How to throw a Christmas Craft Party

I love this time of the year, and while some people cringe when the carols come on the department store radios, I relish it. I still get caught up in the magic of the season and I love nestling into the sofa watching favourites like the Grinch and Home Alone once December arrives.

Simple paper-cut ornaments

Christmas crafting

But my favourite part of all, is Christmas crafting. Every year I make handmade ornaments as gifts, and try to make as many of my family's gifts by hand, if possible. I make my own cards and gift tags too. Not because I have to, but because I love to.

Throwing a crafty party at Christmastime is a fabulous way to spend time with friends, make some personalised gifts or ornaments for your tree and catch up before the bustle of the holidays takes over. Want to throw your own crafty party this Christmas? Here are a few tips.

Gold-leafed baubles

Modern pom-pom stockings

Top tips for a successful crafty party:

  1. Choose an appropriate venue. If you don't want to clean up the mess at home, try using a pub instead! I've hosted lots of craft sessions at pubs, either in their private event rooms or just in the main room, at a reserved table. It's a good idea to give them a heads up that you'll be crafting (and promise to sweep up after), and they usually don't charge a fee if you order food and drinks.
  2. Make sure there's food and drinks. Mince pies, mulled wine... whatever festive treats you like best! Enjoy a little pub grub before you start your crafting too.
  3. Gather lots of supplies. Choose 2-3 projects to make that evening, and divide the materials list between everyone. Flying Tiger is my top shop for getting crafty supplies for relatively cheap in London. Hema is also good!
  4. Jump in! Learn a new craft technique, catch up with your friends, spend time together, get a little tipsy and go home with some unique and lovely handmade Christmas crafts. 

Block-printed Christmas Cards

Scandi-Inspired ornaments

Swedish dala horse ornaments

What kind of crafts work best for parties?

Here are a few ideas to inspire in case you're stuck for ideas on what you could make at your crafty Christmas party:

  • Paper-cut or collage Christmas cards
  • Felt ornaments for the tree, perhaps with some embroidered details
  • Decorated baubles (think gems, glitter pens, stickers...)
  • Pom-pom tree garlands
  • Crackers for Christmas dinner
  • Advent calendars
  • Gift tags
  • Block-printed wrapping paper
  • Origami ornaments / table decorations 

If you don't want to organise it, but really want to do some Christmas crafting, get some friends together and get in touch. I'd love to come and coordinate your Christmas crafting event for you! I'll bring all the projects and materials, plus show you how to make them.

Setting up your sewing workspace

My desk has certainly become my creative sanctuary. I look forward to climbing up on my stool everyday to work, whether it's handing the nitty-gritty paper work of running your own business, answering emails, sewing up something fun for myself, or experimenting and creating samples for new classes and workshops. 

Not everyone has a designated sewing space in their home, let alone a separate studio to let the threads fly! But here are a few tips for creating your ideal sewing workspace, wherever it may be!

Pick a tidy place, and keep it tidy.

There's nothing more frustrating than trying to sew in a cluttered area. Sewing requires space so clear some room before you start.

Choose a comfy chair.

It's really important to have a good, comfy chair when sewing. Hours can pass without you even knowing it! Something with a back support is also good. Make sure your sewing machine is set on a solid, flat surface, at a comfortable height.

Sewing and eating do not mix.

Save snack time for later, when you take a break. Crumbs have a way of finding themselves all over your fabric, and they can get inside your sewing machine too, and we don't want that. When hunger strikes, or you fancy a cup of tea, step away from your machine and your project.

Keep all your supplies at the ready.

It's a good idea to have all your tools and sewing things handy when you're settling in for an afternoon of making. Get yourself a basket for all your sewing things or a few little plastic storage containers that you store under your desk or your workspace. That way when you need those thread snips, they're within arm's reach.

Make sure you have enough light.

My mum is that tiny voice in my head that says, "turn a lamp on, you'll strain your eyes!" But she's right! You will strain your eyes and we can't have that. During the daytime, sew next to a window and invest in a decent lamp when you're sewing in the evening.

Pick a room that doesn't have carpet.

There is nothing like having to hoover after every sewing session! Threads have a way of getting absolutely everywhere, on our socks, our trousers, our sweaters... If you can, sew in a room with a floor that is sweepable.

Put on some music!

Some fun music is always a good way to get in the sewing mood. Sometimes I like to listen to audiobooks or podcasts while I sew, but sometimes there's nothing like Spotify or a favourite 8tracks playlist to sew by.

What does your sewing space look like?

Weaving with Amy Ilic x The Mamahood

How gorgeous are these mini wall hangings by Amy?

