The simplest ornaments ever! Flowers and Gift Tags

gift-tags-and-flowersToday I’m going to share with you my two best Christmas decorating tricks ever. Long time readers know I feel very strongly about my Christmas decorating methods, so when I say they’re my best, it’s saying something. They are both so simple that it felt like cheating to give each one its own post, but knowing them will totally change how you decorate. They are: 1.) If you can’t hang it, wire it. And 2.) Any cheap ornament can be fabulous. See? So simple. You probably had those same thoughts yourself. But! That’s why they’re my best tricks. Once you start using them and see how far they can take you, you’ll see how important they are. And today, I have a tutorial for each to show you what I mean.


flower-step-1To show you how gorgeous untraditional ornaments can be, I’m going to add some floral to my Nostalgic Home themed tree I’ve been sharing with you this week. I love using floral elements in a Christmas tree because it brings a whole new set of shapes and textures and scale to a tree. Sometimes trees can get a little too samesies with only hanging ornaments and round balls. (But a tree dripping in ONLY hanging ornaments or round balls? Gorgeous.) I picked a giant poinsetta and leaf that I want to use together without all the giant wires that they usually come on. Just pop off whatever you want to use.


flower-step-2Arrange the pieces together however you want them to lay.


flower-step-3Thread a piece of wire under all your floral pieces.


flower-step-4Twist the wires over and around all of the floral pieces until they’re well supported and secure, then twist the leftover ends together to use to wrap them around the branches.


tag-step-1 Now! As proof that any cheap old ornament can be fabulous, I’m going to take that black plastic gift tag up there and make it a gorgeous ornament. For starters, I used a silver sharpie to write a message. My handwriting is fine, not calligraphy, and I used it anyway. I’m a firm believer that for something as sentimental as a Christmas ornament, there’s nothing as beautiful as your actual handwriting to the people you love.


tag-step-2Then I doodled a little border. Dots in the corners and sides.


tag-step-3Connect the dots with dashes.


tag-step-4And add a couple more dots above those other dots. Dots and dashes, since I am not an avid doodler. I bet a zentangler could make something pretty spectacular.


tag-step-5Add a loop of gold thread through the top and then tie a bow with the prettiest ribbon you can find. I got this antique velvet ribbon at a store in New York I’ve been dreaming of going to since I saw it in the Martha Stewart magazine years and years ago. Whatever ribbon I bought at that shop had to be used on something special, and I knew a Christmas ornament was just the thing. I’ll get sick of a new dress, but a Christmas ornament will be a tradition.


tags-and-flowersSo maybe you’re thinking: Flowers and gift tags, big deal. But this is like the wax on wax off of Christmas tips. I wired a flower into the Christmas tree, but what *else* could be wired to a Christmas tree? Literally anything. Whatever thing is your favorite. Whatever you can imagine. A collection of sports trophies. Action figures. Open umbrellas. Shoes. At a design center I actually saw a BICYCLE wired into a tree. And it was surrounded in flowers and butterflies and picnic basket ornaments and it was the cutest thing you ever did see. Just think about how much you would love to have a Christmas tree customized to your very specific tastes. You can do that. The same is true for making any cheap ornament fabulous. Christmas decorating is expensive. It is a total luxury to go big with your decor. So if you can take something from the dollar store or the craft store or the thrift store and make it look like it actually did come from the department store, you get luxury on the super cheap. With sentimental details, sparkle from paint or glitter or both, and really good ribbon, you save yourself a fortune.



DIY Ornament – Tinsel Bottle Brush Tree

tinsel-bottle-brush-treeBottle brush trees have been everywhere for the last few Christmases. They are charming little old fashioned decorations and they look amazing with a modern update of sparkles and cool new colors. They’re also ridiculously easy to make. And when you can make them yourself that means you can make them out of ANYTHING. Neon yarn, recycled plastic bags, strips of burlap, anything. I’m using the regular old-fashioned bottle brush trees in several ornaments on this tree, but more is more in my book, so I wanted to do a larger bottle brush tree and use it as a chance to bring in the other material I’m using a lot: tinsel.


step-1For this project you need a cork, floral wire, a star brad, and the material you’ll be making your tree out of. I used a tinsel garland I got at the thrift store.


step-2Cut your material into strips. You can add as many as you want to get the fullness you want, and if you’re using yarn you’ll have to add a bunch. The garland was doing most of the work in my case, so I cut 8 strips in different sizes. I wouldn’t go any wider than 5 or 6 inches because the garland gets too floppy that far away from the center support. You will be trimming later so measurements don’t need to be exact, you just want the smallest piece at the top.


step-3Bend your floral wire in half and make a loop by twisting the wire. This will be your ornament hanger, and a support for the star later.


step-4Lay your strips in between the two legs of wire. Scrunch them as necessary to get them all in.


step-5Twist the wire closed at the bottom of the tinsel, leaving yourself an inch or two to work with later.


step-6Grip the tree by both ends, one hand grasping the loop and the other hand grasping the tails.


step-7Twist. Start twisting your hands in opposite directions and keep twisting. The wire will begin to shorten and bring the tinsel up even tighter. That’s what you want. It will look a little wild in the middle of things, but what you’re looking for is for the tinsel to get compact against each other.


step-8When you finish twisting it will not look like a tree. There’s really no predicting where those strips of tinsel will end up. So when you have the tinsel as compact as you want, give it a haircut. Trim the tinsel into the shape you want.


step-9Stick the wires at the bottom of the tree into a cork.


step-10Flatten the arms of a star brad around the wire loop and use some hot glue to secure it.


tinsel-bottle-brushBear is big into his winter villages, so we have bottle brush trees in every room of this house. But, until now, not in tinsel. I love these little guys so much, now I’m thinking his little snow village needs some sparkle.



