DIY Gift Box Ornament

gift-box-ornamentIf this is the tree that says Home for the Holidays, then it absolutely had to include some presents. It feels a little bit like a cheat, these present ornaments are so easy. But like so many of my favorite ornaments through the years, they manage to do a lot of heavy lifting. Since most ornaments are round balls, it mixes things up by changing the shape, taking up a bunch of space, and providing a big chunk of color. And since you can put any kind of paper on it, you can use this ornament to create fantastically ornate color palettes. If you like to have a tree that matches your living room, you could use this ornament to make that happen whether your living room is puce or chartreuse.


step-1 You can wrap up anything you want, you just need to make it lightweight enough to not drag down the tree. I had these box lids left over from the Santa Buckets I made last year, so I glued them together to make my box. Styrofoam cubes work great, or upholstery foam, or whatever cardboard boxes you can get your hands on.


step-2 Cut a piece of paper big enough to wrap your box in. Wrap the paper around the box and pinch each fold to crease it. I then take the paper off the box and give those folds another good press with my fingers to really crisp up all those corners. To make it extra neat, I folded one end under just about 1/4″.


step-3 Wrap the paper back around the box and glue in place. I used hot glue for this project because it was a whole lot faster than liquid glue, and because tape doesn’t really hold up well over the years.


step-4Press the sides in and let the other sides fold into points. Since this is an ornament and not a present that only has to look nice enough to be torn open, I took my time to get those points neat, and to fold any rogue pieces so they were hidden by the pretty points.


step-5The ribbon here is two parts. One piece of ribbon that wraps the package and ties in a bow, and the other piece of ribbon serves as the ornament hanger. Run the hanger ribbon underneath both layers of package ribbon before tying it in a knot.


gift-boxI don’t decorate with presents very often. I know some people who wrap empty shoe boxes and put them under the tree all month long. It looks beautiful, but the reason I got into decorating so big was because I didn’t want to encourage the piles of presents everywhere. With 11 trees the whole house is a party without any extravagant overspending. But if I’m thinking about Home for the Holidays and family traditions, I have to include the exchanging of presents. I’m just going to have to pretend these little packages are filled with practical gifts like winter clothes and books.



Ribbon Chain Garland

ribbon-chain-garlandYesterday we launched into my Vintage Home for the Holidays tree, and even though this tree already has a garland, I’m going to go *wild* and add another one. (I’m such a daredevil! :eyeroll:) The tinsel on a garland was practical, this garland is because if I’m going traditional, a paper chain is as traditional as it gets. The only thing more traditional is a popcorn and cranberry garland, but I already did one of those. In all that googling I was doing trying to find pictures of vintage trees, the only thing I saw as often as tinsel was paper chain garlands. Unfortunately, paper chains don’t exactly pack well. They were never supposed to last from season to season, but if I’m going to use one, with 11 trees in this place now, it better. So, like the tinsel, I’m going to modernize this old-fashioned craft and use wired ribbon and a sewing machine to make these last for ages.

The secret to making these look fantastic is how you sew the seam. Since every side is visible, you can’t just have seams hanging out on the wrong side. There really isn’t a wrong side. Which calls for a special sewing technique to wrap all those raw edges up in a neat little package. You need a French Seam.

A french seam is the same as the seam you have on your jeans. Since that seam is enforced in two spots it’s extra strong, which is why it’s good for jeans. For us it’s more about how neat and tidy it makes things, but if you’re going for longevity, that strength won’t hurt.


step-1I cut my ribbon 10″ long. The size really doesn’t need to be terribly exact, just big enough to have two inches for the seam with enough left over to make a nice big link.


step-2Fold the ribbon wrong sides together, and sew leaving a 1 inch seam allowance.


step-3Fold the ends over to meet the seam line…


step-4 Then fold one more time so all the raw edges are encased in a nice neat little roll.


step-5 Sew another seam as close to the edge of that little roll as you can steer. Make sure that you don’t sew your ribbon link closed. You just want to sew through one layer of the ribbon. Tug the back layer out of the way as you sew.

step-6When you’ve got two links sewn, thread them onto another ribbon piece so that the seamlines will be on the inside when you fold it closed.


step-7Fold the ribbon in half and make another French seam just as before, remembering to not let any of the other ribbons get caught in your seams.


step-8Add another ribbon piece to one of the end links and repeat this process until your garland is as long as you want it to be.


ribbon-chain As soon as I saw this ribbon I knew I had to use it on this tree somehow. It makes me think of a wool car blanket. Something you’d keep in the car for picnics, or long road trips. It was this ribbon that made me know this was going to be a Home for the Holidays tree. I can’t help but see that ribbon and imagine parents tucking their children in to the station wagon’s backseat, hoping they’ll stay asleep until they wake up at Grandma’s House just in time for Christmas.


