By Susan M. Thigpen © 1983-2012
Issue: December, 1983
Many people are turning their minds back to a time when Christmas was more simple and natural. I decided several years ago to make ornaments and have everything on my tree homemade. I do use electric lights but only white ones. Each year I make about a dozen or so of a particular ornament that is different from any other I have made before and place them with the ornaments made in previous years. Everyone who comes to visit while the tree is up is invited to take home an ornament from my tree to place on theirs.
I have several ornaments that I treasure from friends who have given them to me also over the years and when time to get the ornaments out for decoration comes, I enjoy the memories associated with each one. Many are ornaments made when my children were small and their childish style is cherished because nothing in this world can turn back the hands of time to replace them. The angel on top is one made by my oldest daughter from an aluminum foil pie pan many years ago. It will top my tree as long as I ever have a tree.
I have included some directions for homemade ornaments that you might wish to make for your tree. Many are simple enough that your children can help with them. This can be time both you and your children can enjoy spending together.
Start with a walk in the woods or open fields on a pretty day in November or December, looking for natural materials. Ivalien Belcher suggests dried milkweed pods and abandoned bird nests. They both can be used as is or sprayed gold or silver. Then they can be filled with Christmas balls or angels can be tucked inside the milkweed pods for beautiful ornaments. Tiny hemlock pine cones can also be used inside of them. You will probably find other dried weeds and bright red rose hip berries as well as holly and running cedar to decorate with. If you know where a sweet gum tree is, their burrs make good ornaments too. A lady in her 90’s told me that when she was a child, they decorated at Christmas with fresh evergreens brought in and dipped in flour and water to make it look like they had snow on them.
Something that is pretty and will really add color to your tree is to simply tie red ribbon bows on some of the branches. You can add the extra dimension of Christmas smells by cutting out simple shapes (circles, hearts, diamonds) of bright calico cloth and sewing them together and stuffing them with pieces of cinnamon and cloves or allspice.
Wreaths can be made for your door from a wide variety of things. You can buy a basic shape from a florist or craft shop or make your own by bending a coat hanger into a round shape and padding it with newspaper, taped to it. These can be covered with running cedar, boxwood clippings, corn husks wired to toothpicks or pine branches. You can buy very thin wire that is sold to string beads on to attach the greenery.
Corn Husk Angels
Place corn husks in a bowl of warm water until they become softer and easier to work with. With a pair of scissors, cut pieces about two inches wide and four inches long. Roll one of these pieces up to make the arms. Fold one piece in half to make the angel. Place the arms through the fold. With thin wire, tightly wrap around the waist. Then bring the wire up the back and slide the arms down and wrap around the neck section. With another 2x4 piece of corn husk, gather it in the middle to form the wings. Wrap the wire around it that is still at the neck. Cut the wire leaving enough to bring up the back of the neck (and wings) and form it into a circle over the head for a halo. You can paint or draw a face on the head and add a fluff of cotton for hair.
Clothes Pen Dolls
Peg type clothes pens made any kind of “people” you wish them to be. They do not have to be hung on the tree because their “legs” will clip on the top side of tree branches. You can paint them as toy tin soldiers and glue a red fringe ball on top of their heads or you could sew tiny clothes around them to make pilgrims or ballerinas or whatever you wish. The arms can be painted on or you can use a pipe cleaner for outstretched arms.
You can make snowflake ornaments with beading wire and tiny white or clear beads. Cut four lengths of wire about four inches long and twist together at the center. Spread the ends out in a circle. Place beads on each arm of the wire and tie off the last bead. Leave a loop of wire on one of the arms to hang it with. With a separate piece of wire, string beads and attach it in-between the “spokes” already beaded. Then string beads until you get enough to attach to the next spoke, winding the wire around the spokes at each spoke until you have completed the circle around the snowflake. You can repeat this last step as often as you wish to make as many circles around the snowflake as big as you wish.
Paper Doily Bouquets
For an old fashioned look, you might wish to buy paper lace doilies and make bouquets to hang on your tree. You can buy small fabric poinsettias, trim their stems and tuck them inside the paper doilies and pull the doilies up around the flowers. Tie doily with a red ribbon. Stick here and there in the branches of your tree. You could do the same thing with dried flowers you collected on your walk.
Any homemade Christmas ornament can serve also as an alternative to the standard bow on a present when you are wrapping a present. It will be something different and very attractive.