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Pipe Cleaner Decorations

Martha Stewart Living, December 2000

If you are fortunate enough to have boxes of decorations from your childhood Christmases, you will probably find among the mercury-glass balls and tin stars a number of charming "chenille stick" ornaments. You may even have made some of them yourself -- perhaps a twisty peppermint cane or a painted cardboard angel edged in Dad's pipe cleaners.

There was a resurgence of interest in crafts following World War II, thanks in part to a wealth of kits and instruction books on such techniques as mosaic tiling, china painting, fanciful frosting, and pipe-cleaner ornaments. Especially at holiday time, novelty craft showed up in abundance at school fund-raisers and bake sales and as decorations at children's birthday celebrations and their parents' cocktail parties.

Today such vintage Christmas decorations are in great demand among modern ornament makers looking for shapes and patterns to reproduce. But you can create whimsical pipe-cleaner decorations to rival the appeal of any example they might stumble upon. Pipe cleaners (which really do clean pipes) and chenille sticks (which are produced solely for use in crafts) are available in a variety of shapes, textures, and colors.

For making decorations, all you need to know is how to twist, hook, and wrap them. You can make soft white snowflakes for adorning packages or use the same shape in green to build a miniature Christmas tree. Endearing spindle-legged figures -- a skiing Santa, a debonair skater, and an amiable reindeer -- as well as your own favorite holiday characters are a delight to twist and twirl into life. Chenille sticks are good materials for children to work with; the cheerful ornaments you make together will inspire you to keep them in the family for years to come.

Pipe Cleaner Glossary
Chenille sticks are available in cotton, terry cloth, and tinsel; in solid colors and variegated and striped patterns; and in wide and narrow gauges. The playfully named "bump chenille" (fourth from the top) is particularly effective for snowflakes.

The Decorations
Snowflake Ornaments
Easy Ornaments: Candy Cane
Easy Ornaments: Wreath
Easy Ornaments: Stocking
Making Figures: Snowman
Making Figures: Santa Claus
Making Figures: Reindeer

Bonus: Learn how to make the snowflake Christmas tree