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Lilly Higgins: ‘We have opportunities every day to be creative and reach our potential’


By Lilly Higgins
09th Oct 2023
Lilly Higgins: ‘We have opportunities every day to be creative and reach our potential’

TV chef, food photographer and award-winning food writer, Lilly Higgins shares her love of crafting with us and the importance of focusing on process over perfection.

The entire concept of my latest book was to curate 70 projects that would guide the reader through the year with enjoyable and rewarding seasonal projects. Little did I know that they would weave themselves through my everyday life too. 

Those little crafting sessions of embroidering cup cosies or folding origami cutlery holders actually impacted my daily life. My children now set the table choosing their own cutlery holders, proudly gifting them to friends and family. 

There’s nothing more disheartening than seeing aspirational projects that can’t be done. It’s important to me that every recipe I write, craft and share is doable. It has to be achievable or the reader will be disappointed and won’t try it again. So I spent two years making, trying out so many different versions of crafts, trialling recipes and techniques until I found some really lovely projects that would reflect the seasons and celebrate them. 

Right now, I’m in love with making my own cleaning vinegar – it’s a fast and easy project that has made all the difference at home. Pop a bit of lavender and lemon peel (or later in the year, a cutting from your fresh Christmas tree) into a jar with cheap white vinegar and leave it to infuse for a month, and you’ll be rewarded with the most beautiful-smelling and effective cleaner that’s ideal for stainless steel fridges or ovens. I use it on everything, diluted with water and decanted into a spray bottle. Surprisingly, it doesn’t smell of vinegar but rather the herbs that were infused. My house smells fresh and bright. It’s miraculous. I’m quite obsessed with it and have jars filled with cloves, orange peel, various herbs and flowers. I’m having great fun with different combinations and love cracking open a jar to see how it’s developing over time.

If ever you ventured into a witch’s spell room, I’d imagine it would look like my pantry. There are bunches of herbs hanging upside down to dry, citrus fruit studded with cloves drying for Christmas, bowls of homemade potpourri and little bottles of homemade rosewater and floral essences. These are the little projects that aim to preserve the season; to capture a summer’s day in a bottle, only to be released on a dull winter morning bringing light and warmth.

It’s always been important to me to be as sustainable as possible, including in the kitchen. I’m always trying to cut down on food waste, so fermenting is key. Making your first batch of sauerkraut or kimchi is such an eye-opening experience. All you need is cabbage, salt and a sharp knife. You can then make multiple jars of sauerkraut – perfect in sandwiches, salad bowls and in hot dogs. I also love making coleslaw with it, just fold through some carrot, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard along with your homemade sauerkraut. It tastes amazing and is full of probiotic goodness. Pickling vegetables is a great way to maintain a sustainable kitchen. It’s so easy to plunge some leftover carrots, ginger and spring onion into a jar with vinegar and seasoning, and they will brighten up your next mealtime.

So many of these projects can be changed slightly to suit the time of year. The clay trinket dishes can be made for any occasion, the same goes for the cards and homemade envelopes. Potato printing is a real joy and a great way to make wrapping paper – birthday presents, Christmas presents and so much more can be covered in personalised homemade paper. I even have instructions on how to make your own paper, something that I really enjoy so much. 

Transforming scrap waste paper into fresh new sheets is magical; floating the little scraps of paper in water and gently pulling each sheet, hanging them and leaving them to dry until I can carefully pull a dry sheet of new paper from the fabric. I could spend hours making paper. I plan on spending my retirement making paper, swishing the pulp in water, and experimenting with natural dyes and textures. My house will be filled with washing lines full of paper hanging out to dry. By January, I’ll have plenty of paper created to make my own personal calendars and journals. 

Creating is a cyclical thing, I’ve discovered – as the seasons rotate, so too do the crafts. Some are meant to be done outside in the sunshine during the summer months, harnessing the power of the sun, while others are done curled up by the fire, knitting with the cat on my lap as the winter nights draw in around us. 

As with all habits, practice is what makes perfect. We have opportunities every day to be creative and reach our potential, moving outside our comfort zone by trying something new and not being afraid of failure. As always, focus on the process of creation and not on achieving a perfect end result. Once that pressure is off, you’ll find it more enjoyable and fun to be creative in your daily life. 

The Homemade Year: Things to make, do and eat at home to welcome every season by Lilly Higgins is on sale now.

This article was originally published in October 2022.