If we don't hurry, we're gonna miss all the good trees!
November 29, 2018 8:17 PM   Subscribe

For the first time, I'm going to have my own Christmas tree! I've got a few childhood ornaments but not enough to cover a tree, so I'd like to make a bunch for this year. I'm searching for ideas and supplies to make some nice homey ornaments.

I'm looking for:

- fairly interesting or creative handmade ornament ideas/directions
- kits to make interesting/creative ornaments

My aesthetic leans toward: homemade, wood, old-fashioned, hipster, embroidery, muted colors, classic, crafty, weird, secular, books, geeky, urban, crunchy.

Dislikes: religion, the patriarchy, commercial, trendy, temporary, cheap.

Assume infinite patience and skill (and that I do want to spend a lot of time on this) and that my supplies are unlimited.

Brands, concepts, and blogs are all helpful. Thanks1
posted by punchtothehead to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add: I don't have any sort of creative or artistic talent, so any options should require very little improvisation or free-handing. Thanks!
posted by punchtothehead at 8:20 PM on November 29, 2018

Us old hippies used to string popcorn and cranberries on heavy thread for garlands. Its very easy and you can eat what you don't string. I recommend many short sections, about 4-5 feet each rather than making extremely long sections.

We also used to take small cans and punch lots of little holes in them to make christmas light covers (with the old style 7 watt type bulbs. Open one end, then punch a hole in the closed end big enough to go over the screw in part before you screw the bulbs in. Most tomato paste comes in red cans so they look festive. We used to use a brand called Buffalo paste that came in gold cans, even more festive. You could paint and bedazzle the cans, too!
posted by a humble nudibranch at 8:42 PM on November 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

I got really into origami for a while as a teen and my mom puts a John Montroll conch I folded on the tree every year, and I think maybe a squirrel and a star too. I'm not saying you need to do 50+ fold sea shells - there are lots of easier abstract shapes you could produce in mass in the colors of your choice like this

paper is light, cheap, scalable, and can just be wedged in wherever or hung.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:05 PM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

So as not to abuse edit window - you can spray sealant (lacquer, shellac) on the cookies, to re-use every year.

Felted bird ornaments; heirloom wool ornaments; wool ornaments, new colors.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:11 PM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

You can make a Santa Father Christmas out of a toilet roll and craft scraps. The concept is... adaptable.

I also got some bent wire doves from a craft market, and I love them a lot.
posted by holgate at 9:13 PM on November 29, 2018

Popcorn and cranberries is a legitimately fun and satisfying garland. I’ve done it once at a friends’ get-together as a twenty-something in the last decade, so it’s not too 70s.

My personal approach with ornaments is somewhat different. I tend to acquire 1-3 new ones each year - as gifts from friends, or souvenirs. Over the years my tree has started out relatively empty and is currently rather full, and I actually really love that each ornament has a time and meaning behind it, and the transition from “my first tree!” to my current “this tree has no fashion sense, but aww, remember that trip to Denver 8 years ago? And this ornament from your mom when they went to Paris? And this one from my friend who bought it from his coworker and it’s a gourd painted like a penguin?”
posted by samthemander at 9:26 PM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

*pulls up chair and sits down*

I found a couple of adorable tutorials recently telling you how to use craft popsicle sticks to make sled and ski ornaments. It looks actually achievable and I'm gonna try them.

You can also make pompoms out of yarn; they have cheap doohickeys that help you make them, and the actual process involve simply wrapping something around the doohickey and then tying a couple knots.

You can also find clear plastic ornaments at craft stores that are expressly designed for you to customize any way you want. They open up, so you can put things inside, paint on the inside, whatever. I've seen people get pretty results from just pouring some different colors of nail polish in, swirling it around the inside and then pouring it back out. Other people fill the ornaments with everything from snips of herbs to rose petals to confetti to tiny pompoms to shredded newsprint to wadded up ribbon to dog hair (really) to beads to candy to small terrariums to air plants to tiny winter scenes complete with deer and trees to basically whatever you can cram in there. Here are 75 such ideas.

