CHRISTMAS really is the most wonderful time of year and in a bid to feel the festive spirit this year people are whipping up their own decorations at home.
Mandy Mowbray, 49, a part-time cleaner from Bishop's Waltham,is no exception and decided to make a huge life-sized Nutcracker – and it was all done for free using cardboard tubes.
The 7ft-tall figurine looks just like one you'd buy from a store and was all done using leftover paint and some craft scraps Mandy already had.
Speaking to money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk, she said: “I saw the idea for the Nutcracker Christmas craft on Facebook. A lady in America had made one and I thought ‘I can do that’”
“I've always loved Nutcrackers since I was a little girl and went on a school trip to see The Nutcracker ballet.”
But there was an extra special reason why Mandy poured her heart and soul into the project this year.
“My friend Tracey has four girls who all love Christmas. Her youngest needed heart surgery twice in the last month and is recovering at home. I thought the Nutcracker would really cheer them up after all they have been through.”
The incredible nutcracker took her a week to make, as she spread the work across multiple evenings once her own daughter was tucked up in bed.
She explained: "A friend provided all the cardboard tubes for me. She got them from a company she knows that uses them to transport large vinyl signs. They were happy to give some away."
Once Mandy had chosen the tubes she needed for the body, arms and legs, she started building the character.
Explaining the process, she said: “I drilled holes in the cardboard tubes for the arms and secured them in place with metal bolts and butterfly nuts.
"This means it’ll be easy to take him apart after Christmas and put him into storage.
"I then glued baubles onto the end of each arm for the hands.”
Mandy cut an empty Pot Noodle pot in half to make the feet and glued them to the ends of the legs.
Next, she painted the body, arms and legs in traditional colours using Frenchic paint.
“I paint a lot of furniture and love Frenchic paint so knew I had the perfect colours for it,” she said.
“I painted his face freehand, using my own little wooden Nutcracker as a guide. I loved painting his face and decided I wouldn't give him the bared teeth that you often see on Nutcrackers.”
After finishing the project, Mandy was then tasked with making it stand upright, which proved much harder than she thought it would.
“Attaching the legs was the hardest part, and it took a few attempts,” she said. “I ended up securing a section of wood up inside the body with little blocks that fit into the tubes. Then, with the help of my husband, we slotted the body onto the legs.
"My husband also made a secure wooden base and a pole that is hidden at the back, so that there’s no chance of him toppling over.”
All that was left to do was add the finishing touches. Mandy made his nose from a wood offcut, and topped off his hat with a golden chain and a big red feather.
The white fur for his hair and beard was recycled from an old Christmas stocking she found in her loft.
“I used some braid for his tunic and added some old military buttons, too,” she added.
The end result is a sight to behold, and a hit on social media.
When Mandy shared her creation in a makeover group she’s a member of, it attracted a whopping 4.8k reactions and almost 1,000 comments.
“Making the Nutcracker didn't cost me a thing, as I used materials I was given for free or already had at home,” she said.
“I love making all sorts of crafts, so have an extensive collection of buttons, trim and feathers on hand.”
Mandy has since gone on to make beautiful Christmas wreaths with fresh foliage, adding to her stunning home Christmas display.
“I foraged for the foliage within my daughter’s school grounds,” she revealed. “With the headmaster’s permission of course!”
According to German folklore, nutcrackers were given as keepsakes to bring good luck and protect the home. Mandy’s handsome craft certainly looks fit for the job.
Tom Church, Co-Founder of LatestDeals.co.uk comments: “Giant Christmas decorations can cost hundreds in the shops. Plus, they can be tricky to get hold of this close to Christmas.
“Mandy’s project is a great lesson in making your own. Even if you haven’t got a stash of craft supplies at home, you can pick up everything you need to make one cheaply.
“It's a brilliant way to spread some Christmas cheer.”
Elsewhere, a mum gives her front door a Christmas makeover for just £9.99 with bargain Nutcrackers from eBay.
Plus we revealed how to decorate your house for Christmas on the cheap using coat hangers and paper plates.
And mums share easy tips to get spindly Christmas trees looking fuller WITHOUT blowing the budget & they only take seconds.
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