As a longstanding maker of Christmas decorations to sell to other people, Christmas typically starts in our house around May! Perhaps this explains why poor Stu detests Christmas music so much…?
Making your own Christmas decorations is a great way to get into the festive spirit, as well as making some precious treasures you can enjoy for years to come or give as gifts to friends and family.
The following post details how to make some cracking Christmas decorations. Whilst some of these decorations lend themselves to being family friendly for all ages to have a go at, others are better suited to older children and adults. The real winning feature of all that you are about to see though is that there’s not a drop of glitter in sight!
Whether you’re making for yourself, making to sell or gifting to friends and family, there’s sure to be something to spark your imagination amongst these little gems.
Everlasting Gingerbread Men
If you have children, you are sure to be familiar with salt dough Christmas decorations as a lovely keepsake coming home from nursery or day care, but how about making some decorations which smell like Christmas too?
By adding cinnamon to your salt dough, you will have some gorgeous Christmas decorations which look great and smell the part too!
Suitable for younger children too, these decorations seem a great place to start.
You will need;
1 cup of plain flour
½ a cup of salt
¾ cup of ground cinnamon
¾ cup of water
Acrylic paint to decorate
Varnish to finish
Start by combining your dry ingredients in a bowl. Once they are evenly combined, slowly stir in your water until the mixture starts to come together as a dough.
Knead the dough on a flowered surface until it is smooth and even.
Roll out the dough to approximately 5mm thickness and use cookie cutters to cut out your decorations. Re-roll the offcuts to make more shapes until you have used all of the dough.
Use a skewer to make a small hole in the top edge of each decoration through which the hanging string will be threaded once the decoration is complete. Avoid making it too close to the edge to avoid the decoration from breaking (around 5mm is sufficient).
Place the decorations on to a sheet of baking paper on a flat surface to dry and harden. This can take up to a week.
You can speed this process up by using the oven, however, you will need to keep the oven at a low heat for a couple of hours or more to dry them fully without causing them to curl up or crack. Remember that you are drying the decorations, not cooking them!
Whether you air dry or oven dry your decorations, you should turn them over regularly during the process to ensure that they dry flat (daily should be sufficient if you are air drying)
Once the decorations are fully dried, it’s time to get down to the fun bit by using acrylic paint to bring your decorations to life!
We made gingerbread men then used red and white acrylic paint to mimic icing and black paint to mimic currants for the eyes and buttons. Alternatively, you can stick on buttons, sequins and glitter (yes, I know I said no glitter!) to mimic a sprinkling of sugar for a bit of added sparkle!
As a final finish for our gingerbread men, we glazed them with a spray varnish to bring out that rich gingerbread colour, but this is entirely optional.
The last step is to thread your string to create a hanger for your decorations so they are ready to bring some old school spice to your Christmas tree.
Your everlasting cookies will smell good enough to eat and bring that magical Christmas fragrance into your home.
These decorations also make a stunning addition to your gift wrapping, nestled amongst ribbons and bows.
For a rustic finish, why not wrap your gifts with brown paper, tie a fabric ribbon and let the decoration really stand out for a more eco-friendly alternative to shiny foil wrapping papers that can’t be recycled.
Painted pegs dolls
Painted peg dolls add a nostalgic twist to even the best dressed trees or Christmas displays, and the possibilities are endless. Create your own nativity scene, make an army of soldiers or create Santa and his elves.
If you have the time and the patience, painted peg dolls would make a lovely alternative to chocolates in an Advent calendar that can be enjoyed time and time again. Why not build up the traditional Christmas story over the month of December with the arrival of baby Jesus on Christmas Eve?
Traditional doll pegs are easily sourced from most craft shops, whilst purpose designed wooden dolls are increasingly easy to source in both craft and bargain shops in Australia, as well as on the internet.
Whichever you choose to use, these are just begging to be turned into Christmas characters to enjoy year after year.
You will need;
Wooden doll pegs / wooden doll blanks
String to hang
wooden cotton reels, assorted sizes
I usually start by paining the faces of my characters in skin tones before adding the other details.
You will need to add 2-3 layers of acrylic paint in each colour to give your peg doll a solid coloured finish, so it’s a good idea to start multiple pegs at a time so you can be working on one whilst another is drying.
