Handmade Christmas – A Family Tradition of Tree Ornaments

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Handmade Christmas – A  Family Tradition of Tree Ornaments

Welcome to Week One of the month-long Carnival of Creative Mothers to celebrate the launch of The Rainbow Way: Cultivating Creativity in the Midst of Motherhood by Lucy H. Pearce. Today’s topic is Nurturing a Culture of Creativity at Home. Be sure to read to the end of this post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
Join the Carnival and be in with a chance to win a free e-copy of The Rainbow Way!
November 27th: Creative Heroines.
December 4th: Creative Inheritance.
December 11th: The Creative Process.


Handmade Christmas – A  Family Tradition of Tree Ornaments


Our Handmade Christmas Tree Ornaments made from Saltdough
Our Handmade Christmas Tree Ornaments


I love handmade and so does my husband. Our son seems to be arriving at the same conclusion. We’re not big consumers in our family, so it was disturbing when several months ago our young son began to list off all the new things he “needed” on a daily basis. Each time he would finish up by declaring that we could just go out and “buy it”. Fortunately he has changed his tune a little. He still goes on about all the things he wants, but at least instead of “buy it” he informs me that we can “make it”. He thinks we are capable of making the craziest things. Items that by no means do we have the skills to make. I think it’s wonderful that my son believes we can!

Last December my husband and I brought home our first Christmas tree. My husband wasn’t particularly into the idea. I completely understood where he was coming from and somewhat wished I felt the same way. I have special memories of my childhood Christmas trees and especially the ritual of trimming the tree. Every ornament had a story of its own and I loved to recall and retell these stories as we decorated our tree each year. I’m not sure that my siblings enjoyed my obsession with Christmas past, but my mother, at least, appeared to be an appreciative fan. Behind my desire to have a Christmas tree was another greater desire to share this same tradition with my own child.

I have mentioned previously that practically everything of sentimental and material value that my family owns is in a storage space in another city, in another country. Included in our stash is the box of ornaments that I have been collecting since I was a small child. Some decorations I received as gifts: for instance, my mother gave my siblings and I each a unique ornament every year when we were growing up. Many other ornaments were handmade either by myself, family members, or friends. I love them all and know the background story behind each and every one.


Saltdough Plaid Snowman Ornament
Plaid Snowman


So here we were with our own Christmas tree – a full size Christmas tree – and no trimmings. There was only one thing to be done: make some. Make a bunch! And make a whole lot we did. It was amazing. All year I have looked forward to making a new set of ornaments. A tradition was born.

Last December we made salt dough ornaments and also dehydrated lemon slices from the tree in our California backyard. This year we have already begun to make felted (or more precisely, for those who care about the difference, fulled) gingerbread men. This creative process has been so much fun! I invited some friends to partake in the salt dough experience last year (one of these friends has still been unable to convince her own husband to succumb to a Christmas tree) and it was delightful to share in the festivities. I am eager to watch my son’s creativity and abilities progress and blossom from year to year. The ornaments he has made this year are beautiful and already light years ahead of those formed last Christmas. Next year our new baby girl will be able to begin to take part in some kind of limited way and I am excited to see where that goes.


1 year old toddler decorates saltdough ornaments
My Son Makes His First Christmas Tree Ornaments


Once the tree was up, the ornaments hung and the tree lit, we were enchanted by our ‘handmade’ tree. What a pleasure it was to sit for a few quiet moments each evening, in our darkened living room, with only the tree lights blinking. These moments were magic. I doubt I will ever forget them. Neither will my husband. He fell in love, very hard, with our tree. He was the saddest of us all to see it go. My husband is already anticipating this year’s tree and has begun to deliberate on where it should stand! We are so excited about our fledgling tree tradition and now we can’t imagine having anything but a handmade Christmas.


Saltdough Snowflake Ornament

Saltdough Ornaments

For the saltdough recipe, here is the one I used. I have made saltdough ornaments in the past, but never before have they been so smooth and risen so evenly. You can go directly to the site, there are some gorgeous examples of her ornaments there. I am also providing the way in which I used the recipe:

1/2 cup table salt
1/2 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour

You will also need parchment paper and ornament wires. I bought a large package of tree ornament wires at my local 99 Cent store. If you do not like the way these look, you can punch a hole in each ornament and then add a ribbon after they are baked.

