Foraging Project: Christmas Ornaments

These are some great DIY projects I have where you can forage for the stuff you need and then make some very original Christmas ornaments. I have projects for everyone, from the beach side resident to the mountain villager. The items in the projects will be available regionally in some cases and almost everywhere in others. Most of them are easy, simple to follow step by step. Some of them require the purchase of a few small items to compliment the foraged items and other items require a lot of foraging to find all of the ingredients. It just depends on various factors that influence your lifestyle. You are invited to look them over and see if you can find something you can use.

Some of the items that should stock and have at hand if you are crafty are a glue gun, tacky glue, sewing thread & needles, paraffin wax, fusible webbing, an iron, fabric scraps and dried flower petals. If you are a gardener or a practicing forager you will already have a lot of assets on hand that will help you get an early start. Just imagine your tree this year decorated with these special little items that save you money now and become wonderful family heirlooms a generation or two in the future.

I must apologize up front for the photos. They are merely meant to accent the post and do not depict actual items. My projects are too old to be photographed and look good so I pass on that. And I do not have any photos of these projects completed by anyone else. So do not be distracted by the photos and do not worry if your project looks different than what you expected. Everyone is an artist. Find your own style.

I have added links to some of the products in the materials lists. This is to show you what I mean by a certain product name and also to provide you the opportunity to gauge costs and availability of these items. You are welcome to buy them as well if you so choose to do so. For items I intend for you to forage and get for free as well as items I assume you already own, I did not provide links. The idea of these projects for the holidays this year is to get in touch with nature and save a penny or two in the process. So get out the baskets, put on the gloves and get foraging!

Sea Shell Ornaments

Almost any kind of Christmas Ornament can be fashioned from Seashells. One to hang on the Christmas Tree, one to grace the overhang above the front door, one to dangle from the window. Any place you can use regular Ornaments to decorate over the holidays can be used for Seashell Ornaments as well.

You have a large variety of types to choose from. You can make large ornaments for window sills or overhangs by using large Shells like Nautilus, Clam Shells or Conch Shells. Smaller Ornaments for hanging on the Christmas Tree can be made from any of the myriads of cute little Shells you see laying in the sand along the Seashore. Just remember to pick the cleanest, brightest and most perfect of the Shells you find. Cracked, discolored or sandy Shells make ugly Ornaments.

Paint, Dye or Mark up your Shells any way you like. Hang them from Ribbons, Wires, Jewelry Findings, Filament or Metal Ornament Hangers. You will be amazed at the variety, colors, types and shapes of the various Ornaments you will be creating once your imagination gets going.

I have seen gorgeous Ornaments made from Shells decorated with Glitter and hung with Iridescent Ribbons.

Materials you will need:

Glue Gun
3 sprigs of Sweet Annie, 3″ long
1 long, narrow Shell about 2″ long
3 sprigs of German Statice, 2″ long
Flat, wine-colored Clam Shell, 3-1/2″ long
3 sprigs of yellow Yarrow, 2″ long
2 Bay Leaves, 1″ long
Flat, orange Clam Shell, 3-1/2″ in diameter
5 stems of Blue Sage, 2″ long
4 White Shells of various shapes, 1-2″ long
3 stems of Pearly Everlasting, 2″ long
One 1″ Starfish
3 stems of magenta Globe Amaranth, 1″ long
1 orange Strawflower
1 flat, round Shell, 1″ long
19″ white Velvet Ribbon, 1/2″ wide
19″ Wine Colored Velvet Ribbon, 1/2″ wide

Instructions:

If you cannot obtain an Orange Shell or a Wine Colored Shell, either on the Beach or in a Shell Shop, then you will have to resort to painting two shells. Use spray paint to make sure the paint is distributed evenly and does not clump like oil paint or streak like water based paints. Spray paint outdoors on a covered surface or a surface which does not matter. Allow the Shells to dry to make sure that the color is rich and pleasant looking. If not, repaint until this is achieved.