I have always wanted to try weaving (if you couldn't tell from my Weaving Inspiration Pinterest board!), and something a bit more sophisticated than a made-at-home cereal box loom like we used to do as kids. When I saw that The Mamahood was teaming up with textile artist Amy Ilic to offer a beginner's weaving workshop , I jumped at the chance to take it.

Amy showed us how to "warp up" with our strong cotton cording onto the wooden loom. and start our piece with some pretty funky tassels. The colours she had on offer were amazing, loads of neons, brights and neutrals. 

One of the things I loved most about weaving is that the possibilities are really endless when it comes to materials. Some were weaving with jute twine, ribbons, wool roving (one of my favourites!), metallic threads... 

I can see why weaving is becoming totally on-trend these days; it's very therapeutic and is totally accessible for everyone, even kids! Here is my finished piece, hanging over my dressing table. Not bad for a first-time weaver I think!

I also want to point out that the setting was fun too; it was hosted at the Punk Me Up Ceramics Cafe in East Dulwich. What a cool little space that I will definitely be visiting again for some handprinted ceramics time.

Thinking of trying your hand at weaving as well? Amy offers weaving workshops around Brighton and London. A basic loom is only about £10 and if you're like me, you already have a stash of wool leftover from knitting projects just waiting to be used up!

The Golden Rules of Sewing

We all have our favourite quotes and mantras to live by. When it comes to teaching sewing, I have my golden rules, which aren't really rules at all, but rather things to think about when just starting out. Whether you're eight to eighty and learning to sew, here are some thoughts to sew by.

Always be positive.

Start every project with a positive attitude. Think it's going to be super hard? You can do it! If you get stuck, remember to take a break before you get panicky and stressed. Sewing should be fun, challenging but fun. 

Use your imagination and make it your own.

Don't be afraid to get creative and try something new, and maybe different. Mix and match fabric patterns, go bold and unusual, make your project your own. It doesn't have to be perfect and it doesn't have to look the same as someone else's. 

Practise.

Sewing with success does take practise. I can always tell when my students haven't touched their machines over the summer holidays or Christmas break! Just like any other skill, it requires regular practise. It took me at least a dozen test buttonholes to get them just right! Thank goodness for scrap fabric :)

Sew slow... the turtle wins the race, remember?

On week one when I get a fresh group of eager students, they just want to sew, sew, sew! They're so eager that they put the pedal to the metal and sew as fast as the machine will go. STOP! Control is key when sewing and while some think sewing faster will get their project done faster, that's not true at all. You'll often make more mistakes when rushing, have to stop and unpick and sew again. Sew slow like a turtle and you'll get there in the end, with a beautiful project to boot!

What's your creative mantra? 

Basic supplies every sewer needs

What's in my sewing box you ask? Well I'll tell you! When starting out with a new hobby, especially sewing, it can seem like you need a buy a million things to get started. That's not exactly true, and you don't need all the fancy little tools out there, but some things will definitely make your life a little easier. 

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Here's what I would put in a beginner's sewing box (hint, hint, this would make a great gift for someone who's keen to learn how to sew!):

  • Extra sewing machine needles (some machines come with spares but you never know when you'll break a needle, so best to always have some spare ones on hand)
  • Pins (sharp ones with colourful pearl-heads are ideal, and oh-so-pretty!)
  • Hand sewing needles (for those finishing touches)
  • Scissors (two pairs: one only for fabric and one only for paper)
  • Seam ripper (for those times we make mistakes)
  • Thread (I mainly use white and black for crafty projects, but it doesn't hurt to have some funky colours as well, for fancy contrasting top stitching)
  • Disappearing-ink fabric marker or chalk pencils (these are invaluable for tracing templates onto fabric)
  • Ruler (one should be at least 30cm long, and clear acrylic quilter's rulers are also quite handy)
  • Flexible measuring tape (essential when measuring to make garments)

Some fancy extras that I love having around?

My pair of thread snips. They're quick to grab and snip away all my extra threads when I'm finishing a project.

A rotary cutter makes cutting out shapes super easy, especially quilt pieces. 

Pom pom makers in different sizes are a lot easier to use (and faster) than the old folk method or the cardboard circle method. These Loome tools are perfect for making pom-poms quickly, and being made of wood are sturdy to hold and don't have little plastic bits that can break off. They're also easy for kids to use.

A sewing gauge ruler is my best friend for measuring seam allowances and when pressing hems.

Chocolate... for those times when you need a sugary fix to keep going!

What's in your sewing box? What tools can you not live without?