Middleagedmum.com: competitive crafting

third prize and a slightly annoyed dog (note the beard)

Since my kids were little, Christmas celebrations have involved various forms of crafting – all of which I embraced with gusto. Snow globes made from old jam jars and miniature Christmas trees, handmade Christmas cards featuring my children and pets in festive costumes, Muslim Grandma and dinosaur costumes for the school play (this is Stoke Newington people, we don’t do traditional), tree decorations made from foam board and copious amounts of sequins and glitter – we’ve done em all and loved every minute of it. There’s nothing I love more than some willing children, a few Christmas tunes and glue gun.

This year there was the house decorating to art direct and present wrapping to plan, but without costumes for the Christmas performance to make and craft stalls to run at the school fair, I was beginning to feel a bit bereft on the handmade front, until someone suggested the idea of a Christmas bake off as part of the office Christmas party.

Baking has slowly been sneaking into the working day for some time now, as the TGBBO effect has rubbed off on even the most reluctant of domestic gods and goddesses. Over the past few months, Monday mornings have seen the subbing and design departments staging a weekly “experimental” bake off, with some successful and some not so successful Heston type combinations (note to male bakers – there’s really nothing wrong with a traditional Victoria sandwich cake TBH) and all day meetings have started to include some kind of homemade cake/cookie opportunity.

I’m never one to turn down a bit of cake and the frequency of these delicious baked goods meant I started to feel a little let down if it got to three o’clock and there wasn’t a slice of salted caramel millionaires shortbread on offer. I also started to notice that we were not the only office to embrace the baking trend as my friends Instagram images were featuring office bake offs and amazing cakes for special occasions.

It seems it isn’t just baking that is becoming a “thing” in the workplace, there are many more craft opportunities arising, such as desk decorating competitions for festive occasions, customized Christmas sweater days, team bonding craft classes and people selling their home made goods for charity. Suddenly craft isn’t just about making things it’s also becoming a little bit competitive and showing off your cake decorating/crafting skills has reached a whole new level.

Personally I blame the Internet, back in the day if you wanted to make something, you drew upon a distant memory from an art class or went to the library to look up an idea in a book. But nowadays you simply log on to Pinterest/blogs/YouTube and for a wealth of ideas/tutorials and inspirational websites to help you to make the perfect cup cake/Christmas wreath/dog outfit etc etc, and what was once the reserve of the “creatives” among us, is now available for everyone to try.

I like to think of myself as an inclusive, open minded person who embraces new ideas and moves with the times, but if I’m honest this new trend slightly bothers me. Growing up in a sports mad family and being educated in the 70’s when art was a joke subject (which Micheal Gove is desperately trying to recreate), plus always having the worst fancy dress costumes (sorry mum – but no-one ever knew who I was supposed to be) has made me just a tiny bit competitive when it comes to all things crafty. Not having the opportunity to win prizes for my maths or science skills and having no interest whatsoever in sport, meant being arty was my “thing”.

It’s not just in the work place that this new level of crafty competitiveness has crept in either, local community events have started to include cake competitions, craft stalls and dog dressing up pageants, meaning what was once the domain of the WI or PTA has opened up to everyone.

So what with the office bake off and the local Most Festive dog competition, its been a testing week. When I dropped the final iced cake pop on the floor at 11pm after shouting at anyone who came into the kitchen “what do you want, can’t you see I’m busy,” then tried to wrestle the dog into a Santa outfit and beard the next night, I decided it was time to let it go – I don’t have to be the best at all things crafty, all the time.

As I tell my kids all the time, it’s not about the winning, it’s about the taking part.

Yeah right, now where’s that glue gun……



  • Malika says:

    How I laughed and sympathised reading this…. Just yesterday I was making homemade bubblebath with my children for their teacher present (no obligation to give one but I thought it might be nice for them to make them something, and learn to give and not just receive, etc. Plus they were home ill so it kept them occupied.). I studiously ordered all the ingredients from the internet, including the liquid castile soap, the sloe gin-style bottles for the finished product… Yesterday we made the bubblebath, added food colouring and made nice labels. We thought we would test it in the children’s bath last night. Disaster. No bubbles. Glad we tested it!
    So I’ve emptied the bottles and we’re going to decant Badedas into them instead. Perfectly nice present. That’ll learn me. Sometimes I think this craft thing has gone too far. (I have a full-time job – it’s not like I was trying to kill time….!).

  • Jane says:

    hahaha Malika – I hear you. No-one will ever know!
    J x

  • Emma T says:

    So true. I love Pinterest – saves me thinking up my own ideas when I run out (and let’s face it, it’s hard if you’re working with a child to find time to craft, let alone think of ideas). But I’ve a friend (who’s amazingly creative anyway), who’s gone totally OTT with every amazing Pinterest idea. Makes the rest of us feel a bit inadequate – even though she’s probably thinking the same!

    The problem now, is finding enough storage for all these new crafty things. As it was, our utility room was overrun by my cardmaking and jewellery supplies, but now includes toddler crafts, and whatever else we’ve come up with. Need more time to clear out, rather than craft!

  • Jane says:

    I know Emma, if we were American we’d have a craft room!! My office is crammed with unfinished projects!! J x

  • Liam Barnes says:

    We’re truly amazed at your decoration skills. This crafting looks great!

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