The 10 Posts of Christmas

“On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to meeeeee…. a beautifully decorated flat and a pretty Christmas tree!”

And so the Christmas preparations come to a close.  I’ve been putting my decorations up, and am pleased with the results!  My flat looks nice and homely and ready for the winter holiday.

And here’s a reminder of all the projects that I did over the last couple of weeks:

Post 1:  Candles and Cones

Post 2:  Cute Christmas Trees

Post 3:  Christmas Tree and Heart Garland

Post 4:  Glitter Baubles

Post 5:  Christmas Wreath

Post 6:  Mum’s Mince Pies

Post 7:  Failproof Christmas Cake

Post 8:  Icing the Christmas Cake

Post 9:   Non-Alcoholic Mulled Wine

Post 10:  Christmas Chocolates

So there you have it, my homemade Christmas!  Hope you’ve had a go doing some cooking and decorating yourselves 🙂

Happy Christmas everyone, hope you enjoy the food, family and festivities!



Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree…

…Thou tree most fair and lovely!
The sight of thee at Christmastide
Spreads hope and gladness far and wide
Oh Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
Thou tree most fair and lovely!…

So, massive hint over, I put my Christmas tree up last weekend.  My Mum had come to stay for a couple of days, so I coincided it with her being here, as it was always a tradition when I was younger to put the Christmas tree up together as a family (bar my Dad, who was usually at work, and would come home to a prettily decorated house).  Even when I was away at university, my Mum would wait for me to arrive home for the holidays to decorate the tree with her.  We’d put some Christmas songs on, make some mulled wine (recipe to be posted in a blogpost soon), and would cosy up and enjoy the finished tree afterwards.

This year, I’m not going home to my family until late on 23rd December, so I miss out on the all the decoration fun at home.  Because of this, and because I have my own flat now, I’ve been making and finding decorations for my very own tree.  Mum coming for an impromptu visit was perfect timing for putting up the tree, with – of course – a Christmas music accompaniment (this year, it was Casting Crown’s “Peace on Earth”).

And without further ado, here are the pictures of my decorated tree (my very first own tree!)…

The candle ornament was given to me as one of my flat-warming gifts from J’s parents, and goes perfectly with the wooden angels (to the right of the photo), and the wooden birds (at the bottom of the phot0).

The felt bauble was one that I made… A slightly different variation on the christmas tree felt baubles.  I finished off the baubles with a wooden tree button, to tie in with the wooden theme I seem to have going on the tree…

The felt mouse with the candy cane tail was given to me by my Mum (there’s a green one hiding round the other side of the tree… one for me, one for J).

Ta-da!  Doesn’t my tree look pretty with all the lights and baubles on it?

Pin It

The Big Reveal

The past few weekday evenings have been spent struggling to put the curtains up in the flat.  It’s been a long time coming, and has certainly been a necessary job to get done in the last couple of weeks due to the weather getting substantially colder in the evenings when I arrive back from work.  The combination of the increased rate in heating bills and my old single-glazed windows (the downside of a listed building) meant that unless I got thermal curtains up, I would be looking at a hefty gas bill for the Winter period (not that it’ll be cheap anyway, even with the curtains in place).    The curtains were also an aesthetic necessity.  I was tired of coming home and seeing office-like blinds at my windows, not dis-similar to those in my office.

So, after picking out the curtains, it was time to take a trip to B&Q for the essentials:  Curtain tracks and wire for the curtains, and a hacksaw to cut down the length of the tracks if needed.  It was difficult to settle on a curtain track that would be suitable for a bay window, as I wanted the curtains to go into the bay rather than cut it off from the rest of the room when the curtains were closed.  This meant I either needed a super bendy rail (which is what I decided on eventually), or a rail that had lots of joining bits to it (I quickly came to the conclusion that curtain rails are a confusing thing to me!).  Once we got the curtain rails home, it was time to get the old blinds down from the windows, which turned out to be nice and easy, as they were simply clipped to their metal fittings, then remove the metal fittings from the ceiling.  Luckily for me, the holes for the blinds were in the right place for the fittings for the curtain track fixings…

After we removed the blinds, we put up the curtain wire for the net curtains (I’m paranoid  about people seeing in my flat, and it makes my view a little nicer – hides the bus stop – and creates a softer light in the room).  Once those curtains were up, it was time to fix the curtain tracks onto the ceiling of the window alcove.

