21 of Our Most Memorable Handmade Christmas Ornaments

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dresden ribbon ornaments
Photo: Katya de Grunwald

Much of the holiday season's joy lies in rediscovering the treasures of Christmases past, and the ornament-laden tree is one of our most enduring holiday emblems. Today, we still love the grandeur of a big Christmas tree trimmed with treasured ornaments. Over the years, our editors have envisioned and crafted Christmas ornaments of all styles. This year, why not find inspiration in our projects to start your own tradition? Perhaps you'll evoke the story of your family with ornaments made by everyone, young and old. Or you might draw upon your own ancestral traditions or a favorite holiday legend.

Here, you'll find a varied array of handcrafted ornaments—including a flock of cinnamon-scented birds, gilded baubles and wooden beads, and a flurry of snow-flecked paper cutouts—to fill your home with the holiday spirit. Some will take an afternoon to create, while others can be done in mere minutes. For keepsakes that will deck your halls now and for years to come, consider it time well spent.

01 of 21

Silver Seed-Pod Ornaments

silver ornaments pinecones acorns
Nico Schinco

If pine trees are Mother Nature's Christmas gifts, seed pods are her stocking stuffers. To fashion your forest of easy and arresting ornaments, just spray an assortment—pinecones, poppy pods, acorns, and other natural beauties, like sponge mushrooms—with gleaming metallic paint. Just add hooks, and they'll dazzle in your home or a lucky recipient's.

02 of 21

Paper-Clay Botanical Ornament

botanical imprint paper clay Christmas ornaments
Kirsten Francis

Crafting these delicate botanical ornaments is like second nature. Before you begin, note that paper clay comes in white only, but you can replicate the subtle shades here by kneading in a few drops of black or pink craft paint. On a flat surface covered with wax paper, roll out paper clay like cookie dough, then press seasonal sprigs (like rosemary, spruce, fern, or dried berries) on top and roll them in, too. Remove the greenery, punch out with a round cutter, and poke a hole for hanging. To avoid warping: Place wax paper on top of ornaments, and then put down something heavy enough to add pressure but not so heavy it squishes the ornaments. Let air dry fully for five to seven days, and voilà: a batch of decorations, or sweet gifts that won't disappear in a few bites.

Shop Now: Creative Paper-Clay Modeling Material, $11.99 for 16 oz., michaels.com; Craft Smart Acrylic Paint, from 99 cents for 2 oz., michaels.com; Knot & Bow Natural-Cotton Twine, $4 for 10 yd., knotandbow.com.

03 of 21

Golden Wood-Bead Ornament

gold wooden bead Christmas ornament
Kirsten Francis

You'll need gold leather cord and round wooden beads in two or three sizes, plus gold spray paint to coat a few beads, if desired.

Paint beads, if desired; let dry. (We used 12-millimeter, 3/4-inch, and 35-millimeter ones.) String a small, medium (if using), and large bead onto a 90-inch piece of gold cord. Loosely knot cord under small bead. Thread cord around and back up through large bead, as shown; repeat all around. Pull cord tight. Top with a medium (if using) and small bead. Thread cord back down through holes of all the beads, leaving a 4-inch loop at top, and undo knot at bottom, as shown. Knot the two ends of cord together; trim excess. Knot loop above top bead.

Shop Now: Metallic Round Stretch Cord, 1mm, $6.99 for 65 yd., amazon.com; Woodpeckers Wooden Beads, 3/4", $9.99 for 50, amazon.com; Jdesun Wooden Beads, 35 mm., $8.69 for 12, amazon.com; Bead Landing Round Wooden Craft Beads, 12 mm., $4.99 for a pack, michaels.com.

04 of 21

Glittered Spun-Cotton Ornaments

glittered spun-cotton ornaments for Christmas
Lennart Weibul

We've got just the thing for a starter tree: a box of handmade ornaments so delectable, they'll conjure visions of sugarplums. And because they're crafted from shatterproof spun cotton—coated in craft paint, then glitter—you can gift a full set knowing they'll stand the test of time (and pets, and toddlers).