Make a Tinsel Tassel Garland

tinsel-tassel-garlandLast year my Christmas goals went bust. (Abdominal surgery will do that to even the best of us.) But it may have been a blessing in disguise. Last year I had all these ideas for ornaments, but they weren’t really fitting together in one perfect themed tree. Now that I’ve had some time to ponder everything I’m taking what I started last year, I’m switching everything around, repurposing a few things, adding a whole lot more, and I’m launching into this Christmas raring to go with projects for two trees! That’s right. Two new Christmas trees with all the fixings. I’ve got garlands and ornaments spilling out of me in every direction. Instead of the mish mash tree I was headed for last year, I’ve got two gorgeous vintage 60’s inspired trees. One will be as traditional as can be, and the other will embrace all the mod kitch I can get my hands on. One will be something my parents may have grown up with, the other will be something at home in the offices of Sterling Draper Cooper Price. First up: Vintage Home for the Holidays. And as always, the first thing that goes on any tree I make is the garland.

Since I had a whole year to dwell on the mistakes I made with the start of this tree, I did a lot of research. I wore out my google fingers searching for images on how a home Christmas tree would have been decorated in the early sixties and I found some vintage crafts, lots of big lights, and tinsel. SO MUCH TINSEL. Postwar everything was about aluminum and if you didn’t have an actual aluminum tree, then you took a fresh tree and you smothered it in tinsel. I mean just wallpapered it with the stuff.

These days you can still find tinsel online easily enough, but it’s not exactly in vogue. It makes a huge mess, you’d never get it off to put it away, and if you have pets? The nightmare would never end. But it does look so beautiful on the tree! When it catches the light and just shimmers and drips? It’s magical. So I was determined to take tinsel out of the dustbin of design past and find a way to use it that solved the problems it brings.


step-1I’ll tell you right up front that the tinsel can be difficult to manage. Lots of little strands that slip and slide against each other when they’re not tangling up together. So you’re going to have to take a couple deep breaths until you get the hang of this. But you will get the hang of this and the results will be worth it!

You need a base that you’ll be tying the tinsel onto for your garland. Something thick enough to be strong and avoid snapping or tangling, but not so thick that its bulk gets in the way of admiring the tinsel. I go to my old standby of cotton crochet thread. I tied a knot in the end just to be extra sure my tassels wouldn’t slide off the end, but it’s probably unnecessary.

Now it’s time to break out the tinsel. I bought mine online and it came in 18″ lengths (or about that. I don’t remember exactly. You know how I am with measurements.) I cut the length in half, and sectioned out enough strands that when I folded it in half again, the tassel was as full as I wanted it to be. You can make the tassels as full or as thin as you want, it’s all just personal taste, you just want to make the size consistent, whatever you choose.


step-2The knot will be tying is called a whole bunch of different things. A cow hitch or a larks head knot seem to be the most common but it’s extremely simple. The only hard thing about this project is getting the tinsel to be still. So to that end I’m going to get specific about how to hold it. Comb your tinsel as neat as you can and wrap it around your first and second fingers. Use your thumb and pinky to pinch the tassel together. Do your best to match the ends up so both sides are the same length, but don’t make yourself crazy over it. You can always just give it a trim up later.


step-3Take the thread or rope you’re using as the base of your garland and lay it across your hand below the loop you’ve made. Use your middle and ring fingers to pinch it and hold it in place.


step-4Lift the tail up over the garland base and grab it with your first and middle fingers. Slide the loop over the tail and off your fingers. You’re just pulling that tail through the loop you’ve made, wrapping it around the garland base in the process.


step-5Pull the tail until the loop becomes tight around the garland base.


