How to Make a Keepsake Ornament

If you’re like me, you hold onto Christmas cards from prior years, either because they have meaning to you, or because they are too cute or beautiful to toss into the recycling. Or both. Below is an excerpt from my craft book, 12 Days of Christmas Projects, showing you how to recycle those Christmas cards into keepsake ornaments.

In this example, I used a card that had a cutout along the top edge, so added glitter to the background behind the bears’ heads.


  • old Christmas cards   
  • white cardstock
  • glue stick
  • safety scissors
  • pencil
  • ribbon or yarn
  • glitter
  • hole punch
  • something round to trace around (about 3” to 3.5” across, such as a large glass or coffee mug),  or a large circle punch (usually cuts a circle about 3.5” across)
  • gold or silver glitter pen
  • Mod Podge or similar water-based sealer/decoupage glue (optional)


  1. Gather all your supplies. Cover the area where you are planning to work.  
  2. Look through your Christmas cards for the ones you would like to use. Place the glass upside down on the card(s) and position it until you find the area you think would look best on your ornament. Trace around the glass with a pencil. Repeat this on each card for as many ornaments as you plan to make.

Note:   If you would like to make a keepsake ornament for a particular card, also place the glass over the area containing the signature and/or sentiment written by the sender and cut that out as well. This will be used on the back of the ornament.

3. Cut out the circles you have traced. If you have a circle lever punch, use that instead. The card illustrations or photos will be the front of your ornament. The signature or sentiment, if you choose to use one, will be the back.

4. Next, trace the same size circles onto the white cardstock, twelve circles for each ornament you plan to make. Cut or punch them out. These will make up the interior layers of your ornament(s).

5. Take the circle made from the Christmas card, locate the top of the illustration and then take your small punch and punch a hole about a ½” from the edge. Line up your ten layer circles one at a time beneath the top circle and line up the punch in the existing hole, punching a hole in the layer beneath. Repeat with all layers. This is done to ensure the holes are all in the same place. Make sure you do the same to any signature/sentiment circle, if you are using one.

6. With your glue stick, place an even coat of glue on a circle, making certain not to miss the edges. Line up the next blank layer and press firmly into place. Repeat until you have all layers glued together. Place an even coat of glue on the last layer and line up your card/ornament front and press firmly into place. If you are making a keepsake ornament, place an even coat of glue on the back side of your ornament and line up the signature sentiment facing out and press firmly into place.

7. Once your ornaments have dried, sprinkle glitter onto a paper plate, a piece of foil, or the baking parchment. Run the glue stick around the outer edge of your ornament and roll the ornaments edgewise through the glitter. Lay the ornament(s) aside in a clean space to dry once again.

8. On the blank backs of the ornament(s), write a fun holiday sentiment or personalize with the name of someone you plan to give the ornament to as a gift for their own tree.

9. Cut your yarn or ribbon into lengths about twelve 15” long.  Cut as many lengths as you need so you have one for each ornament you’ve made. Slip the ribbon or yarn through the hole at the top of each ornament and tie a knot about 3” above the ornament, then tie the remaining length into a bow.

10. Your ornaments are ready to hang!

12 Days of Christmas Projects (How to Make Twelve Simple & Delightful Holiday Projects to Inspire, Enjoy & Give) is available at the following on-line retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, (as well as others) and can be ordered from your local bookstore.

How-to: Gingerbread Man Paper Mache Ornament

This is an excerpt from my how-to Christmas craft book, 12 Days of Christmas Projects, which is available now at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other on-line retailers, as well as for order from your local bookstore (support local!).

Gingerbread houses and gingerbread men are iconic when it comes to the holidays. This gingerbread man is made from paper mache and is meant to be hung on your tree as a jolly reminder of the season. I have made mine the thickness of my particular cookie cutter, making for a hefty (although fairly lightweight) decoration. You may make yours as thin as an actual cookie, or anywhere in between. Just remember that the thicker the paper mache, the longer the dry time. I also used strips of fabric for his scarf and as a hanger to add to the primitive style.

This project doesn’t have to be limited to a gingerbread man, as you can use other cookie cutters such as stars and Christmas trees, or whatever you have that will work. If you don’t have cookie cutters, you can roll or press the paper mache flat and cut out the paper mache around paper stencils.


