Written by Emma Mitchell


Making Winter

In this month’s creative survival guide, craft practitioner Emma Mitchell dispenses tips for an alternative handmade Christmas.

At this time of year I confess that sometimes I twiddle about with pinecones and make garlands out of bits of last year’s Christmas cards. I’m so dedicated to the handmade Christmas cause that I have been known to paint twigs white and nail them to my wall hung with corn dolly stars and baubles made of old doilies (I’m not joking). In retrospect even I feel that this may have been taking things a little too far. Christmas brings out the extreme crafter in me.

But much as I’d love to spend all day fashioning fir fronds into forest fawns, time is tight. Embracing a handmade Yule needn’t be all twigs, sweat and sticking old lace to a balloon. Other people have made stupendous things and put them on the internet for you to buy. Here’s my guide to some alternative handmade cheer:

There are debates about the earliest date it is appropriate to watch Elf. This momentous event means that Christmas is coming and it coincides with the day that the tree can go up and people won’t jeer at you for being previous. This T-shirt is a celebration of Buddy, his joyous elfin daftness and the best insult in history, which in our house has become a term of endearment. I’m so fond of this phrase that I’ve actually bought this sampler.

Emma models her floofy crocheted wrist warmers.

I’m a Frida Kahlo fangirl. Her work was emotive, thought provoking and searingly honest, plus she made most of it after a catastrophic accident left her in permanent agony. These handpainted Frida baubles will allow your Christmas tree to cheer for a true creative hero.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I share the sentiments of the cat on this Christmas card. I wouldn’t go as far as to slaughter a robin, but when there’s an unseemly scramble for the last bottle of Bailey’s in the booze aisle and you’re experiencing Slade overload, wouldn’t it be brilliant to be able to go to sleep on a cushion and not give a cat’s cobblers about any of it?

What does the fox say? Actually it tends to screech and bark outside our Fenland window when it’s trying to woo the lady foxes. Quite a racket. These Fair Isle foxes by Lili Wicks are nestled on mittens though, resulting on cosy, woodland-ish digits. Woof.

On the days when it all gets too much, cathartic cross stitch is needed. Click here.

If you do have a few spare hours and feel like reaching for the craft supplies, I have some ace tips for making your own decorations.

These paper pom poms are super easy to make – tissue paper, scissors, string, a bit of snipping and boom! Your living room will look like a festive design blog.

Lucy of Attic24 is a design master when it comes to hook and yarn. Loop yourself some of her snowflakes, hang them in a window and marvel while yuletide pixies dance below.

House and snowy mountain pompoms. Balls of wool that look like little houses. You could make an Alpine Christmas village out of yarn and then go to sleep on it. No more words are needed.

If you’re craving some crafty ornithological action then you could do worse than crochet this robin by LittleConkers. It won’t tweet at you from a tree but nor will it poo on your garden furniture.

I am going to make some paper skating children in an old tin. I am.

Take some Golden Grahams or Shreddies, snip some of them into triangles, stick them together with icing, create a miniature Christmas village and EAT IT LIKE GODZILLA.

Finally, wrist warmers. One of these was crocheted during the soothing craft nights I mentioned in last month’s Making Winter. I was relaxed and full of hedgerow gin and cake. The other was hooked up in spare minutes between mopping small poorly brows in recent pestilence-ridden weeks. I sought solace in the calm of the hook and yarn. They’re made with the floofiest, chunkiest, ethically-sourced Alpaca/Merino yarn (“Plump” by Mrs Moon) and a hook the size of a walking stick (10mm). This means that there are FAR fewer stitches to make and the wrist warmers grow quickly. If you’d like to give them a try please email me at [email protected] and I can send you the pattern.

I find that the blue-arsed fly/crazed-hamster-wheel feeling of the next couple of weeks can be soothed and cheered by the decorations themselves and a spot of handmade electronic retail therapy. If you experience feelings of festive rage then perhaps indulge in some sweary cross stitch for your own wall. It’s Christmas cursing craft therapy. Alternatively, make a teeny tiny cottage out of Shreddies and icing and pretend you are hiding there until January with your friend the crochet robin.

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Written by Emma Mitchell

I make things, mostly out of silver, sometimes out of wool. I’m never too far from a bottle of PVA glue.