I usually start by paining the faces of my characters in skin tones before adding the other details. You will need to add 2-3 layers of acrylic paint in each colour to give your peg doll a solid coloured finish, so it’s a good idea to start multiple pegs at a time so you can be working on one whilst another is drying.
You will also need to be able to hold on to part of your doll that is dry whilst you paint it, so it useful to plan carefully which bit you are going to paint next and which bit you are going to hold on to whilst you paint and make sure this is dry before you start.
Although you can paint one colour of acrylic paint over another, it ay be easier to paint lighter colours directly on to the wood for faster coverage, and I usually start with my lighter colours and build up to the darker ones.
Personally, I free hand paint on my design, but if you are less confident in your paining abilities, it’s easy enough to mark out your design in pencil first so you know which colour will go where.
The internet is a vast source of inspiration when it comes to designing peg dolls and will help you to plan your own decorations. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started though!
Santa and Mrs Clause
I have used purpose designed wooden pegs to make a Santa and Mrs Clause.
I started both together, using a flesh tone made by mixing white with a tiny bit of red and some gold and painted each head and neck in full, moving from one to the other until each had 3 layers of paint on and a good solid finish. Acrylic paint is very quick to dry!
The next step for both dolls was to paint on the white details to save me having to paint these over the red afterwards.
I painted Mrs Clause apron and collar, and Santa’s coat trim and beard free hand, but if you’re not sure, use a pencil to mark out your design before you get going with the paint.
I have used a well loaded brush to daub paint on to make Santa’s beard and give it a textured finish.
I have also used an under layer of silver for both characters hair and Santa’s beard to make it stand out from the white details of their clothes.
For the white clothing details, I have used a thinner layer of paint applied smoothly.
The next step is to add the red paint to make their clothes and Santa’s hat. This will definitely require at least 3 layers of paint to give a solid colour finish. Again, you should be able to move from one doll to the other adding paint, and holding on to the heads whilst you paint the bodies.
Don’t forget to paint the base too once the sides are dry!
I painted both characters hair once their clothes were finished. Mrs Clause hair is in a bun, created by drawing a circle of paint on the back of her head and gradually building up the paint in layers to give it some texture.
Both characters faces are simple black dots for eyes and a red moth using a thin brush.
The final details are Santa’s belt; a black band around his waist with space for a gold buckle, and the bow at the back of Mrs Clause apron which is painted over the red paint.
A coat of varnish for a shiny durable finish is optional, but make sure the paint is fully dried first. I tend to use a spray varnish.
Doll peg soldiers
Traditional dolly pegs really lend themselves to becoming soldiers. Although the designs are different, the principle is much the same as for Santa and Mrs Clause.
Again, I start with the faces and start multiple soldiers at once.
I then paint on the soldiers clothes in the different designs, finally adding the gold trim. You will again need 2-3 layers of paint for a good solid colour.
HOT TIP since these doll pegs are not free standing, I found that standing then on the edge of a glass helped them to dry without sticking to anything as they would do laying down.
I have used match sticks to make arms for my peg dolls, painting them first to match the soldiers coat before gluing them to the finished character.
The soldiers hats are made from tiny wooden cotton reels (bought from the craft section of a bargain shop) which I have pained black. I have used the hole through the middle to glue my hanging tag before gluing the hat to the soldier.
For the drums, I have painted larger wooden cotton reels before gluing the to the front of the soldiers at the desired point. Once this has dried, I have glued trimmed matchstick arms pointing forwards to the soldiers body and used trimmed unpainted matchsticks as drum sticks.
Finish off your soldiers with smiley faces, moustaches and hair. I’ve used pieces of white fleece for the hair and beard of my Nutcracker soldiers.
If you want a really easy design to start with, why not try the snowman? Paint the entire peg white (3 coats) before adding button and face details and wrapping a felt or fleece scarf around his neck. If you don’t want to add a hat, the string can be tied around his neck under the scarf so he can be hung on the tree.
Spectacular Sequin Shapes
For something a little old school and super sparkly, why not try making some sequin decorations?
These are fairly straightforward to make, although much more time consuming than they first appear, so I suggest you start small and see how you go! On the plus side, they can provide some prolonged entertainment for patient and creative kids.
This is an activity you can dip in and out of too, and clean enough to do in front of the TV; sounds like an ideal excuse to pop on a Christmas film – or two – as you create, to me!
