Be inspired by the Cheshire makers this Christmas
PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 December 2019
Meet the Cheshire makers whose Christmas crafting may well inspire you to do a little DIY this yuletide.
From stockings and place settings to all things Santa, the world is your oyster when it comes to getting crafty at Christmas. With more people showing an interest in artisan products and provenance, it's not surprising Cheshire is full of talented craftspeople ready to add a little more charm to your festive frills.
Take Ivy and Noah, a company based in Haslington that has been handcrafting sewn teepees and accessories for the last 18 months and this year has brought out its first Christmas range of personalised banners, bunting and stockings. 'Crafting stockings has been lovely because it takes you back to all of the excitement of being a kid at Christmas,' says Claire Finney who founded the business when work circumstances changed meaning she could upgrade her hobby into something more full-time.
'It's called Ivy and Noah because my nan is called Ivy and my son is called Noah. My nan worked as a hand sewer, she taught my mum and I learnt from them,' says Claire.
Forget any notions of twee, amateur decorations - Claire's crafting comes with serious dose of chic; for the Christmas range she sought inspiration from Liberty London prints. 'I'm trying to make things that are sustainable as we're in a bit of a throwaway society; if you're making handmade things, people are more likely to keep them,' she says.
Given that crafting is her business she's generous in getting others involved, insisting that with some patience and a little help from YouTube tutorials you can give it a go yourself. 'For a stocking, cut your own pattern to suit the size you'd like, allowing for seams, choose a fabric and add a lining to make your stocking durable,' she says. 'Don't be disheartened if things don't go to plan, invest in a stitch ripper and try again.'
One of Claire's big tips for getting started is to find other people to do it with. 'If you can't get out to a craft group though, YouTube is a great place to start,' she says. 'I learned a lot about crocheting from there. There are groups everywhere like Stitch in Nantwich - they can be nice to go to for support.'
Sarah Bloor of Inkspire Calligraphy based in Nantwich shares this sentiment, too. Like Claire, Sarah started practising calligraphy as a hobby, before she went on to enrol in a dedicated course to hone her skills.
Inkspire offers handwritten pen and ink calligraphy and for Christmas, Sarah has been busy creating personalised crackers, antler place settings, and letters to Santa. She points out crafting is about having fun, and that you don't have to master a particular art form to add some handmade touches to your Christmas. This year, she started making wax seal stamps to add an extra level of personalisation to her Christmas cards. It was something that came about through a bit of trial and error. 'I bought a very basic stamp off eBay and some small balls of wax,' she says. 'It's actually quite difficult to master though, you have to practice!'
In the way that innately creative people do, she does add: 'I don't know where I got the idea from to add dried rose petals, but I gave it a go with some white wax and they look pretty smart! Now, I make them to order and I'm doing some bespoke North Pole ones.'
It's this element of trial and error that needs embracing when it comes to making - definitely a theory Macclesfield florists Megan Palmer and Beverley Coghlan attest to. The pair who run The Flower House offer courses for wreath making and table setting.
'We also get a lot of people coming into the shop for the different bits they might need to make one, which is good because I can give them everything they need as well as a briefing too,' Megan says. 'There is no wrong or right way, it's just about learning the basics and going from there.'
When it comes to floral creations, there are so many simple things you can do to get your house ready for Christmas. Essentially, the ingredients do the talking so pick up your favourite foliage and accessorise candle holders and mantelpieces. 'If you don't have space for a garland, you can get sprigs of blue spruce, mistletoe and holly, and place them in candle holders,' says Megan.
Using natural materials is something that the Kingswood-based craft business House of Helen has made its forte. Founded by Helen Miller, the business was born from her obsession with paper crafts, but as time evolved, she moved into working with reclaimed wood.
'I bought a wooden reindeer at Christmas a few years ago and had a lightbulb moment,' she explains. 'I asked my husband if there was a machine out there that would allow me to cut wooden shapes, which soon led to us buying several different wood cutting machines. I now use offcuts and bits of wood from wherever I find them to make craft items. Year round, these can be products like coat hooks, dog lead hooks and small homewares.'
At Christmas however, Helen goes fully festive making tree decorations, seasonal ornaments and festive shadow boxes - and offers various workshops on how to do it yourself. 'Shadow boxes are a real upcoming craft item. You can buy different styles online, and they are often styled like a house with several different rooms within the house shape,' says Helen. 'I turn these into Christmas decorations, so in each little aperture of the box, I've created miniature scenes. I've got a frosty scene in one and a small Christmas tree, using paper cut-outs, string, paint and natural materials such as fir cones.
'There's so much online to offer you inspiration, particularly on Pinterest,' she adds. 'In my workshops, a lot of people are nervous but there is no right or wrong to crafting.'