24 of Our Most Memorable DIY Christmas Ornaments
Much of the joy of the holiday season lies in rediscovering the treasures of Christmases past. And whether it's a majestic fir on public display or a delicate pine sapling atop a parlor table, the ornament-laden tree is one of our most enduring holiday emblems.
Today, we still love the grandeur of a big Christmas tree. And trimming it with treasured ornaments is a tradition worth keeping. Over the years, our editors have envisioned and crafted Christmas ornaments of all styles. This year, why not find inspiration in our past projects to start your own? Evoke the story of your family with ornaments made by every member, young and old. You might draw upon your own ancestral traditions or a favorite holiday legend: In Poland, a tribute to Martha's heritage, ornaments are fashioned from straw to symbolize the harvest and hope for good things in the coming year; eggs represent the promise of future prosperity, too. In both Ukrainian and German lore, the tale of the Christmas spider explains the origin of tinsel. Many of our ornaments are inspired by those of antique quality and vintage charm, even some from Martha's collection.
Here, you'll find a varied collection 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 done in mere minutes; but for keepsakes that will deck your halls now and for years to come, consider it time well spent.
Paper-Clay Botanical Ornament
Crafting these delicate botanical ornaments is second nature. Roll out paper clay like cookie dough, then place seasonal sprigs (like rosemary, spruce, fern, or dried berries) on top and roll them in, too. (Paper clay comes in white only. For these subtle shades, knead in a few drops of black or pink craft paint.) Remove the greenery, punch out with a round cutter, poke a hole for hanging, and let dry. Voilà: a batch of decorations, or sweet gifts that won't disappear in a few bites.
Line a flat surface with waxed paper for a work area. Line baking sheet with another piece. Tear off about a third of the clay; set on work surface. Seal remainder in package until ready to use. Tint clay gray by adding a drop of black paint. Work it in with your hands until evenly dispersed. To make one ornament, flatten clay with rolling pin. Place a sprig on top, and gently go over it with pin a few times until fully pressed in. Using your fingernail, gently peel off sprig. Press cookie cutter firmly around sprig indentation to cut out ornament. Punch a hole at top of ornament with tube. Using a spatula, carefully lift and place ornament on prepared baking sheet. Roll out clay again; repeat using a variety of sprigs. (Each third of clay should yield four to six ornaments.) Repeat steps two and three with another third of clay and pink paint to make peach ornaments. Repeat step three with remaining clay (leaving it untinted) for white ornaments. Place another sheet of waxed paper on top of ornaments on baking sheet, then place books (heavy enough to press them flat without squashing them) on top to prevent warping. Let ornaments air-dry fully, five to seven days. Knot a three-to-five-inch piece of twine through each hole for hanging.
Shop Now: Creative Paper-Clay Modeling Material, $11.49 for 16 oz., michaels.com. Martha Stewart Family-Friendly Multi-Surface Satin Acrylic Craft Paint, in Black Belt and Watermelon, $2.49 for 2 oz., michaels.com. Knot & Bow Natural-Cotton Twine, $4 for 10 yd., knotandbow.com.
Golden Wood-Bead Ornament
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: Fusion Beads Metallic Gold Round Leather Cord, $2 per yd., fusionbeads.com. Woodpeckers Wooden Beads, 3/4", $10 for 50, amazon.com. Jdesun Wooden Beads, 35 mm., $8.69 for 12, amazon.com. Craft Wood Round Wooden Beads, 12 mm., $4.39 for 75, michaels.com.
Glittered Spun-Cotton Ornament
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).
Quartz Icicle Ornament
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 $1.50 for 2, firemountaingems.com. and Zebra Wire Copper Wire, in Silver, from $3.50 for 15 yd., firemountaingems.com. Jaylagems Rose-Quartz Strands, $18.88 each, jaylagems.etsy.com.
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: Darice Clear Glass Disc, 3 1/2", $7.50 for 6, amazon.com. Darice Clear Glass Ball, 100 mm, $7.50 for 2, amazon.com. Darice Iridescent Glass Ball, 35 mm, $8 for 20, amazon.com. Martha Stewart Multi-Surface Satin Acrylic Craft Paint, in Slate Grey, Wild Blueberry, Rose Pink, and Poodle Skirt, $2.49 for 2 oz., michaels.com. Martha Stewart Multi-Surface Marbling Medium, $14, michaels.com. Creatology Glitter Pack, in Neon, $4, michaels.com.
