Homemade Christmas Lovliness

OK, so I’m a bit late with this one but it may go some way to explaining my absence from the blogosphere for the last few months!

Back in September I made a brash decision to make the majority of my Christmas gifts for friends and family with the help of my children. I often describe myself as a ‘time poor crafter’ and although there has always been an element of the homemade in my Christmas efforts, last year I decided to push the limits of seasonal crafting.

There were a few reasons for setting myself this ambitious challenge and once I started to unpick them I realised that I was engaging in a spot of craftivism! I do love Christmas but always feel uncomfortable about the materialism that surrounds it. This feeling has been magnified since having children and as they approach their teenage years I don’t want them to develop an excessive desire to possess more ‘stuff’ than they could possibly need or use.

The other contributing factors were waste and cost. I don’t like waste and it makes me really sad to see beautiful (and expensive) wrapping paper and packaging binned and as I have had to cut back on work to complete my MA funds are tight!

Mum and Dad

Mum and Belinda

When I was seven my parents embraced the Good Life. They had grown up in Birmingham and Wolverhampton and after overdosing on Tom and Barbara decided that we should swop hustle and bustle for a simple life. We moved to a small Lincolnshire village and the adventure began; soon we had rabbits, goats and a sprawling garden filled with home grown produce. One of my earliest memories of this new life was being part of a homemade Christmas card production line. I remember it involved lino printing with oil paint and it being very blue and very messy.

With this memory in my mind I called a meeting of the ‘Project Christmas’ steering committee (me, Abigail and Jude). We decided that we would create hampers by making use of our garden produce. I didn’t inherit the self sufficiency gene from my parents but we had a bountiful crop of apples, a very bushy bay leaf bush and Jude’s greenhouse chillies.

An internet search provided recipes for Christmas chutney, chilli jam, bay leaf infused olive oil and Delia’s Christmas cake; a winning combination. I have four male cousins in their twenties, (one a Drum and Bass DJ), so we decided to substitute edibles for graffiti art in their case.

Christmas Chutney

Chilli Jam

The making mission was epic and quite early on I was haunted by a throw away remark I had made years earlier about a mum at my children’s primary school. She had made mini Christmas cakes in spaghetti tins for the complete staff team and I had concluded that she had far too much time on her hands! The making mission ate up every moment of my spare time; it was relentless and required stamina and dedication. As my car had been towed away for scrap it also involved death defying trips back from Tescos on a bike loaded with bottles of cider vinegar! We also broke the electric whisk and I got what felt like second degree burns on my hands from the chillies.

Jude the Graffiti Artist

Abigail and Jude were willing helpers and by the time the cakes had tipped over into double figures they could follow the recipe without adult intervention. Jude spent a lot of time in the garden painting, splattering and spraying canvas, Abigail became our product brand poster girl posing as a Beaton-esque shooting star and I learnt how to ice a cake!

Inspired by Beaton - Abigail the Shooting Star

The 25 Christmas cakes, 18 jars of chutney, 15 jars of chilli jam, 12 bottles of bay leaf infused oil, 6 graffiti canvases and broach for my mum were all packaged using recycled fabric and trimmings and placed in jute shopping bags and distributed. I definitely underestimated the time involved in Project Christmas but it was a hugely satisfying experience. We have had some lovely thank you letters and there have been no reported cases of botulism which is a bonus.

Jude and Abi's Scrummy Christmas Cake

Button and Bead Broach

I am very grateful to Nigel Blackamore for taking the beautiful photographs of our Christmas Craftivsm over on Flickr.