Ever been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras? Bring home any of those beads? Use them. (I do.)

Ever make paper snowflakes? Make some small ones for your tree.

Have cats? Get some jingle bell type bells and put them on hooks, and attach them to the bottom branches. This works as a cat early warning system.

Just saw a tutorial here for using temporary tattoos to jazz up plain ornaments.

Get some cinnamon sticks and use ribbon to tie them together into little bundles (like 3-4 sticks in each bundle). Use those little bundles as ornaments. (This will also smell really good.)

Get some twigs and different lengths of green ribbon; tie a row of green ribbon bows down the length of the twig to make a tree.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:27 PM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Look at Martha Stewarts site. She has so many ornament crafts from simple to complex.
posted by gryphonlover at 10:06 PM on November 29, 2018

Go to your local thrift stores and scoop up all the small wooden toys. Refresh them with a good scrubbing, colourful paint touch ups, add a coat of varathane to make them nice and shiny, then hang them with bright ribbons or rick rack.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:29 PM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Satin-covered styrofoam balls can be decorated to be as elaborate or simple as you’d like. When my daughter was small, we got some of them and decorated them by using straight pins to attach sequins and seed beads to them, and rickrack and ribbons, or by spreading Elmer’s glue on them and then rolling them in sequins. My kid is 38 now, and I still hang these up every year, so definitely not temporary.

However, you can also make them into extremely elaborate and old-fashioned looking ornaments such as these, either by buying kits, or planning them out yourself.

(I can’t vouch for either of the sites I linked to, but wow, the ornaments on the Etsy site are stunning!)
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:37 PM on November 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm partial to scandinavian straw ornaments. Easy, homey but in a minimalistic kind of way, super cheap supplies, endless variations. For a more 3D effect of the same technique, i also love Finnish himmeli. Millions of models and tutorials on pinterest for those.

And as a child in france, we always made cloves-studed oranges (pomanders), that smelled gorgeous the whole december month.

Have fun!
posted by PardonMyFrench at 11:50 PM on November 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

Paint a pinecone.

OK, yes, I know that sound ridiculous.

...mind, my hamfisted childish approach to this suggestion was one of my mother's most treasured decorations, so I'm obviously wildly biased.

However, trying to set that aside, it's actually pretty alright. Couple of colors of paint per pinecone, try out a few patterns (natural patterns are fun!) and you're festive! Appropriately!
posted by aramaic at 11:56 PM on November 29, 2018

Crocheted doily snowflakes. Starch them stiff and add glitter.
Froebel stars can be made out of paper or ribbon and can be quite pretty. I have dipped paper ones in paraffin to make them longer lasting.
Porcupine balls are pretty fiddly, but can look great. Foil wrapping paper is good to use because it holds its shape better than plain paper. It makes it easier to get sharp points. Also, it’s shiny! Pack them away carefully or they look pretty beat up after a few years. Or modpoge them or something.

You might also try some gingerbread ornaments. There are ways to preserve them that I don’t know, but you could search it out.

Have fun!
posted by SLC Mom at 11:58 PM on November 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Spray or paint glue on the pine cones and sprinkle with glitter. Wrap some light wire around the cone to make a hanger.
posted by Cranberry at 12:02 AM on November 30, 2018

Oh, something simple: We used to have a yarn doll on the tree for everyone in the family.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:03 AM on November 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I apologize for not managing to mention this in my earlier remark.


You can use it to turn bare twigs into interesting ornaments, to say nothing of origami cranes, carefully-folded stars, etc. etc. etc. Seriously, take some bare wire, twist it around a bit until you have a star (or some other appropriate shape) then twist yet more wire around that shape.

...dip in Plasti-dip.

...dip again in Plasti-dip.

...dip for the last time in Plasti-dip.

...and now you have a legit ornament.

