Monday, 14 December 2009

Crafting Christmas decorations

by Francesca

I bought our first artificial Christmas tree five years ago. It wasn’t an impromptu purchase: I’d already decided on it 11 months before, when, as had happened every year, our Christmas tree once again died before I could transplant it. I’d always bought trees with a root ball, planning to transplant them after the holidays, but I only succeeded once, and even that lone survivor died inexplicably several months later, during the summer. And in my part of the world, a dead Christmas tree creates waste: it produces minimal firewood, and you can’t compost it very easily unless you own a proper shredder.

At first, my husband objected to the idea of an artificial tree, saying he’d miss the natural feel and scent of a real tree. And although, living at the edge of the woods with three kids coming in and out of the house all day, I feel like I’m spending most days trying to keep nature out of our house, I could see his point: the Christmas season is also about celebrating the dormant and yet living nature around us. But the idea of not killing a tree every year did appeal to him, and eventually we struck a balance between nature and, well . . . the unnatural (aka a plastic tree).

Nowadays, when we decorate our house for Christmas, in addition to our artificial tree, we also cut a few boughs from the local umbrella pines and drape the hearth with them, or hang them like wreaths on our doors. It never ceases to amaze me how long these branches stay fresh: they continue to emanate their fresh, green, aromatic scents for weeks. And whereas our old Christmas trees, which had roots and soil, would hardly survive until the end of the holiday season, despite regular watering, these fresh-cut boughs never seem to die.

In the past month I've been struck by the simple, creative ways that other bloggers have found to use nature to decorate their houses for Christmas. I've asked a few of them to share their projects in this space (all photos by the authors).

Trinsch, a Danish mom of three who lives in Israel, used a red wool sweater that was mistakenly put into a hot wash and got felted, to make felt hearts, and decorated a striking branch for the holiday season. I'm fascinated by the contrast between the red felt hearts and the stark, bare branch.

I love how Nicola salvaged some wood from fallen eucalyptus trees at her daughter’s school in Northern California and used it for crafting. Among other projects, she used the eucalyptus bark and a repurposed glass jar to make this amazing Bark Vase.

In cold and snowy Poland, Isabelle, who is French, made a wonderful garland by stringing mandarin peels together with pine cones she'd bought at a local market. It’s a garland that grows, because her family of four adds the peel of each mandarin they eat to the garland - until they use up the last of their pine cones!

Gardenmama in rural northeastern US used beeswax to craft sculpted figures and candles. She also made these beautiful beeswax ornaments, and in her tutorial she describes the intense incense-like aromas they gave off during the making.

I was very inspired by these handmade ways to decorate our houses for the upcoming holiday season, which turn simple, natural and repurposed materials into beautiful, artistic decorations.


This Thrifted Life said...

So many beautiful inspirations! That branch with the felted hearts is so lovely and simple--I just might have to recreate that idea in my home.

Chiot's Run said...

We didn't do a tree this year. I do love to do real pine garland and lights outside. I always add pinecones and other natural materials, I'm not one for flashy Christmas decor. (here's what it looks like if anyone's interested:

I'm planning on make cranberry & popcorn garland and birdseed ornaments to hang on few trees outside. I prefer to keep the decor outside if I can, it's easier to clean up and everything I use can go into the compost bin.

I did make dried orange slices one year as well, I love that orange peel & pinecone garland, it's quite lovely.

A Day That is Dessert said...

These are inspiring ideas!

nicola@which name? said...

i am so flattered to have one of my projects included, thank you, and i was excited to see what others have done! i enjoy the blogs of all those you included. such creative inspirations!

Anonymous said...

Our choice many years ago was to make our own artificial tree. Our tree was made, 32 years ago, out of 1"x2" pine, and, what I like, it is "fake" without pretending to be real. One very nice thing about it, and one of the reasons we made it in the first place, is that we can, with care, have real candles on the tree, which we would never dare with a real one. I bring in greenery to place about the house as well.

gardenmama said...

Such a beautiful post, so much inspiration to be found! Thank you for including me with such a creative group of natural crafters!

Joyce said...

A very sweet post. I love how the indoors is brought in for the celebrations. xo