Thursday, 21 November 2013
Kirstie's Christmas Crafts
Make your Christmas extra special this year by giving it that magical handmade touch, says Kirstie AllsoppIf aliens landed on my doorstep on Christmas Eve, I’d want them to take one look at my house and know something big was being celebrated. I love the sparkle and glitter – I adore the golds, reds and greens. For me, Quality Street is the very essence of the festive season. I try to make my home feel like a box of these chocolates, taking inspiration from the colours, and adding lights, glass balls and, most importantly, tinsel. A tree with no tinsel is like gin and tonic with no ice or lemon.
I’ve always loved going to New York in December for the shopping, but it was my trip to the NYC suburbs that got me hooked on outdoor decorations – all the houses lit up like Christmas trees. I bought some lights in the shape of reindeers, snowmen and a Father Christmas. Even if your neighbours are horrified, if they make you and the children happy, go for it.
I always have a wreath with a big bow on my front door. I usually try to make my own. You can add whatever you like and it sets the tone for the decorations inside your home. Children love to be sent out foraging for pine cones and greenery; my lot come back with loads, and it never goes to waste: I put holly on top of every picture and along my fireplace and windowsills.
However you decide to deck your halls, don’t hold back. Christmas is about having fun and letting go. Embrace it in all its variety.
Kirstie’s Christmas Crafts by Kirstie Allsopp, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20
I’ve made a few wreaths in my time, and you can definitely save money doing your own. The trick is not to scrimp when applying the sack moss (buy it from your local florist or garden centre) to the wire frame as it’s the basis for a really sumptuous and full design, but make sure it’s nice and damp as that will help your evergreens to stay fresh and lush. If you want to get straight on to decorating the wreath, skip the first two steps below and buy a readymade base instead.
YOU WILL NEED
- Reel wire
- 2cm raised wire wreath frame
- Sack moss (make sure it’s nice and moist)
- 6-7 big pine branches
- Eucalyptus (because it smells divine)
- Extra foliage, such as myrtle berry, mimosa, holly and ivy
- 5-7 stems hypericum berries
- 7 stems dried English hydrangeas
- Reindeer moss (ours looked feathery and silver)
- Glitter (optional)
- Gauge wire (thicker than reel wire and comes in precut lengths)
- Optional extra decorations, such as white wax flowers, pine cones, dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks and glittered-up berries, black peppercorns, dried roses and crab apples
1 To make the moss base, unravel a bit of your reel wire and attach it with a twist to the frame. Now begin placing generous handfuls of sack moss around the frame, packing it tightly together and winding the reel wire around it tightly as you go. Whatever you do, don’t scrimp – the moss should feel thick and dense. Do a second layer of moss to really thicken it out, and continue binding it with the wire. Don’t worry about it not being neat; the moss won’t be seen when it’s dressed.
2 When full, turn the wreath over and cut the wire, leaving a 20cm end. Push it from back to front through the centre of the moss, then back again. Do this a few times, until the wire is eaten up by the moss, then twist the last bit around the inner ring on the back of the frame.
3 Cut the pine and eucalyptus into pieces about 10cm-15cm long and begin grouping them into fan-like clusters. They should look luscious and full with no gaps. Snip off any naked pointy bits.
4 Place the wreath right side up and lay the first fan-cluster of greenery on top of the moss. Secure by wrapping reel wire around the stems. Continue covering the moss with small fan-clusters, securing them tightly with wire, until the front of the wreath is completely covered.
5 To cover the inside of the wreath, add smaller, fingersized pieces of greenery and secure them with wire. While doing so, take a good look at the shape of your wreath and lightly tie down any stray foliage. You want it to look even all round. When finished, tie off the wire as in step 2.
6 Now to the fun bit: decorating. It’s essential to have a theme – ours was hypericum berries, dried hydrangeas and reindeer moss – but dried roses are exquisite, and glittered crab apples look very Christmassy too. Before you start, look at your wreath and think about where you’re going to place things. Odd numbers work best, and you must always aim for balance.
7 Cut the stems of your flowers and berries on a slant so they have a pointy end. Pierce the first berry stem deep into the moss, then continue adding the other berry stems at regular intervals around the wreath.
8 Now add the hydrangeas in the same way. If you struggle to get things well into the moss, simply attach them using the gauge wire.
9 To add the reindeer moss, bend a length of wire in half, pierce it through the side of a clump and push the ends through to the back of the wreath. Bend into a loop and twist the ends to fasten. The loop shouldn’t be visible with this method. Continue adding reindeer moss around the wreath in this way, filling in the gaps between the hydrangeas and berries.
