You don't have to have a Daddy Warbucks to turn your rags to riches at Christmas. Nor do you have to miss out on the fun because, well, money was a little tight this year and you just couldn't seem to put enough away to allow for expensive decorations to make your house look really festive.
You can, in fact, do it all yourself for very little money -- and a lot of fun -- by using what you already have on hand: fabric scraps, cast-off toys, old pictures and figurines, costume jewelry, clothespins or wooden spoons. And what you need to buy can be easily found in neighborhood shops.
The only limit is your imagination, and we've provided a little help for that with suggestions and easy-to-follow directions. Because family and friends seem to gravitate to your kitchen, make it the focus of Christmas with decorations related to food or cooking -- decorated eggs, walnuts turned into strawberries, cookie cutters, miniature pottery you make yourself or borrow from a child's tea set. Transform an ordinary living room into a Victorian fantasyland with original dioramas fashioned from recycled odds and ends and our "Yellow Rose of Texas" wreath of plastic cowboys and Indians. Or if your prefer contemporary, what could be more modern than a playing cards sculpture or a simple centerpiece of dried wheat and grasses?
Besides, it's a way to make of life a kind of celebration. And that's what Christmas is all about. Instructions for Decorations Dog Biscuit wreath 1 Styrofoam ring 1/4 yard red felt Straight pins Sobo fabric glue 1 box Milk Bone Flavor Snacks
Cut felt into six 2 1/2" x 21" strips. Attach first strip with two straight pins at a 45 degree angle on the back of the ring and wrap around wreath at the same angle, making sure to overlap the felt a little. Continue with remaining strips until covered.Glue biscuits to wreath with fabric glue. Felt Dog (for Dog Biscuit Wreath) 4 1/2 inches white felt Strip of red felt Black and white embroidery yarn Sequins Silver cord Paper Polyester fiberfill
To make a pattern, draw a profile of a dog to size you want (one shown is about 3 1/3 inches long from tail to nose and 3 inches from ear to front paw). Cut out and pin to double thickness of felt and cut out. To make underside of dog and inside of legs, trace on a piece of paper one of pattern pieces already cut, beginning in mid-chest, dropping around front leg, across belly, around back leg, to a point just below tail, then returning in straight line to the beginning point. Fold the tracing paper along the straight line so that pattern is doubled. Cut out pattern, unfold, pin to single thickness of white felt and cut out. Sew sides and bottom together with white thread, using a blanket stitch. Sew two sides together from top to back leg, around tail, up back, around head to top of front leg. Stuff head, tail and body with polyester fiberfill. Sew bottom pattern pieces to sides left unstitched, stuffing as you go. For collar, cut strip of red felt, sew on sequins, place around dog's neck and sew shut. With black embroidery thread, sew on eyes and nose. With white embroidery thread add tufts of hair and whiskers by threading needle with 6 strands of thread. Do not knot. Sew through felt, leaving about 1/2 inch hanging behind and cutting leading thread to same length. Thread 6-inch length of silver cord through felt just behind collar and tie ends together. Clothespin Soldiers and Sugarplum Fairies Wooden clothespins Elmer's glue Acrylic paints Small pearls 1-inch brads Fabric trims Lace or eyelet fabric Polyurethane No. 8 thimbles
Paint each clothespin with one coat white acrylic paint, then paint on his face and clothes. Paint on two coats of polyurethane allowing to dry between coats. Glue on fabric trim and pearls (for buttons). Glue on thimble for hat.
