A Handmade Tale
It’s at this time of year that I have to ask myself, when it comes to Christmas decorating, am I a minimalist or a maximalist? In truth, as much as I detest clutter and mess (it makes me feel disorganised), I’ve never quite managed to master the minimal look in my home - I’m too much of a hoarder. Plus, I like having the things I’ve collected over the years around me so I can see them, otherwise they get hidden away in cupboards and I forget about them until they’re unearthed months, or years, later. I do tend towards the traditional when it comes to the tree. I’ve been collecting ornaments for years and will buy at least one new one to add to the collection each year (usually half a dozen - the temptation is too strong!) One of my strongest childhood memories of Christmas is seeing the tree that my maternal grandparents had decorated each year. It was always the same; covered with coloured fairy lights, baubles in bright, metallic shades and feather-trimmed glass ornaments, and lots and lots of angel hair. It was magical. And absolutely perfect as far as I was concerned. This year, our main tree remains largely unchanged from previous incarnations. Last year I experimented with tinsel (I know, I know but I actually quite liked the “full” look it gave). This year we kept it simple with felted ball garlands and paper flower chains and the usual ornaments and toy figures that the children and I love in equal measure.
We also have a second, smaller tree, a tradition I started last year. I didn’t want to splash out on lots more decorations, so last year we covered it with oven-dried clementine slices and iced gingerbread stars - and I wrapped some of the children’s smaller stocking presents in tissue paper and striped curling ribbon and hung those on there, too. I’m a bit behind the curve here, I know, but this year I have rediscovered the joy of making pom-poms, which make wonderful tree decorations. A word of caution here, if you have cats, hang those pom-poms high! I came down one morning to find the larger balls on the bottom of the tree almost completely shredded. The kids have decided to wrap one each for the cats as Christmas presents but I doubt it will deter them, as the allure of the hanging pom-poms on the tree is clearly too much for those two little feline troublemakers. The children have huge knitted stockings that we hang on the fireplace on Christmas eve but until now my husband, Charlie and I have never done stockings. This year I decided to whip up a couple of sacks from Liberty fabric and decorate them with some leftover pom-poms. Heavy hints have been dropped regarding the tiny wondrous parcels that mine could be filled with!
For the rest of the little decorative touches around the house, I decided to get inventive with festive greenery. I took a basket and headed out on a particularly damp and dank day in the hope of foraging some fir, pine, and trailing ivy with its blue-black berries. I supplemented the bounty from my muddy walk with some blueish-grey feathery fronds I found on the cypress tree at the back of the garden, some sprigs of scented rosemary and bay, and a bunch eucalyptus from the local florist. I did a wreath-making workshop last Christmas and found I remembered the basics of the construction process.
For the more traditional door wreath, I used a metal wreath ring that I packed with sphagnum moss before attaching branches of pine and fir with floristry wire. I had been taught to wire in the next layer of additional foliage and berries but I found it just as effective to cut the stems into sharp points and drive them straight into the moss. I’ve kept it simple and stuck to two or three types of plant, with very little colour, in the hope of highlighting the natural shapes of the leaves and needle shapes, a device that also worked well for the single brass ring decoration I hung over the hall mirror, in which I used the silvery eucalyptus and my new favourite, ivy berries.
I was particularly pleased with my tiny “twig” tree. It’s actually the branch from a wild rose bush that was once covered in fiery orange rose hips. Once they dried out, they fell off with a couple of brisk shakes. I wound copper wire lights around its woody shoots and hung it with white feathers that the children had collected on a walk (I new they’d come in handy for something), miniature glass baubles, and a key that Isaac found at the bottom of the garden a few years ago that I’d kept in the hope of utilising one day. I tied more feathers, some curled ferns that I’d pressed and dried and a handful of hand-blown glass baubles (from one of my favourite shops, Le Petit Jardin in Tunbridge Wells) to some string bound with more copper wire star-shaped lights to hang in the window to catch the light. I can picture my Grandfather nodding his approval, although I'm sure he would have referred to my efforts as being a bit "Heath Robinson." But the beauty in these type of creations is that they don’t have to be perfect - in fact, as far as i’m concerned, the more rustic, the better.