Make someone’s Christmas with these unique made-in-Cheshire gifts
PUBLISHED: 14:34 18 November 2020 | UPDATED: 16:00 18 November 2020
Support local this festive season with this stockingful of made in Cheshire gift ideas...
Prints: It’s a happy lockdown story for Appleton-born Alison Levy, of Ali Draws, who depsite having lost her design job at the beginning of lockdown, has turned it to her advantage with gorgeous illustrated maps and house drawings.
The maps, initially hand drawn or painted, are edited digitally, and the house portraits are designed entirely by hand using watercolour and fine-liner pens.
“I was doing standard maps of different villages and started offering people to add their own houses to the maps, and it got a lot of interest from local people,” Alison says.
Each map takes a good day to research the town or village, a look at Google maps and a visit to the place, followed by about three days designing and drawing. Alison is currently working on a Knutsford map: she chooses places based on interest from customers and what she thinks will be popular.
So far, her Etsy shop has maps of Lymm, Appleton, Stockton Heath, Grappenhall and Thelwall – and as well as the A3 print, you can snap up a mini postcard version.
“My Christmas cards are just a bit of fun,” Alison adds. “I’ve always enjoyed illustrating animals, so I thought it would be nice to create some quirky Christmas cards. It means an awful lot when people shop local.”
Jewellery: Cheshire’s Jennifer Gibson Jewellery is no stranger to world-class affiliations.
Her vintage costume jewellery is already in the likes of the iconic Fenwick of Bond Street and London’s world-renowned V&A museum – and now it has hit the shelves of Selfridges London, Manchester Exchange Square and Birmingham.
Founder and vintage jewellery expert Jennifer Gibson’s 31-piece edit for Selfridges is all about timeless glamour and elegance, with exquisite jewels ranging from mid-century to the 1990s.
“This exclusive edit includes effortlessly chic crystal collars, eye-catching shoulder duster earrings, delicate chains with quirky charms and some exceptionally beautiful vintage trinkets, including an enamelled Russian silver box and a crystal-embellished handbag mirror,” she says.
“For Selfridges Manchester Exchange Square, we’ve gone full on designer with catwalk cool of the 80s and 90s, celebrating the cult age of the supermodel. There’s a bold mix of dazzling gold, white crystal and classic pearl pieces and more than a little logo love for those that like to say it with a name.”
Stationery: The Little Green Paper Shop, in Sandbach, is encouraging shoppers to ditch single-use paper in favour of a green Christmas.
This year has forced the eco-friendly business to diversify from wedding stationery to greetings cards and other stationery including customisable and custom designs, all ethically sourced and low waste.
“Card stocks include plantable seed paper, made with cotton fibre offcuts from the fashion industry that grow into beautiful wildflowers or vegetables long after a card has been used,” says Mexico-born owner Ana Cantu.
“Elephant dung paper provides a valuable income source to elephant sanctuaries, and sugar cane paper utilises waste from existing industries.”
There are DIY seed paper cracker kits, which can be filled with your own high-quality toys and planted after use; mulberry bush wrapping paper, which regenerates faster than wood pulp; and Christmas cards and tags made from recycled reindeer dung.
Ana also supplies a 2021 calendar, made with a range of blooming seed papers that can be planted at the end of each month. “A planet is for life, not just for Christmas,” she adds.
Biography: It’s always the same question every Christmas, what do you buy for the person who’s been everywhere, got everything and done the lot? The good news is, this year’s most un-guessable gift cannot be found in any shop.
“In fact, it started life, not in Santa’s sack at all, but at the bottom of a battered old suitcase in a Nantwich attic,” says writer and former BBC North West Tonight presenter Merryn Myatt. She has launched Lifestory, offering biographies unravelling hidden personal stories from the past.
“I came across a yellowing and tattered manuscript tied up with a length of fraying string when I was going through a suitcase containing some of my late father’s possessions,” she says. “It turned out to be a copy of my grandfather’s unpublished memoirs. I was rather surprised to find them because I didn’t know he’d written any memoirs – why would he? To me he was just Grandpa.”
