From bespoke candles to hand-infused gin, we’ve got you covered.
Who hasn’t aspired to give the perfect personalised gift? Unfortunately during the festive season, time and creativity seem to slow to a trickle. No fear; Stylist’s guide to handcrafting your Christmas will finally enable you to whip up the Pinterest-worthy presents you’ve always dreamed of. Scissors at the ready…
Print your own Christmas cards
By Jane Gois of Tea and Crafting
What you’ll need: A lino printing kit (most include lino cutters and rollers), blank white cards, craft ink pads (all from amazon.co.uk).
Step 1: Plan your design. Stick to large, simple shapes at first. Christmas trees are simple but festive and can be embellished after you’ve done your printing. If you’re feeling adventurous, try a snowflake or an angel design.
Step 2: Draw your design on the lino material in pencil or if you aren’t confident drawing freehand, trace an image onto tracing paper and place the drawn side on top of the lino. Then using your pencil, rub the design onto the lino by shading over your entire design – this will transfer the pencil lead onto the lino. If you do this with normal paper rather than tracing paper, make sure you shade where your design is as you won’t be able to see through to check. When you remove your sheet of paper the design should have rubbed onto the lino.
Step 3: Don’t worry if it’s only transferred lightly as you can now easily go over it again with your pencil to make it easier to see.
Step 4: Using your lino-cutting tool, carve out your design. Remember, always carve away from yourself and never towards. Carve away the lino outside of your drawing so that your design stays raised and untouched. Don’t worry about getting the carving perfect. Imperfection only adds to the character of a design.
Step 5: Dab your lino on your ink pad so that it picks up the colour.
Step 6: Pressing hard, use the ink roller to print the design on your card. Peel back the lino carefully then leave to dry. Embellish the print if desired.
Infuse your own gin
by Aimee Twigger of Twigg Studios
What you’ll need: Good quality distilled vodka (try Ketel One) and the ingredients to flavour it. For every 250ml of vodka you need 1 tbsp juniper berries. This is your basic ingredient to make vodka into gin. Other additions will give you slightly different variations. For a festive gin, add five green cardamom pods, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp dried lemongrass, 1 strip orange peel (minus the white pith which makes it bitter), half a cinnamon stick and half a stick of liquorice root for every 250ml of base alcohol.
Step 1: Fill a bottle with the vodka and all the other ingredients. The list above isn’t exhaustive – feel free to add your own ingredients to taste. A combination of fresh ginger, cranberries and rosemary will work just as well.
Step 2: Leave it in a cool, dark place for two to three weeks to infuse, giving the bottle a gentle shake every other day. Don’t worry if it changes colour – it’s the cinnamon. Once ready, mix with tonic and enjoy.
Fold your own festive decorations
By Sam Tsang of Mindful Origami
What you need: One-sided square green paper, yellow paper 30cm-long, ruler, scissors, PVC glue.
Print your own gift wrap
By Keziah Brown of Heaps and Stacks
What you’ll need: Cookie cutters in your chosen shape, acrylic paints, brown parcel paper (ryman.co.uk), three large potatoes, kitchen roll, a sharp vegetable knife.
Step 1: Cut parcel paper into 60cm lengths.
Step 2: Weigh the paper down at each end.
Step 3: If you want multicoloured paper, create a background for your design by spray painting it first. Leave to dry. For a rustic design just print directly onto brown paper.
Step 4: Cut a potato in half and then press a cookie cutter into it. Cut around the shape removing chunks of the potato until the edges of the cookie cutter are exposed.
Step 5: Blot the potato with kitchen roll to remove as much moisture as possible
Step 6: Remove the cookie cutter, paint the face of the design, blot away excess and stamp onto the paper. Repaint the stamper after every three stamps.
Make bespoke confetti crackers
by Zeena Shah of Zeena
What you need: 1 x A4 cracker template (widely available online), A4 sheets of paper, toilet roll tubes, scalpel and cutting mat, twine, ribbon or string, double-sided tape or glue, pencil, ruler, scissors, confetti. Remember to cut and score the paper so they hold beautifully. Optional: Cracker bang (amazon.co.uk).
Step 1: Lay the template on top of the paper.
