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Homemade for the Christmas holidays

Do-it-yourself decorating for a greener world

- Words by Devon Paige Smith Photography by Don Denton

On a beautiful fall day in her small Oak Bay shop, Five Fields Décor & Design owner Deborah Baker puts the final tweaks on a holiday wreath she’s creating by hand.

Like Deb and many small business owners all over Canada, the supply chain and climate change are top of mind this holiday season. With this past summer’s drought impacting the availability and prices of things like fresh flowers and Christmas trees, and worldwide supply chain and shipping issues delaying or cancelling delivery of holiday inventory, Deb predicts more and more people will be greening up their holidays this year.

“In our shop this season, we decided we’d focus on showing people how they can care for the earth by using natural materials, handmade items and by repurposing what they have,” Deb explains, as she tenderly arranges her wreath in the front window of the shop. “Not only is it always a good time to look at how what we consume negatively impacts our world, but with what we’ve faced in the last year with climate change being front and centre in BC, this is a perfect time for all of us to revisit how we can lessen our impact on the environment.”

Five Fields is already centred around handmade, natural products and repurposing furniture by painting it. Many of the other items it stocks are multi-functional, like candles with reusable vessels and drawstring bags.

“Our motto really is ‘know where it comes from or make it yourself’—I never want to stock and sell something and then find out it wasn’t ethically made or produced with the environment in mind. We always know where everything in the shop comes from, who makes it, what conditions those people are working in, etcetera. That’s important to us.”

With that in mind, Deb shared some of her best tips for a greener, handmade holiday season:

All about nature

“It’s so easy to bring in nature to your centrepieces,” Deb says. “You can either purchase a few fresh flowers or some greenery, or take a walk around your yard and see what kind of clippings you can take or windfall you can pick up to add a little pop of colour to your centrepieces. For example, dried hydrangeas are beautiful—these can be cut even after they’ve dried on the bush and they can still look amazing for months on end. This is a great way to use what you have.”

For those with a greener thumb, Deb recommends a longer lasting option.

“Paperwhites and amaryllis are also fantastic options for people who want to have something last through the holidays and beyond,” she explains.

DIY Christmas

“Make it your own!” Deb emphasizes. “Stencils and stamps are the perfect way to customize things for the holidays. Whether it’s an Advent calendar made from small muslin bags stamped with the days of the month, or it’s painter’s cloth stencilled with beautiful patterns to be used as table runners, place mats, or even gift wrap, there are many ways to create your own and put your own spin on something you’d traditionally buy.”

If you need a little inspiration, Deb and her small team at Five Fields also offer classes on holiday DIY and gift creation, like wreath-making and refinishing and painting furniture.

“There’s really nothing better than a handmade gift,” she says, smiling.

Handmade doesn’t have to be rustic

Again, Deb encourages, use what you have. “Just because you might be focusing on a more natural, handmade look with a lot of linen, wood, whites and creams, that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little glamour, a little pop of sparkle in there from some existing décor you have, or a thrifted piece of décor,” she explains. “I personally love thrift shopping for vintage and traditional Christmas ornaments and reviving them by painting them or adding a little bit of fabric ribbon—cotton, velvet, even twine for a natural look.”

Refresh and reuse those forgotten linens

When light coloured table linens get stained, especially with something tricky like red wine, lipstick or tea, people typically give up and either toss their linens or bury them in the back of their linen closets, Deb says.

“A great way to give those sad, stained napkins, table cloths, place mats and runners a new lease on life is by simply dyeing them,” she explains. “Pick a colour that goes with your theme and get to it. You can also use this idea and pair it with stamping and stencilling fabric as well—create fabric gift wraps from old, unused linens.”

Deb adds that a simple solution to nixing toxic dyes and bleaches is to simply use a mixture of Annie Sloan chalk paint and water to dye your fabric.

Tree trimmings

Some people enjoy having the same look on their tree every year, while others prefer to change it up. If you’re the latter, instead of buying all new ornaments, garland and tinsel year after year, Deb encourages you to try some natural looks instead.

“Slices of wood with holes drilled in the tops make for great blanks for people who want to get creative and paint their own ornaments. Even something as simple as cotton or velvet ribbon tied on the boughs of the tree—you can repurpose that later in the year for wrapping gifts or decorating for other holidays like Valentine’s Day. Bundled dried flowers are also an easy way to elevate the look of your tree, and air-dried clay is also an easy way to get kids involved in creating ornaments for the tree—it’s nontoxic and kids love to see things they made being displayed.”

And most importantly?

“I always stress to people—don’t overthink it. Design and décor should be fun. Let your imagination run wild and do what makes you happy!”