Agate Pendant Ornament
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 Peach Druzy Agate Pendant, $10, michaels.com. Color Shop Blue Druzy Agate Charm, $13.49, michaels.com. M&J Trimming Imported Fine Metallic Twist Cord, 1 mm, from $1 per yd., mjtrim.com.
Glittered Cupcake Ornament
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.
Silk Flower Ornament
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, michaels.com. Ashland White Lily Stem, $9, michaels.com. Afloral Silk Anemones, in Cream, $4.80, afloral.com. Afloral Mum, in Cream, $2.25, afloral.com. Save-On-Crafts White Cherry-Blossom Branch, $10, save-on-crafts.com. Montana Black Spray Paint, in Cocktail, 100% Yellow, Flame Blue, and Elm, starting from $6.25, dickblick.com. Jamali Garden Shiny Gold Glass Balls on Picks, 25 and 40 mm, from $22 for 144, jamaligarden.com.
Flower and Gem Ornament
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: Metalliferous Brass Flowers, 39 mm., 47 mm., and 65 mm., from 50¢ each, metalliferous.com. Bead Landing Gold Elongated Chain, $3.19, michaels.com. Bead Landing Thin Elongated Chain, $3.19 for 72", michaels.com. Bead Landing Gold Jump Rings, $3.19 for 105, michaels.com. Swarovski Flat-Back SS30 and SS34 Rhinestones, in Light Rose, Light Topaz, Jonquil, Aquamarine, Light Sapphire, and Tanzanite, starting from $5.50 for 36, tohoshoji-ny.com. Bead Landing Round Sequin Mix, in Multicolor, $10 for 7.6 oz., michaels.com. E6000 Jewelry and Bead Glue, $7 for 1 oz., michaels.com.
Dresden Rosette Ornament
Dresdens come in many different sizes and designs; often, they are cut with antique dies that have been in use for decades. For many of our ornaments, we stacked a few Dresdens, giving the end result a more detailed and dimensional look.
Don't pass by the party store when decorating your tree—that's where you can find honeycomb balls that look like oversize ornaments, as well as striped straws. Combine those colorful items with our clip-art cut‑outs for a tree that's quite affordable to decorate from top to bottom.
To make a trapeze: Cut a 3-inch length of straw. Thread metallic cord through and tie ends as a hanger. Dab hot glue to secure cord inside straw.
To make a ladder: Start with six straws. Trim the end of one to a point, then insert 1/4 inch into a second straw, making one longer straw. Repeat with another pair. Cut the remaining two straws into 2 1/2-inch sections. With a hole punch, punch a semicircle into the end of each short piece so each end has a concave cutout (to allow pieces to fit neatly against the sides of ladder). Position short pieces between the two long side pieces and hot-glue in place. Hot-glue the acrobat figure to a ladder and trapeze.
Frozen Ice Ornament
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 for 11 oz., michaels.com. Martha Stewart Super Fine Glitter, in White Gold, $7 for 1.5 oz., michaels.com. Aleene's Original Tacky Glue, $2 for 5 oz., michaels.com. Toho Glass Silver-Lined Seed Beads, 2.2 mm., $3.29 for 6 g., michaels.com. Toho Glass Silver-Lined Seed Beads, 4 mm., $3.19 for 6 g., michaels.com. Toho Glass Silver-Lined Seed Beads, 2.2 mm., $3 for 6 g, michaels.com.
Glittered Bird, Nest, and Mushroom Ornament
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: Martha Stewart Super Fine Glitter, in Tourmaline, Turquoise, and Sterling $7, michaels.com. Martha Stewart Detailing Brush, $9.39 for a set of 5, michaels.com. Artificial Decorative Feathered Birds, starting from $17.50 for 12, billsflowermarket.com. Blumchen Lametta Tinsel Roping, 1/2" and 1/4", starting from $8 for 2 yds., blumchen.com. Toadstool Ornament, $8, westelm.com.