There then followed the rather long and boring process of affixing the blackout material to the curtains before putting the curtains up.  I won’t bore you with that, as it was boring enough for me…. so… once that was done (phew!), it was time to put up the curtains and see if they worked… As the curtains were pretty heavy with the additional blackout material, it was a two-person job (me feeding the curtains up to J who was hanging them whilst balancing on a ladder).

And once they were finished, well…. just look at them!…

And a close-up of the pattern:

They certainly have changed my living room atmosphere into one of cosy cosy warmth rather than the cold impersonal blinds that once hung at the windows!

Christmas Part 3: Christmas Tree and Heart Banner

The Christmas decoration preparation is well under way, and everything has been coming together nicely.  I’m planning on baking my Christmas cake later this week (recipe to follow), and mince pies the week following.

This week though, I’ve been doing some more crafting with the left over felt from my christmas tree tree decorations (there seems to be too many ‘trees’ in that sentence, but it does make sense…).  I thought I’d use that alcove space above the television in the living room to display more festive decorations than the normal paper bunting that adorns that particular corner of the room.  Whilst the paper bunting is pretty, I thought it would be nice to make the most of all the felt and christmas fabric that I had to hand, and produce something more festive for the flat.

This project was a little more time consuming due to the amount of sewing I did (I had to do all of it by hand as I do not own a sewing machine!).  I spent around three evenings in front of the TV cutting out the shapes and sewing them all together, but it would be a lot quicker if you used a sewing machine (and perhaps a little tidier too).

First of all, I drew a template for a heart onto paper and cut it out.  I then drew around that template and cut out a smaller heart from the new (second) template.  Basically you end up with two templates, one about 1cm smaller around the edges than the other.

Once these templates were cut out, I used the larger template to draw around on the red piece of felt, to create the felt heart backing.

I then cut the hearts out carefully, and placed them to one side.

I then used the smaller heart template to trace around onto the back of the christmas fabric (I chose to use a red gingham material for the hearts, and a holly fabric for the christmas trees).  The reason why I traced onto the back of the fabric was so that no pen would show through once I cut out the shapes.

Once I’d traced enough smaller heart shapes, I cut them out, and put them aside with the felt hearts.

Next, I pinned one small fabric heart to the middle of a felt heart (there should be about 1cm-ish space between the edges of the small and large heart shapes).  I then sewed carefully around the edge of the fabric, to secure it onto the felt.  I chose not to hem the fabric first, as I quite like the effect of frayed fabric, which will probably occur quite slowly due to me packaging them carefully and not really stressing the fabric in any way.

From here on, it was a bit like a factory line, pionning small heart on big heart, sewing up, placing to one side, and repeat with new fabric shapes….

I then repeated the process with a christmas tree template to create the christmas trees.

Once I had all my shapes completed and sewn up, I measured the lengths of ribbon needed for the alcove, chopped and tied loops in each end to hang over the hooks in the wall.

I then got my packet of mini pegs out, and carefully pegged the shaped to the ribbon, making sure that the first shape was pegged first, and put in the middle of ribbon (and so then worked outwards on each side from the central shape).

I liked the effect of alternating the shapes, but this could have been arranged differently.  You could have all trees on one ribbon, and all hearts on the other.  The beauty of this garland is that it is easily interchangeable due to the pegs.  I’ll probably get the garland out again in February, but just use the hearts, for a Valentine’s Day decoration… Next year I may make stars or snowflake shapes, which can easily be added to the garland, or could replace the existing shapes.

Cost of Christmas Tree and Heart Garland:

Red and green felt: free (already owned, and used for christmas tree decorations)

Ribbon: free (already owned)

Christmas fabric (holly): 32p (for 1/8 of a ‘fat quarter’ that was used)

Christmas fabric (gingham):  23p (for 1/8 of a ‘fat quarter’ that was used)

mini pegs: free (already owned)

Total = 55p

Swingin’ on the Curtains

So… before posting some more Christmas preparations next week, I thought I’d blog about something else housey for a bit…So here we go!