Step 2: Use a scalpel to cut and score the lines marked on the template and then fold along the scored lines. Cut out, removing diamond areas.
Step 3: Place double-sided tape along one of the long edges.
Step 4: Stick one cracker bang and toilet roll to the middle of the cracker using tape or glue.
Step 5: Roll up the cracker and stick the long edges together with the double-sided tape.
Step 6: Tie one end of the cracker with twine.
Step 7: Fill the cracker with confetti before closing up the open end with twine as before.
Create a herbal wreath
By Hannah Bullivant, interiors stylist
What you’ll need: Clematis, grape, ivy or honeysuckle vines (50-100cm should be enough for the base) or a pre-bought vine base (theessentialscompany.co.uk; christmas-wreath.co.uk), floral wire (ebay.co.uk), ribbon, secateurs, evergreen branches and fresh bunches of herbs (such as rosemary or thyme as they last a while and smell great) from your garden or online (herbsandflowers.co.uk).
Step 1: Make your base if you aren’t opting for a pre-bought one. To do this, strip leaves off the length of vine and begin twisting it into a circle, tucking the end of the vine around the start of the vine. Wrap further vines around it and tuck the ends in. Keep going, securing with wire if necessary. Make sure you always start from a different place and wind in the same direction.
Step 2: Trim your evergreen branches to around 15cm. One by one, attach the branches to the base by tying them with the floral wire. Make sure that they all face in the same direction for continuity. Once you have covered two thirds of the base, stop.
Step 3: Wire together 5-6 stems of fresh herbs, then immediately attach to the base. Hide the wire holding the bundle together by attaching it somewhere discreetly, for example underneath the top layer of vine. Repeat with further bunches of herbs, again ensuring that they all face in the same direction.
Step 4: Trim any wayward bits or tidy them up by wiring them down to the wreath base.
Step 5: Attach ribbon to the top and hang.
Hand-pour a bespoke candle
By Rachel Vosper, candle maker
Step 1: If you are re-using a vessel that contains the ends of a previous candle, put the container in the freezer overnight. Then shake out the wax and warm to room temperature.
Step 2: Fill your chosen vessel with pellets to gauge how many you need. Pour these into your melting pan. Fill the vessel again, this time leaving a 1cm gap at the top. Pour these into your melting pan with the others.
Step 3: Gently melt the wax pellets over a medium heat.
Step 4: Dip the wick into the wax, then remove and wait a few moments for it to dry.
Step 5: Add essential oils or fragrances to your melted wax.
Step 6: Carefully pour the wax into your teacup or vessel of choice.
Step 7: The primed wick should have dried by now. Guide it into the container, using a needle to push it firmly into the wax, which, by now, will already be starting to set. Although this can be tricky, it is vital to get it right in the centre of the candle, so the heat spreads evenly when the wick burns.
Step 8: Leave the candle to set overnight then package up as a gift or enjoy for yourself.
Gift someone a terrarium
By Lizzie Evans for SMUG x London Terrariums
What you’ll need: ‘Tub and basket’ compost, stones and plants (available at your local garden centre), activated charcoal (available from health food stores), a large clear-glass container (such as an old Mason jar), moss (collected from your garden or bought from a garden centre), an old cork from a wine bottle, a fork.
Step 1: Pick your plants. For an open terrarium like this one you’ll need desert plans, such as cacti and succulents that like a dry, arid environment. However, if you’ve chosen a closed terrarium, use tropical jungle plants such as ferns, ivy and palms which are self-sustaining.
Step 2: Add a layer of stones to your terrarium vessel to provide a false drainage, which stops the compost getting too moist.
Step 3: Add a layer of activated charcoal onto the stones. This acts as a water purifier, preventing the build-up of mould or algae.
Step 4: Add the compost on top. Pat it down until you have a perfectly flat level. This will need to be a few inches high so that there is enough room for the roots but also sufficient space above the compost for the plants to grow. If your hands don’t fit inside the vessel, put the cork on the end of the fork and use that to pat it down instead.
Step 5: Make time to plan where you want to put each plant first. Remove them gently from their pots so that you don’t bruise the roots and make a big enough hole to accommodate the roots. As a rule of thumb, always make the hole double the size (width and length) of the roots. Cover the roots and the hole with compost and pat down to secure the plants – use tweezers if your hand doesn’t fit.