Hot glue one end of the 2-1/2″ narrow shell to the center of the back side of the Wine-Colored Clam Shell so that it is standing upright. Hot glue the Sweet Annie, the German Statice and the Yellow Yarrow to the outside surface of the Orange Clam Shell, so that they create sort of a “fan shaped” decoration.

Hot glue the Blue Sage, the Pearly Everlasting and the Magenta Globe Amaranth to the inside of the Wine Colored Clam Shell, creating a sort of “fan shaped” decoration. Then hot glue the 1″ flat, round Shell at the base of this arrangement so as to cover the stems of the Sage, Pearly and Amaranth. This should have the visual effect of looking like the foliage is sprouting out of the shell in a fan shaped array.

Hot glue 3 of the small, white shells to the back of the Orange Shell, scattering them among the sprigs of foliage already glued there. Glue the 4th Shell at the base of the arrangement so as to cover the stems of the Annie, the Statice and the Yarrow. This should have the visual effect of the foliage sprouting out of the shell, in a sort of fan shaped array.

Fold the Wine colored Velvet Ribbon in half and cross it at the center. Hot glue this ribbon the front of the Wine Colored Shell (on the outside, the other side from where you have glued the foliage). Leave a loop at the top of this ribbon to serve as a hanger. This should also allow the crossed ends to dangle beneath the ornament, as an added decorative accent.

Fold the White Velvet Ribbon in half and cross it at the center. Hot glue it to the inside of the Orange Shell (on the white portion of the shell, the other side from where you have glued the foliage). Leave a loop at the top of this ribbon to serve as a hanger. This should also allow the crossed ends to dangle beneath the ornament, as an added decorative accent.

You can make these Ornaments with any number of various shells, of various shapes and sizes. Mix and match flowers and shells to add to the decoration. Try various hangers, as well. Ribbons are pretty but wires, filaments and strings can be used as well. These look really beautiful on a brightly lit Christmas Tree.

Pine Needle Christmas Ornaments

To make the candy cane ornament as shown in the photo:

Materials You Will Need:

18 long leaf Pine needle bunches with the caps on
Spool of brown Quilting Thread
Medium gauge Floral Wire
Wire Cutter
Scissors
Phone book
Glue Gun& Glue Sticks
1 ft length of narrow Velvet Ribbon
10 Evergreen sprigs, trimmed to 2″
3 sprigs of dried German Statice, trimmed to 2″
3 miniature Hemlock cones
Clear shellac or Acrylic spray

Instructions:

First of all you will make a braid by using up all 18 bundles. Follow the same method for braiding as in the
braided bow. When you have used all 18 bundles, the braid should be the right length. Do not trim the ends like you do on the
braided bow, but tie them off at about an inch above the ends and let them fan out loosely.

To make a Candy Cane shaped ornament, bend the length of braid into a shape like a candy cane and place it under the phone book to sit all night. This will flatten and dry the braid in place.

To make a wreath shaped ornament, bend the length of the braid into a circle and hold it in place. Make sure you have left a short length of frayed needles at the ends, not more than 1/3″. Tie the braid, just above the frayed ends, with the medium guage floral wire. Manipulate the shape into a balanced circle. Then place it also under the phone book to sit all night. This will make it nice and flat.

When removing the shaped braid in the morning, shellac or spray it right away to firm it in place. Allow this coating to dry completely before decorating. For the Candy Cane ornament, once it is completely dry, form several loops in the middle of the velvet ribbon (to look like a bow) and hot glue it on the center of the candy cane braid. Then hot glue the evergreen and the German Statice sprigs over and under the loops in a decorative fashion. Finish off by hot gluing the Hemlock Cones over the center of the entire decoration, just over the center of the ribbon.

For the wreath decoration, glue one of the miniature hemlock cones or tie a satin ribbon and tack it down to hide the floral wire.

Hang the decorations as is on the tree. They are really cute.

