A homemade holiday: 5 ideas to reuse and rethink Christmas decorations

Danielle Torricelli

You may try not to think about it, but Christmas is coming. Soon the bells will be ring ting tingling, too, which means it’s time to turn your once-normal home into a festive spectacle of red and green. Instead of spending loads of money on shiny new plastic decorations to freshen up the holidays, opt for something different this year. With a little glue, a little felt and your own cupboards (plus a little help from Mother Nature), you have everything you need for a very merry Christmas.

Pine needle potpourri

Christmas trees are beautiful to look at and fill your home with the pleasant scent of pine, but they shed their needles constantly. What may seem like a nuisance is really free air freshener in disguise.

Materials

Spaghetti sauce or mayonnaise jar

Ribbon

Wrapping paper

3x3-inch piece of felt

Clear tape

Hot glue gun

Scissors

Directions

Clean out an old spaghetti sauce or mayonnaise jar, scrubbing off the label and any glue residue.

Cut a 1-inch-thick piece of wrapping paper long enough to go around the middle of the jar. Wrap the paper around the jar so the ends meet at the front, and tape together.

Cut a piece of ribbon the same length as the wrapping paper. Wrap it on top of the center of the paper and tape the ends together at the front.

On the back of the jar, tape over the ribbon and wrapping paper so they stay in place.

Draw a Christmas tree shape onto the felt. Cut out the tree and glue the tree onto the ribbon. Hold it down for about 10 seconds or until glue feels dry.

Now all you have to do is sweep up those pesky pine needles and put them in your jar. Add more needles as the season progresses and place the jar anywhere in your home to spread the Christmas cheer. 

Mix and match wrapping paper and ribbon with whatever you have. And once the holidays have passed, you can take off the Christmas-themed decorations and replace them with pink ribbons and a red felt heart for Valentine’s Day or cutouts of green felt shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day.

Bare branch wreath

Instead of going with an expensive silk or plastic wreath, create a fresh (free!) look with nature from right outside your front door.

Materials

2 to 3 handfuls of fallen branches

10x10-inch piece of cardboard

5x5-inch piece of felt

Measuring tape

Hot glue gun

Pencil

Scissors

Directions

Collect twigs around 6 inches long. Try to find twigs that are roughly the same length. If they’re damp or wet, lay them out to dry before using.

Cut out two 4-inch wide cardboard circles — the top of a water glass should work. Within each circle, cut 3-inch circles, leaving 1-inch-wide cardboard doughnuts.

Gather four or five twigs and line up the ends. If the twigs are curved, point the curves in the same direction. Glue a line across all twigs about a half-inch above the ends and hold against one of the cardboard doughnuts for 15 seconds, or until the glue dries. Repeat this around the rest of the circle so you have a base layer.

Next, start another layer of twigs, gluing a bit higher so the ends of the second layer circle the ends of the first. Once you have two layers, glue twigs to fill in any gaps in the cardboard, then set aside.

Lay the second cardboard doughnut on top of your felt and trace an inner circle onto the felt a little bit smaller than 3 inches. Cut out the felt’s inner circle. Glue the felt onto the outside of the circle by folding the felt up and squeezing glue on the edge of the cardboard where the felt and cardboard meet, pressing the two together until dry. To make this process easier, trim the corners of the felt as needed. Make sure all the cardboard is covered. Once the outside is complete, fold the center of the felt inward and snip the felt every 90 degrees to make folding easier, then glue down. 

Take the felt-covered cardboard doughnut and squeeze a circle of glue onto the back of it. Press it down on the top of the wreath, directly over the other piece of cardboard. Remove any visible glue not covered by felt, and you have a completed wreath that’s ready to hang.

Snowflake mobile

Cutting out snowflakes isn’t just for kids. Use your forgotten elementary school skills to make a creative wall hanging.

Materials

6 pieces of white construction paper

Clear fishing line or white thread

Small paper bowl

Wire ornament hook

9x9-inch piece of felt

Measuring tape

Clear tape

Hot glue gun

Scissors

Directions

With the tip of your scissors, work a small hole into the center of the bowl. Cut an 8-inch piece of fishing line, fold it in half and draw the looped end through the hole up from the inside of the bowl, leaving a little bit of the loose ends inside. Glue the loose ends onto the bowl, making sure it’s secure, since this is what will hold up the mobile. On the looped end, hang the wire ornament hook, twisting it tightly so it’s secure.

Lay the bowl facedown on the felt. Use the hot glue gun and squeeze a small amount of glue onto the under side of the bowl’s edge and press down the felt. Hold it for 15 seconds or until the glue dries. Continue around the rest of the bowl, folding the felt as you go. Then glue down loose corners.

A majority of the bowl should be covered. Use scrap pieces of felt to cover any gaps. Be sure to leave the top of the bowl uncovered so the fishing line and hook are free to hang. Set the bowl aside.