I’ve finally bought curtains (hurray!).  It took me much longer than I initially thought it would, due to me being ridiculously indecisive as to whether to go for ready-made curtains or whether it would be cheaper to buy fabric and make them myself (or rather, ask a favour of a friend who owns a sewing machine to make them for me!).

The first place I looked at was John Lewis, just because their haberdashery is rather extensive, and they have a great choice of fabric and curtains online as well.  However, the downside of this is that John Lewis is a rather expensive department store, and their price of curtains reflects this, which was disappointing, as I rather liked these ones *sigh*.  It really doesn’t help that I need the largest curtain size – 90in wide x 90in high.

I then continued to search for fabric (which would have been pretty pricey considering I needed about 3m x 3m of fabric for each window), which meant that at £10 – £24 per metre, and around 9m worth of fabric, came to a ridiculous £90 – £216 per pair of curtains.  Even the lower price was more than I was prepared to pay for fabric, as I knew I still needed to buy blackout thermal material to sew on the back of the fabric in order to keep the drafts out… The whole point of the curtains in the first place – apart from the absolute dire need to replace the hideous office blinds in the living room with something more pretty and homely – was to hinder the drafts that will be inevitably be coming sneakily through the single-glazed windows (ah the joys and tribulations of living in a listed building!).

After trying desperately to find pretty, functional, plus affordable fabrics, I resigned myself to having to find ready-made curtains again… So over a month after I first began looking for curtains, I finally came across Terry’s Fabrics (site here), which had a sale on several of their ready-made curtains.

I had decided by this point that I wanted to find a curtain fabric for the living room that would be able to fit with any future scheme that I may choose (currently it’s apple green and grey), so I wanted a light curtain with a neutral pattern on it which would stand out but would fit with anything…  And then I came across these beauties:

And at only £54.90 for the living room curtains (less than half the amount I’d found elsewhere AND on sale, down from £64.99), it was very easy to say yes.  YES!!!

I also managed to find the curtains for the bedroom here too.  I wanted a darker colour for that room, which would both help with keeping the room dark in the daytime if I needed it to be (a light bedroom is a nightmare when a migraine rears it’s ugly painful head), but would warm the room and make it feel cozy and comforting too.  I ended up going with one of my favourite colours… purple.

They’re a little darker in real life, which suits me very well, as I was afraid they’d be too bright, but they’ll fit perfectly with my purple / turquoise bedroom.  Especially at a fabulously cheap £35.50 (down from £39.99 – not as big a price drop as the others, but still enough to make me happy).

Cost of curtains:

Living room curtains:  £54.90

Blackout lining:  £25.50

Total for curtain material =   £80.40

Bedroom curtains:  £35.50

Blackout linings for curtains x 2 = £21.50

Total for curtain material = £57.00

Although it may still look a bit pricey, the thermal blackout material is well worth the cost, as it’s going to stop drafts and means – hopefully – that I will have to switch the heating on less through the winter (which means less freezing toes and a less grumpy cold Sarah!).

I’ll be posting again in a week or so about the finished look – once I’ve managed to climb up a ladder and work out how to attached curtain tracks to the windows… That’s this weekend’s job… Let’s hope I don’t have any accidents with drills and hammers and ladders, eh?!

– – –

Oh, and for those link-happy people, the John Lewis ‘Mayflower Leaves’ curtains can be found here, and the final curtains (‘Oriana Silver’) I bought from Terry’s Fabrics can be found here.  The ‘Java’ curtains that I chose for the bedroom can also be found here (also bought from Terry’s Fabrics).

Christmas Part 2: Cute Christmas Trees

So… Onto the second preparation post for Christmas… I have bought basic green and silver baubles for my non-existant christmas tree (I have yet to buy one… I’m putting it off for now), but wanted to create some handmade ornaments that I could keep for years and re-use, and remember my first Christmas time in my own flat.

Felt Christmas Tree Decoration

Unfortunately I only took one picture of the finished decoration (I completely forgot to take pictures along the way… Oops!).

What you’ll need to make these cute decorations:

small buttons x 3 (for each tree)

dark green felt

red ribbon

contrasting colour of wool / thick thread


Step 1:  Cut out two identical christmas tree shapes out of the felt (I used a template that I’d made to ensure that each tree cutout was absolutely identical).