Corn Husk Angel Ornament

Corn husks have a long tradition in corn country, suitable for making all sorts of crafts from baskets to dolls. Here in Florida we don’t have many corn husks so I have not personally made these ornaments; I got the recipe from someone else. However, I think anyone could do it. At the next bbq, chowder party, buffet or beach party, collect all the left over corn husks and bag them. Don’t forget to keep the silks, they are used, too. When you’ve collected enough, you can go through the process of letting them dry out. After they are sufficiently dry, which should take no longer than a few days, you are ready to make these cute little ornaments.

Materials You Will Need:

1/2 ounce of natural, dried corn husks
Bucket full of warm water
Any heavy thread (such as #20 crotchet thread)
1 length of Floral Wire, approx. 4″
4″ of dried corn silk
White or clear Craft Glue
Black fine point felt tip pen
Red fine point felt tip pen
5″ peice of raffia or colored string (natural or white)

Instructions:

Soak the cornhusks in the warm water until they are flexible.

Select three husks, approx 7-8″ in length and preferably 2-3″ wide at the bottom. Lay them in a pile, on top of each other, with the narrow ends all at the top. Fold the tops of all three (in a pile) over 3/4″ and then again the same amount. Now roll the husks lengthwise, making a cylinder. This will be the head and body of the angel.

Tie this cylinder with the crotchet or thick thread about 3/4″ from the top. This will be the neck of the angel. You should be left with 3 lengths of husks extending beneath the neck. I will refer to these loose husks as “the body” of the angel.

Take the floral wire and position it at the back of the neck area. Twist it around once and then extend it to both sides of the center body. This will form the arms of the angel. Bend them slightly forward in an arc so that they look like arms.

Take “the body” husks of the angel and tear them into strips about 1/2″ wide each. Extend these strips out along the “the arms” of the angel and bend them backwards at the bottom. Folding them over this way is to create the “hands” or the ends of the arms. Use another 1/2″ wide strip to wrap around the “arm” down to the hand, to secure the one you just folded over. Tie the ends tightly with the crotchet or heavy thread and cut it to the quick so it’s not visible. Repeat this process once more for the other “arm”.

The remaining strips hanging from the “neck” are the core of the “body to still be created. These are strips that should measure 1/2″ wide and about 4” in remaining length. Take two of these and wrap them around the remaining husks or “body” of the doll. You are creating underskirts. This should be sort of bunching and thick. Secure the bunch by tieing the ends at the neck with the thread. Once they are securely tied, cut them into 1/2″ wide vertical strips so that they stick out. This will give fullness to the skirt.

From the remaining unused corn husks, cut a 2 3/4″ x 5″ strip from one husk. This will create the dress of the angel. Wrap it around the doll and again, tie it at the neck with thread. It will cover everything, even the arms. It gets a little tricky here, you have to cut slits along the side to finger out the arms. Be gentle as you coax them out and bend them forward or out to the sides for a more “natural” look.

Glue the corn silks to the top of the “head” to create the hair. Let the silks drape down the backside of the angel. Using the black felt tipped pen, draw the eyes, nose and mouth on the face of the angel. Use the red pen to add rosy cheeks if you like.

Cut two large triangles from the remaining corn husks and fix them to back of the angel to look like wings. Once in place, glue them with the clear or white craft glue. Tie the peice of raffia or string around the neck at knot it at the length you want it to be. Hang it this way from the tree.

Beach Tar Ornaments

Nobody likes beach tar. If you live along the coast, you know the scourge this is. It is actually left over components from pollutants like petroleum and asphalts. It gets all gooed together in the water and creates these sticky piles that land on the shoreline. People take it home on their shoes and often they can’t be cleaned. They end outside, on the doorstep, as shoes reserved for the beach and it’s ugly tar. But this yukky stuff has been implemented in many crafts by imaginative beach dwellers, not unlike driftwood and seaweed. I have a long list of groovy little goodies you can make with this gunk. If you have some or can get some, these ornaments are pretty neat and easy to make.

Instructions on handling Beach Tar

On discovering Tar on the beach (NOT on your feet… it will not peel off and cannot be used!) you should snatch it up with gloves, rolling it with your fingers until it is like a gooey ball. Your gloves will be all messed up but never mind. You will not get every drop of the tar, either, most of it will be on the gloves. But what you do get balled up should be tossed into a plastic bucket. The bucket should be plastic because it is easier to scrape Tar off of plastic than almost anything else.