Obviously red and white are good, but you can always experiment with other colors. I've been interested in (but not had the money for) a combination system where I dip into various colors one after the other...

(full disclosure: I made a well-received Valentine gift this way)
posted by aramaic at 12:04 AM on November 30, 2018 [4 favorites]

Rainbow snowflakes!
posted by hampanda at 1:09 AM on November 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you like making things you can get a lot of bang for your buck from Paper Chains. A google image search for paper chain tree garland.

You can pick whatever colors themes like, recycle the unusable portions of wrapping paper, or use pages from vintage books. Felt versions are reusable, the paper ones you make new each year and can be a part of a yearly ritual.

The nice thing about this is it scales really well to other people with little skill. So you could have two or three friends over and make an astonishing amount of the stuff as long as you have the materials.
posted by sol at 3:02 AM on November 30, 2018

Some ideas...

- Pom pom garlands: You can make your own yarn pom poms pretty easily or get some felted wool ones on etsy. So cute.
- Handsewn mitten or sweater ornaments - Easy even with basic skills and supplies. You can even make them with old/thrift store wool sweaters. I made some from an old damaged fair isle sweater and they were so cute!
- Salt dough ornaments - Fun to imprint with initials for everyone in the family or kids hand prints.
- Small Embroidery Hoop ornaments - Sometimes you can find the hoops at the thrift store. Fill with some fun plaid fabrics (embroidered or not).
- Mini chalkboard ornaments - You can make these pretty cheaply.
- Acorn ornaments - Paint the caps a fun color or put the acorn caps on some felted pom poms.
- Tassels - Make your own tassels from fabric, ribbon, and wood beads.
- Paper cones - Make paper cones from scrapbook paper or sheet music. Fill with holly berry sprigs or other colorful filler.
posted by jraz at 4:30 AM on November 30, 2018

If you're looking for wooden kits, you should take a look at Lee Valley. (I'm linking to the Canadian site, but it looks like they also have a US portal).

Log Cabin
Wooden Ornament
Keepsake Ornament

There are probably others as well.
posted by sardonyx at 8:42 AM on November 30, 2018

I think the ideas here are charming and fit your description, but they may not last year to year, if that's what you're hoping for.
posted by CiaoMela at 8:54 AM on November 30, 2018

- Paper Froebel stars can be made from strips of regular paper, or fancy paper, and dipped in wax to last longer. You can also make a wreath from a ring of 8 of them.
- These crocheted snowflakes require only the simplest crochet moves - chain, slip stitch, and single (US) / double (UK) crochet. You can stiffen them with starch or a glue-water mix.
posted by zeptoweasel at 1:52 PM on November 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Pinecones with glitter on the edges - you can make a bunch for cheap.
Traditional glass balls, with initials and year of everyone at the tree- decorating party. I have friends who did a party annually with the request for a homemade ornament, very cool. Now they tell people not to bring an ornament, as they are over-ornamented. They try to make yu go home with a couple.
Go for a walk, collect twigs. 5 straight-ish twigs, glued or wired at the tips, make a star. You can just hang with a ribbon, or add doo-dads, glitter, fake snow. You can make a lot for effect. Popsicle sticks work, too, but I like the twigs.
Origami star, crane.
Salt dough, cornstarch clay, cookie cutters. Stars and snowflakes are easy. Use a little lace to texture them, a bit of thin paint.
Little tart tins, flue in a picture or a snowfllake, add a bit of tinsel.
It's good luck to have a bird ornament, and a glass pickle
This question is what Pinterest is for.
posted by theora55 at 2:26 PM on November 30, 2018

My mom has made a bunch of charming ornaments from old Christmas cards. The tutorial here looks much like some of hers. She has also carefully cut up some of those christmas photo cards folks send and turned those into ornaments as well. Pinterest can definitely help with finding styles if you're interested and have some cards to use.
posted by thatquietgirl at 3:37 PM on November 30, 2018

I know this isn’t quite what you asked, but the first year I had a tree, I threw an ornament-making party. Had some of my favorite people over, drinks, a ton of craft supplies and ended up with a ton of ornaments. Some were not worth holding onto, but several became really treasured ornaments that remind me of people I love.
posted by missjenny at 5:50 PM on November 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love home made Christmast ornaments. I have been making them for more than 40 years. I have made cross stitch ornaments and felt ornaments and paper ornaments, ad nauseum. Here are some sources for paper ornaments, some of them very quick, and still charming.