05 of 21

Quartz Icicle Ornament

quartz icicle ornaments
Pernille Loof

Make shimmery, dangling strands by grouping clear and light-pink quartz points on jewelry wire, adding a loop to each end, and attaching metallic cord.

Shop Now: Fire Mountain Gems Crystal Quartz Beads, from $3.71 for 2, firemountaingems.com; Fire Mountain Gems Copper Wire, in Silver, from $5.68 for 20 yd., firemountaingems.com; Fire Mountain Gems Peach Quartz Bead Strands (approx. 15 beads per strand), $5.89 each, firemountaingems.com.

06 of 21

Marbled Ornament

marbled ornaments
Pernille Loof

These swirled stones get their look from mixing paint in soft tones with marbling medium (a specialty product that takes the mess out of this technique). For the marbled ornaments, remove the top, add a teaspoon each of two paint colors mixed with marbling medium, swirl, and dry. For the flashy one, brush glue on the bottom and roll in glitter.

Shop Now: Clear Glass Disc, approx. 3", $12.59 for 6, amazon.com; Clear Glass Ball, 60 mm, $19.99 for 12, amazon.com; Iridescent Glass Ball, 2.5", $13.99 for 9, amazon.com; 16-color Craft Smart Satin Acrylic Paint Value Pack, $12.99, michaels.com; Testors Craft Marbling Medium, $17.92, dickblick.com; Creatology Neon Glitter Pack, $4.49, michaels.com.

07 of 21

Agate Pendant Ornament

agate pendant ornaments
Pernille Loof

Snip off an agate pendant's jump ring and thread gold cord through the remaining loop for an instant ornament (or an extra-special gift tag).

Shop Now: Bead Landing Agate Druzy Charm, $5.99, michaels.com; Bead Landing Blue Druzy Agate Pendant, $13.99, michaels.com; M&J Trimming Imported Fine Metallic Twist Cord, 1 mm, from $1.59 per yd., mjtrim.com.

08 of 21

Glittered Cupcake Ornament

Peter Ardito

Come Christmastime, The Nutcracker is the harbinger of the holiday season. It awakens a child's curiosity about sweet delicacies—namely, the Sugar Plum Fairy and her candy-themed comrades. In our vision, transform champagne-colored glass baubles into sweet treats with glittered spackle for frosting, and lest you forget the (beaded) sprinkles and cherry on top.

09 of 21

Silk Flower Ornament

silk flower Christmas ornaments
Katya de Grunwald

Remove flowers from stems. For flowers with multiple layers of petals, separate layers, as shown with anemones, far left. Remove flower centers. Pin flowers (and leaves and stems, if using) to cardboard (or place on a protected work surface) and spray-paint in desired colors. Turn and spray other sides if necessary (paint may soak through fabric). Reassemble flowers, inserting gold balls on picks for centers. Twist wire on backs of balls into little loops to secure petals. Attach to tree with wire.

Shop Now: Ashland Silk Hydrangea Spray, $6.99, michaels.com; Ashland White Lily Stem, $9.99, michaels.com; Ashland Anemones, $12.99, michaels.com; Ashland Mum, $6.99, michaels.com; Save-On-Crafts White Cherry-Blossom Branch, $14.99, save-on-crafts.com; Montana Black Spray Paint, in Cocktail, 100% Yellow, Flame Blue, and Elm or similar, starting from $8.33, dickblick.com; Jamali Garden Shiny Gold Glass Balls on Picks, 25 and 40 mm, from $32 for 144, jamaligarden.com.

10 of 21

Flower and Gem Ornament

floral gems and sequined ball Christmas ornaments
Katya de Grunwald

Metallic pink, copper, and gold glass "gems" dangle—many pendant-style, on chains—from the boughs. The chains on the lower branches are longer, emphasizing the dripping-with-jewels effect.