Materials You Will Need:

1-1/2 tbsp Powdered Orris Root
1-1/2 tbsp Sweet Flag or fresh Juniper
1-1/2 tbsp powdered Cedarwood
1 tbsp powdered Gum Benzoin
1 tbsp powdered Cinnamon
1 tbsp powdered Mace
1/2 tbsp ground Cloves
1/2 Nutmeg, freshly grated
3 drops of Essential Oil of Pine
3 drops of Essential Oil of Cedar
3 drops of Essential Oil of Juniper
50-75 small Beach-Tar balls
3-4 tbsp triple-strength Rosewater

Instructions:

Mix the dried herbs and spices with the essential oils, stirring gently.

Mix the Tar balls into the Rosewater. Smash and roll the balls until they have acquired the Rosewater and become softer. When the Tar balls are sticky, add them into the herbs and oils and mix it all together until each Tar ball is coated with herbs and is rather pasty. Keep adding Rosewater as long as it is absorbed until the Tar balls are pasty, sticky and mixed in with the herbs and oils.

Damp your hands with Rosewater and roll the balls with your fingers until they are all about the same size. Take from some to add to others if need be.

Do not allow the beads to dry until you have decided how you want to use them. To string them into a garland, you should use a darning needle or large sewing needle to pierce the balls with a hole for stringing. If you need to add findings to create ball ornaments, you may want to pierce a hole in the top of each ball where a string or hook can be inserted. If you wish to glue hangers on the top or bottom of the balls, then allow them to dry before gluing.

Before drying the Tar balls completely, you should decide what color you wish them to be. After piercing with the necessary holes, you should roll, dip or wash the balls in the food color, oil paint, glitter paint, watercolor or dye that you wish to color them with. Darker colors work better with oil paints and dyes. Lighter colors look nice as washes, food colors or water colors. Use glitter paint for holiday accents. Spray paint works best if you wish to make the balls silver or gold. Glitter paint looks the most dramatic on beads that have been painted gold or silver.

These beads will retain the fresh herbal scents after they have dried. They will look like Christmas and smell like it, too!

Once the Tar beads are dry, you may string them or attach them to hangers and prepare them to hang on the tree. You can make beaded garlands as long and as colorful as you like. Ornaments can also be as small or large as you like, in any shape you prefer. The easiest are stars and balls.

Seed Ornaments

I have made these and they came out really cute. It’s a fun project that you can get the kids in on and have it all turn out good. In fact, it’s hard to mess it up. Once you get the hang of working with seeds, ideas will start springing out of your head. Seed dolls, flowers, wreaths (with pine cones?) are all great concepts for crafts. This is a project that anyone can work with, from the farmlands to the beaches to the big city. There is something here for everyone. The recipe here is for a single ornament. Double it for each additional ornament you want to make.

Materials You Will Need:

22-30 Pumpkin Seeds
7 small seeds (such as rapeseeds, white millet or birdseed)
White or clear Craft Glue
A circle of thin cardboard or poster board about 1 1/2″ in diameter
White, red or green spray paint
Clear Acrylic spray
5″ of heavy gold thread
Green felt circle, approx 1 1/2″ in diameter

Instructions:

Shell the pumpkin seeds, toss out (or eat!) the fruit. Wash the seed shells and let them dry out.

Bake the seeds at low temps (200 degrees F) for 25 minutes to kill any fungi or insect eggs. DO NOT microwave the seeds. There is no shortcut that will work.

When done baking, remove the seeds and let them cool. Apply glue around the outer edge of the cardboard circle. Lay out the bottoms of the pumpkin seeds along this glue with 2/3 of the tips projecting along the outer edge. Place the seeds tightly side by side. Allow these seeds to dry.

Apply a circle of glue along the ends of these seeds on the cardboard. Place a second row of seeds along this glue and allow to dry. Repeat until the entire cardboard is covered with seeds in a circular pattern. They should look like flowers.