Polystyrene baubles / Christmas shapes (available at most craft stores)
Pins (there are special short beading pins for this craft, but ordinary sewing pins will do the job if you can’t find any)
Ribbon to hang
Start by pinning your ribbon to the top of your decoration. You can use a single pin, then reinforce the ribbon when you use pins to hold sequins over the edges.
Lay out your sequins and begin to attach to the polystyrene shape by holding in the desired position and passing the pin through the hole in the sequin. You can add detail by placing contrasting smaller sequins on top of larger ones.
As you start to cover the surface of the decoration, overlap the sequins slightly to give a full and gap free coverage of the shape. Continue adding until your decoration is fully covered. The process is quite time consuming but equally satisfying as you see the design coming together.
You can either use a single colour, 2 colours using smaller sequins in a different colour to the larger ones, or create patterns in two or more colours. If you are wanting to make patterns, it is useful to use a marker pen or biro to mark out the design you want to achieve to guide your pinning.
The shimmering results are well worth the patient pinning as these decorations are sure to add a bit of sparkle to your tree.
I have been making felt decorations since I was a child and I am now teaching my children to make their own. We love trying out new designs as well as digging out our favourites from years gone by to decorate the Christmas tree.
Although the designs vary, the basic principles are the same. Here, I will describe how to make a gingerbread man as he is one of our favourites, but the possibilities are endless and the internet is a huge source of inspiration.
You will need;
Beige felt (Hobbycraft sell an excellent gingerbread coloured felt sheet for UK makers!)
Embroidery threads in red, black and either white / cream / gingerbread / brown
Needle with a large eye (a bodkin will be too blunt)
White or cream ric rac ribbon / bobble trim / lace trim
Polyester toy filler
Start by making a template for your gingerbread man either by sketching on paper freehand, or drawing round a cookie cutter if you are not confident in your artistic abilities. Alternatively enlarge the photograph on your screen to trace around or print out)
Cut out your paper template, pin to the felt and cut around to make one gingerbread man. Pin the cut out felt shape back onto the felt and cut around to make the 2nd shape to sew together with the first.
Use black embroidery thread to make currant eyes on your gingerbread mans face. To make my eyes level, I usually start by making one horizontal stitch either side of the face. I then form these into an eye by adding further stitches to make a plus sign first, then diagonal stitches to make an ‘X’ and finally making 4 stitches in a diamond shape from each of the points of the plus sign to the next one.
You can miss this step out altogether and use boggly eyes as an easier alternative, particularly with younger stitchers who may find making the eyes tricky.
To make the mouth, use red embroidery thread to make a curved line beneath the eyes using a back stitch. Once the mouth is finished, don’t cut this thread yet.
Make a bow with your ribbon and glue to the neck area of the gingerbread man, and glue the buttons in place.
Use the red embroidery thread to put a single stitch through the ribbon to secure it, then to stitch the buttons in place too. Take care not to pull the thread tightly as this will distort the shape of the gingerbread man.
If you prefer, you can miss this step out and simply glue the embelishments in place once you have finished sewing and filling the gingerbread man.
Cut another piece of ribbon to make a hanging tag and use a dab of glue to hold it in place at the head of the gingerbread man.
You are now ready to start stitching your 2 sides together. Cut a long length of embroidery thread in your chosen colour and thread the needle. I usually start stitching at the neck on the right hand side of the gingerbread man as it faces me so that the final stitches which close it up are neatly hidden under the ribbon, and it is easy to fill the shape by starting here.
Make stitches that are approximately 4mm long, approximately 4mm from the edge of the decoration all the way around the shape until you come back to the ‘hand’ of the arm on the right hand side.
Leave your needle and thread in place whilst you fill the shape with your polyester filling. Use small pinches of filling at a time, starting with the limbs and making sure they are well filled before starting to fill the tummy, head and chest.
Once the shape is well filled, continue stitching along the final arm, filling after every couple of stitches then completing the filling when only a small opening remains.
You may find it easier to use a pencil or wooden barbecue skewer to help push the filling into the limbs and through the small opening you leave to complete the filling.
Once the arm is fully filled, stitch to the end of the arm to meet your original stitch and then over-sew this 2 or 3 times for reinforcement before trimming the thread close to the felt; there is no need to tie a know if you have over-sewn a few times.
To add a final flourish to your gingerbread man, cut strips of ric rac ribbon to make ‘piping’ on his legs.