  • plastic sandwich bag
  • gingerbread man cookie cutter
  • instant paper mache
  • baking parchment
  • Mod Podge or similar sealer/decoupage glue and sponge applicator
  • strips of fabric, ribbon or yarn
  • safety scissors
  • plastic drinking straw
  • sand paper or sanding sponge
  • brown, black and white acrylic paint and paint brush
  • white school glue and glitter (optional)
  • adhesive pearls available at your craft store (optional)


  1. Gather your ingredients and prepare your work space.
  2. Prepare a small quantity of instant paper mache according to manufacturer’s directions. (Hint: I prepare mine in a plastic sandwich bag for small jobs, where it can be mixed and also stored for a time.)
  3. Place your cookie cutter onto a square of baking parchment cut to exceed the size of the cutter by about 2” on all sides.
  4. Using a little at a time, press the paper mache into the cookie cutter, making sure it is pushed to the edges. Add more bit by bit until you have filled the cookie cutter (or to whatever level you wish).
  5. Gently push one limb at a time and the head as you carefully remove the cookie cutter. This make take several times around from limb to limb to head to limb to limb while you work the cutter up, since you don’t want to yank it all at once as your paper mache will become misshapen or rip apart. However, if this does happen, you only have to repeat step 4 using the same paper mache.
  6. Press your plastic straw into the upper center of the head and turn to remove a section of paper mache. This hole will later house the ribbon for hanging.
  7. Press two tiny balls of paper mache onto the body for “buttons” or, in the alternative, apply adhesive pearls as buttons once you have painted your ornament. 
  8. Set the gingerbread man aside to dry on the piece of baking parchment. Depending on the thickness, this may take up to several days, so plan accordingly.
  9. Once dry, lightly sand your creations to remove rough edges and then paint with brown paint. Paint the buttons black (or whatever color you choose), or apply the adhesive pearls. Although the pearls have an adhesive back, I would recommend an additional dab of glue to make sure they stick to the surface of your gingerbread man.
  10. When the paint has dried, you may give the color more depth by “antiquing” it. Mix a few drops of black paint with water or floating medium and coat the ornament. Wipe down while still wet with a paper towel to remove any excess. The darker color will fill cracks and indentations to give it a more “antiqued” look. Let dry.
  11. To create a “piped” look, outline the gingerbread man by squeezing white school glue from the bottle to follow the shape of your ornament. Sprinkle glitter on the glue while wet. Let everything dry.
  12. Coat the ornament(s) with Mod Podge or other acrylic sealer. Allow to dry again.
  13. Cut an 8” strip of fabric (or ribbon or yarn) and tie around the neck of your gingerbread man like a scarf.  Cut a 12” strip of fabric (or ribbon or yarn) and slip through the hole in the head and tie for hanging.

12 Days of Christmas Projects (How to Make Twelve Simple & Delightful Holiday Projects to Inspire, Enjoy & Give) is available at the following on-line retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, (as well as others) and can be ordered from your local bookstore.

Wreath-Making 101, Part 2 – It All Comes Together

It seems we’ve taken a while to get here, but I believe we’re ready to begin.  Remember, there really is no exact or right way to do this.  Every wreath I’ve made looks nothing like any of the others. They are all different. It is the nature of nature. The main thing is this: secure your greens and flowers and what-have-you, because it gets windy out there in the winter air. Otherwise, what you think is beautiful is beautiful.

  1. Cover your work surface (table, floor, counter) with newspaper to protect it. If your wreath or greens happen to be damp, put a plastic garbage bag beneath the paper to keep wooden surfaces dry.
  2. Place your wreath on top of the newspaper and study it. Wreaths might have spots that are not as thickly packed with evergreen branches.  Don’t worry, they will be when you’re finished. It helps to be aware of them when you lay out your extra greens in a dry run.
  3. Cut your greens to the size needed. With arborvitae, I cut the fronds back to the main branch. I trim boxwood branches to a length of about ten inches. I cut the smaller branches of long-needle pine back to the main branch. Holly I usually cut to a length of roughly seven inches. (I also like to add leafless twigs that are thin, whippy and pliant. I dry brush these with white paint after I’ve put them on the wreath.)
  4. Take your greens, starting with those with the most volume such as the arborvitae, cedar, long-needle pine, and tuck the cut ends into place around the wreath. When you do this, lift a bit of the evergreen from the wreath and slide the greens beneath. This way they look like an original part of the wreath itself and not an afterthought. Move them around until you like the way they look. Some may stick above the circle of the wreath, some may poke down a bit toward the open center, but most will follow the circle of the wreath itself.  You will be removing these one by one as you fasten them permanently to the wreath structure.