Proceed in same way for Sugarplum fairies. Add one-inch brads for arms and paint white before painting with polyurethane. Advent Tree 1/2 yard green felt 3 small cartons boxed safety matches (Safeway has them) 1/4 yard red felt gold foil gift wrap 3/4 yard Velcro Fabric glue Paper 30" x 30" Cardboard 30" x 30"
Draw tree on paper (30 inches long and 30 inches wide at widest part of tree).Fold paper in half lengthwise and cut out following drawing on one side. Unfold, pin to felt and cut out tree using pinking shears. Cover 12 boxes with red felt using fabric glue -- be sure to leave both ends uncovered. Cover 13 boxes with foil paper. Cut out 12 squares of foil using pinking shears and glue them to felt covered boxes. Using scissors, cut out numbers 1 through 25 with red felt and glue to boxes. Cut small strips of Velcro and glue one strip to back of every box. Using other strip of Velcro, cut out 25 stars no wider or deeper than the boxes. Glue stars to felt in arrangement you want and stick boxes to the stars. 2 Spoon Puppets Large wooden spoons Acrylic paint Small piece red felt Small piece green felt 1/4 yard fabric Gold string or ribbon Small gold Christmas ball 1/8 yard white fringe 1 peanut 1/4 yard fabric trim Fabric glue Pinking shears 1 1/8-inch dowel String
Glue one-half peanut kernel to each spoon for a nose. Paint each spoon with one coat white acrylic paint. Paint bottom 1/4 inch of each spoon black. Paint eyes, mouths and cheeks. Cut two tassels off fringe and glue one tassel to each side of face for Mrs. Claus. Glue remaining fringe for beard on Santa. Cut red felt hats and glue to spoons. Glue fabric trim and gold ball to hats. Break or cut dowel rod into seven-inch lengths and tie with string to spoon handle for arms. Cut fabric strips 1/4 inch wide and three inches long and glue to dowel rods for sleeves. Cut out eight green felt mittens and glue two together with dowel in between for each hand. Cut out fabric strip 1 1/2" x 3" and glue to handle of Santa, gluing bottom of strip just below top of black boot. Cut out fabric for dress and jacket.
Dress: 8 1/2 inches wide by 9 1/2 inches long.
Jacket: 4 3/4 inches wide by 9 1/2 inches long.
Cut 1/2-inch slits in both pieces of fabric starting one inch from top and 1 1/2 inches from sides of fabric lengths. Slip dowel rods through slits so that fabric openings are in the back, gather around necks and tie with gold string. Silver Flower Arrangement 6 silk flowers (those shown are blue anemones) Piece of Styrofoam Dried weeds and wheat stalks Silver spray Glass bowl
Spray all dried weeds, wheat stalks and Styrofoam silver. Spray centers of silk flowers and lightly spray petals. Place styrofoam in glass bowl so that it fits snugly (you may have to trim Styrofoam with a knife). Arrange Flowers in Styrofoam first trimming stems to about five inches. Fill in with silvered weeds and wheat stalks in varying lengths between 12 inches and 18 inches long. House of Cards 2 decks of cards (those shown are Aviator) Elmer's glue Glitter Sequins Old magazines Decals Cardboard Gold or silver foil paper
Stickers (stars, etc.)
Decorate 34 cards any way you choose with magazine cutouts, glitter, sequins, decals and stickers. Cut out a circle of cardboard 10 inches in diameter. Cut out a circle of foil 12 inches in diameter. Spread glue on one side of cardboard circle, center foil circle on it. Let dry. Turn carboard circle over, spread glue on overlapping foil and glue to circle. With another 34 cards make a tab by folding back 3/4 inch along the long side of each card.Glue that 3/4-inch tab to the back of each decorated card, forming braces.
Tape 13 decorated cards to each other side to side, then form the strip of cards into a circle and tape it. Form the sides of three more tiers. Second tier is 10 cards, third is seven cards, top tier is four cards. Tape the largest circle to the foil-covered cardboard circle.
