If spare energy is in short supply in January following the festive season, it can be quite hard to feel motivated to get the craft supplies out again. However, over the years, I have found for myself and the family, that even doing a little, either together or for ourselves, can be a good way to reignite a bit of joy in an otherwise quiet month. 

The trick for us here in our house though, is to keep it simple. And I find that if we do this, we are more likely to keep crafting through the rest of the year, if it has felt easy in January. 

With this in mind, here are a couple of cosy craft ideas to enjoy together at the start of another new year:

Bountiful Bird Feeders

A lovely thing to do in the winter is to feed the birds. Birds can face food shortages at any time of year, but especially so in winter. The food they need at different points of the year varies; there is plenty of information about this on the RSPB website. During the winter, birds need more high-fat food and a lovely way of providing this is to make seed cakes to hang in the garden. I’ve done this many times in groups and at home, and find that children really enjoy this activity. It is also relatively simple to do. There are some easy to follow instructions on how to make seed cakes and feed the birds in winter, on the RSPB website: Homemade Bird Food Recipe | Make Bird Seed Cakes and How to attract birds to your garden. Please take note of the nut allergy advice.

At the end of January in the UK, there is the annual Big Garden Bird Watch. It’s a national survey that helps with keeping a track of bird populations in the UK each year. If you have made seed cakes and hung them in your garden, there’s every chance you may have attracted some new birds. Spending an afternoon birdwatching with a warm drink close to hand can be a lovely soothing activity for all the family. Depending where you are watching from, a degree of quiet and calm is required so as not to scare the birds away, and everyone can potentially feel the benefits of a few quiet and focused moments watching, counting and recording the birds together. It’s also a lovely way for little ones to learn how to identify the different birds in your locality, and grow an awareness of the natural world around them. It’s very easy to sign up and take part and there is more information here. But a few moments of birdwatching, as a family or on your own, can be enjoyed wherever you are whether you are taking part in the survey or not, and can be a very soothing experience. 

Tip: if you need something to keep little hands and minds focused during a family birdwatching session, it can help to set them up with something easy to do alongside – something as simple as a beautiful birds colouring sheet (maybe with native birds if you can find one), is still relevant to the activity and can give you a little extra time to watch. A bird identification chart is also handy and can help keep children engaged.

Beautiful Bookmarks

We often end up with a stack of books in our house after Christmas, with books being one of our favourite gifts to both give and receive. And in our experience, a good stash of books, also requires a good stash of bookmarks! 

My daughter in particular loves to have a bookmark for whatever she is reading, and does spend many an hour making her own from offcuts of card or paper from other crafts she’s been working on, and as a kind of easy alternative to doodling when at a loose end – I love the way that in choosing bookmarks as an outlet for colouring and playing with abstract designs, she is doing something practical and useful for herself at the same time. Her wonderful bookmarks that over the years have been so varied, colourful and vibrant in design, are really the inspiration for the main tutorial.

We are often losing them too (our books tend to go wherever we go) – so sitting for an afternoon and making a good bundle of them should give us plenty to choose from and see us well through the new year 😊.  

The slides on the tutorial page, present seven different super-simple bookmark ideas – at the most basic, all you need is some paper or card, scissors and pens or marker pens and you can still make yourself some beautiful bookmarks to use every day. If you would like to make them more detailed, a few extra ideas are also offered. 

And of course, there is potential to take your experiments further if you wish – pattern design is an artform in itself, and maybe mindful Zentangling can be a new hobby in which the designs can be incorporated in many other projects?

If you wish to make your own charms, you could consider using Polymer Clay, and if you have access to a laminator and think this would add strength and longevity to your bookmark, do feel free to laminate them; you should be able to fit several bookmarks in one laminate pouch, saving on resources. 

Bookmark making is a lovely, easy, cosy-afternoon craft that is quick to set up and clear away and makes room for hanging out together and chatting and connecting through craft. If it seems too simple a craft to motivate some children or yourself to do it, you can easily make the focus about something else; for example, exploring pattern, or wanting to write yourself a quote that you want to remember. Also, if you don’t need a bookmark for the books you are reading, these can be used for your New Year diaries, planners and journals, or even your PowerBook, too! 😊 

They would also make a lovely gift for a loved one or any book lover you know; a bundle of handmade bookmarks tied together with a beautiful ribbon, or presented in a beautiful hand-decorated envelope can feel like a very personal gift and something that can provide simple pleasure when accompanying favourite books for a long period of time. 

Planner Decorating and Art Journaling

And if you are starting a new daily diary, planner or journal in January, why not consider an afternoon of something a bit like art journaling? If you have made bookmarks decorated with favourite patterns, why not coordinate a page or two of your diary with the same pattern? You could choose key pages to decorate – either the front page, or the first page of every month, or the notes pages at the back to inspire you as you go through the year. Alternatively, you could print off a favourite colouring sheet and after a cosy afternoon colouring – together or in a few quiet minutes alone – and stick it somewhere prominent in your new journal so that it can uplift you every time you visit. 

The materials for this can be the same ones used for bookmark making; marker pens, acrylic pens, washi tape, stickers and so on, and your decorations can be as simple or as elaborate as you like.  

Making it cosy

All of these gentle activities invite a chance to go at a slower pace after the business of December and as they might not require too many materials (depending on how the crafts you choose), it is maybe also a chance to create a really cosy, nurturing atmosphere to craft in too. Sometimes crafting with the family can get a bit hectic, but perhaps the slower pace of this month can offer the chance to take a little extra time to set the mood beforehand, but still in the simplest of ways. Maybe make a favourite hot drink, some nutritious snacks to hand, light a candle if it is safe to do so, and if you and your children enjoy music and can tolerate the extra noise, maybe play some soothing music in the background too. Or simply whatever works to make your creative space feel calm and supportive, and that it would be an enjoyable, nourishing way to spend some time. 

Whatever you choose, may it offer the chance for a cosy afternoon or two enjoying the simple pleasure of a bit of time crafting, and maybe even snuggling with a storybook and your new bookmarks, either together or for yourself. 

© Abigail Cole 2021

For more creative ideas visit www.forgetfulfairyartstudio.com

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