This week I heard the very first Christmas carol of the year flooding my local super market with premature festive delight. It seemed far too early to hear the rustle of jingle bells, but with stacks of Quality Street chocolate boxes and gold baubles lining the high street shop windows, it appears that the Christmas season has arrived.
It has felt appropriate to begin decking our little home with wintery cinnamon scents, warm candles and twinkling lights. And so I have been reminded of the Norwegian hearts my mother’s family always made around Christmas time. Although I originally posted this paper craft as a summer picnic bunting idea, these woven hearts were traditionally made for Christmas trees.
If you’re like me, you’ll have a collection of random scraps of origami paper too pretty to throw away or use for anything, reels of ribbons that feel like they’re worth their weight in gold to your craft cupboard, and weird bits of wire that seemed too good to part with.
I have my mother to thank for my obsessive hoarding of anything that could be turned into something else. I grew up in a very crafty home. With a carpenter/joiner/DIY expert/electrician/plumber/painter/decorator/gardener/water colour painter/ceramicist/photographer for a father and a jeweller/art teacher/seamstress/dreamcatcher maker/painter/decorator/quilter /photographer/general crafter for a mother, it’s no wonder I have a penchant for all things hands-on and messy – ahem – creative!
Growing up, my mother’s craft cupboard was my go-to place for inspiration on a rainy (or sunny, come to think of it) day. Stacks and stacks of boxes filled the shelves with all contents labelled on bits of paper tape for easy searching. There was the ribbon box, glue box, calligraphy pen and ink box, a bag full of coloured feathers, one with natural feathers, jewellery compartments full of beads and varieties of string and pliers of all shapes and sizes, easels and oil paints, woodburning tools and glitter, lots of glitter. She taught me to use exacto blades on thin cardboard before I was 10 and constantly encouraged me to see the potential in something that was a little on the drab side. Everything and anything could be transformed with a lot of hot glue and some creativity.
This attitude is certainly what fuels my creative (and sometimes not so creative!) projects to this day. It’s the side of me that looks at an empty Pringles can and thinks ‘what can I turn this into?’ And, much to my boyfriend’s dismay (as it takes up all of our storage space in this small home) I have a growing collection of stuff waiting for its moment to shine and become something new and useful and pretty.
So, if you’re like me, somewhere in your cupboards or stuffed into a drawer, you have an impressive collection of pretty tissue and wrapping papers of varying sizes that seem just too precious to use. I’m obsessed with all things stationary, and pretty papers for me are the goldmine of a good crafting cupboard. I even have an envelope filled with tiny scraps of delicate and gorgeous paper that I find too precious to throw away but haven’t found a good use for them… until now.
Every Christmas at my grandparents house, my Norwegian grandfather would bring out a small envelope of decorations. These were all delicate paper hearts that had been hand made by our family over the years and were kept for each Christmas to adorn our tree. I always loved the little hearts that were woven to create small baskets, and learned how to make them as a child. Each year we added to the collection, making the hearts out of shiny gold, red and metallic green papers. Every basket had been made with different levels of difficulty. Several of the ornaments had been woven with ten or more strands, and made gorgeously delicate baskets that were leagues above our feeble attempts of 4 strands in thick red and green construction paper. One year I became determined to make the most intricate woven basket out of all of them, and sat at the dining table for hours, attempting to maneuver the basket’s thin strips of paper into a successful pouch. The outcome: a basket that didn’t quite open!
After receiving two of these little heart baskets in a Christmas card from my grandmother last winter, I have recreated these lovely little hearts for my new home. Delving into my origami and scrap paper collection, I have set out to make a variety of heart garlands in this gorgeous style, maintaining the original design of the Norwegian heart baskets. These make pretty little garlands or bunting that can be used to decorate living spaces and Christmas trees.
For this project you will need a variety of coloured paper of various prints. The woven effect is most impactful when working with two different colours or patterns that will complement or contrast each other, depending on the look you are aiming for. Stronger papers are easier to work with at first, as they are more durable when weaving but are harder to manipulate. Test a variety of different papers before using your precious collection.
Cut two long and thin ovals from the paper(s) of your choice and line then up to make sure the rounded ends are even and when folded and woven will create a perfect heart shape. If making a garland, you may want to cut a template so that each heart will be exactly the same size.
To create the woven basket, strips are cut which will be woven together. The more strips you cut, the more complicated the weaving will be! I’ll start with something simple. These strips should only be cut to the depth of the second half of the heart.
The first basket we’re making will have just 2 weaving sections on each half.
With the left half of the heart, insert the top strip between the fold created in the right hand section of the heart.
The second white strip will then be placed through the top loop of map paper.
Finally, insert the left hand map loop into the right hand white loop and you have a little simple woven heart basket!
The paper I’ve used for this simple heart basket is Paperchase wrapping paper. I would recommend using a thicker construction or craft paper to start as it will be more durable when manipulating the loops through each other, and this paper is usually inexpensive just in case the first few attempts don’t go to plan.
Baskets can be as intricate and complex as you like (with practice!) by cutting more and more strips and weaving them in the same manner. And if you’re ready for even more complex baskets, try cutting the strips into zig zags or diamond shapes! (for experts only).
By creating several hearts of complimenting patterns and colours, you can string them together to create a lovely vertical garland, or bunting over a window or doorway. For this garland, I’ve strung together 4 little heart baskets with a satin thread and hung from a doorway to create a welcoming bunting.
Imagine these little hearts with small sprigs of ever green in each pocket for gorgeous Christmas bunting that would work beautifully along a hearth. Or make individual hearts to decorate your Christmas tree and gifts!
I’m thrilled to be bringing this family tradition back into my house this Christmas and it’s a great project for using up pretty scraps of paper too!