Inspire my Christmas tree
November 26, 2020 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Thanks to the magic of 2020 I will spend my first Christmas in my own apartment with my own tree. Apart from a small number of assorted dangly things with personal significance I utterly lack decorations for the tree and am in search of inspiration. Willing to spend some but not exorbitant money and / or try some simple crafting ideas. Very open minded on style of decoration. Tree is traditional green Nordmann.
posted by roolya_boolya to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It is really easy to make colorful felt balls for a garland like this.. You can get the felt at a craft store or on line. Then you need a felting needle and a round spoon like a mellonball scoop. Basically you just was up a little bit of felt into the spoon and stab it a lot until it keeps the round shape. Tutorial videos are on line.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:46 PM on November 26, 2020

I've got a craft idea for you! Today I tried heat embossing on glass baubles and it works. This means that you can buy plain baubles (I got mine in a charity shop) and draw and write on them in glittery letters!

So now I'm making my own sarcastic christmas ornaments. I write things like 'Bah humbug', 'is 2020 over yet?' and cruder things too. But of course you can also take this in a totally different direction, it's your tree after all!
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:48 PM on November 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

To me the best part of a Christmas tree is lights. I'm a coloured light fan, others prefer white/amber.

If I could only buy one thing for a tree that's what I'd get.
posted by freethefeet at 2:50 PM on November 26, 2020 [6 favorites]

I have such wonderful memories of stringing homemade popcorn and cranberry garlands as a kid. I haven't yet had my own tree, but when I do, that's number one on the list. (Followed closely by clove orange pomander balls in tulle.) Here's a quick DIY I googled up.
posted by minervous at 3:04 PM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Clear glass or plastic ball ornaments are incredibly versatile, since you can fill them with anything that will fit through the opening (and you can also buy ones split into two halves, or with decorative openings in front). Here's a Google search showing some ideas. You can use small craft funnels to pour materials inside. Glitter It [YouTube tutorial] is a fluid that will allow glitter to stick to the inside. You could also pour in craft paint, shake the ornament for a few minutes to coat the entire inside, and set it down over a plastic cup to drain the excess.

Another cute idea is to fill glass salt and pepper shakers with decorative items and take advantage of the shaker holes to hang with twine. You might be able to find an adorable set of Mason jar salt and peppers at a discount store like TJ Maxx, if that's your thing.

Although some of the ideas skew "little kid," you can make some cute ornaments from craft sticks, like a sled. Glue guns are inexpensive and easy to find.
posted by Carouselle at 3:06 PM on November 26, 2020

* A bunch of fake flowers. Snip each bloom off with a little stem left behind and just stick it in there.

* Get a bunch of different colored satin ribbon and just tie bows all over.

* If you have an old used-up spool from a spool of thread, this is awful cute.

* Here's another thing to do with ribbon and a twig.

* If you have access to mason jar rings and lids, you can use that to frame pictures or maps or whatever you like.

* If you have a Keurig and some empty K-cups, and you trust yourself to glue ribbon onto them, you can make little hats.

* This idea cuts ornament shapes out of pictures salvaged from flea markets, but you can totally do that with old Christmas cards from last year.

* Easy but time-consuming - fold a crap-ton of squares of paper into a simple origami shape and then glue them all together.

* Small toys can nestle in branches, or you can attach ribbon for hanging with some tape or a safety pin (if you want to remove the ribbon later).

* You know those paper chains you made in kindergarten, where you taped strips of paper into a circle and linked them together? Make smaller chains (like three links long) with smaller strips of paper, and add a string for hanging. That might be especially nice if you did three different sizes of paper links.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:06 PM on November 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

Oh, and longer-than-average strings of plasticky bead necklaces can be garland that is randomly tucked here and there. (I have been to Mardi Gras twice and have some Mardi Gras beads where the strings have broken, and save them for this purpose.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:09 PM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

I made some paper ornaments using the square trapezohedron pattern from this site on some colorful paper (plus adding some thread to hang them from the tree).
posted by pinochiette at 3:20 PM on November 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

I do not Christmas myself and as such am envious of those who do and have made a bit of a study of tree decoration. I think every good tree should have four aspects, and the balance of these is what makes a tree truly delightful, while the details of each is what makes it your own.

