Christmas homemade gifts and decorations


I heard a lovely story about a string of bunting made by a mother, which travelled from family member to family member whenever a party occurred.  This inspired me to make some too as it adds a festive air to any event.  This bunting is washable and has been made for Christmas time celebrations.

The instructions make a two metre long strip, as this is common length for bias binding. However,  this can be made any length you desire by sewing bias strips together and then attaching the flags, or simply tying finished two metre lengths in any number you require to suit the venue.

To make a two metre strip with 11 flags

  1. Make a paper pattern for the flag by drawing the shape, base at 4 & ½  inches, and then at the mid point of the base line (2 & 1/4 ins), draw a perpendicular line to the tip of the flag 8 inches long.  Connect the tip by pencil line to each end of the horizontal line.
  2. Cut out 22 fabric triangles.
  3. Placing 2 triangles right sides together stitch ¼ inch seams along the two angled sides as shown above.
  4. Gently turn inside out and press.
  5. Starting at the middle of the two-metre strip pin one flag exactly on the mid point.  Place the remainder equi-distant from each other until you reach the desired ends.  I allowed about four inches at each end for tying together.  Check from front and back to see that you like the effect before stitching flags to one inside edge of the unfolded binding. Fold the other edge over the raw edges of the flags and sew down.



  • To make the eye of a machine, or any needle, more easy to see, place a piece of plain white paper on the surface behind the needle.
  • When you reach the top point of the triangle, turn the fabric by releasing the presser foot with the needle still in the fabric.
  • If you find it hard to get the fabric to turn inside out at the flag tip trim off any excess fabric, by cutting straight across the end of the point as shown above, but not too close to the stitching!  Gently use the end of your scissors to nudge the tip into shape.



To Make a Wheat pack

Corduroy wheat pack

This wheat pack pictured was made for me by a very dear friend, Jacqui Johnston, over 15 years ago.  It has been such a comfort to me when I have been extra cold or have had a bad back, or other injury or ache that is going through the recovery phase.  I always think of her when I use it, which is often.  It is as good as new and has been one of the best gifts I have ever received.

To use it,  you place it in the microwave along with a cup of water.  Zap them on high for 3-4 minutes.  Do not leave the kitchen while this is happening!  The resultant warm moist heat is very soothing.  Keep it in a dry place and it will last you for years – the microwaving kills any bugs. You can also pop it in the freezer , if it is a cold pack you need, in the acute phase of an injury.

You need 1.0 kg poultry feed wheat – winnow it to get rid of the dust.  Do not use wheat grown for seed use as it may have chemicals on it.

1 rectangle of warm textured but not synthetic fabric e.g wool, corduroy, cotton 13 inches wide by 20 inches long to make a wheat pack about 19 inches by about six and a half inches wide. You can make it to the size that suits you – you may want it smaller for a neck or ankle injury.

A sewing machine and thread that matches the fabric.

Fold the right sides of the fabric together and machine sew across one end and down the long side. Sew another row of stitching alongside the seam you have just sewn for strength.

Turn right side out.

Tip about 1/3 of the wheat into the bottom of the tube you have sewn.  Shake it to the very end end and pin across the fabric to keep the wheat away from the seam you are about to sew one third of the way from the blind end.  Sew the seam and you ahve made  the first section.  Now repeat the same for the second section, being careful to keep the wheat away from the seam.  Tip the remaining wheat into the last section shaking it down to the bottom of the third pocket.  Fold the ends in at the top so no raw edges are showing,  and complete the final seam at the top twice for strength again.  Easy isn’t it!  This makes a great useful gift for any adult.

To make a quick cushion cover without a zip

Measure your cushion. Cut one piece of fabric the size of the cushion plus 1/2 inch for 1/4 inch seams all around, plus a little extra to accomodate the puffiness of the cussion- the piece will therefore be one  inch bigger than your cushion, i.e. for a 12 inch square cushion it would be 13 inches square.

Cut two pieces of fabric, half the width of the first piece plus three inches in the direction of the back opening. For the cushion above the second pieces would be 13 inches by  9  & 1/2 inches.

Hem one end of each piece along the 13 inch length.

Lay the first piece of fabric down right side uppermost and put the two other pieces on top right sides together.  The hemmed ends need to overlap in the middle of the cushion.

Pin in place and sew the seam around the cushion.  You can make the corners rounded or square.   To make a neat square corner leave the machine needle in the fabric and release the presser foot to turn the fabric at right angles to the direction you were sewing in.  Turn your cushion cover inside out and press the seams flat.  Insert your cushion.  Here is a a photo of a pillow sized one I made out of a teatowel and some toning fabric that matched the blind in the room.

Front side




Click to enlarge photo and see the opening overlap folded back to reveal how it covers the other piece of fabric.

