Right. That's me for Christmas. So I'll leave you with some of my favourite festive ideas for the big day... Merry feasting and jolly holidays to you all. See you in the new year x
Above: some things I'll be doing on Sunday (the easy ones) and some I'll be wishing I could be bothered to do (the hard ones)... Including (clockwise from top left): Artemis "Junkaholique" Russell's sweet, simple DIY gift tags (newspaper, particularly the stocks and shares pages of the Financial Times, makes marvellous wrapping); Jamie Oliver's no-effort frozen grape, dark chocolate and grappa after-dinner treat (frozen grapes are my favourite discovery this year, thanks to my friend Holly's introduction); Donna Hay's make-your-own-multi-level-platter (try sprouts on one layer, carrots on the other, and leave a gap for mini bowls of cranberry sauce and a pretty gravy jug; it'd make a great cheese platter, too); Martha Stewart's paper doily wreath (this kind of crafting is way out of my league, but maybe I'll put improvement on my resolutions list... The sewing machine is edging closer towards the front of the garage and everything.)
I also wanted to share some of the creatively inspiring and non bank-breaking ideas I came across when researching my Insider column last week, all about DIY Christmas table decor (I've added the ones there weren't room for in the paper, plus some more general last-minute decorating ideas too).
Stretch your table-space by building up, rather than across. You could use a multi-tiered cake stand, but if you don't happen to have one lying around (like most of us), I love this tip from Australian food writer Donna Hay, whose clean, minimalist styling I have loved for years. "Stack platters on upturned bowls or glasses. Secure the platters to the glasses with reusable adhesive." Ingenious. (See the image at the top of the post.)
A cloche poshes anything up (try Laura Ashley). Use it to frame quirky objects, toys perhaps, like Helpyourshelf.co.uk’s ‘lamb on wheels’ (above, inset) or ‘kissing Romeo and Juliet’. Try it on a one-level cake stand for max theatricality. A row of matching jam jars is a sweet substitute (and tiny, potted succulents, or green hydrangea clusters in them work, too).
Remember Ross in Friends when he had to be the 'holiday armadillo'? Well the sparkly plastic animal toys (above, bottom right) remind me of that glorious incongruity. Find out how to make them over at the hugely inspiring Curbly.
But decorations don't have to be shiny or twinkly. A craft-y friend had these clean, hint-of-Scandi paper decorations up in her window a few years ago, and I’ve always remembered them. I found some similar ones on Etsy (main image, above) to give you the idea. For each, you’ll need a strong piece of good quality card in festive colour of your choice. Cut it into five strips at least 5cm wide and 20cm long (but double will work too, they’ll just be bigger). Now lob 5cm off two of the strips and 10cm off the other two. Stack like playing cards: the shortest piece must be in the middle, with the others ascending in size either side. Staple the bottoms together, and then the top – but so the card bends outwards creating a 2-D onion effect. Staple the other end when you’re happy, leaving room to hole punch the top so you can hang. A collection of different sized ones would look lovely in a window.
For frill-free place settings, Jane Toft, editor of cool craft magazine, Mollie Makes, suggests a brown paper tablecloth (WHSmith sells rolls; you may need to tape strips together on the underside). With a black marker, draw outlines of cutlery and plates for each guest (a cardboard template for your fork might help). Illuminate with tealights in mismatched glasses. Très utility chic.
Make use of stray baubles. Jane’s centrepiece tip is simple, too: fill large glass jars or vases with same-coloured decorations. They shouldn’t match: mix round, squiggly, odd, chic, giant and mini. Line jars in a row (different colours in each?) for max impact.
Striking, but stupidly simple: buy a big reel of broad, black ribbon and tie a bow around plate, napkin and cutlery for each place setting. (Not great with red – be bold with un-clichéd monochrome; it’d work equally well with random vintage crockery, as black is a great anchor.)
Put leftover scraps of swish wrapping paper to good use by using double-sided sticky tape to turn neat strips of it into homemade one-use napkin rings.
Have a drawer harbouring languishing paper doilies? If you have some to hand, make snowflake-y flowers by folding them into quarters, unfolding a little, then pinching the centre point and tying with cotton (or shocking pink craft tape – try Present & Correct). Make a bundle, then artfully fill a cloche or large glass vase with them for an unusual centrepiece. Or, if you are Martha Stewart-esque in your crafting abilities, the woman herself's paper doily wreath (top of this post) is stunning.
Please your inner child by making pasta snowflakes: surprisingly swish with the right shapes (something holey, like wagon wheels, tips the blog, Katyelliott.com – her creations are pictured above, bottom left). Bond your designs using strong PVA glue (cling film stops them sticking to the table). When dry, paint each with watered down glue all over and coat in chunky silver glitter, then hang with ribbon in groups at the window, or or turn into garlands.
Heart of glass Empty wine bottle overload? Choose leftover – quality – wrapping or coloured craft paper: layer two or three shades, in random-width strips and wrap around the bottles’ middles, securing with double-sided tape. Add candles. Voila.
A shorter version of this piece appeared in last week's Independent on Sunday magazine