Wednesday 28 December 2011

Christmas crafting bonanza

As some of you will know, this year I decided to do an entirely handmade selection of Christmas gifts for friends and family. This was partly because I haven't been working for a while and wanted to cut down on spending, but also because I wanted an excuse to try out lots of new crafts! I didn't blog about them at the time of making as I didn't want to spoil it for the recipients, but now that Christmas is over I thought I would show you some of my makes. I'm annoyed that I didn't get round to photographing all of them or getting pictures of them all wrapped up as I put a lot of effort in to the gift wrapping this year with handmade tags, paper and trimmings, but I was in the middle of an international move, so I think I can forgive myself :)

Let the Christmas present showcase commence!

Fabric covered notebook for my niece.

Fimo covered festive spoon and charms.

A joint effort with my boyf: pear vodka and winter spice liqueur for all the men folk.

Cross stitched card for my parents.

Decorated jar of handmade mincemeat for my French friend.

Handmade bracelet with charms for boyf's sister-in-law

Handmade earrings from recycled beads for boyf's sister.

Ribbon hairband for my niece.

Sewing case for my friend.

I really enjoyed doing all the hand sewing. This Russian doll kit was inspired
by  Flossie Teacakes needlecase tutorial.

Personalised cross stitch space invaders purse for another niece. Made from all recycled materials.

My friend Rob pointed me in the direction of this great idea for keeping track of what's in your freezer, which I made for my Mum. I used pictures of food cut out of French and German supermarket special offer brochures, then laminated them and added a self-adhesive magnet to the back. It was a fairly quick and easy make which I would recommend.

There are so many great tutorials and inspiring posts on the internet. Often my own ideas pop into my head, but it's always nice to know there is a range of practical help and projects that you can refer to or adapt whenever you want.

I really enjoyed making all my presents this year and will definitely do it again if I have the time.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Some thoughts on Christmas

As Christmas Day approaches, I find myself in a philosophical/cultural wrangle. What is Christmas exactly and what am I celebrating? I am an atheist/freethinker/humanist (there I've said it! Kind of feels good to get it out in the open) so how can I celebrate Christmas? Over the last few years I have found myself coming to the conclusion that I am celebrating  the festive season, the spirit of joy and good will and coming together with friends and family. I am not celebrating the birth of Jesus, as I do not recognise him as the son of God and also do not believe that there is a God (Christian or otherwise).

I was looking on line a couple of weeks back for some charitable activities I could get involved with in December. Unfortunately they all seem to be run by Christian charities which actively promote Christianity to the recipients of gifts or aid through missionary work. As this does not sit well with me, I started looking for secular alternatives. I was saddened to find that there don't seem to be hardly any. In the US they recently launched a campaign called "Good without God".  I really like this sentiment. Surely, as humans, we all have the capacity for good and if we need a god to tell us to be good, is that really being charitable and caring about our fellow humans?

One thing that has started to bother me about this time of year is Father Christmas or Santa Claus. I found a women's refuge website which was asking for gifts for children who would find themselves at the refuge over Christmas as their mothers would be forced to flee their home to escape domestic violence. The refuge asked for gifts as they said it would be difficult to explain to the children why Santa had not visited them this year. This thought of small children, already upset and scared by having to leave their home, then thinking that they had been too naughty to get presents from Santa this year or that Santa had forgotten about them, filled me with sorrow. I actually started crying at the thought. Maybe another person would want to send them a gift from "Santa", but I started to feel really angry. After all, why would the children think and feel like this? It's because society has fed them a pack of lies about an old man on a sleigh magically delivering presents to all the good children of the world. I really started to think about the Santa myth and its repercussions. I found these arguments online for not promoting it, which really resonate with me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some Scrooge who wants to spoil Christmas for little children, but I just don't see what positive aspects there are to the Santa myth. Wouldn't it be better to teach our children the value of gracious receiving and thanking the real person that gave them that gift rather than a make-believe character? Wouldn't it be better for our children not to feel that consumerism equals happiness?

When I was little, Father Christmas was something that worried me. I lived in a house with a gas fire and wondered how on earth he would get into the house with no chimney. I didn't like the idea of him breaking in while we were sleeping. I asked lots of questions about him. As the questions were impossible to answer truthfully and sensibly, my parents always downplayed Father Christmas from then on. I still enjoyed Christmas each year.

So, I don't think we need Santa or Jesus to enjoy the ancient celebration that takes place in December each year. Concentrate on being kind to each other and doing things to help others because you want to, because they are your fellow humans. I'm still going to search for a way to give back and help those less fortunate than myself that fits in with my ethics and world view. Give gifts to family and friends if you want, preferably something handmade and unique that will mean something to you and also to the recipient, but don't make it all about the presents. There are a million ways to say I love you and they don't come wrapped up with a bow or delivered by a man in a red suit.

Wishing you a peaceful and contented Yule :)

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Lovely arts and crafts stuff

I absolutely love making things, but this week I was thinking how much I love the stuff I make my stuff out of! I didn't realise just how many bits and bobs I had squirrelled away. I try not to let it take over the living room, as my boyf does get a bit annoyed with all the mess on the dining table. Here are a few snaps of my crafting supplies, which I think look just as appealing as what I will make out of them :)

A trug full of goodies

A jar full of birds
My faithful Huskystar and my favourite mug