Just popping in very quickly this Christmas Eve to wish you a wonderfully happy Christmas and an excellent start to 2016 and to share a few pics with you of the merry-making that’s been going on around here.
The Christmas bug was late to bite this year and so, unlike past years where I set myself the impossible task to craft my way to some sort of Christmas nirvana (if you’ll excuse the mixed religions that would involve), I did very little until December 23rd.
First of all, I put our wreath up, a gorgeous creation made by my mother-in-law and niece, of foraged ivy and fir trees (and because I have something of a dried orange peel mania going on this year, I couldn’t resist adding a few of those as well). Excuse the fact you can only see a small part of the wreath, but I couldn’t bare to show you our really ugly front door. A new (old) one has been ordered for January and I can’t wait to get rid of this 1960s dark-brown-stain monstrosity.
But mostly, yesterday was a flurry of cooking and baking: I pre-cook everything except the turkey, which saves Christmas day peeling and chopping and so on. I remember, as a child, feeling rather put out that I had to help peel sprouts or chop carrots on Christmas morning! Christmas morning, I ask you, which should surely be reserved for opening presents and eating chocolate and nothing else…
Ridiculous though that may be, I now always try and cook everything that I possibly can ahead of time.
It was our first year of making a gingerbread house and I was pretty pleased with the results. Definitely one to be repeated in future years…
Presents were wrapped, in a decorous and tasteful manner that I think is obligatory for all bloggers these days. Yawn, yawn, yet more brown paper and string and random bits of foliage stuck on. Actually, I was busy snipping away the rosemary from the fridge, when I remembered it was meant to be saved for the gravy, so I had to restrain myself to a spare sprig per parcel.
What else? Hmmm, oh I stuck some sprigs of ivy around the place and got our spare room all ready for my Mum’s arrival later on today. And this morning, the four of us made a paper chain: the hubby cutting the paper strips, the sproglet punching the holly shapes and me stapling it together. While we all simultaneously read a book to the littlest to keep him entertained…
Now, we’re heading out to my sister’s for a Christmas Eve family lunch, with my Mum, all three of my siblings, their respective spouses and three nieces and nephews. It promises to be a noisy, boisterous, booze-filled do, if previous years are anything to go by. Whatever you’re up to, today and tomorrow, I hope you have a wonderful time. Thank you so much for reading here in 2015 I’ll be back in the New Year with more of the same!
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. 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
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…
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.
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…
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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?!
If 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.
A 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!
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.
Secondly, 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…
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…
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.
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…
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…
After my frazzled, manic late-night making sessions of last December, I decided not to go for any homemade Christmas presents this year. A rather sensible decision, for me, what with temporarily living at my Mum’s, not having access to any of my supplies or, frankly, much time or energy spare at the moment…
Everyone in my family is a bit skint this year, so we all set ourselves a £15 budget per person. All well and good, I thought to myself.
But then, when I started out looking for presents, I discovered (somewhat to my horror) you can’t actually buy that much for £15. One of my sisters requested a bobble hat. I looked in various shops and, nope, I just can’t find a bobble hat for less than £15. So, hey, I might as well knit her one. It seems crazy not to.
I bought my nephew a lovely little £15 polar bear jumper from John Lewis. It’s super cute, but, hmmm, it’s a little bit boring to just give a jumper to a four-month-old, isn’t it? I’ll just whip up a couple of very small little extras to go with it.
And then there’s the tree. Non-breakable decorations are needed this year. I definitely want to make some more fabric baubles for my own tree, as well as a couple of other super simple, super quick things I’ve spotted around the place.
And then stockings. I simply must make a couple of nice things for the stockings – it is, after all, the first Christmas that the sproglet will really remember…
So, somehow, with a week to go til Christmas I’ve got a rather large list of things I want to get made and an ever-growing pile of supplies. It’s just, erm, when do I have any time to make them? Wish me luck!
I know, I know, I had you at “Liberty fabric baubles,” didn’t I? There’s not much need to write anything more…
I made up these little beauties a few weeks ago for my sister-in-law who was running a craft stall at a charity fair at the weekend. I’m not sure that nine little baubles will have made much of a dent in terms of making-an-entire-stall’s-worth-of-items-to-sell but, hey, hopefully they filled a small space somewhere.
I followed a tutorial in the Guardian by Hannah of the wonderful blog Seeds and Stitches, which I first Pinned two Christmases ago and have been meaning to make ever since.
