Hi all, massive sorrys this week as I’m afraid I went away for the weekend. Working full time again and running out of my little stash of ready posts has meant that I’m empty handed so far as new ideas go this week.
BUT, fear not, for I have now been blogging for two whooooole years. I also quite like Christmas. Here are a few ideas from the last couple of years to keep you ticking over until next week.
This half term holiday I had promised two little friends of mine a day in my London pad. They were very excited and had all kinds of crafty plans and ideas to keep us busy.
When thinking about what we could do on a budget, I remembered learning how to sew when not much older than them.
I was pretty impressed with these two; by the end they were using the sewing machine unaided (although for their parents’ benefit – heavily supervised!)
This is a great little project for beginners of any age, but for the reference of anyone planning to do this with children, these two are 7 and 8 and handled it very well. It would certainly be doable if you don’t have a machine too.
You will need
Elasticated hair bands
Needle and thread (or a sewing machine)
Cut two lengths of fabric, one 7cm x 22cm and the other 3.5 cm x 12 cm.
Sew a small hem along the long edges as shown above.
When doing this with the girls they used the foot while I guided it through at first, then I took a turn with the foot so they could guide, then they took the helm altogether.
Join the larger piece with right sides facing. Turn it through so the right sides are showing.
Lie the smaller strip down, right side facing upwards. Place the larger piece on top with the seam running down the centre.
Pop the hairband on top.
Loop the smaller strip of fabric through the hair band and squeeze it all together. Don’t worry too much about the shape of the bow for now, plenty of time to sort that out later.
Sew across the smaller piece of fabric as close to main body of the bow as your machine will allow. That being said, if you are hand sewing (and therefore have a bit more control) do leave a little wiggle room.
Chop off the excess fabric.
Turn the loop the right way round and attach it to some hair.
You might remember my mentioning I went on a little trip to Germany recently? I went a-visiting a wonderful little family who I miss very much. Capitalising on their crafty house guest there were some birthday preparations to be done. So aside from baking over 70 cupcakes (very popular little chap) there was the small matter of inviting other little people to come and eat them.
They were throwing a garden party with lots of traditional German party games, I really wish I’d have stuck around a bit longer to join in! So Mr Freddie and I crafted some invites that were fun and festive and will adapt to any theme or themeless party you’ve got going on.
You will need
A4 Card/thick paper (one per guest and an extra for the birthday boy/girl)
Draw round the template onto each piece of card and cut out a hat for each guest, not forgetting one for the birthday boy or girl.
Use a hole punch or something sharp poke holes in each hat (as marked on the template).
Using an open pair of scissors and a ruler score along the dotted line to create a flap.
Decorate! Use your (or your child’s) imagination, Freds and I used foam shapes, stickers and glitter that mummy already had in stock. We also cut some shapes out from the left over card so as not to waste anything.
You can use whatever you can get your hands on, cut outs from old magazines/buttons/feathers/draw pictures or each child’s name. Your only limit is the attention span of the child in question!
(don’t decorate the flap)
Cut two lengths of string for each hat. Use the child you already have in stock to get an idea of length, you need to be able to tie a bow under their chins. Doing it this way rather than one loop means they are adjustable for each guest.
Add the party details on the other side and voila! Your hats are ready to give out. Each guest is in charge of assembling their hat and bringing it with them to the party (worth having one or two spare just in case!)
To stick together just glue the flap (with the hat right side up) and stick underneath the opposite edge.
Continuing with the festive theme, here’s an idea for some stocking fillers; an afternoon’s entertainment for the kiddies; affordable presents for their little friends (or yours for that matter); or a little Christmas cheer to hand out at work.
These little chaps are fun and easy to make, and the best thing is there’s no need for any special equipment, just a little imagination! Even if you don’t have any of that, you can find a link to a template at the end of this post. No excuses!
