Eco-friendly holiday decorations you can make yourself
Wreaths and garlands may be the most classic natural decor of the holiday season, but if you want to try something new this year, here are six fun DIY ideas that completely ditch plastic and other processed materials. They’re easy to make, and when the festivities are over, many of their ingredients can be recycled or composted.
1. Leftover Christmas tree wrapping paper
This is a nice alternative to a store-bought ornamental tree for use in a buffet or office setting. Start with a 12 x 12 inch piece of green scrapbook paper. Roll the paper into a cone and secure the seam with a line of water-soluble glue. Trim the bottom so the cone stands on its own. Next, using scraps of wrapping paper, cut strips about 2 inches wide and about 10 inches long. You will need approximately 10 to 12 pieces, depending on how wide your cuttings are. If you have narrower scraps, you will make narrower slices and therefore need more.
Using scissors, cut strips at the bottom repeatedly, creating a sort of paper grass skirt. Roll each strip over a pencil or use a scissor blade to carefully curve the cut strips upward. Starting at the bottom, tape each strip around the cone, then layer them up so that each row overlaps the last by about a half inch. Continue tying the strips, cutting the length of each as needed, until you reach the top of the tree. When finished, you should have a colorful tree with curly “branches.”
2. Outdoor winter seasonal arrangement
While it is difficult to keep conifer branches from drying out indoors, it is easier to create a long-lasting arrangement outdoors. The trick is to combine different types of materials. Start with a bowl or jar of moist sand. Insert a few long bare branches into a circle. Surround those branches with flat, 12-inch cedar or spruce branches so they hang over the container. On top of those branches, place short sprigs of holly around the entire edge. Next, fill in the gaps with cuttings of blue spruce or juniper branches for color. To add architectural contrast, you can nest in large pine cones or unusual rocks. A burlap bow tied on a wooden skewer adds a center feature.
3. Holiday centerpiece
To illuminate your dinner guests and create a cozy atmosphere, try this elegant centerpiece. Start with two wide, low, round glass bowls or vases. I use 9-inch and 6-inch glass food storage containers. Place tufts of moss at the bottom of the larger container before inserting the smaller container. Between the gap between the two vessels, they slip in moss, conifer branches, pine cones, cranberries and nuts. This creates a small vertical display of seasonal objects found. Fill the inner bowl with about three inches of water and add one to three floating soy wax candles.
4. Modern candlestick tray
First, this is not an actual candlestick and is not intended to replace one. But if you want to celebrate the Holiday of Lights with a homemade project, these are easy crafts to do with kids.
Start with a white rectangular platter or wooden frame purchased from a home or crafts store. Place nine votive candle holders or candy glasses and add crushed glass inside. Insert a taper into each holder so the candle is securely upright. For a shamash, or auxiliary candle, add extra ground glass and place it higher than the others. Place the holders in a row on the tray with the shamash candle in the middle. Fill the tray with light blue jelly beans or pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle in dried blueberries for contrast. Finish by cutting the stems of the baby’s breath flowers and placing them randomly around the tray.
5. Snowflakes from sheet music
The mood is always cheerier with music around the holidays, even if it’s only on paper. Start with a few sheets of green, red, and white cardstock or construction paper. Search public domain sites like IMSLP for your favorite holiday sheet music. When you have selected your favorite tune, place a sheet of card stock in the printer and print out the song. Flip the paper over and print the same or another song on the back. (The double-sided effect adds interest but is not strictly necessary.)
Find your favorite snowflake template and print it too. Snowflakes with a solid center work best. Cut out the template before tracing or use as a cutting guide on printed music card stock. Next, poke holes in each snowflake and thread through hemp, jute, or cotton twine. You can hang the finished product from a chandelier, fireplace mantle or Christmas tree.
6. Holiday card curtain
When holiday cards arrive in the mail, it’s always fun to show them off. For a new approach, try making a paper curtain. First, arrange your cards on a flat surface the way you want to display them. Then, using a hole punch, create holes in the top and bottom centers of each one. For a double-sided effect, take a pair of similarly sized cards and hang them back to back, lining them up in the top and bottom slots. Pass through five-inch lengths of wool twine or hemp ribbon and tie a knot so that the bottom of one card is attached to the top of the next card. Thick yarn works best.
Once you have tied strings of six or seven cards together, secure the top of each strand to a sturdy branch that will act as a curtain rod. It can range from one and a half to two feet long, depending on how many cardstock strands you want to hang it from. After all the card strings are tied, hang the branch horizontally on adhesive hooks over a wide hallway or doorway, or just on a blank wall. As more cards arrive, you can add them to the curtain strings. To keep the cards from jostling too much, tie a heavy bead or hex nut to the bottom of each string. Enjoy reminders for friends and family.
Karen Haag is the author of Leave Your Problems Behind: How to De-Stress and Cultivate Happiness Through Plants. Connect with her on Threads karenhugg.