To make flower gems, position two same-size flowers back to back. (If desired, use three flowers for more dimension, sandwiching a larger one between two smaller ones.) Thread wire through the centers and around the petals to secure flowers together. Trim the wire. Hot-glue rhinestones to the flower centers. Open a jump ring with pliers, then use to attach a length of chain to a flower or glass gem. Close the jump ring. Attach a length of wire to the other end of the chain for hanging; wrap the wire around the tree branch.

To make sequined balls, glue a rhinestone to a sequin. If desired, glue that sequin to a larger one. Continue, making "stacks" of two and three pieces. Glue stacks to ornaments, spacing evenly. Let dry 24 hours.

Shop Now: Bead Landing Gold Cabled Chain, $3.99, michaels.com; Bead Landing Gold Paper Clip Chain, $6.99 for 72", michaels.com; Bead Landing Gold Assorted Jump Rings, $7.99 for 432, michaels.com; Dreamtime Crystal DC 2088 Flat Back Rhinestones, SS30 and SS34, in Light Rose, Light Topaz, Jonquil, Aquamarine, Light Sapphire, and Tanzanite or similar, from $3.44, dreamtimecreations.com; Round Flat Sequins, $1.99, hobbylobby.com; E6000 Jewelry and Bead Glue, $6.99 for 1 oz., michaels.com.

11 of 21

Frozen Ice Ornament

frozen snowflake and icicle Christmas ornaments
Katya de Grunwald

Mix fine glitter and shard glitter. Apply one or two strips of tape to each ornament, dividing it into two or three sections. Brush glue onto one section. Working over tray, sprinkle lightly with seed beads, not coating completely, then sprinkle with glitter mixture. Remove tape and let dry 2 hours.

Shop Now: FloraCraft Diamond Dust, $11.99 for 14 oz., michaels.com; Recollections Extra Fine Glitter, in Glitz, $9.99 for 4.5 oz., michaels.com; Aleene's Original Tacky Glue, $1.99, michaels.com; Toho Glass Silver-Lined Seed Beads, 2.2 mm., $3.19 for 6 g., michaels.com; Toho Glass Silver-Lined Seed Beads, 4 mm., $3.19 for 6 g., michaels.com.

12 of 21

Glittered Bird, Nest, and Mushroom Ornaments

glittered birds, nests, and mushrooms
Katya de Grunwald

Using a brush, add details to birds with glue, such as outlining wings and tail, dotting tips of beaks, and making speckles on body. While still wet, sprinkle with glitter. Position birds in your Christmas tree and hang ribbons from their beaks. Spiral lametta into a nest shape, or wrap tinsel garland around wire and spiral that into a nest shape. Brush mushroom caps with craft glue; sprinkle with glitter and arrange them around the base of your tree.

Shop Now: Fine Glitter Set, $8.49 for a set of 32, amazon.com; Mod Podge Detailing Brush Set, $5.24 for a set of 10, michaels.com; Artificial Decorative Feathered Birds, starting from $17.80 for 12, floralsupply.com; Blumchen Lametta Tinsel Roping, 1/2" and 5/8", from $8.95 for 2 yds., blumchen.com; Wooden Mushrooms, $12.99 for a set of 15, amazon.com.

13 of 21

Plaid Ball Ornament

Eric Piasecki Photography

Red- and yellow-based tartans are a twist on the traditional Christmas colors of red and green. The ornaments are easy to make by winding bias strips of plaid fabric around Styrofoam balls, or by folding and snipping ribbon into banners and finishing them with kilt pins (for either a Scottish or a decidedly punk vibe).

To make plaid ball ornaments, use a rotary cutter and ruler on cutting mat to cut 1/2-inch strips of fabric on the bias. (A few will be too short to use.) Use glue to tack the end of one strip to a ball. Wrap the rest of this strip around the ball, gluing the end when the strip runs out. Continue wrapping with more strips in various directions until the ball is covered. Glue to secure. Cut an 8-inch piece of ribbon; fold over and knot. Press a bank pin into the ball, anchoring knot under the head of the pin.