The original recipe says to blend all the ingredients in an electric mixer until the form a sticky dough. I don’t actually have a mixer and it worked great for me to just mix it all together with a large, wooden spoon.

Next, knead the dough by hand for 7 to 10 minutes on a well floured surface. Once the dough is smooth and elastic grab a ball of it and transfer it onto a hard floured surface again. Right away, you need to wrap the portion of dough you are not using in plastic wrap. Otherwise, with such a high ratio of salt, the dough will dry out before you can use it.

Roll out the dough to a quarter inch thickness. Cut with your favourite cookie cutters. Transfer to a cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper (you can use the same piece of parchment paper over and over. Do not try wax paper. It will not work and may even catch on fire. Yes, I know this from personal experience!) Before placing the cut dough shapes onto the cookie sheet, I push an ornament wire 1/2 to 1 inch into the top of each shape.

Bake at 200 degrees for four to six hours, until they are hardened. Take them out to cool. At this temperature, you are actually dehydrating the dough rather than baking.


Handmade Saltdough Snowman Ornament


Toddlers Can Decorate Salt Dough Ornaments with Washable Markers
Toddlers Can Decorate Saltdough Ornaments with Washable Markers


Toddler's Saltdough Gingerbread Boy
Gingerbread Boy


Toddler's Saltdough Christmas Tree
Christmas Tree


I have a large collection of Letraset Promarkers left over from when I was in fashion design school. My husband and I decorated our saltdough ornaments with these. Fine point Sharpies would work well, too, and they come in a variety of colours. Our son used his washable crayola markers. We planned to varnish our adult ornaments but that never happened. Perhaps we’ll get that done this year.


Lemon Slice Christmas Tree Ornament
Dried Lemon Slices to Decorate the Christmas Tree

Lemon Slice Ornaments

Years ago I saw a mobile made out of slices of dried lemons, limes, and blood oranges. It was lovely. I have never forgotten the way the light shined through the paper-thin discs. Our Meyer Lemon tree was packed with lemons, so I thought I would give it a go. I searched around online and found these great directions for drying citrus slices.

To dry lemon or other citrus, you will need cooling racks – the kind that you use to cool baked goods on after they come out of the oven – in order to preserve the colour of your fruit. I experimented and did some this way but also dried some lemon slices on parchment lined baking sheets. I am glad I did it both ways. The darkened lemon discs are just as beautiful as the light ones.

Citrus Slice Christmas Tree Ornaments
These Lemon Slices were Baked on a Cookie Sheet to Obtain a Darker Shade

To begin, I sliced the lemons into the thinnest discs that I could. I really did not do a great job. They could have been much thinner. I then bent the ornament wires and pushed them into the peels. By bending the wires first, I was able to push the wires  into the peel only and avoid the centres which would not be capable of holding the wires in place once they dried. As well, this would have been ugly.

I placed some of the slices with attached wires onto the cooling racks and others onto parchment lined cookie sheets. I put them into my oven heated to 170 degrees. If your oven can be set lower, that is even better. After two hours, turn all the citrus discs over. Continue to bake until they are fully dry.

Our lemon ornaments were especially beautiful when placed directly in front of the lights on our tree. These dried citrus discs would also create a stunning garland. Maybe some other year.

Happy Family Holidays!

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Handmade Christmas Homemade Ornaments and Wrapping Paper
Our Handmade Christmas


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  • Carnival host and author of The Rainbow Way, Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares an extract from the chapter Nurturing a Family Culture of Creativity.
  • Lilly Higgins is a passionate food writer. Now a mother of two boys, she’s discovered a new calling: to instil in them a love of food and creativity in the kitchen.
  • DeAnna L’am shares how visioning the New Year with your child is an invitation to be inspired: use creativity and resolutions to create a fun road map for the year ahead.
  • Molly at Talk Birth on Releasing Our Butterflies – balancing motherhood with creativity.
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  • Naomi at Poetic Aperture is a mother, artist and photographer who tries to keep her daughter away from the expensive pens and paints.
  • Aimee at Creativeflutters writes about keeping your sanity and creativity intact with small kids in the house in her post: Mother + Creativity – They Must Coexist.
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  • Becky at Raising Loveliness explores creating with her smaller family members.
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