I love the days and weeks in the buildup to Christmas, Mid-winter, and the turning of the year. As the days grow ever darker, and the weather ever more unpleasant, I find that I am soothed by the warmth of the kitchen, and the rituals of making and baking, creating and decorating.
In years past, I’ve spent these weeks in a frenzy of knitting, needles whizzing at speed as I tried to complete gifts in time for Christmas. Lately, though, I am drawn to a different kind of craft. Simple, natural, ephemeral projects, using found or seasonal items, to celebrate this magical time of year. Each year, I make a wreath for our front door, raiding the garden, and foraging from the hedgerow for greenery, rosehips and Clematis Vitalba (Old Man’s Beard). This year’s wreathes are here and here, and last year’s here (I never seem to be quite organised enough to photograph them for the blog, though I should try to.)
For the Christmas tree, we’ve been stringing garlands of cranberries. By far the prettiest sort of tinsel, these glossy ruby-red jewels. Cranberries, cut in half, are also perfect for printing with (a trick I learned from amazing Jessica Lewis Stevens – if you don’t follow her on Instagram, you should do. Her creative family life in Vermont is the stuff of dreams.) We’ve been making wrapping paper, and printing matching gift tags too.
One of the most special things about this time of year is family traditions, the small and large. With this in mind, I’m sharing once again some of the craft projects that find their way into my preparations year after year.
First up, and not technically a craft project, Gingerbread Latte Syrup. After some kitchen experimentation last year, I devised this gorgeous spiced syrup and blogged the recipe. I was delighted to hear that my friend Katy liked it so much that she’s made a batch for gifts this year. (And presented it beautifully too, do go and have a peek.)
Another annual favourite are Orange Peel Star Garlands. Quick, simple and cheap to make, they look pretty, smell delicious, and amazingly, last for years on end. You’ll find the tutorial here.
Finally, and rather appropriately for me, pinecone firelighters. I’ve been making them for years now, and it’s always so satisfying, heading out on a walk to gather the pinecones, opening them with the magic of a warm oven, and then filling the kitchen with wintery scents as they are coated in wax laced with essential oils. I love to keep a basket of them beside the fire, ready to add a spicy aroma and a pleasing crackle to any blaze. The tutorial for them is here.
What are your favourite natural crafting activities at this time of year? Do share – I’m always looking for fresh crafty ideas…