had got pretty crumpled and dirty and didn’t look very nice at all. I chucked them all in the bin.

This year, when I make them again, I will print the images out onto card and hope that they last a little better. Yes, I love making stuff, but I love it even more if it can actually last a year or two…

5. Snow village

Homemade Christmas decorations; a round-up | Wolves in London
© My Tiny Plot

I’ve been eyeing up this adorable winter snow village from My Tiny Plot for three years now. This year will be the one I finally make it!

I love the houses, the lights shining out from the windows, the idea of adding to the village, slowly, year-by-year, a house at a time and – most of all – the knowledge that this couldn’t fail to be something remembered by the kids as a pretty cool Christmas tradition.

You can read all about it on My Tiny Plot here: expanding snow village.

6. Snow globe

Homemade Christmas decorations round up | Wolves in London

At Christmas, there is one thing that is absolutely essential. Yup, that’s the one, fake snow…

And this idea especially appeals to me. Fake snow inside a glass bauble with a teeny tiny tree. Ha! What’s not to love?

I was going to link you directly to the tutorial (from, but the website has got a super annoying automatic pop-up showing some Marvel superheroes cartoon, which just took so long to load up it slowed down my entire laptop for about five minutes. Instead, here is the link to my Pin, and you can click through from there if you choose and have a few minutes to spare while you wait for the pop-up to appear and be closed again: DIY snow globe.

7. Cross-stitch crochet stocking

Homemade Christmas decorations | Wolves in LondonAbout once a week, I see something on Pinterest that makes me wish I could crochet. This is that project…

Okay, in order to make this I would not only have to learn how to crochet, but also develop considerably more patience in order to do the cross stitching nicely too (weirdly, I love to knit, but hate to hand sew) so the chances of this getting made, by me, this year, are really quite slim.

But then again; look at the glorious stocking! I would really, really like to have four of these hanging from my mantelpiece on December 24th. So perhaps I could give it a go…

The pattern, which is free, is available from Yarnspirations here: Cross stitch Christmas stockings.

Do you usually make your own decorations? Have you seen anything else equally amazing I should consider? Do leave me a comment and let me know…

Grow, forage, cook: a Christmas hamper

If there’s a better present in the world than a hamper at Christmas, I’ve yet to come across it.

Oh, wait, I do know of a better one: a homemade hamper, stuffed to bursting with delicious goodies made over the previous 12 months. (Note to readers: please do feel free to read this as a hint, if you’ve been umming and ahhing about what to get me for Christmas, ha ha…)

This year, as you may have seen, I’ve been busy with a new series, Grow, forage, cook, with my lovely friend Laura (of Circle of Pine Trees). We’ve been sharing recipes, ideas and inspiration for homegrown, foraged and seasonal food.

So, for the middle of November, it seemed like a pretty good idea to put together a Christmas hamper using some of our favourite makes.

Homemade Christmas hamper from Wolves in London
The perfect Christmas present? A homemade hamper, stuffed with homegrown goodness…

Come, take a look and see what’s inside…

Well, marmalade is a staple for any hamper, in my opinion. Laura and I, both being bloggers, are naturally Seville Orange marmalade makers (yes, they actually make you sign a contract when you get a blog: you have to promise to make some marmalade and some elderflower cordial before you’re allowed to publish your first post…)

I usually follow a recipe in my ancient Good Housekeeping cookbook. Laura goes by the Riverford recipe to make her equally delicious looking batches.

Homemade jams in a Christmas hamper | Wolves in London
I only have small jars of marmalade to give away, because I’ve already scoffed the rest…

But preserving doesn’t stop there in a hamper, for me. Oh no! I think I am possibly a little addicted to making jams and chutneys, so I’ll be putting in a jar of each of the following:

Spicy plum chutney

Apple and sage jelly (this is my favourite, favourite ever preserve…)

Pumpkin chutney

Blackberry and apple jam

Homemade apple and sage jelly in a Christmas hamper | Wolves in London
Apple and sage jelly: the king of all preserves.

Then you’ll need something to eat with all those chutneys and jams. A few homemade biscuits is a good start. I’ve included some absolutely amazing ginger biscuits, following Laura’s recipe for ginger snaps.

