Monday, 20 December 2010

Going Crackers

The Lovelygrey boys and I spent Christmas day on our own last year.  As I was sick of nasty plastic novelties and even the more 'classy' gifts that come in  luxury versions of crackers, I made my own from a kit which included pre-cut cardboard outers and snaps.

We've got a houseful for the festive season this year and I decided to repeat the exercise.  However I balked at the cost of the cracker kits and decided to make all twenty two on my own from scratch this year with a little help from Louis.

Firstly I bought gifts.  As family members who will be visiting this year may read this post I cannot divulge too much.  However here are some ideas and remember that items in gift sets on sale in high street stores have the potential to be separated to provide presents for several people.

  • Small accessories: phone charms or keyrings, unusual buttons,  hairgrips, brooches, rings, cufflinks, Jibbitz for Crocs shoes or their equivalent.
  • Cash for kids (think tooth fairy)
  • Lottery tickets or homespun vouchers say, for an evening's baby sitting or a special supper or an Internet subscription code.
  • Small cosmetic or toiletry items.
  • Alcohol miniatures.
  • Novelty stationery items.
  • Sufficient beads for the recipent to make their own piece of jewellery.
  • Flower or vegetable seeds.
  • Finger puppets.
  • Model cars.
  • Tiny collectable dolls, lego figures,  toy soldiers
  • Pocket kite.
  • A fossil or rock specimen.
  • Tiny pieces of ceramics/glass/craftwork if that's the recipient's bag.
Next Louis and I copied jokes from books and the Internet.    The Poke and the last year's Guardian ad a few that made me giggle but some  of these are  too risque for the more delicate taste of the Oldies and set a bad example to the young one.   Some of the jokes have been personally chosen for their recipient.

Then the constructional fun started.  Naturally, I turned to the new queen of creativity, Kirsty Young, for advice and found some in the form of her tutorial for making Christmas Crackers.  However, prototypes following the exact instructions weren't particularly successful so here's what I did instead.

1.  As Kirsty suggested I cut wrapping paper into 30 x 20cm squares and perforated each piece 10cm from each short end using a specially bought wheely device. She suggested thick paper but I used a thinner variety as I found it easier to manipulate.

2.  Instead of toilet or kitchen rolls I used A4 card for the core.  I cut two 14.75 x 14cm rectangles from each sheet and cut one of the 7cm wide remnants along its length to make the rolls used to shape each end of the cracker.

 3.  I then formed the 'backbone' of the cracker over my rolling pin, taping the cardboard with sellotape to make cylinders.  You will see that there are gaps between the tubes. This is intentional.

4.  Next, I put a line of PVA along one long edge of the wrapping paper and stuck a cracker snap to the other long edge.  I started rolling the paper around the cardboard tubes starting at the end with the snap.

5.  Kirsty got a bit vague here and talked about scrunching the end of the cracker.  This didn't work for me so instead I tied gift ribbon tightly to form one end of the cracker and then added a joke, the gift and a chocolate in lieu of the personally despised hats.  I sealed the other end in the same way.  Attempts to use ordinary dressmaking cotton to tie the crackers failed.  A man-strengthed tie is needed!

6.  All that was left now was to remove smaller cardboard tubes, reshape the cracker ends over the rolling pin and add a gift tag

I'll apologise in advance to the famly.  Some of my earliest attempts are a bit raggeddy taggeddy but take your choice.  You could have a slightly scruffy offering with a thoughtfully chosen present or the umpteenth set of nail clippers from a luxury shop bought cracker!

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