When Crafts and Christmas Collide

When I was twelve years old, my mother announced that we would no longer have a Christmas tree. The family was suffering from financial troubles and Mom and Dad were in the dumps. My reaction – “Give up the family Christmas tree?! Oh, hell to the no.” I told my parents if they bought one, I’d take over decorating and un-decorating it. They agreed to this deal, and a Christmas Tree Commander-in-Chief was born – one who leads the decorating charge to this day. To supplement the dwindling supply of family decorations, I began making ornaments as a teen. Here are a few of them.

When I began working in television I decided to focus my crafting on needlepoint, which happens to be a pricey hobby.

. But as my TV career slowed down, so did my needlepointing. (See comment about “pricey hobby.”) Eventually I began writing mysteries and revived a more economical craft: decoupage. Every year since Plantation Shudders debuted in 2015, I’ve made ornaments featuring my book covers. I even made an ornament celebrating a very special blog I’m lucky to belong to. 😉

Eventually my life took a wee bit of a financial upturn and I resumed needlepointing. As with the theme of my decoupage, I gravitated towards ornaments inspired by Louisiana and my series.

My homemade ornaments have now overtaken our poor tree, elbowing other sentimental treasures off the branches. And I’ve got plenty of those, believe me. I’m such an ornament hoarder that my husband once made me pare down my collection because I had a dozen boxes taking up an entire shelving unit in the garage. I got it down to six boxes… but I couldn’t stop collecting so I’m back up to twelve. (Shhh!! Don’t tell him!)

This year, when it comes to trimming the tree, I have to sit on my hands because our daughter insists she wants to help do it as soon as she gets home from college. (Hence the ornaments displayed on our couch and not the tree in the post photos.) So I leave you with this video of our tree from last year. And let me just say that much as I love ornaments, nothing beats a rotating Christmas tree stand as the ultimate holiday accoutrement.

Maybe I’ll decoupage it.

UPDATE: I forgot to include the video and have just discovered I can’t upload it here. But you should be able to see it if you click here.

Readers, do you collect holiday ornaments? Mark Baker, this one’s for you!

45 thoughts on “When Crafts and Christmas Collide

  1. Good morning, Ellen,

    Wow, those are gorgeous!!! If you ever want to change careers, Etsy is calling you to sell handmade ornaments.
    My husband’s family’s women are each decided on a ‘thing’ they’d collect for Christmas and over the years, those abounded. My MIL collected mechanical windup toys, we collected Santa’s. At one time, I had over 40 under my tree (so there’s always something to look at). Moving & downsizing have led to fewer but each is still loved.
    (FYI – just read the ARC of your latest – Long Island Iced Tina) & you did it again! Another great book. Congratulations!)

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Hi, I’m Liz, and I collect Christmas ornaments.

    Or at least I used to. Every year, I’d go buy an “ornament for the year.” I have a collection of Thomas Kinkade, winter animals, The 12 Days of Christmas – and that’s in addition to the “First Christmas” ornaments from The Hubby and me (our first Christmas married), each kid has a couple Baby’s First Christmas (because of gifts), the one we bought from our trip to Disney in 2008, I bought one from our West Virginia train trip last September, ones my mother bought us (a golfer Santa for The Hubby and computer Santa for me). Oh, and there’s the ones I inherited from my mother, the ones the kids made (some not worth keeping, some are)…

    I think it was last year, The Hubby brought out all the Christmas decorations and said, “You know, we don’t have to use ALL of these.”

    But I still have them.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. LOL, Liz, you sound exactly like me! I’m laughing the laugh of total recognition. I’d love to see a pic of your tree sometime. You should post it on FB!

      BTW, my husband has one box of ornaments from his family. I use a couple. That’s it. But he doesn’t ever notice, so it doesn’t matter!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If you check out my Instagram feed, I posted pictures of both trees.