These were unbelievably tasty, and I had a hard time keeping these six biscuits out of ravening maws for long enough to photograph them…

Homemade ginger biscuits in a Christmas hamper | Wolves in London
A little parcel of delicious biccies
Homemade ginger biscuits
A few seconds later, there was just a little pile of crumbs…

If ginger’s not your thing, you could also try the even more festive white chocolate and cranberry cookies.

And then on to the cabbage:

Pickled red cabbage
Cabbage haters, look away now

Now, I know what you’re going to say about my inclusion of pickled cabbage. Cabbage? For a present? For Christmas? My sole rejoinder: if you’re friends with someone who wouldn’t, secretly, love to consume a jar of pickled red cabbage on a winter’s evening, then you should probably stop being friends with them.

I haven’t actually posted a recipe for this on the blog (yet!) but I shall get on the case forthwith. ‘Til then, you can find plenty of different versions with a quick Google.

Homemade cherry vodka in a Christmas hamper
I never get over how much I love the colour of this stuff

Then for the booze. I’ve made some morello cherry vodka, this year, which will certainly be going in, along with some of last year’s blackberry and apple vodka.

Sadly, my haul of damsons from my Dad’s garden was left in the footwell of a hot car, but had they survived I would definitely be adding a bottle of Laura’s amazing damson gin.

Food and drink complete, a few little festive touches to adorn the hamper. I’ve followed Laura’s tutorials for some pinecone firelighters and this lovely orange peel garland to adorn the wicker basket.

Pine cone firelighters in a Christmas hamper
I dried these out in the oven and they smelt amazing…
Homemade orange peel star garland in a Christmas hamper
String this across the lid, or just along the front of the hamper for a suitably festive added extra…

Oh; a word on presentation. It is absolutely key in my opinion when giving homemade presents.

I spent a ridiculously long time once making some chocolate truffles, only to give them away in a Tupperware box. In fact, an old Indian takeaway box at that. I don’t think the recipient can have had any idea that I had lovingly concocted them over the course of a few days.

Homemade looks caring and loving if it’s dressed up prettily. Otherwise, it can just look a bit slapdash and unthinking. (“Oh, shucks, I forgot I was seeing so-and-so today and I haven’t got them a present. Let’s just bung them a jar of this year’s marmalade from the larder, still sticky on the sides and with a scrawl of identification on a peeling old label…”)

The labels I’ve used here are downloaded from the World Label website (free, fillable templates designed by Cathe Holden are available here: Apothecary labels). For the text, I’ve used a free font called Jane Austen. (Available from Da Font here: Jane Austen font.) And I’ve got to say, I’m pretty happy with the way it all looks!

Actually, I should have really covered all those mismatched lids with a nice circle of pretty fabric but, hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing…

So there you have it! A very first Grow, forage, cook Christmas hamper, full of delectable treats (in my humble opinion).

Will you be making any foodie presents this year? Is there anything I’ve missed out that really deserves a place in its wicker belly? Do leave me a comment and let me know: I’m always on the hunt for lovely new recipes and lovely new ideas!

And, finally, don’t forget to keep tagging your makes with #growforagecook on instagram and twitter. This month will be the last round-up we’re sharing until the Spring time, as Grow, forage, cook goes into hibernation for the winter months, so please do share anything before then! We’ve loved the little glimpse we’ve had so far into your winter / Christmas preparations…

Make your own Christmas

So Halloween has been and gone, bonfire night is over, hmmm, I have a feeling something else is coming up? But just what is it? *Scratches head*

Ha ha, just kidding, of course. Christmas looms large on the horizon from about September, usually with the result that I feel super-Christmassy in November and completely over it by the middle of December. And yes, so it is once again, I am feeling all merry and bright right now.

So apologies to those who want to hold onto the festive cheer til December, but I thought I might just do a little round up for the more organised people who’d like to get started making Christmas bits and bobs in good time. (I am not a very organised person and therefore have a tendency to post things like advent calendar DIYs on December 3rd, so forgive me for the repetition but corralling a few past posts together in reasonable time this year seemed wise.)

