I’ve been collecting Christmas decorations for as long as I can remember, so it’s not like there is a shortage of baubles and other pretty objects with which to decorate the house: in fact this year we’ve been quite minimal since we only have a small oriental fir tree in a pot (hopeful that it won’t drop, and that we can pot it out in my parent’s garden and use it again next year) and the house is full to bursting with colourful things against which decorations must compete. And yet, I would like to make some decorations: for in my mind nothing can beat that handmade touch in the home, and Christmas is the perfect time to make something frivolous and pretty for no reason other than it looks good.
It is at this time of year especially that I really feel the lack of my own creativity, having spent the rest of the year discovering, marvelling over and writing about others who are busy designing and making. And all the time I mourn the lack of making in my own life, and determine to do something about it. I’ve always been more of a maker than a shopper (and having Snarfle makes me even less inclined to join the masses in a frenzy of consumerism) but this year I have had better intentions than usual to make my own Christmas decorations and gifts. Maybe it’s having a toddler with burgeoning creative talents to entertain and remembering that some of the best moments in my childhood were when I made things with my parents, which always seemed to reach a frenzied height at yuletide. Or maybe it’s my constant aspirational trawling of Pinterest. Like so many pinners, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for ideas rather than actually getting on with anything: the act of pinning being so much more simple to organise than gathering crafty bits together in one place to embark on a project.
A lot of ideas on Pinterest are unbearably naff, but the gems really are worth stumbling upon. So far we have managed to make some snowflake decorations out of polymer clay (at the top of this post) and some spicy Christmas biscuits, both of which were inspired by things I found online, but actually made in my own style (the decorations) and to a recipe from a good old-fashioned book (the biscuits). And yes, Snarfle did ‘help’, though he’s probably still a bit young to be very involved. But I have plans to do much more in the next week, so here is my wish list of things to make for Christmas. And if I don’t manage them this year, one year, I hope, some of these will happen.
We lived in Sweden when I was a small child and my family retained many Swedish Christmas traditions as I grew up, so naturally I am drawn to Scandinavian style decorations, particularly those involving candles, paper stars, hearts and Dala horses. There are loads and loads of great paper star tutorials on the internet, so picking out the best is no easy trick. This woven star on House Revivals is very similar to the wooden one my parents hang in our window during the festive season: a bare bulb in the middle gives it a super cosy glow in the winter. I think you could adapt this tutorial to any foldable medium so I might just give it a go one year.
Here is another version of a paper star: this one created in pretty decorated origami papers by Whimsy Lane.
Another way to use folded origami stars would be in a wreath. I’ve never got into these, my mother having associated them with funerals and thus instilled in me a distance from their Christmas potential. But I think looking at this beauty (found on the Hello Lucky blog) I may just have to reconsider. There is a very comprehensive tutorial on how to make German paper stars here.
Pom poms may be frivolous but they are mighty fun and bang on trend this year, especially if they are oversized, colourful and abundant. I don’t think I’d have the patience to make anything as extravagant as this garland without one of the special pom pom making machines you can buy, but if you fancy turning your hand to something simple then these big wool beauties from Creativity and Chocolate would be perfect.
Once you’ve got your pom pom mojo on you might venture further into the land of woolly balls: how about this wreath as found on Design Sponge, for a cheery look on a winter’s door?
Over on Nest of Posies this pretty pom pom wreath features the addition of pompom ricrac and flowers.
Wooden Clothes Pegs
I have fond memories of making a rocking chair pincushion with wooden pegs at infant school: in fact I bet my mother still has it somewhere. On my hunt for Christmassy things to do with pegs (the ones with the springs, since they are cheap and easily available) I have found that very chair on a blog by Shirley Goode, where she reminisces about crafting with clothespins. I love her scanned photographs, which were obviously taken a good few decades ago; wouldn’t these wooden clothes pegs stars be a great place to start?