To make a flanged cushion cover  as pictured below, use the same principles as above but cut your fabric three inches larger than the size of the cushion all around.  Assemble the pieces following the simple cushion cover instructions above  and sew them  together 1/4 inch from the edges, with square corners.  Trim the corners and turn the cushion right side out and press all edges flat.  Pin sides together one inch from the outside edge. Now sewing on the outside of the cushion cover, carefully sew a new square two inches from the outside edge of the cover, which encloses all the raw edges inside the cushion.

Cushion with two inch wide flange


A simple bag

Choose a strong, washable woven fabric. Tea towels, old jeans, curtains, aprons, can all be upcycled too.  Check the remnant bins in curtain fabric shops for a suitable piece at a reasonable price, or buy a cheap sturdy bed sheet and make loads of them.

Check out this pdf:


for very simple instructions for a good functional shopper.  Vary the strap length to suit.  For a flat bottomed bag, just turn the bag inside out and sew across each of the corners at right angles to the side seams as in the picture below.

Stitch at right angles across side on bottom edge of bag to make a flat base.

Appearance of base on outside after stitching and ironing.

A four inch long seam gives a nice roomy bag.  However add two inches to the length of each bag piece (front and back) to accommodate it, when you cut your bag out.

Personalise your bag with buttons, applique, embroidery etc.  You can use recycled webbing for strong handles, or recycle the knotted woven cotton handles, from fancy heavy-paper shop-brand bags, on smaller bags.

You can also made an appliance cover the same way by making a wider base to the bag and leaving off the handles- the black and  white striped example above is actually a cover for a Kenwood mixer.

For loads of other sewing projects and free patterns click here


Click to elarge and see detail of photo frames made fron container tops, cross stitch designs, and gift wraps.

Gift-wrap and labels

Save ribbons and other decorative items you receive on gifts throughout the year.  Gift-wrap and tissue can often be recycled.  Strong small bags from up-market shops can have pictures glued to cover the name brand and have a new life as your personalised gift bag. Small plain brown paper bags can make lovely holders if the gift is snuggled inside a cloud of bright coloured tissue.

Other great gift-wraps, especially for people living away from home are fliers, newspaper or magazine pages with interesting local stories or cartoons on them.  Poster paper can also be bought cheaply from a craft shop in long rolls of a solid colour like red, or green, if you have nothing to recycle. Large strong brown paper bags are brilliant for wrapping items for overseas mailing if you open them flat, remove the handles, and place the printing on the inside.

Children can help decorate gift-wrap and cards with potato cut stamps.  Halve a potato and press a small seasonal cookie cutter into the cut side.  Trim away the excess potato around the edges of the cutter and ‘hey presto’, a professional looking stamp to dip into poster paint and stamp all over the inside of that paper supermarket bag.

Decorative elements can be made from string, raffia, garden twine, yarn, or ribbon which often is found on newly purchased items, e.g. to keep garments on hangars in shops or bundling matching items such as wash cloths or pyjamas, or on boxes of chocolates.  Save it all as it comes in handy. Buttons, and scraps of lace from worn out clothes and broken bits of jewellery all have similar uses.  Bunches of seed heads, dried leaves, small pinecones, and cinnamon quills can be used to personalise your gift too.  Old cards can be cut up and glued to make attractive labels also.

A pot of PVA glue, a hole punch, and imagination are all you need to put your own personality on your gift items.

Tree Decorations

Strings of threaded popcorn and or cranberrries, single pine cones, seed pods and dried garden objects, can be used to great effect on the tree if hung from strings of fishing nylon or scraps of ribbon. Small crocheted, cross stitch, felt cut-outs or knitted items can look cute and colourful.  Photographs or cut outs from Christmas cards can be double-sided taped into the inside of bottle and jar tops and suspended on the tree by ribbon attached with a small piece of double sided tape around the outside of the lid and knotted at the top to make a hanger.

Table settings

A plain white cloth can be dressed with an inexpensive runner made from a strip of red gingham or festive green polycotton to add colour to the centre of the length of the table. Or place it cross wise to make two place settings.  Attractive tablesmats can also be made from appropriately coloured tea towels folded in half after starching and ironing.  Things don’t have to match and can look much more charming if they don’t, as long as there is a general theme to link them like a plain coloured cloth underneath.

A simple centrepiece of white pillar candles sat on a tray or old mirror and entwined with fresh ivy, holly or bunches of red berries looks fresh and natural.

Bottle or jar top decorations as mentioned above, can be placed on the table as party favours or used as place markers.  Old baby photos would be fun in this setting and provide lots of opportunities for reminiscing about old times. Last year’s plain Christmas baubles make nice personalised keepsakes too, if the name of the person is painted on with glitter-glue pens.

Entertain children by making their tablemats from rectangles of brown paper from supermarket bags.  Provide crayons and have them draw pictures while they wait to be served, or using cookie cutters or a stencil you can outline seasonal shapes for them to colour in.  Similarly all ages would have fun colouring a brown paper party hat that can be stapled to fit head size after colouring.

Plain white napkins can be dressed with a cookie cutter or other small seasonal gift tied on with recycled cord handles off  fashion store shopping bags.




With thanks for inspiration to K Andersen.  AW

2.1 MiB