- Swoopy things. This like garlands, tinsel, and ribbons. Maybe the lowest effort to payoff ratio is getting fat wired ribbon and draping big curls of it from the top down. If you like to do couch crafting sessions, paper garlands are easy and fun. The classic paper chain, just strips stapled into loops, is honestly very pretty and impactful, especially when made in your favorite colors or with bright wrapping paper. Garlands of silk flowers are beautiful and feel kind of enchanted against an evergreen.

- Dangly things. These are your standard hanging ornaments. Most people I know have a few plain sets of shiny balls or stars, with a good smattering of personal ornaments mixed in. One lady has a whole huge tree’s worth of different ornaments and refuses duplicates. You can start out with some plain cheap ones and as you collect ornaments and things on strings over time you can put the plain ones away. This category also includes things like candy canes just hooked on branches, and other edible decorations. There’s that traditional very-stable gingerbread that you can cut into shapes and thread with string to hang, which will make your whole tree smell like cookies.

- Lights. A tree with plain white lights is only allowed if all other decorations are bursting with color. Otherwise rainbow lights are the only true way. You can also get cute LED candle ornaments and do stuff like stick colored uplights in branches to cast funky shadows and colors everywhere. Since LED lights are so much less expensive now there are tons to choose from all over the place. I love the ones that look like stars or butterflies or little lanterns, but that often reads less Christmassy and you probably want as much of that as possible. You don’t need too many lights if you have the other things too. A tree totally covered in lights can take away from the tree itself.

- Top and Bottom. A nice tree skirt keeps things grounded and a topper encapsulates the whole thing. Tree skirts can be special because often folks inherit them - my friend has her grandma’s, and she says it means a lot to her that her kids pick presents from the same tartan as she did when she was little. You can make one pretty easily if you do sewing, though, or even just taking scissors to a cheap throw blanket or sheets you like the color of. Other friends circle their tree with a train set and they end up building lego tunnels and landscaping for it over the season. Either way having something on the ground delineates the tree space from the rest of your room and makes it feel more like a thing that belongs. A good tree topper will take the idea of the tree and what people value about it and encapsulate that in one statement ornament. It also visually gives your eyes a place to rest as they travel around and up the tree looking at the whole thing. If your observance is religious, a classic star of Bethlehem might be the best. If your tree is reindeer themed, a pair of felt antlers is funny and cute. If you have tons of paper craft ornaments, a lovely modular origami star is elegant. If you have tons of rainbows and glitter, stick a sparkly unicorn up there.
posted by Mizu at 3:36 PM on November 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

Card stock (old manilla folders work), cut out stars, add glitter or paint as you choose. Many, many small shining stars have a big effect.
Early on, I had a box of apples that looked pretty on the tree. I used to tie them to packages, too, very festive.
Make paper snowflakes.
Can you gather pinecones? you can dip the edges of pinecones in glue, then in translucent/ sparkly glitter that looks snow-y.
A bayberry or balsam candle, even just a votive, really adds a lot to having a tree. It smells like Christmas.
I have tons of ornaments now, and the few remaining homemade ones from early days spark quite a bit of joy.
posted by theora55 at 4:18 PM on November 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Artificial fruit. One year I did a tree with artificial fruit. My husband hated it. Your husband/mileage may vary.
posted by Cranberry at 5:00 PM on November 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

For the past three years I’ve hosted a tree decorating crafting party, and I strongly second cranberry garlands, popcorn garlands, and paper loop chains. For the first two you just string them with needle and thread.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:16 PM on November 26, 2020

Candy canes work pretty nicely.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:27 PM on November 26, 2020

I have a friend who keeps one tree exclusively trimmed in pickle ornaments. It is truly a sight to behold.
posted by phunniemee at 8:32 PM on November 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Mason jar lid rings - you can use a dab of hot glue to add a small bow. When the season is over you should be able to pull off the bow and hot glue and return the rings to normal. Might be nice if storage space is at a premium.