To make pennant ornaments, cut ribbon into 8-inch lengths. Fold each length in half; pinch the sides in at the fold, creating a point, as shown. Iron to set pleat. Cut a serpent-tongue shape at the bottom. Using a pin, pierce a hole through each ribbon at point to thread a jump ring. Thread an 8-inch piece of cord through; knot. Optional: Adorn with a kilt pin.

Shop Now: Save-on-Crafts Styrofoam Balls, 1", 5", and 6", starting from $3.99 for 16, save-on-crafts.com; Joann Red and Beige Shirting Fabric, 44", $7.49 per yd., joann.com; Fiskars Classic Stick Rotary Cutter, $16.99, michaels.com.

14 of 21

Glittered Shell Ornament

Sang An

Shells, sea stars, and sand dollars are dusted with glitter—a single color, or two shades blended for an ombré effect—or simply left as is. Naturally spotted tun shells sport sparkly stripes, while spangled sea urchins morph into "jellyfish" with tinsel tentacles. Miniature wooden sailboats, awash in glitter, introduce another shape to the nautical mix. For hanging, the ornaments are outfitted with metallic thread and, in some cases, a single pearl bead.

15 of 21

Holiday Card Ornament


These ornamental balls are made from holiday cards from Christmases past. Cut out 20 circles: For a small ball, use a 1 1/4-inch hole punch; for a large one, trace around the bottom of a glass. Cut one more circle from cardboard; draw an equilateral triangle, points touching the circumference. Cut out triangle; trace it onto the inside of each circle. Score and fold along all the lines. Next, use clear-drying craft glue to join one flap from each of two circles; triangles should point in the same direction. Using the same technique, attach three more circles to these two, forming what will be the top. Make the bottom the same way. Glue remaining 10 circles together, triangle points alternating up and down, forming a line. Glue two end flaps to form what will be the middle section, then glue top and bottom to its flaps. Hang from silver thread.

Shop Now: Reprinted Vintage Christmas Postcards, $12.27 for 24, etsy.com; Aleene's Clear Gel Tacky Glue, $3.49, michaels.com; Coats & Clark Metallic Thread, $2.99, michaels.com.

16 of 21

Drum Ornament

Lucas Allen

Drum-shaped ornaments are among the most iconic Christmas decorations. But you don't need to scour antiques stores and flea markets for your own set—all it takes to make these classics are plain boxes, festive ribbon, and glue. Decorate round boxes by attaching patterned ribbon around the bases and lids with craft glue. (For our 3-inch-wide box, we glued a 1-inch-wide ribbon around the base.) To create a strap for hanging the ornament, cut a length of thin ribbon, and glue each end to the inside lip of the box lid. Optional: If using the ornaments as favors, line their interiors with decorative paper cupcake liners, and fill them with cookies, truffles, or other small treats.

Shop Now: Dick Blick Papier Mâché Mini Boxes, Round, from $1.24 each, dickblick.com; Celebrate It Christmas Ribbons, $14.99 for set of 8, michaels.com; Bakers Party Shop Cupcake Liner, $3 for 24, bakerspartyshop.com.

17 of 21

Needle-Felted Woodland Ornament

Sang An

Forest animals, mushrooms, and bristle ornaments mix the natural and the fantastical—and bring texture to your tree. Print templates; cut out. Trace templates onto felt with tailor's chalk, and cut out. Place a felting-needle mat under felt, and lay a few tufts of roving side by side where desired. Using a needle-felting tool, punch fibers through felt until they transfer evenly to the reverse side. Remove stray fibers by pressing felted area with one hand and teasing out stray pieces with the other. Repeat until area is covered. Use a screw punch to make a hole at the top. Hang with twine.

Shop Now: Wool Craft Felt, 3 mm thick, in assorted colors, $32.13 per pack of 10, amazon.com.

18 of 21

Glossy Painted Ball Ornament

painted ball Christmas ornaments
Juliana Sohn

When former Living crafts editor Blake Ramsey didn't have enough trimmings for her first Christmas tree, she beautifully embellished affordable glass balls.