Step 2:  Take one tree cutout and sew the loop of red ribbon securely on to the top of the tree, so that we can hang the decoration up (the ends of the ribbon will be completely hidden once the tree is all sewn up!).

Step 3:  Take the other tree cutout and sew the buttons on the front of it carefully, to give the effect of baubles.

Step 4:  Carefully line up the two cutouts (the one with the ribbon on the bottom, with the side with the ribbon sewn on faceing upwards, and then the other with the buttons also facing upwards).  Pin the two pieces of material together – this helps keep it all aligned once we start sewing it all up.

Step 5:  Start sewing along the edges of the tree, making sure to leave a couple of milimetres of felt between the edge and the sewing line (this allows for the felt to tear / fray slightly).  Sew up the edges, but leave one edge free for now (I left the top edge open).

Step 6:  Stuff the wadding through the small opening left in the felt pouch, until you are happy with the paddedness of the tree  (don’t ask me… I couldn’t think of a better word at the time.. blame it on my lack of energy, yeah?) .

Step 7:  Sew up the final edge and finish off by tying the ends of wool together carefully behind the ribbon, and cutting off the excess wool / thread close to the knot.

Ta-da, now you have a cute little christmas tree decoration!

I had a little production line going (I cut out all the tree shapes first, then sewed on all the buttons, then sewed up all the trees, and then stuffed the wadding inside…).  I think each tree probably took me about 15 – 20 mins to make, and I was able to watch TV whilst I was making them, so it’s a nice winter evening craft to do whilst all cosied up on the sofa!

Christmas Part 1: Candles and Cones

I’ve been super excited about Christmas since the beginning of November, mostly due to the fact that now I’ve got my own place, I can design my own type of Christmas this year (though I’ll be going back to my family for the actual Christmas eve – Boxing day festivities).  I’ve always loved Christmas… Growing up living with both my parents and my grandparents together meant that I got to experience different styles of Christmas; I love the mis-matchedness and the comfy collection of my grandparents’ decorations, which have been collected of the years and are so colourful and beautiful.  My parents on the other hand have a colour-scheme for Christmas, which is classic and timeless.  I like both styles, and wanted this year to bring some elements of both those Christmases and meld it with some homemade rustic-style ideas of my own that I wanted to do.

So, I’ve bought a few basic christmas decorations – one Christmas-themed bowl, some fairy lights (x 2), and some silver baubles.  I’ll be adding to these by creating my own decorations, on the cheap, to create a mismatched, pretty Christmas of my own.

I’ve been busy crafting away the last few days, and have a few Christmassy crafty treats in store for you readers!  This is the first of them… (and one which is easy enough for anyone to do, and only take about 10 minutes).

Christmas Pillar Candle

To make this project, I used the following:

pillar candle (free – already owned)

green felt (free – leftovers from another Christmas project – I’ll share this with you soon!)

red ribbon (free – already owned)

silver spray paint (free – already owned…  and I’ll be using this again in other Christmas projects!)

pine cones (free – picked up on my trip to the park, seen here)

silver tray (free – already owned)

superglue (free – already owned)

First of all, I measured the width of felt I wanted to go around the candle, and then measured again to make sure that there would be a small overlap between the two ends to be able to glue it down.  I dabbed a little superglue to one end of the felt to secure it to the candle, then wrapped the felt around the candle, carefully making sure that it was straight, then glued the other end of the felt to the first end.

I repeated this process with the red gingham fabric, only the fabric was 2cm narrower in width (to allow for 1cm of the felt to show either side of the fabric once on the candle).

To finish off the candle and to keep everything place that little bit more, I tied a red ribbon around the material.

To make the pine cones, I simply laid them out on a bin liner in my kitchen, opened the window (got to make sure you spray paint in a well-ventilated area guys!  The fumes are pretty stinky!), then one side of the cones, rolled them over carefully, and sprayed all the others until each pine cone was covered completely in the silver spray paint.

Once these were dry, I placed the candle on the silver tray, and placed the pine cones around it.  Ta-da! Super easy and super cheap (well… make that FREE!).

I’m looking forward to placing this on my bookcase and changing up the display on there once December hits! (only three more weeks… I’ve tried so hard not to sing too many Christmas songs yet… middle of November is still a tad early, but I can’t help but be very much in a holiday mood from making all these decorations!)