Choose the spray paint color you wish the ornament to be and spray these seeds with it until shiny. Leave the paint to dry.

After the spray paint is thoroughly dried, drop a dollop of glue into the center of the ornament and place the small rapeseeds or birdseeds into this center in a pile. Leave these seeds their natural color.

After the ornament is set and completely dry, spray it over once last time with the varnish spray. This will make it shiny, keep it clean and stop it from rotting or molding over time.

Now, fold the gold thread in half, in a loop, to serve as the hanger. Lay the ends on the backside of the cardboard and then glue the felt circle on top to hold the hanger down and protect the back of the ornament from wear. The finished product is super nice and everyone will love making them. The only problem is, you might make too many!

Small Fruit Pomanders

Pomanders are an old folk tradition that have been made for many purposes. For scenting a room, for decorating a small space or for giving as gifts. This is a new slant on an old art. Making small pomanders to hang as round ornaments on the tree. Not only do they have a rustic look but they make the room smell lushious! And it is super cheap. If you have fruit trees that you have access to, get the fruit there. Otherwise, the cost of each ornament is limited to the amount you are willing to spend on a single piece of fruit.

Materials You Will Need:

Several small cooking apples, oranges, tangerines, lemons or limes
6 oz fresh Cloves
3 oz powdered Orris Root
1 tsp powdered Cinnamon
1 tsp powdered Nutmeg
1 tsp powdered Cloves
1 tsp powdered Mace
1 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp Allspice
1 yard length of satin ribbon in Christmas colors
Red, green or white paint (optional)

Instructions:

Choose the fruit you would like to use. I would suggest using whatever small fruit you have free access to. In choosing apples, stick with cooking apples or the bigger, juicier ones will wrinkle badly as they dry. With the fruit, smaller is better with tangerines, limes and lemons being the ideal size.

Using the fresh fruit, begin pushing the cloves through the skin in a pattern. You can cover the whole fruit or space it out in rows or create patterns like stars or circles. It’s up to you. Push as many cloves in as you like, with more actually being better.

Once you are done pushing in the cloves you can paint it if you like or add dabs of paint to make decorative designs. It’s up to you and if the kids are helping, let them do what they want. If you do paint the pomander, don’t cover it in paint or you will ruin the smell it will bring to the season.

Once you have finished with the pattern and decoration of your choice, set the fruit aside and allow it to dry completely. Mix the herbs together with the orris root in a bowl. Mix them really well together so that it is blended. Roll the fruit in the herb mix, covering it with a dust. Leave the dust and don’t worry about. Shake it off a little to keep it from shedding to much when you hang it on the tree. But be careful not to lose it all.

Using the satin ribbon, create a hanger for the pomander. You can do this by tieing it around the pomander, which works well is you made a pattern with the cloves. If you covered the fruit with cloves entirely, then you will need to shove a pin into the top of the fruit to tack down the ribbon. Fold over the ribbon to create a hanger and hang from the tree. As it dries, a citrus-cinnamon-clove scent will fill the room and, eventually, your entire home. What a lovely way to celebrate the beauty of winter!

Seed Garland

This season, as all others, you will be cleaning out gourds, pumpkins and squash. And in the process you will be scooping up a ton of seeds that usually go in the trash. Heck, why waste them? They are colorful and festive just as they are and they make a lovely garland.

Materials You Will Need:

275 seeds from all sources
1/2 cup Vinegar
Water
Glass Pot
Green dye or water based paint
Red dye or water based paint
Spool of strong thread
Heavy sewing needle

Instructions:

In making this garland, you can use any form of coloring you choose and can skip the coloring altogether if you want a natural look. When choosing the coloring, you can range from using powdered fabric dyes if you are comfortable with that, to using homemade natural dyes or food colorings or water based paints. Color washes are suitable, as well. Choose seasonal colors; the natural color of the seeds are bland but they are the natural colors for fall, so consider going natural.