There are so many paper ornaments and templates that you could make more ornaments than you could possibly use. Many of the free printables have specific parts to cut out and assemble, so not a lot of craft-ability is required.

Canon Creative Park has a bunch of ornaments and other great christmas decorations.

Papercraft designer and blogger, Papermau, has a Christmas roundup page that has a bounty of links to free printables.

Another printer maker, Brother, also has a large assortment.

The french children's site, Hugo L'escargot, has lots of charming ideas and cutouts with a variety of themes.

The Toymaker, Marilyn Scott-Waters, shares a wonderful assortment of Christmas decorations in her very distinctive style.

If you like vintage style, Wings of Whimsy has many wonderful ideas. Scroll down or go to Nov or Dec 2015 or 2016 to see some lovely shabby chic vintage things. I especially like her Snow Cherubs.

I am making some Scrabble tile ornaments this year.

Have fun creating.
posted by Altomentis at 11:39 PM on November 30, 2018

Gingerbread cookies made out of cinnamon clay. They smell lovely. A pure white clay made out of baking soda can be pressed in a cookie mould to make contrasting ornaments or use cookie cutters and imprint them as shown. Use bits of jewelry to make the imprints.

Yarn doll angels You can make them with flesh coloured yarn and give them hair coloured hair also, and they can be dressed in scraps of cloth. They will be more durable if you braid their arms and legs. More instructions and ideas.

Straw Yule goats are gorgeous.

Scandinavian heart ornaments are also traditionally made out of red, white or black paper.

This site has several ideas.

Birds are traditional Christmas tree decorations. You can get bags of little feathers, dyed or natural coloured at the dollar store to glue on to whatever is going to be your base.

Collect tiny boxes such as the ones that your over-the-counter pill bottles come in and match boxes and small boxes of candy. Wrap them in pretty paper, such as origami paper or tissue paper and tie them with ribbon and decorate them with miniature bows or sprigs. They can be wrapped in brown paper with some of the ideas on this page. For the pine cones collect the miniature cones that grown on alders.

Paper quilling makes some very lovely delicate work. German paper cut ornaments such as those lower down on the page are fragile but turn paper into something really special. This craft takes patience, an exacto knife and a cutting mat.

You can often find toffee which is wrapped in metallic paper instead of having obvious brand names on the wrappers. Those look very nice but do not keep until next year so you will be forced to eat them or send them home with your Christmas visitors. If you only manage to make a few ornaments you can fill in the rest of the tree with decorative candy like this.

Dried citrus slices are gorgeous especially when made in multiple colours, using blood oranges, lemons and limes as well as oranges.

These mice are adorable. So are these snowmen made out of white pompoms.

If you crochet try these.

These pillows can be stuffed with potpourri of some sort instead of stuffing or as well as stuffing to give them a nice scent. Then they become sachet bags.

Look for toys that you already own or that you can get cheaply such as tiny teddy bears and plastic figures. The bears can be dressed in little matching ribbons or vests or Santa suits. The plastic figures can be painted one solid colour such as white or left just as they are, and dressed up with ribbons and perhaps tiny bells or sprigs of greenery. You might find a few deer, or want to dress up a set of dinosaurs, or use pokemon figures or Star Wars or whatever is meaningful to you.

If you decide to string popcorn make it a couple of days in advance and make sure it is stale and squishy before you string it, otherwise it shatters a lot and you end up looking like it snowed on your carpet.

Okay, I am going to stop here or I will go on all night...
posted by Jane the Brown at 4:50 PM on December 1, 2018

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