DIY Ornaments

In 2015, my partner and I took a leap: we moved to Berlin and moved in together. What was meant to be a one-year jaunt for a research grant turned into a four-year stay. One winter, we got a cute little tree, but we didn’t want to shell out for a bunch of fragile ornaments we wouldn’t be able to take home when we eventually moved back to the U.S. Enter: the ornament making party.

We invited friends over, and before they arrived, I cut cardboard into circles with a square at the top for a hook; gathered old magazines, glue and tape; and opened some wine. (“BYO Scissors.”) It was such a fun night, and I love how our tree turned out.

DIY Ornaments

The holidays can come with that weird pressure to be suddenly good at all sorts of things — crafting, cooking, baking, chopping down a tree in the forest. And while I’m drawn to beautifully executed decor, it’s actually pretty freeing to be bad at things. It’s fun to throw wonky imperfect ornaments on the tree or watch the friend who professes to be “not the slightest bit creative” hunched over with a pair of scissors and an old issue of National Geographic, happily snipping away.

DIY Ornaments

DIY Ornaments

A polka dot candy cane made with clay and paint markers; plus a new look for the Frankfurter Queen of 1952.

Ornament making fits all energy levels: you can make them solo with reality TV playing in the background, with a friend or two after a weeknight dinner, or on a Sunday afternoon with a bunch of bored kids. You can make ‘em with stuff you have lying around or plan a big party with elaborate crafting materials.

For cardboard ornaments, you’ll need: cardboard boxes to cut, strong scissors, hooks, glue or glue sticks, paint or markers, ribbon or hooks, and collage material, like old magazines or newspapers.

For clay ones, you’ll need: clay, cookie cutters, something to poke a hole (I used a chopstick), hooks, a rolling pin, and paint or acrylic markers, plus 24 hours between cutting out the ornaments and painting them, since they first need to dry.

We’ve also tried these unfinished wood ones, which take paint, marker, and collage material well. They’re also great for marbleizing, which is a fun option for kids. Just apply a lot of paint to a paper palette or sheet of waxed paper from the kitchen, fold in half, unfold, then add ornaments and fold one more time with ornaments inside.

DIY Ornaments

Isn’t this the kind of thing grandparents love receiving?

And, at the end of the day, if you’re not in the mood to make any, here are 10 I’m absolutely drooling over: Bauhaus | Straw | Palm | ShinyBrite | Clay | Wood | Car | Frame | Brass | Bees

To me, the perfect tree has white lights, popcorn strands (we have these funny fake ones), and a hodgepodge of ornaments collected over time.

So, is anyone else making ornaments this year? Do you have any tried-and-true methods or favorite sources for ornament shopping?

P.S. 10 holiday rituals and my Christmas family tradition.