It’s a great, simple, messy, very pleasurable project. The only extra tip I would add is that you need far, far more fabric than you expect, so cut out loads of tiny squares first and then sit down for the glueing part. I seemed to spend most of the evening going to wash the glue off my hands when I discovered I’d run out of fabric mid-bauble for the hundredth time.
I also didn’t worry about hanging them up to dry, just put them on a sheet of greaseproof paper and turned them over at sporadic intervals, which worked fine.
Most of the fabric I’ve used is Liberty scraps, with the exception of the blue and white stripes, which were cut from my old primary school shirt. I felt quite nostalgic sticking it all together…
This weekend, I’m planning on making some more to adorn our very own Christmas tree. I’ve stuck the fabric to some cheap supermarket-bought plastic baubles, so the very best thing about them is that they’re sproglet-proof. Even if he managed to shatter them somehow, any sharp pieces would stay inside all the fabric, which is just the sort of Christmas ornament I need on my tree this year.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might recognise some of the fabric from the original projects. The pink and blue geometric patterns were turned into these egg cosies; the red floral pattern was leftovers from my teapot cosy; and most of the rest is from the (still unfinished) quilt…
This time last year, I put together a round up of my top 20 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents that I’d found elsewhere on the web, for the delectation of my lovely readers reader. (Ha! That is actually almost true. I had only been writing the blog for a few weeks and I was so excited that 20 whole people read that post in the first few days!)
This year though, oh frabjous day, I thought I’d put together a round up of some homemade presents from my very own blog posts, sharing some of my favourite presents that I’ve made over the past 12 months.
Not all of these are my own tutorials, but all link to a tutorial for you to follow, so I hope there is some inspiration here for anyone planning on making some presents in this fine month of December. So, without further ado, here are my top 17 homemade Christmas presents…
For vintage lovers
A huge fan of a vintage or retro image myself, I’ve made a fair few things using some (copyright-free) vintage pics over the past year. These are the ones I’ve been most pleased with
1. Lobster necklace
This was my first experiment with shrink plastic and, I’ve got to say, I was pretty chuffed with the results. He’s rather spectacular, isn’t he? I also made some rather lovely shrink plastic teapots, which would work brilliantly as tags for presents…
This was a gift from Christmas last year and one I was really delighted with. It takes no time at all to print out all the bookplates, but I think the (slightly time-consuming) additions of the little envelopes really added to the cute factor.
Of all the presents I’ve ever given people, my homemade soaps have got the best feedback (and requests for replacements when they’ve run out…) Using a melt and pour soap base, these are straightforward to make, but still give you that pleasing mad scientist feeling as you stir them all together.
For the loveable executive in your life… …what better than some homemade business card holders?! I’ve got to admit, since I made myself one it has seen very, very little action — but then I really must start carrying my business cards around and handing them out a little bit more. Again, this is a quick project, perfect for when you’re half paying attention to something on TV.
If you thought the business card holders were a prosaic present, let me introduce you to the plastic bag stuffer! Sexy? No. Romantic? No. Thoughtful? Erm, perhaps. Useful? Very!
The thing is, buying something like this in the shops costs a ridiculous amount of money and it’s really, really easy to make with some beautiful fabric. But, I reckon, don’t give this to someone unless you know they have a plastic bag mountain hidden in a drawer or cupboard. This is the sort of present that could see you on the receiving end of a pair of socks the following year if given to the wrong recipient.
Erm, what can I say about this? It’s a fairly weird present, I know, perhaps better suited to children with a toy kitchen, but this felt breakfast really pleases me. Those little yellow yolks on the eggs, the curly bacon, the bright red tomato. Visually, it’s rather glorious.
Ideally, if you were making these presents, you would have started a while ago. But, hey, I’m only posting this today so you couldn’t have known… If you’ve a fair of time before the big day, these would make lovely presents though.
10. Hot water bottle cover
This might take you a couple of evenings to knit, but it’s a really nice pattern and very simple to follow. I was delighted with the way it looked at the end and (as is the way with every present I make for someone else that I really like) have been meaning to make a version for myself ever since. It never happens, of course, because there is always another present to make for someone else first…
Not that this takes a long time to make, but it takes a long time to get really tasty. If you knew a patient person (it’s not me) you could make up a bottle of this now and tell them not to drink it for a year. Otherwise, make up some bottles now, and save until next Christmas for giving out…
I was umming and ahhing about including this, since I don’t have a (non-photocopied) version of this pattern to point you towards. But, this dog draught excluder is so amazing that I couldn’t resist including it. If you’re good at sewing, you could probably take one look at it and figure out how to make it. It’s just two main pieces for the body, plus a garter at the top of the head (and the ears, of course)…
There’s something almost irresistible about making presents for babies. From their cute little tiny person clothes to lovely snuggly soft blankets for keeping them toastie and warm, there’s an almost infinite option of things to make you super broody while you whip them up.
