I’m a gardener, but I also like to make things. So, if I can take something from nature and create a usable work of art, I’ll do that too. Ornaments are no different. My Christmas tree is filled with all manner of ornaments I’ve accumulated over the years, from my childhood creations to those of my own kids and grandkids. I love them all, but the ones I enjoy most are ornaments crafted from nature.
DIY Holiday Ornaments
Handmade ornaments mean more, the look and feel of the outdoors when everything in the garden is dead or sleeping, is an added bonus. Plus, they are fun to make.
I have a tradition that came from my childhood days (long, long ago). Mama used to always have a countdown to Christmas for us. Usually consisting of a long red ribbon with an ornament affixed to the top and hanging within easy reach of our little hands, she would stick pieces of candy down the length of the ribbon for each day of December up to Christmas Eve. Then, on Christmas morning, we would get to hang our new ornaments on the tree.
While I didn’t use the exact approach when my kids were little, I did provide a new ornament every year… and still do. That’s our tradition – an ornament for each year of life to take with them when they moved out and started their own tree. I carry on this tradition with my grandchildren. There is a downside, though. Ornaments can be expensive, especially as your family grows. DIY holiday ornaments can alleviate this problem.
Nature Inspired Handmade Ornaments
Here are my top picks for easy ornaments crafted from nature. And, remember, you can always give these your own spin.
Wood Slice Ornaments
DIY holiday ornaments from wood slices, also known as cookies (I recently learned that), can be created in so many different ways, but here’s one of my favorites. You’ll need these supplies:
Wood slices, cut your own or purchase from craft storeWood burning tool (for etching)Design template or create your ownX-acto knifeSandpaperRibbon, yarn, jute, etc.Glue
If necessary, sand down your wood slice so that it’s nice and smooth. Apply your template of choice or lightly draw your design first. Use the X-acto knife to carefully trace over your design, carving into the wood just enough to make indentations. Go over the design with the wood burning tool. Wipe it clean, glue your ribbon to the back, let it dry and then hang. Alternatively, you can pre-drill small holes for hanging. You could also paint a design instead and forgo the etching.
Twig Tree Ornaments
These are not only neat but so simple the kids can make them. Here’s what you need to get started:
Popsicle sticksTwigs and branchesGlueScissorsYarnSmall decorative items of choice
Take the kiddos out for a nature hike, or just a walkthrough of the garden. Collect some small twigs. Make sure they’re dry. You can either break them or use scissors to cut them into various lengths. Add glue to the popsicle stick and simply attach the twig pieces along the length of the stick, from smallest to largest, so that it creates a tree shape. Allow to dry completely. Glue some ribbon/yarn to the back to hang as is OR glue on decorative items (sequins, pom poms, small painted acorns, etc.) for ornaments.
There are far too many ways to take this one, so my advice is let your creative juices guide you. Personally, I like them as natural as possible but feel free to create little pinecone gnomes, complete with felt hats and mittens; pinecone reindeer with googly eyes and pipe cleaner antlers; or paint them, adding embellishments like glitter.
All you need to get started are pinecones of various sizes. Then whatever you have handy – paint, glue, glitter, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, glue, ribbon, felt pieces, etc.
The terrarium ornament is one that I will be trying my hand at this year. Here’s what you need to create this mini terrarium:
Clear plastic or glass ornamentsPotting soil (for cacti and succulents)Paint brush and/or tweezersSmall funnelMoss, air plants or succulents (small enough to fit)Water bottle (for misting)
Remove the top from the ornament, unless you get one with a hole specially for this purpose. Use the funnel to fill the bottom with succulent soil (less than halfway). Carefully push the plants through the opening and use tweezers (or paintbrush) to arrange them as desired. Mist with water so it is damp, but not overly wet. Replace the top and hang.
Pressed Flower Ornaments
I recently started pressing flowers and leaves for various craft projects, so when I came across these handmade ornaments, it was a definite keeper to try out. To begin, you need to make the clay using 1 cup baking soda, ½ cup corn starch, and 3/4 cup warm water.
In a small saucepan, mix the dry ingredients and add the warm water. Continue stirring over medium heat, until it starts to bubble and come away from the sides of the pan – should resemble a soft dough-like consistency. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Then knead the “dough” for a couple of minutes. Take a rolling pin and spread it out so it’s about ½ inch thickness. Use a cup or cookie cutter (round or various shapes) to cut the ornaments. Poke a hole for hanging at the top of each. Bake at 200 F. (100 C.) for an hour.
As you’re waiting, gather your remaining items: pressed flowers/leaves, mod podge, small paintbrush, and string or ribbon. Once the ornaments are finished and thoroughly cooled, add a layer of mod podge to the front. Place your flower(s)/leaves on top. Then gently paint another layer of mod podge over top. Let it dry, string and hang.
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