Once you have mastered the basic design, you can branch out and make variations with different coloured buttons, ribbons and outlining thread, as well as adding waistcoats, aprons or other embelishments to make the design your own.
Mosaic making has become a new obsession in the Cooper household after a local artist taught me the basics, and we have used our new found skills to create some stunning Christmas decorations.
Using majority recycled ceramics, our creations have had us making a weekly pilgrimage to the local charity shop to see what we can find to smash!
Although these require some special equipment to make and are a bit fiddlier and less child friendly than some of the other decorations I’ve described, the end results are really quite special and well worth the effort.
You will need;
MDF / plywood cutouts (available online from various suppliers in the UK, and from Kaisercraft and Bunnings stores in Australia)
Strong adhesive (I use liquid nails)
Cocktail stick or similar to apply the adhesive
Mosaic tiles or broken crockery (mosaic tiles are available from the craft section of Bunnings in Australia and Hobbycraft stores in the UK)
Hand held tile cutters (Bunnings Australia or Hobbycraft UK)
Preparation is the key to making your mosaic Christmas decorations. If you are wanting to use broken crockery, it is worth planning ahead and making regular trips to op shops / charity shops for pretty plates and cups etc.
I tend to pre cut most of what I buy into smallish tiles around 1cm square average size, although mostly the pieces are odd shapes around this size. For Christmas decorations, your pieces will most likely need to be smaller, and the crockery I have bought for this specific purpose I have cut smaller to around 5mm squared or smaller.
Pre-cutting and then trimming to size when you use your pieces saves your hands a bit as you can prepare your materials gradually over a few weeks rather than all at once; the tile cutters can be quite unforgiving on your hands and if you are preparing a lot of materials at once, it is safe to expect blisters!
One thing I do to help mitigate blisters is to tape pieces of fleece offcut to the middles of my fingers which take most of the strain and this has helped a lot.
Although I don’t use any, eye protection in advisable since splinters of ceramic can travel at speed and scatter far and wide when cutting; its certainly worth bearing in mind.
For our Christmas decorations, I have used a mixture of recycled ceramics and purpose made mosaic tiles to ass a little shine to the finished pieces.
Once you have gathered all of your materials together, prepare your MDF blanks as follows; lightly sand to scratch the surface a little to create a surface the adhesive can key too.
The next step is to wash over the surface with a layer of watered down PVA glue (approx. PVA 1:2 Water ratio) using a paintbrush. Allow to dry before continuing.
Before you start to apply your mosaic tile design, be sure to secure a ribbon to the surface using your adhesive for hanging later.
Arrange your mosaic tiles onto your MDF blank leaving a small gap between the pieces to allow space for grouting later. I tend to ‘stick as I go’, but you may prefer to arrange a few pieces at once to allow adjustments.
When you come to sticking down, use a cocktail stick to apply a blob of adhesive to the back of your tile and press firmly on to the blank to ensure it is secure. Use the other end of the cocktail stick to remove any excess adhesive which is pushed out around the sides of the tile.
Avoid leaving any sharp edges facing outwards to avoid very un-festive injuries later!
Once your design is completed, allow to dry for at least 14 hours before applying the grout.
Mix your grout according to the manufacturers directions in a disposable or washable container. Use a spatula or kitchen knife to apply the grout, spreading it across the design and taking care to push it down into all of the gaps. Scrape off the majority of the excess grout with the knife and allow around 10 minutes for the grout to start setting before using a damp cloth to wipe the remaining excess grout from the mosaic tiles.
HOT TIP If some of your mosaic pieces are very small to fill gaps, they may become lost under the grout; I often take a photograph of the piece pre-grouting so that I can see where there are ‘missing’ tiles post grouting so that I am able to excavate them!
Leave the grout to fully dry for around 24 hours, then wash the decorated surface to remove any further grout off the mosaic tiles and restore their shine.
To finish the decoration, carefully use a knife to remove any over-spilling excess grout from the edges of your decoration. You are then ready to paint the edges and back of the shape with a couple of coats of acrylic paint to give the decoration a professional finish. Metalic paints look especially good.
I first saw beautiful strings of beads as hanging decorations at my youngest son, Sam’s Kindy, and naturally, I immediately wanted to make my own!
