I do have a nice serious work related post in the making, which I hope I will be able to post over Christmas. However, being in the festive mood and having for the first time done some serious crafting for Christmas I thought I would share the fruits of my labour.
Preparation started back in the Autumn when I was out gathering Sloes. I've never lived anywhere where sloes were in plentiful supply so the idea of making Sloe Gin was too tempting to put aside. With the gift of an unwanted bottle of whiskey I also made sloe whiskey, with both types having just been decanted and bottled up into medicine style Doric bottles.
At a similar time I also gathered blackberries and was given a plentiful supply of quinces and apples which enabled me to have a go at jelly and jam making for the first time. Armed with only basic equipment I have managed to make a number of mainly successful batches including a lovely blackberry jam I am currently enjoying and some quince, apple and sage jelly which goes beautifully with pork. I would say, after tasting both types, although membrillo may be tempting should you manage to get hold of some quinces I much prefer the clear, rose like quince jelly I made this year.
Additions of some hand printed labels and some purpose bought jars and bottles and the jellies, jams and gin will hopefully make some well received presents.
I also hand printed many of my Christmas cards this year, going for a postcard like card rather than a traditional folded ones. I especially liked my turkey/robin stamp.
Through twitter I had got involved in a Christmas craft swap, which saw me calling on my book bi dining skills. My first task was to make 6 mini books in different colours as tree decorations. I wanted to ensure they were true miniature books, hand stitching the pages just as I would a bigger notebook. I printed the cover with four letter Christmassy words and I was very pleased with the result. The one below was a prototype, in the end I didn't silver the edges of the ones I swapped.
My other swap was a more standard notebook during which I used a technique of using a double layer of boards for the covers to create a recess into which material or ribbon can be inserted. On this one I inserted a strip of printed cotton I had made a few months earlier. This technique does make for a much thicker cover which it means it works best when the notebook is fairly bulky itself.
My second to last bit of crafting was for one of those life things that has rather distracted me over the last few months, the boy. Although I've bought him a normal present I wanted to make him something as well. Always difficult crafting for a man, the boy is even more difficult than normal. However I settled in the idea of a diary, using one I had purchase and removed from its original binding. Using the double board method again, this time with some leather I had purchased from Dents factory shop, I think the result is fairly satisfying. Whether he will use it is a different matter, although if he does I hope it will be robust enough to survive the outdoors over the coming year.
Finally I had a go at some felt decorations. Not totally successful, although more fun than a lot of my other work. I may end up using these as gift tags for the kids presents as I'm not sure anyone would really want them on their tree. I quite like the cheeky gingerbread man though, even if he does need a scarf to keep him warm.
If your interested these are the recipes / methods I used for my edible crafting. I don't have a sugar thermometer so I used the method of testing the jam on cold plates from the freezer to see if it wrinkles. This worked fine for me although I'm sure a proper jam thermometer would be more reliable.
Apple Jelly: http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/apple-jelly-283
Blackberry Jam: http://www.deliciousmagazine.co.uk/recipes/blackberry-jam