Elsewhere I have yet to discover anything which comes close to these little brightly painted wooden men, complete with squiggly faces. Aren’t these just the best? You can discover how to make these on Lilla a Design: definitely something to knock up in the future with Snarfle.
Cardboard Reindeer Head
If we did not already have so many cut out reindeer heads in the house (my partner Tim simply cannot resist, apparently) then I would be very tempted to give this little chap a go: all made out of recycled cardboard, and with a cheery red nose. You can find a template for Recycling Meets Rudolph on the Good Housekeeping website.
Christmas Tree Decorations for the Tree
There are many different versions of tiered Christmas tree decorations, but I like these ones in wood by Michele Made Me. I am in awe of anyone who thinks about Christmas in July, though, well, come to think of it, the PRs are always plugging it my way at that time of year so maybe I could get into it in summer too? I will just have to remember to collect interesting sticks when we are out in the woods.
This version, using rolled paper and beads, is also very cute. Pinned from Crafts by Jen.
This one from Thrifty Fun piles scrap paper into appealing staggered tiers, and is splashed with glitter for a festive touch.
Folded Cut Out Paper Decorations
I also love Michele Made Me‘s Heart House, a simple cut, fold and glue paper ornament, inspired by her feelings of love for her home and family. It’s a little house with a heart running through the middle, and can be made out of recycled Christmas cards, or in fact any oddments of pretty paper you have lying around the house. Yup, I’ve got plenty of that.
Another way to reuse old Christmas cards would be to turn them into this garland from Freshly Hatched Studio, which uses a simpler version of the technique above with a piece of brown string run through… I can already see this being pimped up with some glittery tinsel thread. I find it hard to stay too tasteful for long.
Felt Tree Ornaments
These pretty felt folk ornaments come in fab bright colours and are made by following a pattern from McCall’s, but I’m all for heading out on your own with things like this if you can.
Stephanie from Imagine Our Life makes the best things out of felt, including these cute animal ornaments for Christmas – visit her blog for a free pattern if you like to have help in making your own felt designs. As well as an impressive creative output she home schools her little fella as well as continuing to freelance as a graphic designer. She’s an inspiration.
These stylish patterned felt hearts were found on the Better Homes and Gardens website: another thing to aspire to in future years, I feel.
Polymer clay ornaments
Finally, I don’t think I’ve touched polymer clay since the early 90s, but it turns out that things have come on in the world of Fimo since then, and I’ve suddenly discovered what fun ‘canes‘ are. Not that I have the patience to produce anything too complex and perfect, so mine are fairly chaotic. When I started reading about canes I discovered this tutorial on how to create snowflake canes: which I combined in a messy millefiori design to get the above results. I have realised that it is slightly hard to get a slick effect when you have a toddler crawling all over you but I kind of like it anyway.
Instead the image above is closest to what I was hoping to achieve, although this version employs the services of an extruder. The result is totally psychedelic, but the tutorial on The Crafty Network is very clear and you could definitely adapt it into something a bit more low key.
Having introduced you to the most complex of polymer clay work I have to add that I think simple works best for most polymer clay ornaments. I need to buy some paper doilies so I can try embossing cut out shapes such as hearts, which can easily be made using cookie cutters.
These stylish reindeer antler white clay ornaments could easily be made out of polymer clay, coloured thread and wire. The photograph comes from This Tinder, but the original blog has vanished.
Anyway, I could go on and on hunting down fun things to make, but now I want to go and do actual creative stuff myself. It’s unlikely I will get many of these ideas done this year, but maybe by Christmas 2014 I will have figured out a proper schedule like all those organised stay at home working and making mums (hmm, I fear this may go the way of my plans to get my taxes done well in advance). But I do really believe that a better balance between work and creativity is what makes us happy; that’s why we’re all rediscovering craft and baking with a vengeance – it’s the way we’ve always been. Using our hands to do so much more than just type.
You can follow me on Pinterest here, if you like that kind of thing.
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- Review: Silver Metal Clay Jewellery Class with Sima Vaziry at the London Jewellery School