To make a "roof" for each tier with remaining unused cards, place bottom half of a small piece of tape to the back of each decorated card at the top in the middle. Take an unused card, turn to unnumbered side and hold vertically above decorated side of card in the tier with them overlapping 1/2 inch. Stick top half of tape to underside of undecorated card and lay it back at a right angle so that it rests on the brace. Assemble rest of house in same manner. Decorated Eggshells
Have eggs at room temperature for easier blowing. With a needle, prick a small hole in top of egg, slightly larger hole in bottom. Hold egg, larger end at the bottom, directly over a bowl. Blow firmly into top hole, shaking egg periodically to break up contents. When egg is empty, wipe off outside with a damp cloth and let air dry. Decorate eggs with anything you wish: decals, stickers, glitter, sequins, wrapping paper, etc. To make a loop to hang them on the tree, cut a piece of thin silver or gold cord about 10 inches long. Knot one end, thread other end on long needle. Thread string through egg from bottom to top then back through top to bottom, leaving loop of remaining cord out the top of each egg. Knot other end at bottom of egg, or stick with a sticker. Soft-Sculpture Angels 1/8 yard white cotton fabric 1 yard lace Silver cord Sequins Polyester fiberfill Paper Fabric glue
To make a pattern, draw angel to size you want on paper. Cut out 3/8 inch larger than your drawing. Fold fabric in half, right sides together. Pin pattern to fabric (both thicknesses) and cut out. Pin lace between fabric layers around entire outside with lace facing to middle of angel. When lace is pinned, cut excess lace so that ends overlap a little. Sew three layers together 3/8 inch from edge leaving a one-inch opening on one wing (where there are no sharp angles). Turn angel right side out, stuff with polyester fiberfill, doing head and opposite wing first, then torso, then wing with opening. Close opening with hand-stitches. Hand-stitch remaining lace in any design you want, glue on sequins to make a face and tie some silver cord around neck in bow. Candy Tree 1 Styrofoam cone 2 bags green spearmint leaf gumdrops 1 bag colored gumdrops Toothpicks
To attach spearmint leaves to Styrofoam cone, place a toothpick in wide end of each candy leaf until it almost pokes through narrow end of each leaf. Insert each leaf into cone at a 45 degree angle so narrow end is pointing down towards bottom of cone. Start at the bottom of the cone inserting first row of leaves so that the narrow end of leaves line up with bottom of cone. Second row should overlap first row enough so that Styrofoam doesn't show through. When doing top three rows and leaf at top of cone, use shorter toothpicks (just break off about 1/2 inch on each toothpick). When cone is leafed, fill in with gumdrops, placing a toothpick in the bottom of each gumdrop (shorter toothpicks towards the top) and insert in cone. Note: If a toothpick pokes through the other end of a leaf or gumdrop, push it back with a thimble. Felt Bottle Cover 1/4 yard white felt Sequins Thread (several colors) 1/8 yard red felt 1/8 yard green felt Green embroidery thread Paper
On a piece of paper make a pattern which is 4 1/2 inches across at the bottom narrowing to 3 inches across at the top. Bottom of pattern should be straight; top should slant gently to a point in the middle. Cut out pattern, pin to the three thicknesses of white felt and cut out. Put two of the three pieces together and by machine or hand, sew one side together with white thread. Lay out flat so that stitching is on the outside. Place third pattern piece underneath second pattern piece (which is sewn to first pattern piece). Stitch third piece to second piece on unstitched side. Sew third piece to first piece on unstitched sides. With green embroidery thread, whip stitch along each seam for decorating. Cut shapes like reindeers, trees, wreaths, Santas, stocking, stars etc. out of red, green and white felt and embellish with sequins. Gingerbread Boy Cookies 1 miniature gingerbread boy cookie cutter (this one from The Kitchen Bazaar) 1 box Red Hots 1 recipe for rolled gingerbread cookies Mixture of: 1 lightly beaten egg white 1 cup confectioners' sugar 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
After gingerboys are baked, "glue" 2 or 3 red hots to boys using egg and sugar mixture. Gingerbread Boy Ornaments Gingerbread boys (see above) Red yarn Polyurethane
Paint two coats of polyurethane on each gingerbread boy allowing to dry between coats. For each boy cut two 6-inch lengths of red yarn. Tie two ends in a bow, placing bow in front on neck and tying in a knot in back of neck. Tie other ends in a bow, leaving 2-inch length of yarn between knot at back of neck and the bow. Note: Polyurethane is NOT edible. Don't use it if you want to eat the gingerbread; do use it if you want to save the boys till next year. Birds Plastic birds Clear nylon thread or nylon fishing line Gesso Acrylic paints Brush 2 yards narrow satin ribbon Thumbtacks Elmer's glue
Paint birds with two or three coats of gesso, allowing to dry between coats. Paint each bird a different color with acrylic paints. Tie nylon thread around the body of each bird leaving a long end of thread on each one to hang them from the ceiling. Tie long end of thread to a thumbtack and attach to ceiling. When birds are all hung, place a small amount of glue to each beak and glue on ribbon with varying amounts of ribbon slacked between birds. Reindeer Mobile Clear glass beads Nylon thread Heavy watercolor paper Small needle Paint, old magazines, gift wrap etc. Tree branch Glue or tape