A quick tip:
Try to time this activity between bursts of central heating, as chocolate doesn’t love an unexpected change in temperature (it’s sort of like your granny in that way). If you have the heating on constantly, that’s ok, but try to do this in the coolest spot in your house.
Things you need:
Chocolate (I used 300g of each milk and white)
Candy chips (for a splash of colour, but read on for more info!)
A couple of piping bags (sandwich bags will work too)
Cellophane or Greaseproof paper
Lolly sticks or equivalent
Draw your characters.
This isn’t absolutely essential, you can go freestyle if you prefer, but I’m a touch OCD so I drew mine out first. The more rounded the shapes are and the less you have sticking out the better. The roundness for ease of making, the closer everything is and the less delicate, the lower the risk of arms and legs snapping off.
Once you have a couple of designs you are happy with, trace several copies onto greaseproof paper. Do this in pen so it’s nice and clear.
Either turn the sheet over to make your lollies straight onto the greaseproof, or, if you want a shiny back to your lollies you will need to get your hands on some cellophane/acetate to place over the top. I had a roll of florists wrapping stuff from a previous project, so I used that, but if you can’t find any/don’t want to buy some you can use shiny plastic wallets instead.
It’s chocolate time! I got basics bars for 30p a pop. You might want to splash out a little more if you’re doing this for the grown ups, but for littles it makes this a really cheap and cheerful craft, and this way it’s not a problem if more ends up on them/in their mouths than on the lollies!
Hold a little bit back (50g or so), and break the rest up into a microwaveable bowl. It’s not a sin to melt your chocolate in the microwave, and let’s be honest, who can be bothered boiling a pan of water?! You DO need to keep a close eye on it though. Put it on for about 30 secs to begin with, and then 5-10 second bursts stirring in between, don’t get impatient here, it turns so quickly.
Once you have it just melted, chop the other 50g into relatively small chunks and stir until melted, don’t put it back in the microwave – the warmth of the other chocolate will melt it in a couple of minutes.
This is my nod towards tempering (a technique that makes the chocolate shiny and gives it a snap). Don’t worry too much about this, it’s supposed to be fun, if you want to be more precise about tempering then have a google, there’s loads of advice out there, but I won’t bore you any further here.
Put your piping bag over the edges of a glass and pour in the chocolate. If you don’t have a piping bag (or don’t know how to make one) then you can use some good quality sandwich bags. The bigger these are the better, and remember you will need to tilt it diagonally to snip off one of the corners so don’t overfill it!
Pick up at the edges and twist to avoid the choc exploding out the wrong end of the bag.
Pipe the lollies.
Starting in the middle of each section point the piping bag straight down and squeeze gently. The chocolate should spread out pretty evenly from the centre (hence the better the rounder). Don’t be afraid to use quite a lot for a nice chunky lolly.
Once you’ve got the basic shape and are fairly close to the edges, make a sort of stirring motion in the chocolate to push it out a little bit more until it reaches the sides.
Pipe the wings, be careful not to lift the piping bag too far away from the surface or you will lose control of the flow of chocolate.
Put the lolly stick in.
Drop onto the thickest part of the shape and twist gently so that it is covered completely.
I used some wooden BBQ skewers that we had left over from the summer, I chopped them in half with branch clippers. Most craft or cooking shops (and even supermarkets) now sell packs of lolly sticks. As ever, you will find them cheaper online if you have the time to order them, or be resourceful with what you have – you don’t have to use sticks at all.
Use a cocktail stick to pop any bubbles and tease out any features of your shape that you couldn’t make right with all that chocolate gushing out of the piping bag.
Cocktail sticks are your best friends when it comes to craft of any kind. Seriously.
Leave the milk chocolate to set at room temperature until it is touch dry. That is, when you can touch it gently and nothing comes off on your finger. Now it’s time to pipe on the penguin’s face and belly, using the same techniques as before.
Creature features. Ok, so this is where is all went a bit wrong for me. I’ve seen these candy chips all over the internet, mainly used to cover cake pops and the like, so I thought they’s be perfect for this project. Well after forking out a small fortune, I found them a bit of a nightmare to pipe, hence the rather wobbly scarves and beaks!