        The only ornaments my husband insists we use are the cheesy colored balls – you know, the kind EVERYBODY had in the 70s. 🙂


  3. Ellen,
    I love your themed ornaments!!! It so cool to see how different people decorate their trees. I had a tree with mostly hand made ornaments that either I cross stitched, or crocheted, or that friends made for me. But then grand kids started coming along. I started putting a new picture ornament for each one of them from the time they were born. Every year they look for “their” ornament. When they go out on their own I will give them their ornaments for their own trees.
    Wishing you a wonderful Christmas even though this year will be very different for all of us.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh, that’s so sweet! You’ll see the single counted cross stitch ornament I made when i was a teen. I gave up. And I used to take my daughter’s school pictures and put them in little frames for the tree! We have a dozen of them and it’s SO much fun to watch her grow through the years of preschool-12th. It sounds like you have a wonderful treasure chest for your grandkids. Happy holidays!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your ornaments are amazing! I’m not crafty at all, so I’m always impressed when someone has talent in that area. I don’t collect ornaments, but I do have a couple of old felt ones made by some kids (now teenagers) in the family that are very special to me.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Christmas decorating was always great fun when our kids were little. They were on year-round school so they had off from Thanksgiving until the first week of January. Lots of baking, decorating, and crafts … and nobody was ever sick! We were poor little church mice when we were married (and hubs worked in a print shop) so we always had fancy paper and made a ton of cute paper ornaments. Our first kid was born in Oct so everyone bought her xmas ornaments and thus began the chaos. Grandma always got each of them the Hallmark however old they were ornaments, and I began to do theme years (what instrument they played, favorite books, Simpsons characters, whatever I could find three of), and the only souvenirs we ever bought on vacations were ornaments. (Except the one year 8yo son bought a sword in Wash DC and thought we’d be able to fly home with it. Thank goodness for a generous return policy at the Smithsonian!) I was very careful to write their name and the date on them, and each kid had their own box to store everything. It wasn’t long before hubs and I had no room for our stuff! Now that they all have lives and homes of their own, I’ve relinquished all of their ornaments to their care and handling. (I took an extra suitcase to my daughter in Oregon with hers!) But hubs and I never decorate unless one of them comes home for xmas. We’ve come to relish not having all that effort and expense … we’d rather spend our time baking and watching holiday movies!

    Ellen, your needlework is lovely!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Becky, wow. It sounds like you had the most magical holidays with your family. I always collect ornaments on our trips, even now when I’m not supposed to be adding to the collection. They’re just such easy, memorable gifts. And you were so organized!!! Your kids will be eternally grateful to you. My kid will be like, what in God’s name IS all this and what am I supposed to do with it????

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kids will be eternally grateful?? Well, my Unitarian son and daughter both married into the Jewish faith and returned all the ornaments I gave them…until this year. Both of the Irish twins of a Jewish mama are now Bar Mitzvah and decided they wanted a tree. Now the old ornaments they all gave me are back in their house along with Nutcrackers they love. Don’t tell them that I bought the teens a beautiful picture book to give them on Christmas Eve: The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers.
        PS I would love to have one of your needlepoint patterns, Ellen. Beautiful to make.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Beth, your kids will get a big kick out of that! Just so you know, I don’t design my own canvases. No talent there at all. I buy them. Hence the “pricey hobby” caveat. 😉


  6. Wow, those are amazing, Ellen! So impressed!

    My favorite ornaments are the ones I made as a kid, though they are WAY lower tech than yours–a Santa made from a wooden ice cream spoon, red tissue paper, and cotton balls was the height of my achievements.

    And I so love that Chicks ornament!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Leslie, one of my very decorations that I made is 5 soda cans I stomped on to flatten them. Painted them blue and sparkly. The opening is the mouth, the tab inside painted red for the tongue, and then hung in a row on a wide ribbon. They look like little choir members, all with different faces. Very cute. And once we did a family project to make skiers out of pinecones with craft sticks as skis. Hats, scarves, what-have-you. Every year we had to stand them up every 8 seconds. And don’t get me started about all the things that ended up in the creche! Always very funny.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Those ornaments look great. Enjoy decorating the tree with your daughter. I’m hoping to finish mine tonight. (It’s been a work in progress for a while now.)

