A spot of Christmas crafting

Last week, I made a vat of mulled wine, warmed some mince pies and welcomed six school mums round to make a ton of wreaths to sell at our school Christmas fair.

Wreaths are a great PTA fundraiser. We sell ours for £8 each and forage all of the greenery, holly and pine cones ourselves, meaning all we have to purchase are wire rings, moss, wire and ribbon. This year we sprayed some of our cones silver and added mini baubles too, but overall, our costs were under £35 and we made over £300 so a tidy little profit for a couple of nights’ work.

If you’re planning a bit of a festive fundraiser next year, this is how we make our wreaths. Note: it is essential to drink mulled wine and eat as many mince pies and/or chocolates as you work…

Step 1: mossing

We split the jobs over two nights, mossing all the wire rings on the first evening. Working around your ring, you push clumps of moss onto the circular base and secure them by looping wire around the moss as you go. You’re aiming for a good, solid and slightly bulging mossy ring onto which you’ll then wire your foliage base. Sadly I didn’t take any shots of this stage - too much time spent gassing and eating chocolates - but you will need gardening gloves (the moss is wet and cold) and a pair of scissors or secateurs to cut the wire.

Step 2: adding your base foliage

This is the fun bit. We find that proper fir sprigs are best as they bulk out nicely and make a generous base for all the other bits you add. Fir from leylandii are nice for accent bits, but tend to make a flat and rather sorry looking wreath if that’s all you use so try to forage the real thing if you can. Our haul included spruce and pine branches, sprigs of bay and laurel, variegated and green holly and some gorgeous little bits of evergreen that I don’t know the name of…

Then you simply grab a bit of foliage you like the look of, cut the sprigs into short clumps (about 8cm long) and bunch them together before wiring onto your moss base. Work in a clockwise direction so all your foliage clumps are facing in the same direction and build them up in layers for a nice plump base. Secure the first loop of wire by twisting the two ends around each other and pushing into the mossy base at the back, then you simply loop the wire in and out of the ring, securing your foliage clumps as you go.

Step 3: adding accent foliage

Once you’ve added your base foliage, it’s time to add a bit of adornment. I find adding slightly longer clumps (10cm or so) of holly or another contrasting foliage type in clusters around the base foliage works well. In the image at the top, you can see I’ve added 3 separate clumps of holly, positioned so the berries appear in a rough triangular pattern around the main foliage. Again, you secure these additional bits with wire, pushing the ends into the back of the moss ring.

Step 4: adding pine cones, baubles and bows

We use a lot of pine cones on our wreaths. They’re free, they look wonderful and they can be sprayed for a bit of variety. We wrap stubby lengths of garden twine around the base of each then simply twist them in groups of three into the foliage base of each wreath. 

As well as cones, this year we used mini silver sparkly baubles and matt baubles in all sorts of earthy colours. Matched with a wired ribbon, they looked fab.

Step 5: getting creative with other adornments

We tend to keep our adornments low cost as we want to maximise our PTA profits, but if you were so inclined, adding dried orange and apple slices look wonderful (although you’ll need to be careful to store your wreaths somewhere dry to avoid soggy fruit) and bunches of cinnamon sticks work a treat.

How about candy canes? Or tiny pom poms? The list is endless.

Joining in with Lou’s Nature in the Home series which ever so fortuitously this Wednesday, is all about Christmas wreath making!

Have a very merry Christmas friends

So here it is. Christmas Eve. We have played Scrabble by candlelight whilst listening to the Carols from Kings. Kept my Mum & Dad’s family tradition alive with the Christmas Eve treasure hunt and have left a little snack and a letter out for Father Christmas.

The boys are excited. We are already exhausted. But the turkey is brining (thanks Nigella), Outnumbered is on in an hour and the wine is open.

So all that remains is to wish you and yours a very happy Christmas. Thank you for visiting, reading and commenting on my little blog this year - you are all lovely, kind and supportive people and I am very touched that you have taken an interest in our lives. I look forward to reading about your holidays in the New Year.

See you all on the other side!

Suzie x

Bits and pieces

I have been motoring today! Thought it was best to sum up what we’ve been up to in a little bits and pieces post - after all, it’s been a while.

From top L-R:

Making our teacher presents - we made Christmas chocolates and cupcakes and presented them in jam jars and little boxes. The boys wrote special labels and cards and went into school very proudly this morning.

Whilst they were at school, I wrapped a few presents, hoovered and tidied (that took AGES as it was so long since I last tackled that particular job…) and got things ready for a bit of a making afternoon. It was SO nice not having to work!

When the boys got home, we cracked on with our Christmas to do list - we iced our Christmas cake, made mince pies and sausage rolls, hung some more decorations from the French windows in the kitchen and made fake snow.

Feeling a bit better about that to do list now…

Gingerbread house making

A bit of respite from the end-of-year work madness this weekend to take the boys to ice-skating parties, football training, Elf-watching (the film not the helpers) and gingerbread house making.

We cheated and used kits - these are from Ikea and are great. They cost a whopping £2.49 and are just the right size. In previous years, we’ve spent a fortune on massive slabs of gingerbread that are a bit too heavy to hold together properly and make a mansion rather than an enchanted cottage. In the words of Goldilocks, these were just right.

Hello December…

Oh I do love the festive season! Not so much the shopping and the frantic lead up to the school holidays, but more so the tradition, the planning and the gradual gathering of all that is Christmas to us - these are the things that, as the boys get older, mean more and more to me each year.

I think there comes a time in every family’s life when the festive customs you grew up with and held dear as a child are ready to be passed on - with a twist - to your own children and added to with a carefully curated set of new traditions that they will hopefully hold dear and one day pass on to their children.

So this year we’ll be having friends to stay in the weekends leading up to Christmas and taking them ice-skating in a beautiful hilltop location, we’ll make gingerbread decorations and a gingerbread house or two, we’ll paint our own set of Father Christmas Russian dolls, go to the panto and invite our neighbours and friends to join us for cocktails, mince pies and churros dipped in thick chocolate sauce on Christmas Eve.

And then the traditions from my childhood will take over - the carols from Kings, the Christmas Eve treasure hunt that my Mum and Dad used to do for us every year (the last clue was always taped to the underside of the toilet), the smoked salmon and scrambled egg Christmas morning breakfast and the family to lunch on Boxing Day.

Yes, there will be the usual fraught food shopping, the last-minute present wrapping and the inevitable meltdowns along the way, but I for one, can’t wait…

The above shots show how we’ve welcomed December and the start of Advent so far:

∆ Bottle brush trees - oh how I love these, they’re just waiting for a reindeer or two now

∆ I spent a happy evening last night making these whilst watching The Killing (not easy to keep up with the subtitles whilst concentrating on stamping but hey ho…)

∆ Our much-loved Advent house

∆ A special sign for Father Christmas pinned onto the fireplace this year

∆ Ikea advent candles

∆ Another new bauble (I know, I just can’t help myself…)