Crafts of Christmases Past

  • Downhome Magazine
  • Posted: Nov 22, 2012 6:48 PM
Downhome staff started putting their not-so-crafty hands to work showing you how to make cute Christmas crafts in December 2004. Since then, we've glued, stitched and sewn together more than 40 holiday decorations for the pages of Downhome magazine. We hope you've enjoyed making them with your family as much as we enjoyed coming up with them. This month, we've taken some time to look back at all of those past decorations, and we've picked eight that we love the most! So gather together your craft supplies - and your family - and have a blast creating the "greatest crafts of Christmases past!"

#1 Clothespin Card Holder
Here's a festive way to put your clothespins to good use during the winter months! (Originally appeared in the December 2011 issue)

26 spring-clip wooden clothespins
Green acrylic paint
Red acrylic paint
Stickers, if desired
Thin wire hanger
9 x 6 mm pony beads (beads with holes in either end, for threading wire)

Directions: Dismantle clothespins. Paint 13 clothespins red, and 13 green. (You may also choose to paint tiny festive designs on tips of clothespins, or stick on holiday stickers.) Once dry, reassemble clothespins. Using pliers, carefully unwind wire hanger, keeping hook intact. String beads on open wire (using a colour pattern, if desired) and after every third bead, clip a clothespin (alternating red and green, with "clip" facing outward). Once all beads and clothespins are in place, use pliers to close circle and re-wind neck of hanger. For a few finishing touches, fasten bow and hang bell from neck. Hang on your wall, and clip on greeting cards as you receive them.

#2 Mini Ugly Stick
Pay homage to the traditional ugly stick this Christmas by hanging this miniature version on your tree. (Originally appeared in the December 2010 issue)

Wooden dowel
Small jingle bells
White gum eraser
Stretchy string
Hot glue gun
Black paint or marker

Directions: Use hot glue to attach bells to the wooden dowel. Wrap yarn around your palm several times until you have a ribbon about an inch thick. Remove hoop of yarn and secure it tightly around the middle, tying it off. Holding yard by the tied section (making it the top of the hoop) cut the loop at the bottom. Now you should have a mop top. Make a loop out of stretchy string and tie it around the tied section of the "mop top." Glue this knot to the top of the wooden dowel. Arrange yarn hair. Cut eraser in shape in boot. Paint it black. When dry, glue to bottom of dowel. Glue a few random bits of ribbon to the ugly stick, to ugly it up.

#3 Christmas Mummer Wreath
This downhome-inspired wreath, created by former senior writer Kim Kielley, adorned the cover of the December 2008 issue.

1 grapevine wreath, 16" diameter
1 Christmas stair valance
3 different lengths of tree boughs (enough to cover the entire wreath), berries, pine cones
8 bunches of red berries
2 small "presents" on wires
1 small red bird
12 round Christmas tree ornaments
1 mummer figurine (we used "Ambrose")
1 door hanger
Thick floral wire
Ribbon, 4" long, with wire on edges
Multi-purpose glue gun
Glue sticks (make sure they fit your glue gun)
Wire cutters


Step 1: Place cedar boughs (the longest ones) under the vine wreath so that they're not overlapping, but sitting beside each other, until you've circled the entire wreath with boughs. Once you're satisfied with their placement, glue them into place by squeezing the hot glue onto the wire ends of the boughs and push those ends between the vines at the back of the wreath. Do this until the entire back of the wreath is encircled with glued cedar boughs.

Step 2: Place second longest tree boughs around edge of wreath and glue into place. Take remaining boughs and fill in the gaps, gluing the ends and fitting between vines of wreath.

Step 3: Choose a top end for your wreath. Visually divide the wreath into quarters; place a pinecone at each point (wire or glue them on). Fill in the space with the remaining cones, equally spaced. We used 12 for the whole wreath.

Step 4: Again, visually divide the wreath into quadrants and place bunches of red berries at intersecting points. Then, fill in the gaps to balance the colours. Once you're happy with their placement, start gluing. Add the wired presents, drum and little red bird in a triangle and glue.

Step 5: Remove string from Christmas ornaments and replace with floral wire, threading through the hole and twisting at the top to secure. Remember the quadrants and place ornaments at intersecting points. Then, fill in the spaces until the wreath looks balanced and visually pleasing. Hot glue the wired end of each ornament and push it into the empty space. (Use a pencil to push the glued wire into place if need be.)

Step 6: To place the mummer in the centre of the wreath: Remove the gold string from the ornament and replace with floral wire. Weave the wire through a sturdy vine and twist the ends to keep the wire firmly in place, while allowing the mummer to dangle freely. To create a hook for the back of your wreath for hanging, make a loop out of floral wire and thread it through the back of the vine wreath. Twist the wire ends together tightly. Now it's ready to hang.

#4 Saltbox Cookie Village
An incredible, edible gingerbread outport appeared on the cover of the December 2011 issue. It was the yummy creation of Downhome's production manager and Bakin' Bits blogger Paulette Emberley. It was such a masterpiece, staff resisted the urge to eat the houses - and Paulette plans to decorate with them for years to come.