Of all the presents I’ve made this past year, the large majority have been for little people. These are my faves:
13. Knitted blanket
I knitted this for the sproglet while I was pregnant, working my way through a few rows every evening. It’s called the shale baby blanket and is one of the few patterns I’ve ever paid for. Worth every penny though, because it’s utterly gorgeous. The finished result looks really complicated, but it’s actually only four rows to remember so is quite a relaxing knit…
If there’s one thing every six-month old baby needs it’s a lot of bibs. I made this pattern myself (not that it is hugely complicated, ha ha) and the bibs are all backed with velour, for easy post-meal mouth wiping.
Best of all, it’s super easy to make so you could whip up a little bundle very quickly for a last minute present.
Get the (free) pdf pattern and step-by-step tutorial here: baby bibs
15. Printed babygrows
If you’ve visited here before, you’ll know I’m a big fan of using iron on transfer paper to add images to fabric. This works particularly well, I think, with babygrows, which can look adorable with an extra embellishment. This matryoshka is one of my favourites…
There’s no denying that little babies are cute. But there’s also no denying that they are very vomitous. Very, very, very vomitous sometimes. I sewed a burp cloth before the sproglet was born and it’s fair to say it’s seen a bit of use in the intervening year or so. This isn’t the most glamorous present, it can’t be denied, but it’s a super useful one. Perhaps pair with some bibs or babygrows to up the cuteness quotient…
I’ve saved the best til last with the baby pressies. I’ve made a few pairs of these baby trousers now and I think they are utterly gorgeous and great for showcasing a nice fabric. These red elephant ones are my most preferred.
When we moved all our possessions into boxes and suitcases a few weeks ago and decamped to my Mum’s (so the builders could take our house apart and, hopefully, put it back together to be much better) I brought a gigantic box of tins and jars.
When I say gigantic, I mean gigantic. It took two grown men to lift the thing into the van.
It seemed crazy to put all our bits and pieces from the larder into storage, so we thought we’d bring them with us, but I knew my Mum was never going to be crazy keen on the idea of finding space in her cupboards for my collection of random tinned foods that I bought two years ago on a whim and have never used.
So I promised myself (and her) that I would use everything up as quickly as possible.
Top of the list were two tins of rhubarb, purchased when I was last pregnant with the idea it might prevent me scarfing down the treacle pudding and never since touched. I love fresh rhubarb, but this tinned stuff just never quite appealed…
Then, in a rather pleasing moment of synchronicity, browsing the local Oxfam bookshop in Marlow yesterday (a veritable treasure trove, well worth a visit if any reader is close enough to make one) I came across a book all about growing vegetables, for the princely sum of £1.99. I purchased it, thinking it would be helpful for my revision for my horticulture exams coming up in February, and it was only once I’d got it home that I discovered the delights of a small recipe section in the very back.
And one of the very first recipes to catch my eye was, wait for it, carrot and rhubarb jam. Yes, you read that right, jam. Not chutney.
My interest inevitably piqued (carrot jam? Surely not? But then again carrot cake is pretty damn tasty) and the rhubarb tins crying out to be used, I set about attempting a version of my own.
The original recipe had only three ingredients (carrots, rhubarb and sugar) and those in vast quantities, so I tweaked the amounts, added some spices and, a mere hour after commencing the process, had four jars of this rather wonderful concoction.
The thing that surprised me the most is that it tastes like the perfect jam for Christmas. It’s got a good spiced flavor, not unlike mincemeat in fact, but with a real freshness of taste at the same time. I had some on bread this morning and it was really delicious, but I think you could also use it as a compote for porridge or yoghurt, or even in the place of a more traditional rhubarb chutney, alongside some cold meat or cheese.
Because the jam has very little pectin in, it hasn’t set, so much as thickened, and it isn’t something you could store for a long time. The original recipe says three weeks in the fridge.
But if you used a jam sugar with added pectin, you’d achieve a more jelly-like consistency and would be able to store it for much longer.
I also used brown sugar, because that’s what I had to hand in the right quantities, but of course that has made my jam turn a rather brown colour. If you used granulated (or jam) sugar you’d maintain the orangey-pink of the rhubarb and carrots, which would look a little more toothsome.