Step 6: Continue adding plants, moss and stones until you are happy with how it looks. If you want to add a festive twist, try adding dark green ivy (which works in closed or open terrariums).
Step 7: Once everything is planted, spritz the plants 5-10 times with water using a spray bottle. Position the terrarium somewhere it has direct access to sunlight. If your terrarium is open, make sure you spray it with water once a week (when you notice the soil is dry or leaves are drooping). For a closed terrarium check for condensation in the glass. If large droplets appear, leave the top open for a while before closing again.
Design a pressed flower frame
by I Made It Myself
Step 1: Choose your flowers and foliage. Flowers with only a few layers of petals such as pansies or violas work best as they can be pressed completely flat. You can either buy them pre-dried or press your own. To do this, pick fresh flowers, ensure they are completely dry, lay them out between two sheets of blotting paper and put inside a heavy book. Leave them for 2-3 weeks until the paper has absorbed all the moisture and they are ready to use.
Step 2: Plan your design. It’s best to lay it out before you commit to glue, so draw an outline of the frame on some white paper and decide on your arrangement by laying the flowers on the page. Place the foliage first and then the flowers so that they don’t get hidden, arranging them in collections of odd numbers for the most aesthetically pleasing result. Space these clusters out evenly, mixing shapes, textures and colours.
Step 3: Once you’ve finalised your design, replicate it in your frame. It’s best to use tweezers to pick up the flowers as they are so delicate.
Step 4: Pick up the flowers and foliage one piece at a time from the frame and using a cocktail stick, dab a blob of PVA glue on the back of thickest part then stick it down onto the glass in the same place (it will dry clear). Step 5: Close the frame and add a ribbon at the top.
Bake edible tree decorations
by Xanthe Milton of Cookie Girl
What you’ll need: Mixing bowl or electric mixer, wooden spoon, rolling pin, greaseproof paper, bauble cookie cutters (available at dotcomgiftshop.com), baking tray, electric whisk, palette knife, disposable piping bags, ribbon, chopstick.
To make the cookie dough (makes 15-20) 350g plain flour,100g self-raising flour, 125g sugar, 125g cold butter, cubed, 125g golden syrup, 1 large egg.
Step 1: Mix together the flours and the sugar. Use your fingertips to rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and add the syrup and egg. Mix well and then turn the dough onto a clean work surface. Mould the mixture into a ball and divide it into two even sized discs. Try to handle the dough as little as possible – biscuits come out heavy when they are overworked. Wrap in cling film and chill for half an hour or until ready to use.
Step 2: Preheat the oven to 170°C (Gas Mark 3). Then roll out each disc between two pieces of greaseproof paper until they are 5mm thick. Use your cutters to cut out a variety of bauble shapes. Space them out on a baking paper-lined oven tray and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are golden brown.
Step 3: Use the end of a chopstick to create the hole for the ribbon while the dough is still soft on the thickest part of the biscuit so that they don’t break later. Leave the cookies to cool fully (approximately two hours) before you ice and decorate them.
To make the icing: 150ml cold water, 900g royal icing mix, food colour paste. Optional: edible lace, lustre dust, cherub moulds, fondant icing (all available online from thecakedecoratingcompany.co.uk).
Step 1: Make your spreading icing by whisking the water and icing sugar together with an electric whisk for five minutes on a low speed. Add water a drop or two at a time until it is thin enough to spread. Once mixed, leave it in a bowl covered with a damp cloth for 15 minutes.
Step 2: Split the icing into a different bowl for each colour you plan to use. Add food colouring to each bowl. Use a palette knife to spread a layer across the biscuit and, while still wet, add on sprinkles and adornments such as lustre dust or fondant icing pressed into cherub shapes if you’re using them.
Step 3: Once the icing has set, repeat step 1, but this time you’re aiming for icing that has the consistency of toothpaste – this is ideal for piping. Pipe dots of contrasting colour using this thicker icing. To do this, rest your arm on the table to keep it steady. If you’re struggling to pipe intricate designs, you can cheat and buy edible lace to decorate your biscuits with. Once the icing has dried, attached ribbons and hang.
Images: Dennis Pedersen
This article was originally published 18 November 2016