It was a lightbulb moment for Merryn; an unexpected discovery that inspired the launch of Lifestory, a biography and memoir writing and publishing service, so anyone can have their life’s journey, memories and achievements, tears, laughter and unique family anecdotes honoured in print… all presented in beautiful illustrated hardback or semi-hardback books.
The first stop is the Lifestory website, where the VIP suffix is no accident. Visitors are invited to select whichever kind of memoir they would prefer, from two options. Simple and Straightforward is a biography of between 8,000 and 10,000 words or approximately 85+ pages, with up to 10 photographs. A Premium memoir contains 10,000 to 12,000 words, up to 20 photographs and contributions from friends. There is also a bespoke option for people to commission any kind of biography they like. But before Merryn can enjoy meeting her subjects, they will have up to four weeks to do their own homework: digging out old photos, remembering stories from the past, re-living memories.
The subject of the memoir is presented with 10 copies of their published biography. They also receive a digital copy of their manuscript together with digital audio files of all the recorded interviews to keep as a memento.
Book: 2020 has been a tough year for all involved, but 24-year-old Hannah Malley, from Sandbach, is helping to lift spirits with her children’s books.
It all began in May when she self-published Stay at Home Little Rabbit, a novel for children under eight to reassure them through the pandemic. Buddy the rabbit didn’t understand why he couldn’t visit his favourite places or see loved ones anymore.
Written as a follow-up story, Buddy’s Christmas Woodland Wish tells how Buddy and his family of rabbits reflect on the past year. With the family’s new-found love for walking, what will they find on their cold winter adventures?
Will it be something that can change their life forever? Or will family and loved ones be enough to get Christmas spirits high?
“This book is all about community, family and friends and making Christmas wishes,” says author Hannah.
“I have chosen a local charity, The Wishing Well Project, in Crewe, to donate 10 per cent of the profit to. They work with the community’s families and children, which is so important at this time of year.”
Drone images: It may be your house, farm, church, your village or your favourite view. Or perhaps it’s somewhere you have passed every day for 40 years.
Everything looks different from above.
Owner of DKS Drones, Kurt Thomas, who offers aerial pictures and canvases, says: “People show me photographs from a plane that they have treasured for over 30 years. We show them today’s images and they are amazed at how much the photographic detail has improved. Both pictures are a historic capture of a moment in time.”
Kurt and his business partner David Kirwin started making videos for people who had to shield in the spring, taking a different local area each week.
“We also gathered quite a following from people whose lives it had brightened up a little, due to lockdown,” Kurt adds.
Aviation rules mean certain areas of Cheshire need permission to fly over, and some are prohibited.
Beer: The Knutsford Beer Festival may not have been able to go ahead this year, but the team behind the event has come up with a solution to give beer fans a great experience at home: The Knutsford Beer Festival advent calendar.
Complete with a fully customised design, the calendar includes 24 craft beers from breweries such as Deya, Tiny Rebel, Mobberley Brewhouse, Tatton Brewery, Marble, Track, Cloudwater and Thirst Class, all hand-picked by resident beer guru Ben Selby, a beer buyer by trade.
Beer Festival organiser Rachel Bishop says: “Ever since the beer festival was cancelled in April, I wanted to do something that would raise money for our charity, the Toy Appeal.
“It’s a win-win really, because people buying the box can enjoy a whole month of great beers and feel good that they are doing their bit for charity.”
The Toy Appeal sends sacks of toys to underprivileged families in Cheshire and the North West.
As well as the beers, the box includes a few special treats like a dark chocolate orange stout from White Hag. And to add to the experience, there will be virtual tastings of each beer on Instagram @knutsbeerfest throughout December.
All advent calendars have a delivery estimate of Saturday November 28th.
Photography: Nigel A Ball Photography offers a range of Christmas presents, from low-cost stocking fillers to photography experience days and online tuition. The popular ‘Learn how to photograph the night sky’ is available again this year, and is described by the Cheshire-based astrophotographer as the ultimate Christmas present.