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Such crafty readers and Chicks! Ellen, your ornaments are adorable. I always love your creations, and I’m both impressed and jealous. When I was 10 I somehow won the Arts & Crafts Award at summer camp (probably b/c everyone else was playing tennis). I don’t know what happened to that fleeting early “talent,” but I greatly appreciate other people’s. All of my Christmas ornaments are nostalgic. Lots of retro 50s/60s/70s. I even have strange clay balls from my great-grandmother, which stay in a crystal dish. Plus all the kids’ 80s/90s stuff, and mine starting from pre-school. (Like I said, talent, lol.). My earliest is a felt bird with sequins sitting in a Brillo pad nest. I just threw out the candy cane from the 60s that was the stick part of a felt hobby horse. (Kept the Godfather head. Not sticky at all, ha.) And yes, I have Bubble Lights. Where can I get tinsel? My job was to hold the cardboard every year during de-trimming while my mother saved each and every freaking strand. Such a joy.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Lisa, I love that bird!! Pix please. Now I want to make one of those, too.

      And retro ornaments are the coolest. I have some of those and they’re the most special to me. And we also added tinsel to our trees. I tried it once a few years ago – maybe got it at the dollar store?- and wow, what a mess to clean up. No wonder my mother didn’t want to decorate a tree anymore!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. As a former needlepointer, I absolute adore your ornaments. You are so clever and must use some kind of magnifying glass to do them. Can’t wait for the new book Long Island Iced Tina to come out. Happy Holidays Ellen!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Ellen, your tree is gorgeous — I love that it rotates! I especially love that feathery Chick ornament! We have special ornaments loved ones made for us and that we collected on our travels.
    I think it’s so sweet that your daughter doesn’t want you to decorate the tree without her! Happy holidays, El!

    Liked by 4 people

  11. I have very few homemade ornaments. Maybe my mother has then, who knows. I only have life 5 that were crochet lace type ornaments.
    But I do have collections, that we decide which year what to put up.
    Whitehouse (2000 to last year)
    12 days of Christmas
    ‘Twas the night before Christmas.

    The only thing the same from year to year is our faux candy garland and candy canes.
    Or if we decide no tree ( this year is one) we put up the ceramic tree and parts or all of our village.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Those ornaments are amazing, El! I’ve always admired crafty people.

    We have our tree up (without that neat rotating stand), and it’s decorated with a mish-mash of ornaments. A lot have been given to us and are sentimental. Others are definitely the kids’ handiwork, including this garland of paper hearts.

    Happy holidays, everyone!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. GORGEOUS tree, Ellen, and I love the crafty ornaments!

    The ornaments I collect are the kid-created variety. There’s a lot of glitter, construction paper and uncooked macaroni on our tree, and I love it. It’s like a giant kinder art project!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Put up another tree with other ornaments. But seriously you do very well with your needlepoint. You could sell those at the Christmas Store near the French Market in NOLA. We love NOLA. In the late 70s we went every Memorial Day. Started out as one couple (us) and expanded to six couples by the fifth year. Then we stopped. We started going again for Thanksgiving in 2012 meeting close friends from San Antonio, Texas. Then we switched to October as Thanksgiving got a bit hectic. Can’t go this year. Sad. It is only a 7 hour drive from here and about 8 from SA, so close for us to meet, eat and have fun…

    Liked by 2 people

  15. You need to set up a booth at the next Malice and do these on commission! My Aunt Kathryn (she was known as the Maiden Aunt, in the terminology of those days) needlepointed a set of cushions in a floral design for her dining room chairs. They were gorgeous! After her death, the chair were old and rickety, so no one wanted them, but I have no idea what became of the cushions. I hope someone is appreciating them today.


  16. LOL, Kaye! I think people would be less forgiving if they actually had to pay for my handiwork.

    Ooooh, those chairs your grandmother needlepointed sound amazing. I hope they found a good home.


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