Thursday, 5 December 2013

5 Things I've learned while 'crafting for Christmas' during the height of summer [or: Why you don't need to spend to get festive!]

Hello you.

Do you wish you could just sit down, with your paper-craft supplies in front of you, and get merrily creative for Christmas without feeling like you need to spend money on brand new festive supplies?


Because I wrote this just for you ...
As a freelance craft-magazine contributor, and as magazines work several months in advance, I've spent the last handful of years working on Christmas crafting commissions during June, July and August. And, while I'm certainly not complaining about it ... working to that timetable certainly throws up its own particular issues.

Issues such as ... 
  • [a] it's always tricky [as someone living in NE England where it's always cold and frosty at Christmas] to get my 'Ho Ho Ho' on when I'm barefoot and wearing shorts! 
... and
  • [b] when I have to begin decking-the-halls ... there are hardly ever any new Christmas ranges available for me to work with.
Now ... while I definitely don't believe in having to craft with the latest supplies ... when it comes to Christmas ranges, if I use an existing one, it's always going to be at least a whole year out of date when it ends up in print ... so I always try to find a way around it using more recent but necessarily non-festive supplies.

And it's this experience that's led to my 5 thrifty tips for how to craft for Christmas using supplies-for-all-seasons!

Scroll down to read:
LESSON 1: Geometric patterns are for life ... AND for Christmas.
LESSON 2: Broaden out your colour palette; there's more to Christmas than red & green:
LESSON 3: Festive focal points can be made from scratch using everyday supplies
LESSON 4: A Christmas tree is one of the quickest and easiest way to say 'Christmas card!!!
LESSON 5: When in doubt ... add a big red ribbon!

I created all of the examples below during various summers and they've all been ...
LESSON 1: Geometric patterns are for life ... AND for Christmas.

Don't have any festively patterned papers? No backgrounds of snowflakes or stockings or Santas? Don't worry, all is not lost!

All those super-useful 'basic' patterned papers you use during the other 11 months of the year can all be put to use on Christmas projects.

Think spots; stripes; grids; checks; chevrons; hexies ... and more:
In the above examples, A-D, I haven't used one single 'festive' design of paper.

Instead I've relied on:
  • various everyday, generic prints [stripes, dots, geometrics etc]; they're the kind of designs you often find on the B-side/reverse of a heavily patterned design, or in a pack of everyday basics.
  • and rather than have the patterned background create the festive feel for me, I introduced it via a combination of Christmassy wording/sentiments plus ... 
  • I chose traditionally wintry shades of frosty-blue and Santa's-coat-red.
And, to my mind, there's nothing about the end result that would suggest I used papers that were part of summery ranges.

So ...
  • how many basic geometric designs are lurking quietly and unremarkably in your regular everyday crafting stash?
  • Take a look at them with a fresh, festive, pair of eyes to see how they could be the star of your next Christmas card!
Ok ... while you're searching through your all-season craft supplies for those super-useable basics ... which colours are you going to look out for?

To make the most of your existing stash in your Christmas crafting don't get too hung up on setting aside only the traditional shades to work with ...

LESSON 2: Broaden out your colour palette; there's more to Christmas than red & green.

If you're not using supplies specifically marketed as Christmas ranges then, chances are, you're going to have all kinds of colours to choose from. And that's fine!

Take inspiration from shop displays, particularly Christmas tree + decoration departments, and experiment with all kinds of bright jewel shades, such as purple, and even pastels in your festive crafts:

Once again, the only Christmas papers I used here are the spots and tartan on [F] ... and even those are pretty generic. Everything else was part of my day-to-day supplies even including several snippets of summery floral print which made their way on to [F] and [H].

All shades of purple [and pink] are great for using both on their own [E] but also alongside the usual red and green [G+F] where it adds an extra, rich, pop of colour.

So ...
  • don't overlook pink and purple ribbons, papers and embellishments in your Christmas-crafting; they can all be put to work offering colourful festive alternatives!
Right then ... now we've [literally] got our backgrounds covered ... let's move on to what you can put on top of them ...

LESSON 3: Festive focal points can be made from scratch using everyday supplies.