Plaid Ball Ornament
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, 2", 3", and 4", starting from $5 for 12, save-on-crafts.com. Band J Fabrics Cotton Oxford Plaid Fabric, 44", $16 per yd., bandjfabrics.com. Fiskars Classic Stick Rotary Cutter, $16, michaels.com.
Glittered Shell Ornament
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.
The winter night sky offers a whole other world of inspiration and these star ornaments are easily within reach. Make all the different kinds, or multiples of one style. A few shimmery supplies is all it takes to create ornaments that will shine this season and beyond. To hang these stars as ornaments, add a loop of metallic cord between them before gluing.
These shiny ornaments, fashioned in the symbols of the season, are created from brass. To help some ornaments hold their striking silhouettes, the lengths of tubing are threaded with sturdy gold wire, along with the colorful mason's twine. Use a small pipe cutter to slice through round tubes; a hacksaw cleanly cuts square tubing. You can wrap the strings around the branches for an accent.
To make the Christmas tree ornament, use a marker to mark sections that measure 1 1/2, 2, 3 3/4, 5, and 6 3/4 inches on square tubing. Use a hacksaw to cut tubing at each mark. Cut a 6-foot length of mason's twine and tie an overhand knot at center. Thread both ends of twine through a 1 1/2- inch tube (for the tree trunk). Thread one end through the right side and out the left side of the 6 3/4-inch tube. Thread the other end through the left side and out the right side of this same tube. Continue threading in the same manner through three remaining tubes. Leave some slack in twine to form top of tree; tie off.
To make the star, use a pipe cutter to cut twelve 2-inch-long tubes. Thread a 3-foot-long piece of wire through all tubes, bending after each tube to form points of the star. When you reach the starting point, twist ends of the wire together and cut off excess. Tie a 4-inch piece of wire to one end of a 3 1/2-foot length of twine; use wire as a needle to thread twine through tubes. When you reach starting point, tie off. Use excess twine to hang ornament.
Shop Now: K&S Precision Metal Round Brass Tubing, 7/32" by 12", $2.39, acehardware.com. Husky Junior Tube Cutter, 5/8", $10, homedepot.com. Everbilt Gold Twisted Polypropylene Mason Twine, $8.77, homedepot.com.
Sea Glass Ornament
Turn ordinary glass ball ornaments into shimmery tokens of the sea with a bit of sea glass paint for a pretty frosted effect.
Drum-shaped ornaments are among the most iconic Christmas decorations. But you don't need to scour antiques stores and flea markets to drum up your own set—all it takes to make the ornaments are plain wooden boxes, festive ribbon, and glue.
Needle-Felted Woodland Ornament
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: A Child's Dream Wool Felt, 3 mm, in assorted colors, $12 per sheet, achildsdream.com.
Glossy Painted Ball Ornament
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 1 day on drying rack. Paint caps with paintbrush, and let them dry.
Show off painted ornaments in see-through packaging. Tuck them into a box meant for cupcakes. Or make a tube of acetate, and wrap it in cellophane.
Shop Now: Martha Stewart Crafts Multi-Surface High-Gloss Acrylic Craft Paint, $2.39, michaels.com. Martha Stewart Crafts Gloss Finish, $8.49, michaels.com. Whitehurst Clear Glass Ornaments, 2", $34 for 28, homedepot.com. ClearBags Cupcake Box fox 6, $23.80 for 10, clearenvelopes.com. Grafix Clear Acetate, 9" by 12" by 0.005", $12.37 for 25 sheets, dickblick.com. Nashville Wraps Clear Cellophane, $4.15 for 20"-by-100' roll, nashvillewraps.com.
Spun-Glass Butterfly Ornaments
These are butterfly ornaments that 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.
Salt Dough Ornaments
Two by two, they adorn the boughs of your Christmas tree: These animal ornaments that 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 7 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 4 to 6 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: Dexam Noah's Ark Cookie Cutter Set, $23.20, amazon.com. Creatology Glitter Glue Pens, $5 for 15, michaels.com. Martha Stewart Fine Glitter 24 Pack, $19.47, amazon.com. Doraa Design Metallic Glass Microbeads, $2.93 for 3 gm., etsy.com.
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.