A tip – don’t be tempted to put food colouring in your chocolate as an alternative – it either splits it or seizes it up. In most supermarket home baking aisles you can find strawberry and orange flavoured buttons, though you have less colour choice, I have no doubt that they would be a bit easier to work with. Either that or you could use dark chocolate, or perhaps you know something I don’t about working with these chips – answers on a postcard please.
Whatever you choose to use, pipe the feet onto a spare spot on your acetate, they will dry really quickly (part of the problem with piping this stuff). Just flip the little things over and press them onto the white chocolate while it’s still wet. Pipe the scarves straight onto the lollies, you might want to let the chocolate set first.
Wait until the white layer is touch dry and put in the fridge to set completely. It is important you wait for this, so your lollies will be shiny and won’t melt at room temperature – no one wants a melted snowman in their stocking!
Once they have set, tie a little ribbon to the stick and store in a blacked out tin in a cool dry place until you want to re-home them. You might want to get your hands on some cellophane bags to present them in, just put the lolly into the bag face first and tie around the stick.
When it comes to Christmas I’m still a massive kid. Waking up in the morning and realising there’s a choccie waiting downstairs is just about enough for me to drag myself out of bed on dark winter mornings.
There’s a problem though right? Advent calendars are either ridiculously pricey, or really rubbish quality. So here’s a way round that. It keeps the kids (or you) busy all afternoon and is actually something worth getting out of bed for.
Things you need:
Egg Box (or two)
Box of your favourite chocs
Glitter/Wrapping Paper/Bits to decorate with
Prepare your egg box. I got mine from a local café where they use a heck of a lot of eggs. These ones are the best because the raised bits are level with the side of the box.
If you aren’t lucky enough to find someone who uses these, you just need to get two 12 packs of eggs (ask your neighbours/colleagues to save them). You will need to chop the raised dividing things so that they are level with the box. Keep the first box in tact, cut the second in two and stick the egg holding section into the lid of the first.
Me? I just had to snip off a line of 6 so I had my 24. It’s definitely worth trying to get hold of one of these.
Tip all of your chocolates out, and choose your favourite 24. There’s loads of offers on these at the moment, the ones I used were £2 a box. I’m afraid I didn’t count how many there are, but I got two to be safe and they would have easily done two calendars. There might be a bit of compromise needed if you have two little ones! I got to choose all the best ones just for me.
You could also buy a block of chocolate/box of malteasers and wrap individual portions in tinfoil.
Fill your egg box, trying to make sure the sweets don’t go above the top of the highest points. A bit of extra twisting and poking required.
Put a dab of glue on each of the divider thingys. Cover with two sheets of tissue, making sure that there’s enough overlapping the sides for turning under later.
Make sure to press the tissue down on each spot of glue, you don’t want to be ripping two days off accidentally. It’s ok if it seeps through a bit.
Set to one side to dry; no need to worry about the loose tissue around the edge for now.
Unfold the chocolate box (or use a cereal box instead if you went along the malteaser route). Find something that’s smaller than the egg gap to draw round. Make sure you have 24 and cut them out. If you are doing this with very small people you may want to do this part in advance.
Plonk yourself down in front of a Christmas film with a box of glitter and pens and let your imagination run wild. The best thing about these is that any age or ability can do one and it doesn’t matter what it looks like, Christmas is meant to be a bit kitsch!
Who doesn’t still love a bit of glitter at Christmas?! A cocktail stick will help you keep numbers really neat.
For any little ones (or bigger ones) who don’t like drawing or experimenting, wrapping paper is quick, easy, and effective.
Turn over your egg box and secure the overlapping tissue to the bottom – great practice for all that present wrapping in a few weeks.
Use PVA to stick all your circles to the spaces above the chocolates. I also decided to stick some buttons and ribbons to mine.