Find a photo of an animal (in this case rabbits and reindeer) to use as pattern. Cut out photo(s) and trace on heavy watercolor paper. Decorate each one with paints, old magazines etc. Cut varying lengths of nylon thread and tape or glue to each cutout. Tie other ends thread to branch so that cutouts hang at different lengths. If you want a snowfall effect on nylon threads -- before attaching to cutouts, knot one end of nylon and thread a needle on the other. String one glass bead, tie a knot 1/2 inch above bead, string another bead, etc. When you have reached the desired length, tie a knot above last bead and leave a 6-inch tail to tie around the branch. Man-in-the-Moon 1 12-inch-square piece of Styrofoam Sandpaper Gesso Acrylic molding Acrylic paints Brush Nylon thread
Lightly draw moon on Styrofoam and "saw" out with serrated knife. Paint all sides with acrylic molding letting it build up for nose and cheeks. Mix gesso and molding together and paint several coats allowing to dry in between. Sand gesso -- molding mixture between coats to smooth. With acrylic paints, paint on eye and mouth (edge and back were painted blue.) To make eyelashes, glue old baby doll's hair or false eyelash to eyelid. Tie nylon thread around top of moon crescent, tie other end of thread around thumb tack and attach to ceiling. Jack-in-the-Box
Broken head from miniature porcelain doll (check flea markets, junk or antique shops) Heavy watercolor paper Dowel or pencil Glue Tissue paper Gesso Paint Florist's clay or Playdough
Make a box from heavy watercolor paper, leaving top flap open. Paint box with two or three coats of gesso, drying then sanding between each coat. Decorate box with acrylic paints. Mount head on dowel or pencil cut to proper length. Cut a strip of tissue paper, one-half times as wide as long as dowel. Paint or dip tissue paper in gesso and form around dowel with excess around neck of head. Shape excess into riffle while gesso dries. Paint ruffle when dry. Place a small amount of florist's clay or Playdough to bottom of box and insert dowel. Rocking Horse Small plastic toy horse Gesso Heavy paper Acrylic paints Brush
Cut two crescent-shaped strips of heavy paper slightly longer than distance between front and back legs and glue to legs. Paint horse and rockers with two or three coats of gesso and decorate with paint. Yellow Rose of Texas Wreath 1 package plastic cowboys and Indians (with any weapons cut off) 1 package plastic animals Small silk roses and leaves Florist wire Elmer's glue Gesso Acrylic molding Styrofoam wreath Acrylic paints
"Ice" front and edges of wreath with thick layer of acrylic molding and place toys firmly into position (do not attach flowers or any toys you don't want painted until later). Build molding up around sides of toys to secure them. When molding is dry, paint everything with several coats of gesso, drying between coats. (To keep details in faces, etc., use thinned coats of gesso). Decorate with acrylic paints. Add remaining toys and flowers with glue or florist wire. Diorama Cigar box Watercolor paper Acrylic molding Gesso Twigs Small mirror Jewels, beads, ribbon Broomstraws Toys Sandpaper
Remove lid from cigar box and paint all surfaces with two or three coats of gesso, drying and sanding between each coat. Cut out a piece of watercolor paper same size as bottom of cigar box and paint background scene or use a magazine cutout, old photo or piece of gift-wrapping paper. Glue to inside of cigar box bottom.
Use old toys as they are or paint with gesso, then decorate with acrylic paints, glitter, jewels, etc. Cut two or twigs to correct heights and glue into box to form trees. To create icicles use a mixture of acrylic molding and gesso. With a brush, touch mixture to desired spot and quickly pull downwards to form a "drip." To create the ground, glue mirror to box and paint remaining area with acrylic molding, building up in areas to make "hills." While molding is still wet, stick in broomstraws to form grass. Add twigs for trees. Building up molding around twigs and straws to create snowdrifts. Paint bristles and twigs with gesso and glue sequins to simulate snowflakes. Add any toys you wish, as they are or painted with a couple of coats of gesso and decorated with acrylic paints. Glue ribbon around edge of box and hang on the wreath or set on a table. Miniature Diorama Heavy watercolor paper Glue Acrylic molding Gesso Glue Sandpaper Glitter Old toy Twigs
On watercolor paper, draw a circle two inches in diameter. Cut out and cut in half. Cut out a rectangle four inches wide and two inches long. Place a line of glue along side of rectangle and along outside edge of each half circle. When glue is tack to the touchy, curve rectangle around edges of the two half-circles and hold until dry. Proceed as in directions for larger diorama. Pottery Wreath
If you are a potter:
Center clay, make small cups, saucers and pitchers. Trim when leather-hard and pull handle or make a hold in each piece for hanging on wreath. When glazing, take care not to clog holes. Fire to temperature of your clay and glaze. These stoneware pieces were fired to cone nine with a tin oxide glaze. If you are not a potter:
Pieces can be bought from Jill Hinckley's Pottery Studio.
