Solving puzzles is good for the brain!26th August 2015
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The slower approach to life
But as life gets faster, and as we spend more and more time in front of our screens both for work and for pleasure, so the small things – the things that take our time, our attention and our skill – become more important and more valuable.
Think about it. When was the last time you received a hand-written letter, or even a postcard? When was the last time you wrote more than your signature with a pen and paper? Our children’s classrooms may be stocked with iPads and laptops, but our libraries are closing. And what does this mean for handmade crafts?
Advertising man and founding creative partner at Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH) Sir John Hegarty says one of his key ways of being more creative is “When the world zigs, zag – look in the opposite direction to everyone else.” And there’s a growing tide of people doing just that, moving against the flow of technology and rediscovering the joys of crafting, sewing, crochet and beading and in conjunction, a whole range of magazine and publications are being produced to support, educate and unite them.
Christmas is the perfect time to rediscover these joys. For many of us it’s a chance to think about connecting with people we haven’t seen or spoken to all year and to show our affection in the form of a handcrafted card or gift.
Time and talent, direct to your doormat
From late October through to late December, supermarket shelves groan under the weight of boxes of Christmas cards. Generic photographs of robins and paintings of Victorian-era Father Christmases with bright red costumes stare out as you pass down the aisles before landing on your doormat with a thud, only to land in the recycling bin a few weeks later. Which is exactly why opening a unique and original handmade card from a friend at Christmas can be a lovely thing to receive, to keep and to treasure.
From festive themed die stamps and embossing frames to decoupage tips and wonderful ways with washi tape, card making in 2015 is a delicate and elaborate skill. Publications like Papercraft Essentials and Simply Cards and Papercraft allow readers to download templates and stencils, along with free font collections for added personalisation options. Last Christmas Cross Stitch Crazy magazine featured free patterns for an angel design card, Christmas animal cuties cards and an advent stocking.
For lovers of Pergamano, the delicate art of parchment craft, there’s a whole magazine, Parchment Craft, dedicated to its creation, with contributions from designers and artists all over the world and ways to create highly detailed Christmas stars and angels to use on Christmas cards or to frame and give as gifts.
You’ve been framed
And, when it comes to framing, there are almost no limits as to what can be presented, either as a picture or within a boxed frame. Traditional samplers of cross stitch or fine embroidery can commemorate a special occasion or memory, and treasures like outgrown baby shoes and clothes can be captured forever behind glass.
Sparkle and shine with handmade gifts
From delicate bracelets to Christmas tree ornaments there’s no end to the presents that can be created with beadwork. Magazine Beads and Buttons teaches readers a whole range of beading skills, from how to make pendants from shibori silk to how to create tubular chains and bead crochet.
Examples of Christmas gifts include beaded decoration covers to add a layer of sparkle to Christmas baubles and cross-stitch patterned Christmas angel tree decorations. Beadwork magazine explores wire working, off-loom bead weaving and beading embroidery, with instructions on how to make beaded cuff bracelets, convertible jewellery and seed beaded bangles that would make ideal stocking fillers or gifts that could easily be posted.
Knitting, crochet and sewing skills
Staying on the theme of gifts that can be worn, handmade clothing is also increasing in popularity, particularly as it offers an alternative to the generic fast fashion available on the high street. Inside Crochet is the UK’s only publication to focus on the skill and art of crochet and has a wide range of patterns for beautiful Christmas gifts, from cushion covers and lace shawls to waterfall cardigans and even crochet-your-own Moomin dolls for the children – or nostalgic adults – in your life.
Designer Knitting features patterns by international designers for elegant and versatile items that would be welcomed as handmade gifts. From cable knit mittens to a turtleneck cowl to keep out the winter chills, the magazine offers a trend led approach to knitwear for the more experienced knitter.
Prima magazine has a whole section dedicated to Christmas crafts with sewing patterns for fancy dress outfits, Santa sacks and festive felt decorations.
Home is where the hearth is
Christmas crafts are a wonderful way to decorate your home in the festive season, both to make your guests feel at home and welcome and to help create a party spirit. Think about the colours you want to surround yourself with, whether there’s a theme or an era you wish to evoke and consider how much time you have to bring it all together. If you have the time, Christmas decorations, table settings and festive foods can all be made by hand and given as gifts to friends too.
First impressions last
One of the first things that your guests will see as they come to your home is your front door. Make a statement with a beautifully designed and crafted Christmas wreath, using fresh, dried or artificial flowers to match the colour scheme you’ve chosen inside, some natural raffia string, cinnamon sticks and pine cones.
You’ll need an oasis foam wreath, a selection of florist’s pins, a metre of florist’s wire, around two metres of ribbon and the flowers and foliage of your choice, together with some strong, sharp scissors.
How to make a Christmas wreath:
- Soak the oasis foam in cold water for around 10 minutes.
- Start to cut strips of foliage to create the base layer for your wreath
- Strip one end of the foliage to reveal a stick that can be inserted into the oasis
- Start to insert the foliage into the wreath in one direction so the strips form a flat base layer of coverage
- Use your florist’s pins to tuck in any stray of overly long pieces of foliage
- Once your base layer is in place, begin to weave in your flowers and berries, using the florist’s pins to secure them in place
- Add a length of ribbon to form a loop or a bow for hanging your wreath
- Wrap two or three cinnamon sticks together with raffia string and use a twist of florist’s wire to secure the bundles in place around your wreath
- Add a length of ribbon in either a loop or in a quilted criss-cross style to help keep your decorations in place
Crafts to treasure
Decorations around the house, like a festive tea cosy, add a special something to a table laid with mince pies and Christmas cake, as do Christmas print napkins and quilted place mats.
Christmas stockings and advent calendars are beautiful things to make and bring out year after year as heirlooms for your own family and for friends. A baby’s first Christmas is always especially memorable and a homemade Christmas bib can become a cherished souvenir. Older children may appreciate something a little more practical, like a hand-made hot water bottle cover to help keep them warm in the cold winter months.
Oh, Christmas tree
Effective and elegant tree decorations can be made from paper – like snowflakes or origami stars; sewn – like felt Christmas puddings or snowmen; baked from salt dough – to make baubles and people’s initials or even created from fruit – like dried orange slices or pine cones. The joy of making your own decorations is that they are truly personal and unique and can be added to every year. Even the star on the top of the tree can be personalised and made from woven twigs, origami, beaded wire or colourful fabric bias tape.
Enjoy spending some time using your hands to create a range of individual gifts and items for your own home with the wide range of crafts that are available. Watch your friend’s faces light up as they realise that not only did you give them a beautiful handmade gift, you gave them your time. And that’s a precious thing, at any time of the year.