Time is ticking along and there are now three gift-making weeks until Christmas so it’s the perfect time to get creative. There is nothing quite like a homemade present, made and given with love. My latest book The Homemade Home for Children – 50 Thrifty and Chic Projects for Creative Parents was released earlier this year and it got me thinking as to which projects from it could be made as Christmas gifts. Here are a few of my favourite projects that would make great festive presents.
This bookcase dolls house is a favourite of my daughter and her friends when they come to play. It’s fairly simple to make but needs a bit of time and would make every little girl happy to receive it. There are full how-to diy instructions for all of these projects in the book.
Theses notebooks are quick and easy to make and would make a great stocking filler that encourage drawing and writing.
These little stitched mice are cute and the book shows how to make a matchbox mouse house to go with them too. My book includes a template to photocopy for the shape of the mouse and step-by-step instructions.
These twirling sticks are as much fun for boys as they are for girls (that’s my daughter in the photo) and they are super easy to make. The dolls below are a more special gift, something for a little girl to cherish and keep forever, passing on to her own children one day. I made several variations of doll in the book including a football version that is great for boys too (my son loves his!).
It was my children’s school Christmas fair this weekend and, as in previous years, I made lots of items to sell on the gift stall to help raise money for the school. Most of them are twists of projects from my books and I took some snaps before they were sold which I will share on the blog soon.
I hope these images inspire you to have a go making gifts for children, family and friends, or if you don’t have time to make, you could gift them a copy of one of my books so that they can make some of the ideas for themselves – there are 45 more projects like these in the book!
Homemade ornaments like this fabric-wrapped coat hanger heart are simple to make and add little touches of personality to a space. I made this whilst on holiday to hang from a nail on an otherwise plain wall in the children’s bedroom in our Croatian holiday home. This is a variation of the technique used in Goldfish Bowl Mobile project from my latest book The Homemade Home for Children and the fabric-wrapped coat hanger project from my first book The Homemade Home, both books have full instructions if you would like to try it at home.
To make: Firmly bend the wire of the coat hanger into a heart shape with your hands. Select thin strips of fabric or pieces of ribbon and secure one end with double-sided tape. Twist the ribbon around the wire, when you have run out start again with another piece using double-sided tape to secure again. Continue until the wire is completely covered.
I bought the straw hat in the photo from a market stall in the local village, I couldn’t resist changing the ribbon to a grey and white spotty one! The heart-shaped leaf was actually picked straight from a climbing vine growing up a tree by our terrace, such a perfect shape.
A simple, little decoration that helps bring personality and fun to my children’s bedroom.
This natural, fresh lemonade was the drink of our holiday in Croatia this summer and is easy to make. I made a bottle every morning with help from my children who loved squeezing lemons and measuring and mixing, and it was enjoyed by us all. Lemonade is an ever-popular summer drink but I give mine a little twist, the addition of fresh mint, which gives it an extra refreshing taste. I always keep interesting bottles and jars when we’re there, to use as storage jars or as vases, making little displays of fresh herbs and sprigs picked from our garden. This bottle is a well known shape in Croatia and contained Amarena cherry syrup from Maraska, a famous old drinks company from the city of Zadar opposite our island.
To make 1l: Squeeze the juice of a lemon into a glass, add 2 – 3 tablespoons of sugar, a sprig of fresh mint and a dash of cold water. Mx it together, mashing the mint slightly with a spoon to release the flavour. Add some more water and mix to dissolve the sugar. Pour into a 1 litre glass bottle and top up with cold water then place in the fridge to cool.
Serve over ice, straining the mint if necessary, and enjoy.
This is a continuation of my floral photographic sketches that I posted about recently. I had a fun couple of hours a few weeks ago playing with my camera and documenting ideas. Sometimes an idea comes along that leads to another and needs to be snapped quickly and captured before it is forgotten.
When I designed textile patterns for a design studio we would always use reference books and quite often real flowers to draw from and use as inspiration, but these were quite often open to interpretation. A drawn flower would be given a different, more appealing leaf to the stem, or would be painted flat to the page with more flower heads than would occur in nature. Some of my drawn flowers would have leaves made from patterns or other textures and they would evolve and become unique, designed interpretations of flowers rather than true-to-life, accurate floral studies.
Freehand, machine-stitching is a technique I used in textile design many years ago and still use regularly. With a little practice it you can get great results and if you want to have a go at home a couple of the projects in my first book The Homemade Home explain it with step-by-step instructions.
In the case of this photo experiment with flora from my garden, I picked apart several flowers and placed different heads, stems and leaves together. I also added fabric and lace leaves and real elements to my machine-stitched stems, creating my own hybrids and fantasy flowers.
I like to contrast real with illustrated, man made with natural in combinations that really shouldn’t exist together. The speed of capturing an idea on camera at home means that later I will be able to develop this further into something more, but for now these ideas have been documented and are reminders to myself, my own visual notes and a little play with nature.
I snapped a few pictures of some wooden planes and boats that are sitting on shelves and chests of drawers in my son’s bedroom. They are little objects my father made about twenty years ago, simply put together from scraps of wood and old nails from his toolbox. I painted them in bright colours and personalised them with initials and words with meaning, like ‘Riba’ which means ‘Fish’ in Croatian and was the name of my grandfather’s little boat that we pootled along the coast in.
I left one of the boats as it was to show the natural texture of the wood and the simplicity of how it was made. My father and son still make driftwood toys together every summer in Croatia, see a previous post here.
When my son was born we hunted out this little airplane and hung it in his bedroom, suspended by a splash of a neon ribbon. It was this plane that inspired the ‘Balsa Wood Planes’ project in my new book – The Homemade home for Children – which has full step-by-step instructions if you want to try making your own. The image below is by Emma Lee and is an out-take from the photo shoots for the book. It is my little boy as he is now, enjoying being part of the fun.
These homemade toys are so simple and cost nothing but a little time, and I treasure them because of that.
They are things that cannot be bought, but made – with love and family.
This is a favourite brooch of mine that I made and wore at the Decorate book launch last year in April. I was intending on wearing a high street brooch I had bought from Hoss (a favourite store of mine), but decided the day before the launch that I should wear one that I had made rather than bought. So I got busy and made this little felt cloud brooch. The silver scissors and heart key charms were lucky finds at Sunbury antiques fair in Kempton and are little surprises amongst the glistening silver beads of rain. The scissors open and shut and are really quite special.
There is an embroidered felt brooch project in my new book and the rain cloud motif also features in a project too. Both projects have full step-by-step instructions on how to make them if you want to try this at home. If you love jewellery you might also like this post.
Wearing a homemade brooch on your clothing is something that people always notice, and, as I wrote in my first book, there is nothing like the feeling you get when someone remarks how much they like something and you can reply “I made it”.
Sania Pell is a freelance interior stylist, creative director and consultant based in London. She is a Contributing Stylist at Elle Decoration magazine, with whom she has worked for over 18 years, and is known for bringing a unique aspect to photographic shoots for national publications, leading international brands and retailers as well as style consultancy for top architecture practices and property development companies. She is the author of best-selling book The Homemade Home and The Homemade Home for Children. A trained, former textile designer, Sania is also involved in many multi-disciplinary creative projects.
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