This recipe will make a strand about 20″ in length or thereabouts. For a much longer string, double or tripe the number of seeds.

First of all, soak the seeds in the Vinegar for an hour or so. When removing from the Vinegar, pick the flesh off so that they are clean. If the seeds look discolored or dingy you can soak them water with a small amount of lemon juice. This should brighten them up.

If you are using the natural seeds and do not wish to color them at all, you can skip the next step.

In the glass pan, mix 1 pint of water with one of your choice of coloring (dye, wash, food colorings, et al) and heat it to a near boil. Remove the hot mixture from the stove and add them to the color mix. When they seem slightly darker than desired, remove them, place them on paper and allow them to dry. If you are using other colors for various seeds, then repeat this process for each group until you have done them all. I recommend green and red for the season, of course, with an artful placement of seeds along the string, in various lengths of color.

Thread the needle with 36″ of the thread. Tie the ends of the thread. Pierce each seed in the middle, along the flat side, and string them onto the thread. Be careful to string them in groups as you would like them to appear, such as 10 red, 15 green or 20 brown, 20 white, 20 black, etc… depending upon your color scheme.

If you have trouble piercing the seeds, lay the seeds flat and push the needle down into them against a flat surface like a table. They should not all need this. They will vary in hardness from seed to seed.

String them all until it is done. Tie a knot in the thread against the last seed, a large enough knot so that it won’t pull back through. Your garland is ready for the tree.

Evergreen Garland

This is an absolutely gorgeous item that would cost you a fortune if you sought it out in the store. First of all, it wouldn’t be sold as a fresh item except in the most luxurious niche stores and even among those one does not come to mind. You can find it dried, perhaps, in small specialty stores but the majority of these are made of plastic and just don’t have the quality and the one you make yourself.

In most areas you can forage for most of the plant materials, with those of you living in the wooded areas of the country getting the best of them. Even here in sandy sunny Florida we have these trees and I have made this garland (and a matching wreath) that I still have in a storage box. They are so lovely and filled with scented beauty that I just can’t imagine tossing them out.

So get out and start locating these trees in your area and cut yourself some branches. You are going to love this garland.

Materials You Will Need:

Fine gauge Floral Wire
1 bushel of fresh Pine branches, each being 10″ – 12″ long
10 ft length of heavy gauge Floral Wire
10 Juniper branches, each being 10″-20″ long
1 peck (8.8 liters) of Cedar branches, each being 6″- 12″ long
20 Holly sprigs, ranging from 6″ to 10″ in length
7 yd spool of 3″ wide plaid ribbon
Glue Gun& Glue Sticks
4 Lotus Pods
6 pcs of Lichen, each 2″-3″ in diameter

Instructions:

To make the garland you will start by using the fine gauge floral wire as a “spine”. You will be attaching the pine branches to this spine. Start doing this by cutting off about 20 feet of the fine gauge wire. Start right at the middle and wire in the first of the pine branches. Wire it from the stem with the needles facing outward. Once the first one is attached, add another just under it by blending the needles together and tieing the stem just below the first stem. Once this is attached, add another branch above it and wire it in, too. Add every pine stem, one above, one below, until all of the stems are used. When the floral wire is covered with pine stems, tie off the wire at the ends and cut it to the quick.

Now you will begin to wire in the other plant materials. Using the remaining fine gauge wire, start wiring in the branches of Juniper and Cedar to the garland one at a time, spaced along the length. Try to place them at equal spaces for a balanced look that is pleasing to the eye.

Gather up three or four sprigs of Holly and wire them into the garland at even spaces. You will have five to seven bunches altogether so space them out at 5 to 8 even intervals.

Now wrap the plaid ribbon around the garland in loops, in a sort of spiral pattern. Hot glue the ribbon into place where necessary to make it lay correctly. And then hot glue the Lotus Pods and Lichens evenly along the garland as well.

Now, remember with this one you can always start over if you pull it apart before the glue is set. But it is actually really easy and hard to make a mess of. Once it’s done, it’s an aromatic and attractive accent that you will use for many seasons to come.

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