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)
- Gather your ingredients and prepare your work space.
- 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.)
- Place your cookie cutter onto a square of baking parchment cut to exceed the size of the cutter by about 2” on all sides.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Coat the ornament(s) with Mod Podge or other acrylic sealer. Allow to dry again.
- 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.