Gingerbread Cookies
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Saltbox House Stencils

Royal Icing
4 cups icing sugar
3 tbsp meringue powder
5-6 tbsp warm water

For decorating
Food colouring (various colours)
Coloured sprinkles (for christmas "lights" on houses)
Sparkling white sprinkles (for snow)

Directions: Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the molasses and the egg. Combine all the dry ingredients and add to the wet. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour. Flour a sheet of wax paper. Roll out dough to 1/8" thick on the wax paper. Flour the rolling pin frequently, as well as the paper, so the dough does not stick to either. Print off saltbox house stencils (available here). Place stencils onto rolled-out cookie dough. Using a sharp knife or cake spreader, cut out cookies by cutting close to the edge of the template. Carefully remove each cookie and place on cookie sheet. This may take a little practice as the cookies are quite large and may become soft when rolled out. (I used a large spatula.) Bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes or until they start to lightly brown on the edges. Remove promptly to wire racks and let cookies cool at least 24 hours. Mix all ingredients for icing in a grease-free bowl. If using a stand mixer, set it to medium and let it mix for 10 minutes. Cover the bowl promptly with a wet cloth, as the icing will dry out if left uncovered.

Click here for Paulette's complete decorating directions.

#5 Sock Beanie Snowman
Remember this adorable snowman? This little guy appeared on the cover of the December 2006 issue of Downhome.

Plain white sock
Raw rice
2 rubber bands
1 white pipe cleaner
Colourful pom-pom
Black, orange and red (or green) markers
Scrap piece of flannel or other material (for scarf)
Buttons (optional)
Hot glue gun

Draw a line with red or green permanent marker across the ribbed part of the sock at the halfway portion. With the same marker, colour in the sock from the line up to the top. This will eventually be the snowman's hat. Turn the sock inside out - this gives the snowman a terrycloth look. Fill the toe part of the sock with raw rice. Tie a rubber band around the sock just above the rice fill. (This makes the body.) Fill the next part of the sock with more rice. Tie a rubber band around the sock just above the second ice fill. (This makes the head.) Turn the opening of the sock down partway over the head to reveal the marker-coloured section. Glue a colourful pom-pom to the small hole on top to complete the hat. Use a black marker to make eyes and a mouth. Cut the pipe cleaner to make a pointy nose, colour it with orange marker and hot glue it to the face. For the body part, either glue buttons three in a row vertically, or use the black marker for this. Tie a scrap piece of flannel trimmed to look like a scarf loosely around the neck of the snowman.

#6 Cinnamon Tree Ornaments
These festively scented ornaments first appeared in the December 2011 issue of Downhome. To make, they require just a couple of ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. (Ed. note: Although they are made with food, they are definitely not edible!)

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup ground cinnamon
1 large Zip-loc bag or freezer bag
Rolling pin
Christmas cookie cutters
Drinking straw
Cooling rack
Glitter glue (optional)

Directions: Pour applesauce and cinnamon in a plastic bag and knead ingredients together by squishing the bag between your fingers until the mixture has the same consistency as cookie dough. Place cinnamon dough on flat surface and roll out to 1/4 inch thickness using a rolling pin. Use festive cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes, and use a plastic straw to make a hole for the ribbon at the top of each ornament. (Recipe yields two to four ornaments, depending on size of cookie cutters used.) Place on wire rack in oven and bake at 150°F for three hours to harden. Wearing oven mitts, remove ornaments from oven and place on wire cooling rack. While still warm, poke straw through original ribbon hole to ensure an opening remains. Once completely cooled, use glitter glue to decorate your cinnamon Christmas tree ornaments to your liking. Once dry, cut about six inches of ribbon and loop through hole; tie a knot and hang on your tree or give to a friend as a sweet-smelling present.

#7 Crystal Snowflake
Borax - a natural mineral made of sodium, boron, oxygen and water - is used as an effective laundry whitener, general purpose cleaner...and to make Christmas tree snowflakes! (Originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Downhome)

Deep, wide mouthed jar or plastic container
3 white pipe cleaners
String or thread
Boiling water
Borax (use the product called 20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster - the Boraxo brand will NOT work)
Blue food colouring (optional)

Directions: Twist the 3 pipe cleaners together in the centre to make a flat 6-sided, spiky snowflake "frame." Make sure this figure fits inside the wide-mouthed jar or container. Wrap the string or thread around the pipe cleaners to look like a snowflake shape. Trim the excess string. Tie a few inches of string to the end of one of the pipe cleaners. Tie the other end of the string to the pencil, so that the snowflake will hang from a pencil and dangle inside the jar. Take the snowflake out of the jar. Pour boiling water into the jar (have an adult do this part). Add about 3 tablespoons of 20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster per cup of hot water. Keep adding the borax at the bottom of the jar. Optional: Add a few drops of blue food colouring for a bluish snowflake. Hang the snowflake in the jar overnight. In the morning, your snowflake will be covered with beautiful crystals. As the supersaturated solution cools, the borax comes out of the solution (less of the borax can dissolve in cool water) and forms crystals on the pipe cleaners and string.

#8 Punched Tin Candle Holder
This craft requires a staple of the Newfoundland and Labrador diet: Vienna sausages - or more specifically, the tin they come in. (Originally appeared in the December 2009 issue)

Vienna sausage tin, emptied and cleaned, label removed
Paper and pencil
Finishing nail
Spray paint
Tea light

Directions: Measure the height of the can and mark the top and bottom on a piece of paper. Draw a simple holiday scene (tree, star, holly leaves etc.) that fits within the height of the can. Tape the paper in place on the can. Carefully use a finishing nail and a hammer to punch holes that trace the stencil outline. You can leave the tin bare, but if you want to cover any marks on it (e.g. factory codes, label glue marks), spray paint the entire outside. Place a tea light candle (real or battery-operated) inside, and enjoy the festive glow.