Before I start, I must tell you all about Etsy. My, it’s a wonderful place. If you’ve made something, you can sell it there. And if you want something handmade, you can go there and probably buy it (want Doctor Who jewellery or Michael Jackson magnets? You’ve just found your new favourite website). You would think there was no better place on the interweb for crafters … There is though. It’s called Regretsy and it has the most brilliant tag line I’ve ever read: “Handmade? It looks like you made it with your feet”. Rightly or wrongly (there has been many an online rant against it from aggrieved crafters) it exists solely to unearth and mock the very best of the worst craft Etsy sellers have to offer. It’s sarky and witty and, while I feel a bit of a traitor saying it, I’d much rather spend an hour trawling through it than Etsy. It seems that the guys at Random House are equally impressed too – on November 20 it was announced that the site has done a deal with them to bring out a book. Last night I saw the first Christmas-themed craft post go up (“Yule be sorry” ) and we should definitely expect to see plenty more where that came from: Christmas is a time when craft goes bad. Obviously the kids get let off the hook – they can make snowmen from loo rolls and wreaths from washing up bottles and it’s charming and adorable and something their parents should be proud of. If it’s the work of anyone over 16 though, it’s often just naff. But your own Christmas crafting needn’t be so crappy, especially when it comes to cards. It’s actually quite easy to avoid ending up as the star of your very own blog post on Craftastrophe, Handmade gone Wrong or Homemade Hilarity. Just follow a few guidelines and you can make a perfectly acceptable, even impressive, set of Christmas cards. And the best thing? These simple, more stylish cards are actually easier to get right and cheaper to make than most.
Avoiding a craftastrophe
• Keep it simple. Go for white space and basic shapes rather than clutter.
• Use square cards rather than rectangular ones. I have no idea why they look better, but they do.
• Avoid overly-detailed imagery – santas, robins, Christmas puddings etc. Crowns, birds, and baubles work well though.
• If you are going for one simple shape on the front of a card, make an effort to get it right. Search the Internet for something to print out and copy from or ask someone clever to design something you can use as a template.
• Bright red and green are obviously colors to use but stay away from them. Rich purples, navy and gold look much better.
• Invest in decent paper with classy patterns – it makes even the most basic cards look great. Paperchase is your best bet for this – they do fantastic A2 sheets for £2 and one or two will see you through your Christmas card-making.
• Sequins and gems can really finish off a card. They can also ruin it too. Put down the glitter and use embellishments sparingly.
• If you must have a message on the front of the card, find someone with decent handwriting. Anything done on a computer looks a bit crap, as does most lettering stickers you can buy. Consider using pencil too – it makes cards look handmade, but in a good way.
• Avoid pre-packaged card making sets. They are a waste of money and usually full of rubbish designs.
Making cards to save cash
Making stuff yourself is rarely cheaper than buying it – you can pick up 50 cards for a quid in most pound shops and you’ll never be able to make 50 cards for that. But if you are accustomed to sending posh-looking cards that cost £5-£10 for five, you can achieve something just as nice yourself for less. Buy blank cards online – you still have time to get them delivered and they are usually cheaper than places like Hobbycraft. For a cheaper alternative to blank cards, cut your own from large sheets of card and buy cheap envelopes separately. Beware though – this is time consuming and it can be difficult to fold them exactly. • Parcel paper is cheap and always looks great on cards. Look out for bargain wrapping paper too. Pages from glossy mags can also be used instead of shop-bought paper too.
Making cards en masse
If you are just making cards for a select few, or have the luxury of a few days off between now and Christmas, your design can be as detailed as you want. But if everyone is going to get one from you, you need to be efficient. It is possible to do though – all 50 friends and relatives I sent cards to last year got a handmade card and spare time is not something I have much of. Buy blank cards rather than cutting your own. Don’t make cards one at a time – work in stages. Cut everything out first, then do all the sticking, and then finish off by adding embellishments. Glue is messy and, although double-sided tape is quick to use when you have square shapes, the easiest way to stick paper to card is to use spray mount, a spray-on glue in an aerosol can. It’s about £6 a can but lasts for ages. • Choose a design that is simple to cut out (this beautiful reindeer design on Etsy would look brilliant on a handmade card, but those antlers would keep you tied to the craft table for days on end). Also, stack a few pages up and cut out a few of the same shapes at once.