If you like what you see, it’s time to fasten these extra greens in place. This can be done one of two ways.

  • Florist wire:  Cut a length of florist wire (either with your pruner or sturdy scissors) about nine inches long.  Fold it in two and place the first of the greens you have removed for placement into the crook of the fold with approximately two inches of the branch at one side of the crook and the remainder of the greens at the other. Twist the florist wire tightly around the branch, like a twisty-tie on a loaf of bread. Work the wire ends down between the bound branches of the wreath as you slide your greens back into place. Twist the ends of the wire together tightly behind the wreath, tucking the pointy ends back into the greens and safely away. Continue this process until all your larger greens are secured in place. Or:
  • Hot-Glue: If your wreath is going to be hanging in a fairly sheltered area, use your hot-glue gun to secure the larger greens in place. Follow the directions for your hot-glue gun if you are not familiar with its use. Once your glue is heated, liberally coat the end of the branch of greens you wish to secure, lift the wreath evergreen out of the way, and shove the greens into place. Make sure you do this quickly, before the glue cools.  Continue until all larger greens are in place. Be careful. That glue is exactly what the name implies: HOT. (I’ve learned that from experience, believe me.)

Pine cones:

I like to stick to the rule of three, but really, you can load as many pine cones as you wish onto your wreath. When I do them, I usually place three pine cones evenly spaced apart around the wreath, or six pines cones placed two together and evenly spaced around the wreath, or I group three together in one place. This is my preference and does not need to be yours, by any means.

To attach the pine cones, you can wrap the ends in florist wire and attach them to the wreath in a similar fashion as you did the greens, or you can use hot glue. Pine cones are not heavy, so hot glue works very well on them. Even if I use florist wire, I sometimes use a dab of hot glue to get them to lay closer to the wreath. Make sure you’ve tucked them in a bit among the greens rather than totally on top of them.

Seed heads and dried flowers:

Finish up with your dried flowers, seed heads, grasses and seeded weed.  Decide where you want them to go and trim the stems for the best fit into the greens. Secure with hot-glue.  I like to put these small embellishments close to the pine cones, but the choice is yours for your wreath.  If you’ve added the narrow, pliant twigs, this is the time to lightly brush white acrylic craft paint over them. You can dab some paint onto the edges of the pine cone seeds, as well. I do not use florist wire on the seed heads and dried flowers, as the stems are brittle and to wrap the wire close enough to secure the stems to the wreath often breaks them.

I like to make my wreaths with natural elements, but I often add red berry picks purchased at a nearby craft store. You can also put in jingle bells or ornaments. Items such as bells or glass balls are best attached by string to the sturdiest branches of your wreath.

For hanging purposes, decide what side is the top of your wreath and secure a piece of ribbon, twine or florist wire to the back of the wreath at that point. This can be wrapped around the wire frame, or, if inaccessible due to the tightness of the evergreen branches, your hanging material can be slipped around a sturdy evergreen branch at the back of the wreath and secured.

Last, but not least of course, add a bow. I don’t always.  I let the wreath decide whether it needs that final adornment or if it’s fully dressed without. Just look at your wreath with an open mind and it will let you know.

And that’s it. Thanks for stopping by. I hope your wreath-making goes wonderfully well this holiday season. Send a message to let me know.

Wreath Making 101, Part 1 and Wreath Making 101, Part 2 are the copyrighted product of Robin Maderich and are part of an upcoming book on Christmas crafts.

Wreath-Making 101, Part 1 – Gathering Your Material

It may seem a bit early for this type of blog, but honestly, Christmas will be upon us sooner than we can blink. In addition, you will need to start gathering some of the materials for your wreath now with the onset of Autumn.