Cookie cutters can be hung on the branches.

If you google candy trains there are a bunch of different variations that are basically different candies glued together to make a train. You could take these apart and eat them when you are done.

A nice wide ribbon will give you a lot of bang for your buck. I use half of a pipe cleaner to fix the ribbon to tree branches getting nice big swoops.

Craft stores carry foam shapes that are ~6-8 inches. I have used snowflakes in the past and they looked pretty. $3 will get you 15
posted by MadMadam at 9:31 PM on November 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I love these (relatively) simple cinnamon applesauce ornaments. In addition to being cute, they smell great! I wouldn't use name-brand cinnamon, though; you can usually get it at the dollar store. If you like, you can decorate it with white puffy paint to look like royal icing.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:21 PM on November 26, 2020

Also, little boxes wrapped to look like Christmas presents make cute ornaments.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:22 PM on November 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I've just done a batch of orange slices - in the oven for a couple of hours at 100C and they come out looking like stained glass, easy to hang as baubles and cat-proof.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 11:58 PM on November 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

Live Christmas trees look beautiful with German style Christmas ornaments and lametta. I love lametta. It's a pain in the ass because you have to very carefully lay three pieces or so over every branch end, and then very carefully take it all off to store for next year, but... I think it looks magical and it's always worth it.

(Unless you have pets, who will pull it aallll off the bottom of the tree).
posted by stillnocturnal at 12:12 AM on November 27, 2020

DIY ornaments we have done:
Pinecones sprayed gold.
Tall pinecones painted green and decorated like tiny Christmas trees.
Dried orange slices.
Paper snowflakes, and paper stars where you sew a stack along the middle so they can put.
Shapes made out of salt dough (or, as above, gingerbread!)
We also did the wrapping little boxes to look like presents thing.
posted by stillnocturnal at 12:18 AM on November 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

The cheapest, easiest way to decorate would be a bumper pack of baubles and a tonne of tinsel. That’s probably not what you want so instead I suggest paper chains. Easy to make, and if you use origami paper and wrapping paper then can be very colourful and pretty. Salt cookies (non-edible) are easy to make if you have festive cookie cutters and some ribbon, twine or string.
posted by plonkee at 12:44 AM on November 27, 2020

for our tree topper i took a plastic dollar store dinosaur and gave it feather wings and a gold pipe cleaner halo and a little white fabric dress and it was the most beautiful angel ever. if you want a theme you could get plastic animals/shapes/trucks from the dollar store (and even spray paint them gold if you're classy like that) and attach them with a pipe cleaner (or if you're committed, a tiny hole that you drill into the toy and then christmas hangers.)
posted by andreapandrea at 1:27 AM on November 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

In Denmark, these hearts are an important part of the decoration. You put candy inside them.
Also, little figures made of gingerbread or brunkage - there can be hearts and stars and little people. After baking, you make a hole in the top of the cookie and pull through a pretty ribbon, so you can hang it on the tree.
We usually put a lametta star on top.
You don't need a lot of decorations, so don't worry too much.
posted by mumimor at 2:36 AM on November 27, 2020

I figured you might like to see how my sarcastic ornaments are turning out. Here's one.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:51 AM on November 27, 2020 [8 favorites]

Jen from Epbot posts pictures every year from Orlando's Festival of Trees. The trees are way over-decorated (imo) but she points out how you could do some of the ideas at home, and it's good for inspiration.

She and her husband also decorate at least one of their own trees each year and you can find everything under her Christmas tag.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 9:14 AM on November 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

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