Christmas addict offers DIY crafts ideas

Take the stress and the cost outof the festive season with these crafty tips from the experts, writes self-confessed Christmas addict Karen Pittar

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 December, 2012, 11:50pm

In June, while most people are putting the finishing touches to their summer holiday plans, I am updating my Christmas gift list. After all, holidays are the perfect place to find thoughtful, quirky gifts and gorgeous festive decorations.

In October, I pore over spreadsheets with ideas for greeting cards and holiday meals, family activities and crafts. This year my children are making gifts for their teachers (watch out, Mr Hulbert and Mr Miller), and my Christmas cards, complete with family photos on the front, were printed and ready to go by mid-November.

Our tree (ordered months ago) arrived on December 1 and, with Bing Crosby in the background, we decorated it as a family. I let the children lead the way and then, when they had gone to bed, pulled all the decorations off and started again, to make sure it looked "just right". Yes, I am a bona fide Christmas junkie.

Many friends are shocked by my Christmas mania, and part of me understands.

OK, I don't need to start planning six months in advance. But I am equally incredulous when, on December 23, people frantically scramble to find presents, or get the tree up.

The solution, of course, is to find a happy medium. And with some time to go until the big day, don't worry if you haven't started. Take it from a fanatic, there are lots of ways to take the stress - and cost - out of the festive season.

We have scoured the city to find some great DIY tips from Christmas experts, so get the family together, grab some paints and glitter and start spreading a little magic!

Lindy Moran, director of the Little Picasso art school for children, believes Christmas should be spent as a family. Moran, her husband and two sons, Lucca aged 10 and Matteo 13, usually celebrate Christmas in Australia, at their farmhouse on the Mornington Peninsula.

"We have little traditions with music, food and taking time out to be thankful. I burn candles in the house or boil a pot of cloves and spices which remind us of the countryside, we play our favourite Christmas music from Bing Crosby, and watch movies like Miracle on 34th Street."

Moran loves art; so DIY crafts are a festive tradition in her home.

"Over the holidays we turn the cocktail bar in our dining room into an art bar. I love to recycle objects. We make nutcrackers, Christmas crackers from toilet paper rolls and 3-D Christmas cards.

"We roll out a large roll of paper and draw all over it with colour pens, paints and glitter. This keeps kids, visitors and family busy for hours. We often use this for wrapping paper. White paper is also great as a tablecloth, just lay it down on the table and keep kids amused with pens and pencils,while they wait for their dinner."

Anki Au Yeung from Anastassia's Art House says there is a huge demand for their children's winter workshops.

"Every year, our Christmas workshops inspire students to make their own ornaments and decorations or gifts. Anyone can join and get ideas to make at home with the family."

Another source of inspiration and a great way to get tiny tots involved in decorating the house, making presents, cards and more, is to use pre-packaged kits from craft, speciality and book stores.

"Children can enjoy making their own Christmas cards, gift bags and bookmarks, with kits," says Katrina Walker, director of Bumps to Babes.

Her store stocks a range of packs for tree decorations, finger puppets, wreaths, a nativity mobile, angels and Christmas sewing kits.

I use these at home, with my youngest daughter, who is eight. She is colouring cards to give to her friends at school, while my eldest, now 15, bakes with a cooking kit.

Mother of three, Lucy McLennan also uses a lot of kit-based activities, making everything from cookies and crackers to Christmas stockings.

By November, her three children, Yasmine, eight, Max, five, and 2½-year-old Mia, are busy baking, cutting, pasting and painting.

"Part of the fun is transforming our home into a winter wonderland. I love to see my children rush home from school to continue colouring, sticking and cooking. I love to bake and Christmas is a perfect excuse to be imaginative with my cupcakes, cookies and baked decorations. It's a time to sit down with the children and get creative."

Yasmine and Max are given their own boxes labelled "Completed Christmas Craft" where they put finished pieces of art - they then choose some to decorate the house; the rest are proudly given to grandparents and family.

"We like to make Christmas stockings for any family members staying with us over the holidays, and this year the children and I are busy decorating felt stockings for their Uncle Hugo and his fiancée, Nikki," says McLennan.

In the end, whether you start preparing in October or December, the holiday season is all about creating memories together - and there is no better place to start than at home.

Not everyone will want to go to the lengths I do; it can be as easy as popping some popcorn and stringing it up around the house, or decorating the tree with it. Make colourful paper chains, or cards and gifts for family members.

Baked treats are always enthusiastically received and children love the kitchen. Take a class or have fun with craft kits; no matter where you get your inspiration, start creating your own family memories.

Me? Well I will always be a Christmas junkie … I am off to put carols on the stereo, warm up some mulled wine and wrap more presents in my colour co-ordinated paper and ribbon. Merry Christmas one and all!