I don’t purport to be an expert at wreath-making, but I have been making them (and selling them) for more than fifteen years. In the beginning, I drove about forty-five minutes to an auction where I bid on greens which, if won, I would then load onto the tarp-covered back seat of my car, drive them home and unload them outside my studio (as they are best kept in the cold).  To make the wreaths, I cut each bough to size, laid them out on the metal ring, clamped them all into place, after which I decorated each one with further greens, dried flowers, pine cones, etc.

Now, however, I start with plain wreaths purchased at various local nurseries, saving time and back-breaking work. I would suggest you do the same, although you certainly don’t have to—still, that is where I am beginning my instructions: with the “blank” pre-made wreath.

List of Things to Gather before Starting (material, tools)

  1. Wreath, of course;
  2. Hand pruner (or, in lieu thereof, an old steak knife you don’t plan to use at your dinner table or for any other reasonable task again);
  3. Green florist wire and (or) hot-glue gun and glue sticks;
  4. Dried flowers (I often use Queen Anne’s Lace, cut while fresh and hung upside down to dry), seed heads, dried grasses, and various weeds gathered after Autumn sets in;
  5. Pine cones;
  6. Greens, such as arborvitae, holly, cedar, boxwood, long-needle pine;
  7. White and gold acrylic craft paint and a cheap paint brush;
  8. Ribbon and other decoration;
  9. Newspaper, if you plan to work indoors.

Always make sure the wreath you buy is fresh, ensuring that it will last through the season and beyond. Quite often, the wreath I make on Thanksgiving weekend still hangs on my door in March. To check for freshness, pinch the needles between thumb and forefinger. They should feel slightly moist if not sticky and leave a residue of scent on your skin. Also, the color should be bright.  If the needles feel dry, fall off at the touch, have started to pale or, worse, are brown, move on until you find the right wreath for you. Before you begin shopping for your wreath, make sure you have already prepared your embellishments.

Queen Anne’s Lace has a creamy hue when dried

Queen Anne’s Lace:  This wildflower grows just about everywhere here in the Northeast, blooming in late June/early July and can still be found blooming into the Fall.  Cut the flowers several weeks after blooming, with about a seven-inch stem attached. Wrap a rubber band around the stems and hang the bunches upside down in a dry place until wreath-making time.  The white blossoms turn a lovely color.

Black-eyed Susan seed heads with their painted crown of white have a dramatic appeal.

Seed heads/weeds: The gathering of these items takes place in Autumn, when everything has naturally died back. I have an abundance of Rudbeckia (common name: Black- or Brown-Eyed Susan) growing in my yard. The goldfinches and other birds love the seeds, so I leave about two-thirds of the seed heads in place for them. I also shake the cut heads out before bringing inside, to permit lose seeds to fall back to the earth where the plants have been growing. Leave about seven inches of stem attached to the heads.

Once inside, I place them all in a tall container (usually a glass) in preparation of painting them.  The same goes for various other seeded specimens I find. If they stay together well and are attractive, I’ll cut some for my wreaths and set them aside for painting as well.  I do not paint the seeded grasses. The delicate fronds would be weighted down.

You don’t need to saturate the seed head with paint. Just dab it on so that it looks like snow.
While walking outside in search of plant matter, I caught sight of these lovely, burst seed pods. A touch of gold paint gave them this handsome look.

If you are giving the wreath to someone, make sure you shake loose seeds from every plant you gather.  You wouldn’t want something you find perfectly acceptable on your property deciding to set up residence with your neighbor.

If you have access to arborvitae, you can clip from the underside at the bottom of the tree/bush to avoid defacing the shape of the plant. Cut back to the second joint. You will trim each clipping for your wreath. If you don’t have access, you can usually purchase at your local nursery.
I purchased these greens at a craft fair – boxwood, winterberry, holly, long-needle pine.
You may be lucky enough to find pine cones in your yard, a gracious neighbor’s yard, or a park. If not, you can purchase pine cones at a nursery or your local craft store. If from a craft store, be forewarned, they are often highly scented with fragrance.

Next: It All Comes Together. Check back on Thursday for Wreath-Making 101, Part 2!

Wreath Making 101, Part 1 and Wreath Making 101, Part 2 are the copyrighted product of Robin Maderich and will be part of an upcoming book on Christmas crafts.