Your Christmas decorating will take on a special
significance with these tree trimmings.
Handcrafted Ornaments Nowadays, it seems that
advertisements begin proclaiming holiday bargains on gifts
and decorations before we have a chance to savor the last
bite of Thanksgiving turkey. However, many folks are
finding that simply spending more money doesn't
assure a merrier Christmas . . . and, in an effort to
regain the simplicity that once characterized this special
holiday, more and more people are fashioning their
own gifts and ornaments.
If you're seeking ideas for handcrafted trim mings to adorn
your tree or to give as gifts, you're sure to find
inspiration in the work of Virginia Morris, an artist who's
lived in Black Mountain, North Carolina, for more than 20
years. Her distinctly original, delicate creations offer
welcome alternatives to the profusion of commercial
look-alike tree trinkets. And, though the decorations
pictured here are quite intricate, Virginia's basic
techniques are so straightforward that even amateur crafts
people should be able to follow her tips and create
Using such ordinary natural objects as walnuts, acorns,
seedpods, and dried flowers, Virginia creates intricate
ornaments that fairly shout with ingenuity (have you ever
seen a walnut-shell hot rod or baby buggy before?).
Grapevines, dried flowers, grasses, and nuts serve as ideal
trimmings, and with the addition of a scrap of felt or
flannel, some rope, a bit of yarn, and a touch of
all-purpose glue, the natural finds are transfigured into
delicate pieces of artwork. Virginia does advise
purchasing the walnuts, though, to ensure that you'll have
unblemished shells. Jumbosize nuts work best.
Ms. Morris suggests the same basic technique to make each
ornament. To split the shells while keeping the halves
intact, find the widest opening along the "seam" of the nut
and gently insert a knife in the crack. Then pry the walnut
apart and scoop out the innards.
Once the walnut is pried apart and cleaned, you can fashion
the halves into practically any design. To make the hot
rod, cut one walnut section in half to form the seat and
hood of the car. Then cover the seat with glue, line it
with felt, and glue the whole shebang into a half-shell
auto. The hood is attached next, then the red trim is
added. The driver shown here is simply a hemlock cone with
an acorn head (on which Virginia painted a face) and cap.
Twig arms guide the acorn-cap steering wheel, and the head-
and taillights of the vehicle are fashioned from immature
acorns. Virginia made the car's wheels by drilling a 1/8"
hole in each of four acorn caps, then inserting matchstick
axles into the openings. The resulting apparatus was then
glued to the base of the chassis. A plastic windshield and
a crocheted scarf top off the ornament, though—for
custom work—Virginia often adds a personalized
The baby buggy is crafted in a similar manner, with the
same close attention to details. Scraps of red and white
brushed flannel furnish a cozy bed for the swaddled acorn
twins . . . a characteristic handle—fashioned from a
braided strand of rope—is attached to the buggy's
front . . . and the axles and wheels are identical to those
of the hot rod.
Each of the flower basket decorations pictured here is set
in half a walnut shell. A section of polystyrene foam glued
in the bottom of each shell forms a base for inserting the
dried flowers and gluing the nuts in place . . . and a
braided-hemp handle and a ribbon of brightly colored burlap
complete the arrangement. Virginia notes that it's
important to gather the dried materials before they become
brittle and to coat the foraged finds immediately
with a craft spray (the type used to prevent charcoal
drawings from smudging) to keep them from shredding.
The bird's-nest ornament is fashioned from a large acorn
cap. Acorn-and-seedpod fledglings chirp for their dinner
from a bed lined with fine, loose strands of rope . . .
dried flowers and a grapevine sprig grace the side of the
nest . . . and a twisted-hemp handle allows for easy
hanging on the tree.
Perhaps none of the decorations so simply set forth the
spirit of Christmas as Virginia's "peace on earth"
ornament. Ten 1/8" holes drilled along the edges of each
walnut half enable two leather strands to be threaded
through the ornament and tied at the top. Other than the
simple inscription, which was written with a woodburning
tool, the only adornments are a pair of leather leaves and
a couple of dried seedpods.
The caroler piece can serve as a tree ornament, mantle
decoration, or centerpiece. A wooden spool, flanked by two
1-1/2"-diameter circles of scrap wood and by matching felt
cushions, forms the base of the ornament. The carolers are
fashioned out of hemlock cones with acorn heads and caps,
yarn hair, and twig arms that hold leather hymnals (one
caroler has a trumpet in hand as well!). At the feet of the
singers sits a dog—made from an acorn, twigs, and
scraps of hemlock—decked out in a festive yarn
collar. Other touches to the familiar scene include a
matchstick-and-acorn lamp on which a Christmas wreath
hangs, a dried-twig evergreen, and glue-and-tissue-paper
snow covering the ground.
CREATE YOUR OWN
The ornaments pictured here are just a sampling of some of
the creations you can fashion with natural materials.
You'll no doubt come up with many of your own custom-made
designs. Although your first few attempts may not be as
intricate as those shown here, you'll find that even the
simplest handcrafted ornament will bring far more joy to
its recipient than could the gift of any glitter-laden
storebought trinket. And isn't that, after all, what
Christmas is all about?