The best thing about hanging bead strings is that they are as easy to make as they are dazzlingly beautiful. They will add an eye catching addition to your Christmas tree, especially when they catch the glow of your fairy lights. So what are you waiting for??!
You will need;
Nylon beading cord
A variety of beads
Crab claw clasps (optional)
Thread your chosen pendant on to your nylon string, fold the end of the nylon cord upwards above the pendant to make a double layer then thread a clamp bead over the double layer just above your pendant and use the jewellery pliers to seal the bead and hold the pendant in place. Using 2 clamp beads will give added security.
You can now start threading your beads on to the string, taking care to cover the folded up end of the nylon cord with the first few beads.
It is useful to plan the colours you intend to use on each string and place your selected beads into a dish before you start threading, or even lay them out in the pattern you want to end up with; you can actually buy a special tray to do this if you so wish to, although it isn’t necessary.
Thread beads onto the nylon cord until you have only around 5cm of cord bare at the end. Making the hanging loop and tying off the string can be fiddly, so this part is best left to adults and older children as little fingers will soon get frustrated!
To tie off, there are 2 options, depending on whether or not you are using a crab claw jewellery fastener.
If you are using a fastener, thread a clamp bead after your last bead (if you have used a bead with a large hole, you may need to add one with a smaller hole to the end so that the clamp bead doesn’t get swallowed up!).
Add your crab claw, then fold the nylon cord over the crab claw and back through the clamp bead and the beads at the end of the chain to hide it. Use the plyers to close the clamp bead to finish your chain. Using 2 clamp beads will add a little more strength to the chain.
Closing without a crab claw is similar, but rather than thread on a crab claw, leave a loop of nylon cord with which to hang the bead chain, and close off as for the crab claw method.
Create chains of different colours and lengths with different pendants to add a touch of class to your tree. These decorations really twinkle when they catch the glow of your fairy lights so place with care for maximum shine.
Embossed Clay decorations
Air drying clay is a fantastic medium for making some long-lasting treasures for the Christmas tree.
By using a range of textured household objects to emboss a pattern into the clay, you will create some unique and beautiful decorations which are sure to impress.
These are relatively quick and inexpensive to make, and suitable for younger artists to turn their hand to as well.
You will need;
Air drying clay – white or terracotta
Textures objects to emboss the clay with – buttons / embossed rolling pin / fossilised coral / leaves /
Roll out the clay on a flat surface to approximately 5mm thickness.
Decorate clay with an embossed pattern by pressing textured household objects into its surface. We have a range of Indian printing blocks which make stunning patterns, and similar results would be achieved with an embossed rolling pin, however, ordinary household items such as buttons, shells, lace, leaves and skewers can also be used to create a beautiful design.
Once the surface of the clay has been fully covered with your design, use cookie cutters to cut out your Christmas decorations.
HOP TIP – the cut edges of the decorations can be ‘fluffy’ after cutting, so it is a good idea to smooth them flat with a finger whilst the clay is still damp to give a more polished finish to your decoration.
Use a skewer to make a small hole in the top of your decoration for a hanging string once it is dry.
Place your decorations on to a sheet of baking paper on a flat surface to dry. This will take around 1 week. To ensure your decorations dry flat, turn them over daily and gently press them flat if they begin to bow.
Once the decorations are dry, you can either leave them unpainted, or finish with acrylic paint.
The method I use is to choose a lighter colour to push into all of the deeply embossed parts of the design, then use a darker colour brushed quickly across the surface to colour the areas which stand proud of the design in contrast. This works better with only small amounts of paint on the brush at a time to prevent the darker colour from spilling into the embossed areas.
I also carefully paint the edges and back of the decorations to give a professional looking finish.
Metallic paints especially lend themselves to these decorations.
Finally, once the paint has dried, you are ready to tie the string through the hole and hang your decorations.
The handprints and footprints of babies and toddlers can be preserved beautifully in air drying clay and are a lovely keepsake for the tree. Grandparents are sure to love these too so they make a great gift from your tiny human.
Roll the clay to around 1cm thick on a flat surface and press the hand or foot firmly into the clay. Dry and paint as before, bearing in mind that the thicker shape will take longer to fully dry.
I hope this post has given you some inspiration and new ideas for making your own Christmas decorations and entering into the Christmas spirit.
All that remains to be done is to crank up those Christmas tunes, banish any Grinches and Scrooges from the house and start creating your own masterpieces to enjoy for years to come!