Last Christmas, I mentioned in a blog post that I was working on a book project… and Handmade Christmas it was!
It’s a festive crafty book published by Penguin in the States and Australia. (The downside is that it’s not published – yet – in the UK so I don’t get to hang out in book stores next to a pile of them going “I did that” at random people!)
Anyway, when they got in touch to ask if I would like to contribute to (and get paid for!) the book, I was like hells and yeah!
Then I realised that the deadline for all the crafty projects I would have to create/write about would be just after Christmas… which you know is not the quietest time of year. So in the run-up to last year’s Christmas, I spent lots of time making lots of things that I couldn’t blog about… until now.
They asked me to create, write-up and make the prototypes for 4 Christmas projects… my brief was that they should be fun and funky.
So here… drum roll please… are my 4 projects.
A UK exclusive if you will!
1. A Ho Ho Ho Vintage Plate Wall
I’d had the idea of doing this pre-Christmas – having a plate wall that spelled out ‘Hello’ but never got round to it. Basically this brings together two of my favourite things: vintage plates and washi tape.
I made two sets. One for me to keep and one for the book (as I didn’t know if I would get them back).
The ones I made for me are actually a bit better than the ones I made for the book – suppose that’s always what happens with your second go!
You need: 6 plates, 2 rolls of washi tape, scissors, a scalpel and something to hang your plates up with.
1. For H’s, cut 6 x 6cm pieces and 3 x 4.5cm pieces of washi tape.
2. Place one 4.5cm section in the middle of plate, then two 6cm pieces on either side to make your ‘H’. Repeat.
3. For O’s, use other colour of washi tape and cut 6 x 5.5cm pieces and 6 x 5cm pieces.
4. Place one 5.5cm piece to the left of the centre of your chosen plate. Then use your 5cm pieces to make a ‘C’ shape. Then use the second 5.5cm piece to turn the C into an O. Repeat.
5. Use a scalpel to trim any edges and tidy up your letters.
6. Attach wall hanging to the back of your plates.
2. A Christmas Pudding Pinata
This is probably my favourite Christmas crafty thing I’ve ever made. As well as the one for the book, I made some for my little cousins for Christmas. Getting the videos of them, smashing them open on Christmas morning, had me in peels of laughter.
It was also one of the craziest projects I’ve made (and I’ve made a whole heap of tiny gingerbread houses before!)… it’s actually the cutting and the sticking down of the tissue paper that takes the most time.
It was worth it though. One of those stick on a Christmas movie, have some mulled wine and get glueing activities!
The only downside is that I was in such a rush to finish these in time for Christmas and the deadline that I didn’t take many photos (what kind of blogger am I?). So I’m tempted to make another this year for that reason alone!
You need: 40cm round balloon (you can use other sizes); 1 x old newspaper; 20 sheets printer paper (approx); Wallpaper powder paste (from a hardware store); 2 packs of brown crepe paper; 1 pack of white crepe paper; 2 sheets of green crepe paper; 1 sheet of red crepe paper; String (white); Chocolate coins
Tools: Scissors; Paintbrush; Knitting needle or slim screwdriver; Balloon pump (optional); Large cooking or plant pot (optional); Wooden spoon (for breaking your piñata!)
1. Inflate the large balloon, either using a balloon pump or a lot of your own breath!
2. Cut the strips of newspaper to into 3cm wide strips.
3. To keep your balloon from moving about, place it in a large cooking or plant pot.
4. Using a paintbrush, brush the paste onto your strips before applying them to your balloon. Important: Remember to leave a hole at the top of your balloon so you can put your chocolate coins in.
5. Once you’ve completed your first layer, leave to dry. And then repeat until you have three layers.
6. For the fourth layer, use printer paper (it will give you piñata the firmness it needs for getting whacked!)
7. Once your piñata has dried, it should feel rigid. Pop your balloon – keep hold of it so you can pull it out easily.
8. Put the chocolate coins into your piñata.
9. Using the knitting needle, create two holes near the top on either side and put the string through these.
10. Cut some circles of printer paper and use these to seal up the top of your piñata.
11. Cut your brown crepe paper into 4cm strips, fold in half longways and cut into them to make fringing.
12. Starting at the bottom, cover your piñata in fringing.
13. To make the ‘cream’ of your pudding, make some white fringing, extend it down your piñata for a ‘dripping’ cream effect.