If you missed them the first time around, here are a few of my past Christmas makes that you might like to try out…

Vintage pictures advent calendar

DIY advent calendar tutorial from Wolves in London

I think this is my very favourite Christmas thing I’ve ever made. Of course I do! It combines vintage images, iron on fabric transfer paper and chocolate. What, my friends, is not to love?!

Full tutorial with free printables here: Wolves in London advent calendar

Air dry clay Christmas tree ornaments

Homemade Christmas decorationsIf your Christmas tree is lacking in polar bears, squirrels and moose (meece?) this is the place to visit. Unbelievably easy to make and you can use any biscuit cutters you have to make whatever shapes your heart (or tree) desires.

Full tutorial here: Christmas tree ornaments

Liberty fabric baubles

Fabric baubles DIY

Liberty fabric looks nice on just about everything. Christmas tree baubles are no exception. No need to say more.

More info here: fabric baubles

Carrot and rhubarb jam

carrot rhubarb jamA jam that tastes like Christmas! I’m not sure if I have ever succeeded in converting anyone to this idea ever, but I shall keep on singing the praises of a sweet carrot jam full of Christmassy spices. One day in the future someone might actually give this recipe a go and find that it’s really pretty good. If you do, please let me know!

Recipe here: carrot and rhubarb jam

Homemade presents

And if it’s inspiration for homemade Christmas presents you’re after, I’ve got a couple of posts that might help there too.

Top 20 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents

Firstly, ever popular on Pinterest despite the really clunky photo that I used when I’d first started this blog and didn’t know much about photography or design, my Top 20 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents.

Okay, the photo is ugly and the actual post is seriously long, but I did go ahead and make most of these presents and I can recommend all of the tutorials wholeheartedly.

17 tutorials for homemade Christmas presentsSecondly, and not at all popular on Pinterest, despite my attempt to make a nice Pinnable image for it, 17 more tutorials for presents. The difference? These are all from my own makes. The lobster necklace is my favourite. I still love that.

And I’d love you even more if you go and pin that image for me, ha ha.

So, there you have it. If you’re feeling festive too and starting to get ready, I hope there is some inspiration here.

And what else are you thinking of making this year? Drop me a comment below, I’d love to hear all your plans…

Woodland Christmas ornaments

Struck down for the past few days with a horrible pre-Christmas lurgy, I’m just popping in to share some photos I finally got round to taking of my air dry clay Christmas tree decorations…

Homemade Christmas decorations
Hoot’s man there’s a moose, loose, about this hoose…

Now, unless mine is the only blog you read, I’m sure you will have seen variations of these at a number of different places. From bloggers who actually give you some inspiration / advice / tutorials at a relevant time so you can still go to the shops, buy the equipment, come home and make the thing before it’s far too late. Ah, not me! Even if you, too, are a late Christmas tree putter-upper, there’s still probably not enough time to start making your own ornaments now.

(And if mine is the only blog you read, thanks so much! You’re my new bestie…)

But still, I was pretty pleased with these, so I thought I’d give you a little view of my new woodland friends anyway.

Homemade Christmas ornaments
Even though he’s just in silhouette, this little squirrel looks quite cheeky, I think…
Homemade Christmas decorations
A Christmas snail.

I used cookie cutters bought from Ikea and just rolled out my clay (purchased from Hobbycraft a few weeks back) and then stamped them in, making a little hole at the top for the red wool.

I’m not entirely sure how sturdy these are, in all honesty. One of the moose (meece?) lost a leg and his nose on his way to be photographed. Poor guy, that’s worse than a bad hair day… So I don’t know if they’re likely to survive til next year. But, unlike the beautiful Habitat glass baubles which have not been taken out of their box this year, I won’t mind in the slightest if the sproglet tears them from the tree and dashes them to the ground…

Homemade Christmas ornaments
The one surviving moose that’s not legless

Incidentally, I did try and take some photos for you of these in situ, dangling cheerily from the tree itself, but the light was all wrong, or the baubles started moving when I wanted to photograph them and, in my under-the-weather state, I got fed up pretty quickly.

And on that cheery note, a Merry Christmas to you all! I hope you’re all happy and healthy and full of seasonal cheer. I’ll be checking out now until the new year, so have wonderful Christmases one and all and a fabulous New Year’s Eve. May the start of 2014 be excellent for each and every one of you…

Sabrina xxx