Fill squeeze bottles with paints. Add gloss finish as desired to thin color and make it more translucent. Make a drying rack by inserting wooden skewers into foam board. Remove caps from ornaments. For speckled ornaments: Use a narrow-tip bottle to squirt paint upward into an ornament so it spatters. Let dry upside down for one day on the rack. Then add a second layer: Squeeze a small amount of new color into ornament so it runs down sides, then rotate ornament to spread the paint. Repeat as needed for the desired effect. For streaked ornaments: Repeat the above steps, but don't let the first color dry. Add second layer right away so colors swirl together. For solid ornaments: Use a wide-tip bottle to squeeze paint into the ornament so it runs down the sides, then rotate ornament to spread paint. Repeat to achieve the desired look. Let all the ornaments dry for one day on drying rack. Paint caps with paintbrush, and let them dry.

Shop Now: Clear Glass Ball ornaments, 2 5/8", $4.49 for 12, hobbylobby.com; 16-color Craft Smart Satin Acrylic Paint Value Pack, $12.99, michaels.com; Liquitex Gloss Medium, from $7.69, michaels.com; Transparent boxes, $12.99 for 12, amazon.com; Grafix Clear Acetate, 9" by 12" by 0.005", $18.46 for 25 sheets, dickblick.com; Nashville Wraps Clear Cellophane, $4.15 for 20"-by-100' roll, nashvillewraps.com.

19 of 21

Spun-Glass Butterfly Ornaments

spun-glass ornaments and drawstring bags

These butterfly ornaments evoke an antique spun-glass German pair. The supplies for making them are not as elusive as the originals: We purchased spun-glass wings from a specialty craft shop and combined them with clay bodies—adding painted details in red and white.

20 of 21

Salt Dough Ornaments

Raymond Hom

Two by two, they adorn the boughs of your Christmas tree. These animal ornaments look just like cookies but are long-lasting and "iced" with glue and glitter.

To make a batch, combine 2 cups of flour and 1 cup of salt. Slowly mix in 1 cup of warm water. Knead for seven to 10 minutes on a floured surface. Roll out to 3/8-inch thickness. Freeze for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Use cookie cutters to cut out animal shapes. Insert screw eyes at top of shapes. Freeze for 30 minutes. Bake for four to six hours. Let them cool.

In a bottle, mix craft glue and paint to desired color. Outline an animal with colored glue. "Flood," or fill in, the surface with colored glue. For a solid glitter effect, coat glue immediately. For a more layered look, let first coat of glue dry overnight, then apply second color for details, adding tinsel or regular glitter, or microbeads as desired. Use glitter glue pens for small details. You'll need one screw eye (for hanging) for each ornament.

Shop Now: Wilton Mini Noah's Ark Cookie Cutter Set, $11.97, amazon.com; Creatology Glitter Glue Pens, $5.49 for 15, michaels.com; Recollections Extra Fine Glitter, in Glitz, $9.99 for 4.5 oz., michaels.com; Doraa Design Metallic Glass Microbeads, $2.62 for 3 g., etsy.com.

21 of 21

Metallic and Spun-Glass Ornaments


These refined ornaments—some brightened with gold or silver leaf, others tinted in soft pastels—are among the dozens adorning Martha's tree. Her own collections of antique china, including Wedgwood drabware, jasperware, and Old Paris porcelain, served as inspiration. To make them, use a paintbrush to apply acrylic paint (yellow ocher for gold leaf, white for silver leaf) to both sides of an architectural ornament; let dry. With another brush, apply size (an adhesive available at art-supply stores) to the front of the ornament and drape a gold- or silver-leaf sheet over the front of the ornament; smooth gently with fingers. Loop cord through top of the ornament and tie, or attach a looped cord with hot glue.

Shop Now: Mona Lisa Simple Leaf, from $12.42, dickblick.com; Old World Art Gold Leaf Adhesive, $10.41 for 2 oz., amazon.com.

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