To make the snowflakes, fold a piece of construction paper into fours. Cut off the loose edges at a diagonal, from corner to corner. Now use your creativity to make snowflakes with interesting shapes and patterns. Once you’re done, unfold the paper to see your snowflake. Make four more snowflakes this size.

Cut the last piece of construction paper into fours. With the smaller pieces of paper, repeat the process for making the larger snowflakes.

Cut three pieces of fishing line about 30 inches long. Starting about 6 inches from the top of the fishing line, tape the top corner of your snowflakes to the lines, arranging them as you like. Once this is done, tape one line to the top of the bowl near the center. Tape the second line a third of the way around the bowl, and the last line another third. The lines should be spaced evenly so the mobile is balanced when hung. Make more than one mobile and hang them around the house to create your own winter wonderland. 

Artful advent calendar

The countdown to Christmas is made even better when there’s candy involved. Give your kids an extra treat with this unique egg carton Advent calendar.

Materials

25 egg carton cups

25 3x3-inch pieces of wrapping paper (use different kinds of wrapping paper if available)

25 pieces of candy

16x24-inch piece of cardboard

Contrasting neutral wrapping paper

2-foot piece of ribbon

Pencil

Marker

Scissors

Measuring tape

Tape

Hot glue gun

Flat head screwdriver

Directions

To get the egg carton cups, first cut off the top of the egg carton and discard. Then cut the egg carton in half lengthwise. When cutting individual cups, trim off excess cardboard so surfaces are even, but leave the existing carton notches so the cups aren’t too shallow.

Once the cups are cut, start covering them with wrapping paper. (Make sure the wrapping paper you use is thin enough for kids to easily poke through.) Lay a 3x3 piece of wrapping paper face down and place a piece of candy in the center. Use candy large enough to not fall through the notches in the egg carton cups — Starburst works well. Hot glue around the top of an egg carton cup and press down in the middle of the paper and over the candy, making sure the notches are facing the paper’s corners. Hold it down for 15 seconds or until the glue is dry. Starting at the corner that does not have a notch, squeeze glue onto the paper and fold it onto the cup. The glue can be hot, so smooth down the paper until the glue dries. Work your way around the rest of the cup, folding the paper as you go, gluing on either the paper or the cup as needed. Set cups aside when finished.

Wrap the cardboard in the contrasting paper as you would a present. (The back does not have to be completely covered since it will not be seen.) With the wrapped cardboard vertically face up, on one edge of the board measure four inches down from the top and make a mark. Do the same on the other side of the board. Use your tape measure to draw a faint pencil line from one mark to the other. Measure 4 inches down from your pencil line and draw another straight line. Repeat until you have five lines.

Arrange your wrapped egg cups on the pencil marks, five to a line. Once you are satisfied with the arrangement, make the numbers for your cups. Cut 25 1x0.5-inch rectangles from the back of your wrapping paper. Write out numbers 1 through 25 onto the rectangles with marker. Glue the numbers to the top-left side of each cup.

Glue the cups to the board by squeezing a ring of glue onto the bottom of each cup and pressing onto the board for 15 seconds. As you glue, make sure the cups are on each line evenly and spaced correctly.  

To hang the ribbon on the board, measure two inches in from the top and the edge on the upper corners and mark. Use the tip of the scissors to start a hole, carefully working through the paper into the board. Then use the screwdriver to finish the hole, starting with the corner and twisting it back and forth until you push through the back. Repeat on the other side.

From the back, pull the ribbon through one hole about an inch and a half and tie a double knot. Making sure the ribbon isn’t twisted, pull it from the back through the other corner and tie another double knot. Trim off excess ribbon so the ends are even. For extra security, squeeze a little hot glue into the back of each hole. 

Your Advent calendar is ready to hang. Just try not to break into it before December.

Pinecone hanging

Needles aren’t the only thing pine trees have to offer. Fresh pinecones are another way to celebrate the season naturally.

Materials

10 pinecones

12-inch-long branch (sturdy enough to hold all pinecones)

10 5-foot-long pieces of clear fishing line

Hot glue gun

Directions

Holding a pinecone in one hand, take a piece of fishing line and start wrapping it around the middle of the cone. Weave it through the petals so it’s as hidden as possible. Wrap it around three or four times, then thread the line toward the top and wrap it four to five more times around a top tier. Tuck in stray pieces of line between the petals. To keep the line from unwinding, glue it in place where the line started and again on the upper tier. Set the cone aside, laying the attached line straight out since it is easy to tangle. Repeat for the other cones.

Take a threaded cone and hold it in front of the branch so it hangs about two feet down, then wrap the line around the branch about five times. Glue the line across the back of the branch.

Repeat this with two more cones at each end of the branch.

In between the center and end cones, hang two cones on either side, letting them hang down 2.5 feet.

Hang the remaining five cones in the same spots, but wrapping from the back and hanging them lower than the first set of cones. Cut off any excess line.  

The pinecones are ready to be hung. You can either hang the branch over two nails or wrap and glue fishing line on each end of the branch to hang on a single nail. If you want to adjust how low the pinecones hang, simply wrap more line around the cone.