step-6Depending on how you happen to pull, the top of the knot can get messy because the tinsel is unruly. Some of these tassels I went through every strand and pulled until I found the one that was out of place, some I got tired of doing that with and left messy, and others, after I practiced for a while, I got right on the first try.


step-7Since the tinsel is so slick, there’s no way you’ll be able to make your knot tight enough that it won’t slide back and forth on your base. So I added a dollop of hot glue to the top, making sure the glue touched both the base and the tinsel, to keep everything where I put it.


tinsel-garlandOnce you see this on the tree, any frustration you may have felt from the unruly tinsel will be forgotten. It is so beautiful shimmering during the day, and straight up magical during the night, that I can understand why all those trees I googled were so covered with the stuff. It almost doesn’t need ornaments! Almost. But even tinsel can’t stop me! I have a lot more up my sleeve for this tree.



Christmas FAIL


Mason Jar Vignette

Mason Jar VignetteIt just occurred to me how many different versions of dioramas I’m doing on this tree. The santa shadowbox, the holiday shadowbox, and now today’s Mason Jar Vignette. What can I say, it’s a trend. This will be my last of the dioramas and once we get all the ornaments on the tree it won’t look like a 4th grade classroom full of Christmas book reports.

This is also the last in my series of being inspired by department stores and knocking them off at home ornaments. The idea for this one started with the ornament I saw EVERYWHERE this year. A glass dome enclosing a winter scene with glittery scalloped paper at the bottom. Somebody must have been a great salesperson at a Christmas trade show because I saw that ornament everywhere from Michael’s to Crate and Barrel, to the little shop on the boardwalk. And then I saw the knock off versions from one end of pinterest to the other. But as much as I want to be too cool to follow the trends, I couldn’t help myself either. It’s just so pretty.

But I could at least keep my pride in tact by making it my own style and by using materials that would fit with my throwback theme.

SuppliesThe first thing you need is a mason jar with a lid and a band. I like the Kerr pint jelly jars. They’re small enough to not weigh to much, and they don’t have a lot of decoration to get in the way of your view. Some of the mason jars you buy at craft stores are trying so hard to look like kitschy mason jars there’s no unobstructed glass left. Make sure you use something you can actually see through.

Then you’ll need some quilt batting or stuffing to make your snowy landscape, and some bottle brush trees or mini figurines or needle felted animals or clay snowmen or whatever you want to make your winter scene look like. I found all my figurines at a thrift store. Even the dollar store might be a good place to look. When you’ve got all this great stuff surrounding it your miniatures don’t need to be that special.

Step 1Put a puddle of hot glue along the bottom of the jar and gently tap in some quilt batting. Add enough batting so that the bottom of the jar is covered and it extends up the back to create a winter backdrop for your scene.

Step 2Paint a glitter decoupage glue all over the quilt batting, being sure to use the glue to stick the batting to the sides and back of the jar and along the bottom to make a firm foundation for your figurines.

Step 3When the decoupage glue is dry, add the rest of the elements of your scene with some hot glue.

Step 4Get the band and lid to top off your jar, and drill a hole through the lid.

Step 5Thread a loop of ribbon through the hole you made, screw on the lid and band, and then decorate the band with some grosgrain ribbon and a button.

Mason Jar SceneWithout the sparkly paper and the elegant dome of the original inspiration ornament these definitely aren’t as fancy. But I think they are a whole lot more homey, and certainly more appropriate for a vintage tree. Plus, kind of the perfect marriage between two decor trends. What’s more pinterest-nip than the cloche ornament?? A MASON JAR CLOCHE ORNAMENT!


Holiday Shadowbox

Christmas Shadowbox (2)

One of my favorite things to do as soon as Halloween is over is to go to any store even partially related to home decor and scope out their Christmas decorations. I snap iphone pics of things that I really like or want to figure out how to reverse engineer, and then I go off on a creative journey and wind up someplace completely different. Very very rarely do these projects end up looking at all like what inspired it. Except for this time. This time I full on knocked off an expensive Pottery Barn ornament. I took one look at it in the store and immediately knew I could make it, and for cheaper. Which is one of my favorite reasons to craft – sticking it to the corporate man.


Step 1

You’ll need to start with a base for your shadowbox. A shoebox lid would work well, in fact most box lids would work well, but I loved these thin mailer boxes I found at JoAnn’s. They were in the card section and by using these I got two ornaments out of every box.