There's no doubt that in amongst the latest Christmas card-making and scrapbooking ranges you'll find some beautiful multi-layered, glittering and inspiring embellishments which would make an incredible focal point to any festive card or layout.
However ...
... for me, crafting away in the heat of summer with nary a new release in sight, or for anyone who just doesn't want to spend any more money then they already have on craft supplies ... there's always the option to make a focal point from scratch!
Apart from two small die-cuts on [I] these layered tags, featuring mistletoe and a snowman, were made entirely from regular work-a-day supplies:
[I] Mistletoe tag supplies:
  • I made the wired mistletoe leaves by sandwiching craft wire between 2 layers of green paper;
  • then added the berries, which are simply a cluster of white mini pom-poms;
  • the finished thing is mounted on to various die-cut layers and stickers;
  • which in turn are sitting on a tag covered in vintage book paper. [The numbered text pages are available in my shop].
  • Finishing touches include twine, green ribbon and heart pins.
 [J] Smiling snowman supplies:
  • I glued black buttons as eyes and a mouth [plus an orange nose and two pink cheeks] to a circle of cream cardstock;
  • I then filled in the gaps with a hotch-potch of pearlised cream buttons and dabbed some Stickles around them all for a touch of sparkle to the space in between. [Think: 'glittery grouting'!]
  • Once it was dry I popped a bow on and added it to various layers eg. a scallop-punched disc, tag and paper doily.
I hope I've shown that:
  •  just because you're not relying on festive supplies it doesn't mean you can't produce multi-layered focal points filled with the festive spirit!
However ... if you're looking for something simpler to tackle ... then Lesson 4's the one for you ...

LESSON 4: A Christmas tree is one of the quickest and easiest way to say: 'Christmas card!!!'

If you're not going to be using 'Christmas supplies' you might be concerned that the end result won't appear Christmassy.

However, in my experience, whenever I add a simple tree as my focal point ... then something unmistakeably festive emerges:
Yet again no specifically Christmassy supplies were hurt during the course of these projects and yet they still manage to shout 'this is a Christmas card'!

And a tree is one of the easiest designs to reproduce making them ideal for:
  • creating a big old festive statement ... when you have very little time / inclination;
  • crafting-with-kids ... the shape is immediately recognisable, but requires no sophisticated skills;
  • making the most of your 'good days/moments' when you have dexterity/ fine-motor skill problems ... tree designs make a big impact in relatively little time.
Furthermore, they can be made from a wide variety of supplies as mine here prove:
  • [K] = 4 lengths of green washi tape stuck to a card blank, with a scrap of brown paper as a trunk.
  • [L] = 1 triangle of green paper, with a trunk doodled on in pen and a gem on top. 
  • [M] = 9 lengths of striped paper drinking straw with a paper trunk and a button star on top.
  • [N] = 3 die-cut glitter-paper hearts stuck upside-down and decorated with gems.
So ...
  • the next time you're stuck for an idea of what to stick on a Christmas card ... think: super-simple-big-impact-tree!
And finally ... if you don't even have time to create the simplest of simple tree designs ... then just remember ...

LESSON 5: When in doubt ... add a big red ribbon!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record ... I didn't use a single festive range of paper here:
... and yet, the red ribbons give a distinctly luxuriously Christmassy edge.

In any other colour either of these designs could work for a card/layout at any time of the year. But that red ribbon is just screaming 'Christmaaaaaaaaaaaaassss'.

And, if you take nothing else from the 5 things I've learned while crafting-for-Christmas during the height of summer ...
  • I'd like to think that 'when in doubt, add a big red ribbon' could become your new thrifty-festive-crafting mantra!
It's definitely a time of year where spending on creative supplies takes a back-seat so I hope my experiences of crafting-for-Christmas using supplies-for-all-seasons have inspired you to reconsider what it is you need when it comes to making your Christmas cards, tags and more.

I'd love it if you left here today with a few ideas on how to achieve the Christmas feel simply by considering what you've already got with a festive frame of mind!

So ... if you do delve into your regular stash to create something inspired by any of my 5 'lessons' do let me know [either here on my blog or via my Facebook page or tweet me @notesonpaper].

And if you've enjoyed any of my examples today ... would you do me a festive favour?

Would you please pin the image below to Pinterest ... or share the post via social media? So more people get to see it?

You could even help me out by simply sliding this screen under the nose of someone who might enjoy reading my tips.

Thanks so much.  Happy almost-Christmas to you!

Julie x


  1. Love this post Julie. Very thought provoking and some great ideas. I will use these as I am just putting my JYC album together and using up stash rather than buying new.

  2. haven't quite cracked into Pinterest yet, working on it! Have Facebooked your post though (haven't really cracked social media either, but I've worked out how to do that!) - most inspiring, which I need right now. Not quite in the holiday swing yet - perhaps I've get the Gluhwein going tonight!

  3. What a beautifully put together post with lots of gorgeous examples to look at. This year, I can relate: I put together the tags I made for Christmas Jot magazine with an August Project Life kit.

  4. fabulous tips for not using Christmas paper!! Looove all your creations!!

  5. I LOVE THIS!! Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful tips, they'll definitely come in handy!

  6. JUlie,
    I'm not exactly sure why, but this just made me smile so big!
    Thanks for sharing,


Thanks for leaving me a comment, asking me a question, sharing your own story or just randomly saying hello.