Anyway, alterations aside, here is my recipe. Make up a batch this weekend and I promise you’ll feel Christmassy every breakfast right up until December 25th…
500g tinned rhubarb, strained (two large tins)
500g carrots (peeled weight), peeled and roughly chopped
500g sugar (I used soft dark brown, but I think a white sugar would look nicer)
5 cardamom seeds
1 orange, zest and juice
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled
half a nutmeg
What to do:
1. Put the chopped carrots into a large saucepan and add the piece of ginger, the cardamom pods (bruised to release the flavours) and the juice of the orange.
2. Bring to the boil and simmer until the carrots are really soft
3. Strain the carrots, discarding the spices but reserving 125ml of the cooking water.
4. Return carrots to pan and mash them. (You could also blend or liquidise, but I always like the route that involves the least washing up at the end…)
5. Add the reserved cooking juice, the zest of the orange and grate in approximately half a nutmeg.
6. Cook for about 20-30 minutes until the jam starts to thicken. This isn’t a jam that is going to take on a traditional “set” so there’s little science involved, just stop cooking it when you think the consistency looks appealing.
7. Decant into sterilised jars (either run them through the dishwasher or wash in hot soapy water and then leave in the oven at about 100 degrees for ten minutes or so) and add the lids. Voila! Christmas in a jar!
And do let me know what you think of it if you have a go at this recipe.
Now, I just need to figure out what I could make with those 25 tins of sliced peaches.
PS What do you think of my photos for this post? I’ve been taking part in a Blogging Your Way course, from decor8, and this week we had to try and take some styled photos. It is not something that comes naturally to me (in fact, I shy away from putting food posts up here on the blog as I find it such an absolute bitch trying to take good photos of food, which always need to have excellent styling to look nice) and I can already see loads of errors in the pictures here, but, hey, it’s not a bad start I think.
I’m a real fan of making jams, chutneys and cordials. If you share my passion, take a look at some of these other recipes:
I’m a complete curmudgeon when it comes to advance Christmas preparations.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas. Just not in September. (Or August, October or November, for that matter…) And, as we all know, September is generally the time you start seeing Christmas bits and pieces popping up.
The first few times you tut to yourself in whatever giant multinational supermarket you happen to have popped into, “Tch, Christmas cards and advent calendars and it’s still September. Idiots.”
But, before you know it, the insidious pan pipe Christmas Carol music has crept into your brain and you’re feeling all Winter Wonderlandy and tinselly. And then, bamm, the middle of November hits, all of your Christmas joy has been used up already and you’re yearning for your next summer holiday.
So every year, I guard myself carefully against any Christmas thoughts at all until it’s December.
And so it is, that I have just, a few days in advance, allowed myself to think about making an advent calendar. And this is it.
Lots of gorgeous little numbered bags stuffed full with chocolate and decorated with jolly vintage pictures, all found on the wonderful Graphics Fairy website. Here are a few of my favourites:
If you’re a late preparer like me, and would like to make yourself one, I’ve put all of my images into a pdf and there are some really straightforward instructions below.
So, joyeux Noel, all. May the mulled wine drinking and mince pie eating officially begin!
Small drawstring bags, approx. 9cm x 7cm. (I ordered mine through eBay ages ago, mistakenly getting a size that was too small for our wedding favours. Luckily, they were perfect for this purpose…)
Print out the pdf onto the iron on transfer paper. (The numbers and images are backwards, but don’t worry, this is as they should be!)
Cut round the images leaving a small border of a few millimetres around the outside of each one.
Position an image, face down, onto a bag.
Cover a wooden board (or your table) with a tea towel and, with the iron at its hottest setting, but the steam turned off, iron over the image for about 90 seconds. Make sure you cover the edges and especially any corners. (You can’t use a normal ironing board, because it’s too soft for the iron to really press the image onto the fabric.)
Leave the transfer until it’s dry (you can iron on another one in the meantime)
Carefully peel off the backing and tadaaa, you have a lovely little bag
Stuff with a chocolate, tiny presents or diamonds. Whatever floats your boat.
Repeat until all bags are finished and then hang somewhere festively…
I’m a traditionalist with advent calendars and only go up to December 24th, but I’ve included a 25 in there too for any of you newfangled crazy modernists out there.
Hope you enjoy this and do leave me a comment if you make one yourself.
I know that there must be lots of people out there waaaaaay more organised than me, because the round-up I put together last year for the top 20 tutorials for homemade Christmas presents has been getting lots of interest in the past few months