Step 2

While the help of a kitty is optional, I find they really add a lot to the creative process. Mostly through cat hair winding up in the paint. Paint the back of your boxes black and use an iridescent fabric or dimensional paint to draw a neat line where your paint meets the paper of the box.


Step 3

Add a message to your shadowbox. You can use a vinyl cut out, a stamp, stickers, anything your little heart desires, but I just used a paint pen and my own two hands. I found a font I liked on the computer, printed it out, and then copied it. I managed this even though I really don’t draw. It’s just a a matter of breaking down the shape of the letters step by step. I also added a couple of straight lines and some dots along the top and bottom. It’s pretty and polished, but also keeps your letters from veering off course as you write them.


Step 4

Along the bottom edge of your shadow box, use some hot glue to add some snow made out of stuffing. Be careful not to burn your fingers, though, because the glue will seep up through the stuffing. And you really don’t want blistered fingers when you’re trying to wrap Christmas presents.


Step 5

Add a couple of bottle brush trees to the corner with a little more hot glue.


Step 6

Add then add a ribbon hanger and a bow to the top with a little more hot glue after that.


Christmas Shadowbox

The only challenging part of this whole project was the lettering, and if you use a stamp or stickers you could crank these out like you worked in a factory. With the chalkboard look of the black paint and the white letters this would be an excellent present for teachers, and unless you tell them otherwise they’ll think you dropped some coin at the fancy mall stores. Personally, I can never resist bragging about getting one over on capitalism.



Santa Shadowbox Ornaments

Santa ShadowboxOne of my favorite things to do from the end of Halloween straight through to the end of the year is go to all the fancy stores I can find and check out their Christmas decorations. The fancier the store the more I enjoy it because I just whip out my phone, snap a picture, and then go home and make it for a fraction of the price. Being a crafter is a superpower.

This was one of the first ornaments I found this year that I wanted to put my own spin on. The fancy boutique was calling this a “Santa Bucket” for some reason, when really it’s just a tiny little shadowbox. I loved it because it’s such a unique and interesting shape when so much that goes on a tree is globe shaped, and because it let me bring in some vintage artwork to sell the time period I’m working in for this year’s tree. Plus, there’s glitter. And you know I never miss a chance for glitter.

Step 1I found these miniature gift boxes in the dollar section at Michael’s as you wait to checkout. I grabbed a whole bunch of them thinking I was just going to put them on the tree as gift boxes, but then I got creative. Save the lids to your boxes because we’ll use those next week.

Step 2As pretty as those boxes were, they weren’t going to work for my purposes with those bright patterns on them. So the first thing I did was spray paint all the boxes inside and out. I chose spray paint because it’s so fast, but regular paint will get the job done too.

Step 3Use an exacto knife to cut off one side of the box. Leave about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch in the back to keep the box strong and to give yourself a place to put the ornament hanger.

Step 4I needed to cut down the sides so that the artwork in the back would be visible, so I took the opportunity to make the shape even more special by tracing a scallop pattern on each side.

Step 5It’s a bit of a trick, but be patient and use the smallest scissors you have on hand to cut out the scallop shape. I have lots of teeny scissors because of all my embroidery work, but if you don’t try your exacto knife again.

Step 6
Add you glitter coat. I apply glue with a paintbrush, shake glitter over the top of it, then shake off the extra and let it dry. Be sure and collect all your extra glitter on a plate or a piece of paper or something.

Step 7When your glitter is dry you’re ready to add your artwork. I searched the internet for vintage artwork and there is just a wealth of great stuff out there. If you have a good home printer your options are endless. I decided to order postcards from so I could make sure I wouldn’t get any fading. Cut it to fit the back of your shadowbox and glue it in place.

Step 8Decorate the foreground of your box by hot gluing a tiny bottle brush tree in place. Then paint more glue all over the bottom, the thicker you apply it the better, and sprinkle artificial snow over the top of it. You can find giant bags of that wherever they sell village accessories.

Step 9To add the ornament hanger poke a couple of holes in what remains of the top and thread a needle with thick thread or yarn on it through them. Tie a knot in the two ends and hang it from the tree.