DIY Christmas Ornament – Fancy Lady Doll

fancy-lady-ornamentThere’s a vintage furniture store nearby that specializes in Midcentury Modern. They make little room vignettes with all their furniture, so walking through the showroom feels like walking through a trendy home in 1963. One of the rooms they had set up was decorated for Christmas with an actual vintage aluminum tree and handcrafts from the era. I spent forever looking at that tree and snapping pictures, paying attention to the crafts that were popular at the time and what how they would have decorated. There will be quite a few ornament tutorials this month that started with that tree at the furniture store, but for today I’m focusing on this little doll. I saw so many versions of these little wood peg dolls! Carolers, elves, Santas, all kinds of permutations from these little wooden pegs turned into dolls. I wanted to include any craft that was so popular at the time, but I knew mine had to pay tribute to the glamorous ladies with their beehives and fur coats. A Betty Draper peg doll, if you will.


step-1For this project you need the wooden doll pieces, two pom poms, 2 2″ pieces of pipe cleaner, yarn for a belt, doll hair, and felt skirt and shirt.


step-2I started by painting little faces on my dolls and you can see that there was nothing involved about it. Two little boop boop eyes and a swipe for a mouth. The hair I painted will be covered with doll hair, I just wanted to add a little color underneath so the raw wood wouldn’t show through.


step-3Now our lady needs some clothes. The skirt is a circle skirt so you start by literally drawing a circle. Then draw another circle in the middle by tracing around the doll so you know how big her waist is. Wrap the skirt around the dolls waist and cut off any extra width if it overlaps. Use hot glue to attach the skirt in the front, back, and on the sides. For the top I started with a white rectangle and trimmed it so that it would fit around her at the top. I just tried it on, snipped off what seemed too big, and when I was satisfied, I hot glued her top on.


step-4 To complete her look she needs a belt at her waist. Tie a piece of yarn around her waist and tie a bow at the back. Hot glue the pipecleaners to her shoulders, and then the pom poms on top of the pipe cleaners. If her arms are too long you can just snip them until you’re satisfied with the size.


step-5Add another loop of yarn to be the ornament hanger by gluing it under the bow and up behind the head. If you don’t glue it to her head she’ll hang face down once you put her on the tree, so make sure you get that loop to stay up nice and high.


step-7 My glamorous 60’s lady needed to have a big glamorous hairstyle, so I took curls of doll hair and hot glued it all around her head. The hot glue will seep up through those doll hairs, so watch your fingers carefully. Then I took more curls and hot glued them on top, piling them on to make a beehive.


fancy-lady I think she’s so sweet. She looks like she’s going to a fancy Christmas party where she’ll chose from a selection of nogs and gather around a piano for a singalong.



DIY Christmas Ornament – Embroidered Postcard Ornament

postcard-embroidery-ornamentAren’t vintage illustrations just the most gorgeous thing? I fell down a real Pinterest hole when I was looking for 60’s artwork. The illustrations used in ads back then are astonishing. I wanted that artwork reflected on the tree, and not in my own sorry imitation. I wanted to use that artwork, but juzh it up a little bit. A little embroidery to bring the image into 3D is really all it took.
step-1I got my postcards at, but you can find vintage postcards easily, or have any other image you want printed. Use a needle to poke holes around everything you want to stitch. The paper is so thick that trying to go through it with your threaded needle is tough, and you won’t be able to see where your needle is coming from the back, so you need to pre-drill your stitch lines. I wanted to stitch around all the red, green, and around the reindeer.
step-2 Stitch your lines with crewel embroidery thread. I just used a backstitch because it’s my favorite outlining stitch.
step-3 In the berries I wanted to use French knots, so I pierced two holes in each of them.
step-4Bring your needle up through one of those holes. Point your needle up so the eye is pointing toward the postcard and wrap the thread around three or four times. The more you loops you do, the bigger your knot will be.
step-5 Pull the needle down through the other hole in the berry, holding the loops down with your thumb.
step-6Here I’ve finished all the embroidery including the French knots. You could get really fancy if you wanted to, with loads of special stitches, but I like how simple the outlining is around this illustration.
step-7Cut two pieces of fabric 1″ larger on each side from your artwork. I used a polar fleece, but any fabric that doesn’t frame will work. I like the polar fleece for how it gives the ornament some thickness. You’ll also need a ribbon for an ornament hanger.
step-8 Sandwich the ornament thread in between the layers of fabric and center the artwork on top of the fabric sandwich. Sew all around all four sides, sewing through the paper postcard at the same time. Make sure both ends of the ornament ribbon are secure in the seam.
postcard-ornamentThis is my very favorite ornament on this tree. The illustration is so sweet and the stitching and fabric turn it into an actual ornament and not just a postcard. That Santa face is just so dang charming, all it ever needed was a frame.


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.