With prices soaring and salaries flatlining, take a more thrifty approach by making your own seasonal decorations, baubles, gifts and wrapping, says Gabrielle Fagan
Take heart if you're tiring of the annual buying-fest that is today's Christmas and yearn for a more homely celebration reminiscent of days gone by. This year, it's ultra-fashionable to take a ‘crafty' approach to the season and make personal gifts and decorations.
Getting down to a session of sewing or gluing isn't just fun and a great way of involving children in the preparations, but it'll also save the pennies. And the results — oozing effort and imagination — are bound to charm.
“The sense of nostalgia is palpable this year with many people turning to traditional ornamentation and craft-making techniques to decorate their homes,” says Gavin Wardell, haberdashery expert at John Lewis, which has a selection of festive craft kits and materials.
“There's a real enthusiasm for making seasonal touches — whether it's simple paper decorations, colourful hanging baubles, crackers, or wreaths and garlands inspired by nature.”
Making vintage-style pieces is a passion of mother-of-three Sarah Moore, whose new book, Homemade Gifts Vintage Style, has many festive projects included in its inspiring selection.
“Christmas is the perfect time to make something special, whether it's creating a home-made gift, like bulbs planted in a pretty old teapot or antique bowl, or making a personalised stocking or vintage-style tree bauble,” says Moore.
Choose one of her simple festive projects — then sit back and wait for the compliments!
You will need
Large piece of woollen blanket
Contrasting vintage fabric (or felted woollen fabric for appliques)
Sewing machine (optional)
Length of ribbon
Little bits of sparkle, buttons or pom-poms, if desired
STEP ONE Start by making a template. Draw one freehand on newspaper or draw around the largest pair of Wellington boots that you have in the house and then add quite a few centimetres all around. Cut out the shape.
STEP TWO Blankets are perfect for this project as they have a helpful finished edge already. If the blanket is different on the front and the back, place it right-side down. Pin the top of the stocking template along the fringed or finished edge of blanket and chalk around it to make the sewing line.
Remove the template and cut out the stocking shape about 2cm outside that line. Turn the template over, chalk a mirror image of the shape on the blanket and cut it out the same way.
STEP THREE If you want to add applique decorations to the stockings, now is the time to sew them on. Simplicity is best, so choose strong Christmas shapes such as baubles or gifts, or the stocking recipient's name or initials, and cut them from vintage fabrics or felted wool. Or cut pocket shapes from more of the blanket and sew them on to the stocking to hold extra special little presents.
STEP FOUR Pin the appliques in place, ensuring they don't stray over the sewing line or they will disappear into the seam. Either hand-sew all around the edges with blanket stitch, or machine-sew them on using the zigzag setting.
STEP FIVE When you've finished the applique, place the stocking shapes right-side together, making sure the fringed or ribbon-edged tops are level with each other. Pin the stockings together and then sew all around the chalk sewing line using backstitch.
STEP SIX Turn the stocking right side out and trim off any excess seam allowance. You need to add a loop of ribbon to the top so it can be hung up. Press open the back seam at the top of the stocking with a warm iron. Pin the ends of the ribbon loop across the seam allowances and sew them in place using backstitch on the machine or some good, strong handstitches.
STEP SEVEN You can sew a pom-pom to the tip of the stocking toe, and sequins, buttons and trims to the top edge if you have used fabric without a finished border, or just want to add a bit more sparkle.
CRAFTY BUY The Crochet Book, £20, is a new decorative tin from Cath Kidston that includes everything needed to make a colourful patch cushion — which could make a lovely gift if you can bear to give it away!
CHRISTMAS PUDDING BAUBLES
You will need
A circle of brown fabric to cover each bauble
Embroidery thread and needle
Old lace doilies or piece of crochet
Holly leaf shapes cut from green fabric
STEP ONE Begin by wrapping the fabric around the bauble and tying it tightly around the base of the hanging fitting with embroidery thread. Trim off the excess and then stitch across the fabric until it tightly covers the bauble. Make a few stitches to secure it and fasten off.
STEP TWO Thread the ribbon through the hanging fitting in the top of the bauble and tie it to create a loop.
STEP THREE Cut a circle of lace or crochet from a doily and scallop the edges. Make a little hole in the middle — large enough to fit around the hanging fitting — and place over the top of the bauble, pulling the hanging loop through the hole in the centre. Sew this in place with small stitches through the brown fabric.
STEP FOUR Sew on the holly leaves and the beads.
CRAFTY BUY A fairy or angel is a finishing touch for a tree, and online gift company, HomeHomeHome has a Make Your Own Christmas Tree Top Angel kit, for £4.95, suitable for adults or youngsters, aged six years upwards, with supervision.
IT’S A WRAP!
Pretty wrapping makes gifts even more special and it's inexpensive if you use up old pieces of fabric or a spare roll of wallpaper.
“Collect and cover little boxes and keep your eyes open for old packaging too. Lined wicker baskets or picnic hampers can all be filled with treasures as well,” says Moore.
“Gather together lengths of ribbon, pretty twine, bias binding, pieces of lace and vintage trimmings, and use them to tie up presents.
“Add little brooches, sparkly buckles, corsages and home-made gifts tags, perhaps by embellishing plain, old-fashioned luggage labels.”
CRAFTY BUY If you're all fingers and thumbs, specialist company Gift Wrapped & Gorgeous have an instructive DVD on perfecting the art of wrapping included in a Christmas Berries Luxury Gift Wrap Collection, £45. Pack also includes tissue paper, ribbon, tape and gift cards.