I really loved how this one turned out, especially with the artwork I chose. It has a very “he sees you when you’re sleeping” quality to it, which should be useful when I’m trying to keep Atticus in line.


Mod Foam Ornaments

Mod Foam Ornament
As I was scouring the internet looking for inspiration for this tree, I came across an image from an old Women’s Day magazine posted on a tumbler page. The second I saw it the whole tree coalesced in my head. Before that old magazine article I knew I had a bunch of vintage ideas floating around my brain, but “vintage” pretty much includes all of time, so I needed to narrow that down a bit. Going down the tumbler rabbit hole I knew the time period I was going for and how I was going to get there. It was only after I made the ornaments that I noticed the magazine article was from the 70’s, not the late 50’s early 60’s I was going for, but I don’t care. I knew that I needed just a touch of modernity to make this tree interesting and these mod inspired ornaments are just the thing to make it unique.

Step 1

I turned the image black and white and printed it out because I knew I pretty much wanted to make my ornaments as close to the inspiration as possible. If you want to do the same, just scroll down. I included it for you.

Step 2

I used the print out as a template and cut the shapes out of fun foam. Fun foam is a favorite material of mine for ornaments because it’s cheap, durable, and cuts super easy.

Step 3

Then decorate your ornament. I wanted a 3 D look so I used Gallery Glass – a faux stained glass style paint. Dripping little dollops of paint made beautiful dome shapes once they dried, but it does take overnight to dry. I had to work in layers, back to front, letting each layer dry before adding the next layer of dots and embellishments.

Step 4

Just keep going until you get the look you want. You could use a ton of paint mediums to decorate these, and if you’re making them with kids you could even just use stickers.

Step 5

To attach a hanger thread a needle with some yarn or thick thread and poke the needle right through the foam, tying the two ends together to make a loop.

womens day
Here’s the original source of inspiration. Found at Mid-Century Modern Graphic Design. Click on the image to get to full size or this link to get to the source.

mod ornaments

The gallery glass dries a bit sticky so you’ll have to take some care when storing them. You don’t want them to just stick together in one giant ornament for next year. But I think it’s worth it to get that unique shiny look. It takes it from silly old fun foam to something modern and special.


Vintage Inspired Pom Pom Garland

Pom Pom GarlandHello my friends! I’ve missed you! Things have been laughably ridiculous over here lately which has been keeping me too busy to blog, but you know I had to come back around for our yearly tradition of a new themed Christmas tree!

Busy stuff in a nutshell: Yadda yadda yadda I’m having surgery next Wednesday and my niece is living with us now! I will talk more about those things later.

But today it is my birthday and to celebrate I am launching this year’s theme: Vintage 60’s Christmas.

If all you know about 60’s style is peace signs and psychedelic hippies, that might not sound glorious. But there will not be a single peace sign on this tree. No. I’m going for traditional vintage. Something your grandparents would have decorated with. Traditional colors and bottlebrush trees, thread covered ornaments and tinsel. Something that might have been at home in the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Price. It was a transitional time so some of the ornaments will have a slight nod to mod style, and some will almost be a throwback to Victorian ornaments, because just like the 90’s are back in now, styles have always gone around and around.

I start every tree with a garland, and this one is so much fun I’m tempted to leave the tree naked except for this. A fuzzy pom pom garland.

Step 1You just need a whole bunch of pom poms, a needle, and thread. My favorite thread to use is crewel embroidery thread because it is thick without being too thick to get through a needle and super strong. It’s like using pretty decorative rope. I cut a huge length of it because I can’t seem to help myself, but you will be happiest if you keep your garland about arms width long and just make a bunch of them. This gets tangled easily so short lengths and more of them is definitely the way to go here. Thread your needle and then add a whole bunch of your pom poms.

A lesson I learned the hard way: There is a firm center to each of the pom poms. You want your needle to go through there. Otherwise you’re just going through the fluff and it will pull right out. The firm center will anchor the thread and stay put.

Step 2At the end of your thread tie a square knot. Just like when you tie your shoes.

Step 3The knot has to be big enough so that the pom pom won’t just slide right off, so tie another knot on top of the first knot to make it bulk up. Use your fingernails to guide the knot where you want it to land while you pull the threads tight.