14. Cut out holly leaves and stick to your piñata. Cut some circles of red crepe for the berries.
3. Gingerbread Moustaches
So I love moustaches… and I love gingerbread cookies… so this one was a given! The ‘hairy’ ones are my favourite. Also I have no idea why they photographed them upside down for the book. Maybe it’s more arty that way!
You need: 140g unsalted butter; 100g dark muscovado sugar; 6 soup-spoons of golden syrup; 350g plain flour; 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda; 2 teaspoons ground ginger; 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon; Icing sugar (optional); Chocolate sprinkles (optional)
Tools: Scissors; Thin cardboard (best from a cereal box); Tin foil; Rolling pin; Baking trays; Baking paper; Cling film; Scalpel (or butter knife); Saucepan; Spoon or teaspoon
1. Draw moustaches onto thin cardboard. Then cut out. You now have your templates.
2. Wrap in a thin layer of tin foil – so you end up with some silver moustaches. The foil stops your template from sticking to the dough.
3. Put your moustaches to the side and make up your gingerbread mix.
4. Melt your butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan. Then in a bowl, mix together your flour, bicarbonate of soda, and spices. Add your melted butter mix to your flour mix, and knead together to make a firm dough.
5. Roll out the dough until it’s about 5mm flat.
6. Press one of your moustache templates into the dough and then cut around your template using either your scalpel or butter knife.
7. Gently lift your moustache from the rest of the dough and place onto the baking paper-lined trays.
8. Bake your moustaches for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Leave your moustaches to cool.
10. To decorate them, mix icing sugar with a little water until you get a smooth consistency. Then with the back of a spoon, apply the icing sugar onto your moustache. Add some chocolate sprinkles on top to give a ‘stubble’ effect!
4. Ceramic Letter Banners
And finally… I love these. This is one of those ideas you have and then panic about whether it will actually work.
I pitched this to the editor before I’d even done a trial version. Of course it would be easy to make tiny little ceramic letters and then string them together…
Actually it was pretty easy… which as you can imagine was a big relief!
You need: Half a pack of ceramic modeling clay (available at all good art stores); 2m of baker’s twine
Tools: Alphabet metal cookie cutters (available from baking departments); Cling film: Chopping board or cutting mat; Rolling pin: Cocktail stick: Needle: Baking tray
1. Roll out your clay – onto your chopping board – between two layers of cling film until 2mm thick (approx).
2. Peel back the top layer of cling film and you’re ready to start.
3. Select the cutters you want to use… I chose letters that spelt out ‘let it snow’, ‘santa baby’ and ‘merry xmas’.
4. Press your chosen cutters into the clay – just as you would with cookie dough.
5. Remove each letter from the clay and place on a baking tray.
6. Before baking, use a cocktail stick to make holes in your letters. For L’s, I’s and other ‘narrow’ letters, poke the cocktail stick through the side of the letter to make one hole. For bigger letters, like M’s, X’s and S’s, poke the cocktail stick through the front of the letter to create two holes. (This is what you will thread your baker’s twine through.)
7. Bake at high heat for 15 minutes or time/temp specified on clay’s packaging. Allow to cool and set overnight.
8. Taking a needle, thread your baker’s twine through the front of your letters.
9. Leave enough baker’s twine on each side to create a slipknot. (Having a slipknot means you can adjust the loop so it fits on fiddly branches!)
I’d originally planned to put ours on the tree but then remembered I couldn’t blog about them until the book was out (and yeah I pretty much always blog about my Christmas tree, even back in 2009!)… so instead I strung the ones I made for me and put them in our letterpress tray instead.
Which in the end, I loved more than the banner itself!
Anyway, so that’s it. That’s what I was up to last Christmas, every night after work, with Elf on in the background… This year, all my crafty projects are just for us, which is kind of relaxing because if they go wrong (like this one did) then it’s not like there’s a deadline to worry about!
Merry Christmas everyone!
I’m now off to decorate this year’s tree, while watching Elf… some things never change!