Attach pottery pieces to wreath with florist wire and add a large plaid ribbon bow. CAPTION: Cover photo, no caption; Pictures 1 and 2, no caption; Picture 3, This live tree for the kitchen is trimmed with plain ribbon bows, decorated eggs, strawberries made from walnuts, birds' nests fashioned from gold-sprayed florist wire and cookie cutters (from Kitchen Bazaar). Picture 4, Sweet gifts: Miniature gingerbread boys to hand out to holiday visitors.; Picture 5, Four little apples all in a row make four little candlesticks ready to glow.; Picture 6, Christmas means imagination and anticipation -- hours spent guessing at surprises inside gaily wrapped packages. Even last-minute shoppers can deck the hearth with rows of "gifts" -- empty boxes done up in those colorful scraps of fabric you've been wondering how to use; Picture 7, Turn an ordinary dustpan into an unusual kitchen door ornament filled with pine cones and greens and trimmed with a bow.; Picture 8, Christmas wreath decorated with wheel-thrown glazed pottery in shapes of miniature cups, saucers and platters by Jill Hinckley.; Picture 9, Frame your own Christmas drawings or cards for display in gold-leaf frames and mats available at Gold Leaf Restorations. Frames and pictures by William Adair.; Picture 10, Bottles covered in Christmas designs fashioned from scraps of fabric brighten tables and mantels. This felt bottle cover is by Beth Norberg.; Picture 11, The styrofoam man-in-the-moon sculpture replaces the traditional treetop star while painted plastic birds swoop down from the ceiling to help decorate the tree.; Picture 12 and 13, Burch fashioned these dioramas from old cigar boxes and recycled odds and ends.; Picture 14, Jay Burch transformed her efficiency apartment into a Victorian fantasy with ornaments she made herself, many from ordinary trinkets such as costome jewelry and discarded toys.; Picture 15, Decorations for the Victorian tree include costume jewelry, old toys, figurines and plaster angel molds (from Gold Leaf Restorations) you can paint yourself, like this by Marbet Wolfson.; Picture 16, A cotton soft-sculpture angel with sequined face.; Picture 17, Burch's "Yellow Rose of Texas" wreath features a child's set of plastic cowboys and Indians. In the Christmas spirit, she removed all their weapons.; Picture 18, The perfect wrap for the live old-fashioned tree: a Victorian crazy quilt sprinkled with trinkets, including a miniature diorama, the jack-in-the-box, and star and mask plaster molds (from Gold Leaf Restorations) to paint yourself. Star by Marbet Wolfson, mask by Diane Johnston.; Picture 19, More trinkets under the tree include old pictures and figurines.; Picture 20, This cast-off plaster cupid holds taffeta tiebacks and silk flowers.; Picture 21, Any place you hang this rabbit and reindeer mobile is home. Jay burch made this one, along with the moon sculpture, birds, dioramas, jack-in-the-box and wreath.; Picture 22, Simple silver and blue decorations complement the clean lines and cool colors of Jean and Winthrop Faulkner's contemporary home.; Picture 23, The "House of Cards" sculpture is an unusual touch.; Picture 24, An arrangement made from silk flowers and silver-sprayed dried wheat and grasses.; Picture 25, More silver-sprayed wheat and grasses arranged in tiny glass vases forms a holiday centerpeice. Mylar placemats are cut with pinking spears.; Picture 26, For a child's fantasy, wooden spoons become hand puppets.; Picture 27, A dollhouse needs love too. Caroline Ince's has plenty, with its decorations of tiny felt wreaths, window bows, clothespin sugar plum fairies and soldiers, and a candy tree.; Picture 28, Peanut-shell finger puppets by Diane Johnston.; Picture 29, Dog biscuit wreath for felt dog by Ida Sullivan. Photographed by Bill Snead