Step 4Pull down your pom pom to rest on that knot, and then tie another bulky knot just like it on the other side of the pom pom. You want that pom pom squished between the two knots so that it can’t go anywhere.

Step 6As your garland gets longer and there are more pom poms in place, it can get tricky to pull it all through to make the knot. I like to use my fingers to make a great big loop that the pom poms can slide through without getting hung up on. If that doesn’t make sense, watch the video below.

Step 7Keep going until you’ve got pom poms spaced every inch or so apart the whole length of your thread. It’s the contrast between the thin thread and the burst of fluff that makes this look so cute, so don’t skimp out on that space in between.

Vintage Pom Pom GarlandThis color on the green of a Christmas tree is so bold I just love it! It is a lot of look, though, so I’ll be using it judiciously. I’ll be making more garland out of white pom poms to help tone things down. Maybe. Maybe I’ll just lean right into the over the topness of it all.


Modern Paper Christmas Tree

Modern Paper Christmas Tree
During Christmas I break all my usual design tastes. Throughout the year I like uncluttered, clean lines, minimalism, and midcentury modern. At Christmas I love it all. There’s no such thing as too much, no style unrepresented, I want every surface festooned with holiday cheer. So when I can make those two styles converge, just imagine the heaven I create for myself. Using some foam core, glue, and scrapbook paper I can make a Christmas tree that would be perfectly at home in Don Draper’s Manhattan loft.

Step 1
To make a tree the same size as mine, you’ll need three pieces of foam core posterboard. Cut each piece in half along the longest edge, and then mark the center line of each new piece with a pencil.

Step 2
Use an exacto knife to cut through the first layer of the foamcore along your pencil line, but don’t cut through that bottom layer. You just want to create a score line where the piece can bend, not cut the piece in half.

Step 3
Now you need to cut your foamcore into the shape for your branches. Line a ruler up with the center pencil mark at the top, and the outer corner of the bottom. Cut that line on both sides to create a triangle.

You’ll also need to cut the bottom edges so that when each piece is bent to make the branches it will still stand up correctly. You need the outside corners to be right angles, so you can measure that with a protractor and line that angle up with the center point. Then cut along the line you’ve created and repeat for the other side. If you have a self-healing mat used for quilting you don’t even need the protractor. You just line the outside edge up with one of the grid lines and then cut a straight line to the center point.

Step 4
To get the foamcore to bend you need to make some room, which means cutting away some of the foam. This will be the inside so you don’t have to be neat about it. I just tilted by knife to an angle and cut away the foam on either side of the scored center line, being careful not to cut through the front of the foamcore.

Step 5
I made six branches for my design, and once they’re folded in half it’s time to assemble. I lined each piece up to it’s neighbor, keeping them at an angle so they’d fan out instead of having each side stick together. Run a bunch of hot glue down the joint of each piece.

Step 6
To connect the two end pieces together, bend them around to meet and form your cone, then run glue down the joint as best you can from the inside. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to keep things in place.

Step 7
The hard work is done, now it’s just a matter of decorating. You could use any method you can dream up for this, but I wanted to bust out my glitter cardstock and my die cut machine and give this a paper tiling treatment. You just need to pick a basic shape – really, any shape will do – and cut a metric ton of pieces. I would recommend using a shape a little larger than the one I used because I was tiling for days, but the results are pretty great. If you don’t have a die cut machine just use a punch and some elbow grease.

Step 8
To cover up the outer edges of the branches, just bend your paper pieces over the tip.

Step 9
To cover up your center joints, bend your paper pieces in the middle and glue right over the top of it.

Step 10
Whatever shape you use to tile your tree with, it’s won’t be small enough to cover the top of your tree in a way that looks good. So we’re going to cover the top with a little cone. Start by cutting a circle out of coordinating paper, then cut a slit across to the center point. Wrap it around the top and cut off all but about a 1/2″ of the overlapping paper.

Step 11
Bend the cone so that it fits around the branches, then glue it in place.

Step 12
I’m never one to pass up glitter, particularly at Christmas, so I finished by dumping glue all over the tree to add a little white glitter to make it look snowkissed.

Foam Core Christmas Tree
I just love the sharp angles and clean lines of this tree. It brings my love of midcentury design together with my love of everything dripping in glitter to create the perfect Christmas decoration for me. Now I’m toying with the idea of making one even bigger.