I have been very absent from this blog through December and the reason has been, that every spare minute has been spent making Christmas gifts.
We have a simple Christmas. It has been a gradual process through the years – when I was a child Christmas meant sackfuls of presents and rich foods that were so numerous, they lasted through New Year. These days, Christmas giving is a few small, but thoughtful gifts and just enough food to last a couple of days. We all prefer it that way and the emphasis is put on enjoying the preparations beforehand and spending time together.
Even so, December is a busy time! A few small gifts for five children, still mounts up to quite a lot and there are presents to make for close friends and family too. Mix in decorations, wrapping paper, Christmas crackers and cards and it has meant that my hands have not stopped all month. Every spare minute has been spent making. I haven’t been on my own though, Matt (my husband), has been busy making some of the children’s gifts and our kids have made so many lovely things for family and to brighten up the house through this dark month.
The added challenge to making our Christmas, is only using what we have. We are fortunate, that we all enjoy making all year round, so we have stores of scraps from other projects. Also this year, I have learnt to use natural materials in my crafts as well.
I was very glad to have collected and processed the honeysuckle vine from our garden earlier in the year, as it proved to be perfect for our 10yr old’s present. I know that she very much wants a cage for her snowy owl softie. She is a big Harry Potter fan and it was great to be able to make one for her. I know that she will be so pleased with it.
The skills that I have learnt this year, were also put to good use making decorations for friends and family. I have particularly loved that so many of the things that I have made for Christmas this year, have been made with natural materials. I look back to trying to have an eco-conscious Christmas before we moved up to the Orkney Islands and remember finding it much harder.
Many of the other things that I have made this year, have been created out of tiny scraps of felt. I would recommend always keeping even the tiniest scraps of felt from craft and sewing projects. It’s amazing how many of them turn out to be just what you need later on!
I have made tiny embroidered birds to pop into stockings and badges and a little pocket pal, to put into Christmas crackers. I realised while I was making these, how much faster I have got at making through this past year. It seems that the action of making, (no matter what you are making with) every day, gives a swiftness and competency to your hands, that is transferable to any craft.
I found that what might have taken me weeks to complete in the past, got done over just a few evenings.
It was also really nice to spend some time sewing. I love the work that I am doing with basketry, but I have loved making stitched things, since I was a child. It has got me thinking – how I can bring that connection to the world around me, that I find in basketry and natural crafts, into sewing projects? So I have added dyeing and making felt to my list of things to learn in 2021!
Matt and I also got the chance to work together on some little stocking gifts for our children. I wanted to give them each a weaving star, to use with some cotton thread, that a fellow islander had kindly given us. Matt made the stars out of some scrap wood and I dyed some cotton bags that we had, with willow bark. I added some shibori patterns to the front. I am really interested in the art of shibori dyeing, but I haven’t had much time to work on it this year and I have a lot to learn! So I just kept it simple. Another thing to make time for, in 2021!
But for me, one of the greatest pleasures about making this Christmas, has been watching our kids spend the afternoons creating gifts and decorations, while humming, singing and chatting. It really sums up our first whole year in the Orkney Islands. Working together, living simply, using what we have, having fun together and making – not just crafts, but also a life together on a small island.
I know that many people are finding Christmas difficult this year, with families unable to get together as they might usually do. I know that the year ahead of us looks like it will be a challenging one for everybody, but however you are celebrating this December, I hope that you find joy in the little things and most importantly in each other!