10 To make a hook, take two long gauge wires and bend them into a hook shape. Locate the top of your wreath and pierce the gauge wire through from the back and around the outer ring of your frame. Bring the hook ends up at the back and secure with a twist.
Crackers are an essential part of our Christmas festivities. Millions are pulled every year, and there’s nothing worse than a cracker that doesn’t pull with a bang. I pick my own presents to fill my crackers. It’s more personal and it’s way more fun. You can tailor them to your guests and really have a laugh with the things you put inside. Use luxurious papers and embellish them with baubles, beads and beautiful ribbons to ensure each one is a little work of art on the table.
YOU WILL NEED
- Good-quality Christmas wrapping paper
- Ruler and pencil
- Cracker snaps
- Glue gun or water-based glue
- 3 empty toilet rolls, or 1 empty kitchen paper roll cut into 3 equal pieces (1 roll stays in the cracker, the others are removed after shaping)
- Embellishments, such as beads, baubles, berries or leaves
1 Take a piece of wrapping paper, mark out a rectangle 33cm x 20cm, then cut it out. Fold in 10cm along each short edge, then snip out small triangles no more than 1cm deep along the folds. About 8-10 triangles is ideal.
2 Now it’s on to the cracker snap. (In case you’re wondering how these work, the two sides of the snap are coated with a tiny bit of gunpowder and when they’re pulled apart, the friction ignites the bang.) Open out the paper, wrong side up. Put a dab of glue at each end of the snap and stick it parallel to one long side of the paper, about 2cm in from the edge.
3 Place your 3 toilet roll tubes on the paper. Roll the paper around the tubes and up towards the snap. Put a thin line of glue along the very top edge of the paper and quickly roll the final bit to stick the seam down. If using a glue gun, it will dry straight away. If using water-based glue, give it a minute or so to dry.
4 Tie ribbon fairly tightly between two of the tubes in the cracker. Insert a gift, joke and hat in the opposite end (paper hats are available online and handwrite your own jokes or riddles), then tie ribbon between the other two tubes. Now remove the end tubes.
5 Using dabs of glue, decorate your cracker with your chosen embellishments. Basically, anything goes. For instance, you can colour-theme your crackers in gold or silver, or opt for a wonderful mix of Christmas colours.
There are so many things you can create with stamps you’ve made yourself, bought or had custom-made from your own designs, including cushion covers, T-shirts and drawstring travel bags. One of the best things about lino-cut stamps is the natural inconsistency between each print made with them. It means that each is unique and clearly handmade – a world away from mass production.
LINO-STAMPED HAND TOWELS
YOU WILL NEED
- Pencil and paper
- Piece of linoleum (speed carve lino is easier to cut than real lino)
- Lino cutter
- Cutting board
- Ink pad
- 100% cotton towels
- Fabric paint (washable)
- Small paint tray
- 2 rollers
1 To make a lino-cut stamp, you need a template, so draw a design on to paper. It’s best to start with something simple and large that won’t be too complex to cut out. Remember, it will appear as a mirror image on the fabric, so draw your design in reverse, especially if working with letters.
2 Cut out the template, place it on the lino and draw around it. Using a lino cutter, gouge away the surface surrounding the outline. The idea is to leave the shape standing proud so only that part will print. It’s a good idea to warm the lino on a radiator to make it easier to cut out, especially in winter.
3 When you have finished carving, test the stamp by pressing it on an ink pad and then on to paper. If the stamp picks up any ink where you don’t want it, just keep carving until you are happy with the test print. Clean the ink off the lino.
4 Spread out a towel in readiness for the printing process, then pour your fabric paint into the tray. Roll a roller in it, and then run the roller over the stamp, making sure the paint is evenly distributed.
5 Gently press the stamp on to the towel, then roll over it with a dry roller to thoroughly press in the paint. Carefully lift off the stamp, then repeat the paint and rolling process until you’ve achieved the design you want. Leave to dry according to the paint manufacturer’s instructions, ideally overnight.
6 To seal the design on to the towel, iron it with a dry iron. Fabric paints are water-based, so if you go over it with a steam iron, all your hard work will be ruined. It’s a good idea to wash your towel to soften the paint before giving it away. Do this according to the fabric paint instructions. Always clean your stamps after use or if you are changing colours.
Daily tip from the lady archive
"AS a general rule, one’s stern duty in life seems to be to avoid the things in life that are pleasant, especially in the matter of diet."The Lady. Living Well. 16th August, 1928
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Q: A new EU target is set to reduce plastic bag use by 80 per cent. Do you still use plastic bags when you shop?
Yes all the time - 21.4%
No, never - 18.6%
Only sometimes - 60%