Christmas can still look good on a budget. Here’s how…
Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year, as the song goes. There is good food, extra time with friends and family, carols, TV specials, and of course decorations. However, Christmas can be an incredibly wasteful time as well.
20% of the waste an average person produces every year is made in the month leading up to Christmas Day. Every year, people throw away thousands of tons of Christmas decorations. Not only is this creating unnecessary waste but it is also a waste of money, as new decorations need to be bought next year.
Is there anything we can do to save money during the Christmas season and reduce the amount of waste we produce? Yes! We can repurpose the things that are already in our homes and DIY our Christmas decorations. Then we can keep them and reuse them for years to come.
Christmas decorations were first used in Germany in the 16th century. At this time Christmas decorations were all handmade and this continued to be the case until the early 20th century. So, not only is making your own Christmas decorations good for your wallet, but it is one of the oldest Christmas traditions.
In this article, we will talk you through the benefits of making your own Christmas decorations, what you will need to make them, and we will give you some decoration inspiration.
Why DIY Christmas Decorations
We know that you’re reading this article because you want to know if making your own Christmas decorations is a good idea and how to do it. Well, let’s answer that first question straight away.
Yes, making your own Christmas decorations is a great idea. It is a fun activity that teaches you new skills, saves you money, and is a fun activity for you to do with your family.
The average American spends $269 on Christmas decorations every year. This is happening for many reasons. It is partly because many people do not keep their decorations for more than a year or two. However, that is not the only reason why Christmas decorations can get so expensive for the average person.
There is a growing pressure throughout society for us all to make our lives look as good and expensive as possible thanks to social media. Therefore many people are spending far beyond their means because they feel like they have to.
Many parents feel like they have to go all out for their families at Christmas time thanks to this pressure.
Making your own Christmas decorations could save the average American more than $200.
Learning New Skills
Wanting to decorate your own home can be scary for many people. How will you make a stocking if you don’t know how to sew? How will you create paper angels if you don’t understand paper crafts? How will you make a stencil Christmas tree if you have no clue how to even make a stencil?
Well, instead of avoiding making decorations because you don’t know how to do it. You should see it as an opportunity to learn new skills that you can bring into other areas of your life later.
If you learn how to sew so you can make a stocking, you will be able to repair broken and damaged clothes. If you learn how to paint stencils, you might discover how calming painting is and discover a new form of self-care.
Learning something new will always improve your life. In more ways than you think. Studies show that people who are always learning new things are more likely to live longer.
Spend Time with Family
Finally, if you’re looking for a fun activity that you can do with your family that you will look back on fondly for years to come – then you want to get them involved in making the decorations.
Life around the holidays can get really hectic, to the point where a lot of us end up feeling like we haven’t got to spend much quality time with our kids because we are too busy trying to get everything right for the big day.
Spending an evening together making decorations that you will use for the next decade can be the perfect answer to this problem. Bake a bunch of Christmas cookies, brew everyone a hot chocolate and get to work.
You will be making memories and decorations in no time – and you’ll have the best time doing it.
Materials Needed for Making Christmas Decorations
Now, it’s time to get a little more practical. Before you jump into making your Christmas decorations, you need to make sure you have all the materials you need to get the job done.
As you are making your decorations, you may be taken by a new idea and need to run out to get a different type of material or a different color of glitter. So, don’t see this list as restrictive, instead view it as a jumping-off point.
When making stencils or doing any kind of decoration painting, you are going to need something to apply the paint with.
While it can be tempting to pick up some precision paintbrushes and paint everything in minute detail – that will probably lead to you only finishing one decoration this year.
You may want to consider picking up painting sponges or even paint rollers to help your creative process go a little faster.
Having a decoration with one that one element is an easy way to add excitement to your decorations. But to make that happen you will need some adhesives.
When we are creating our decorations we like to have a few different types on hand – including glue, washi tape, and double-sided tape.
Paint and Paint Tray
Obviously, paint is an essential part of making Christmas decorations with stencils. We recommend using acrylic paint over any other type – watercolors are hard to use and to get bold patterns with, oil paints take too long to dry, and saint paint is expensive.
As well as getting yourself enough paint to cover your home in decorations, we also recommend that you get a paint tray to pour the paint out into. If you don’t have one of these, things get very messy, very quickly.
We also recommend getting a protective sheet to cover up any surface that you will be making decorations on. This will save you hours of cleaning later.
Anyone who has tried to paint with their family will know that paper towels have a whole range of uses. They can be used to clean messy faces, wipe paint off furniture, and dry off those paintings that have had a bit too much paint added to them.
Without a good ruler, it is going to be nearly impossible to get a straight line in any of your crafts. We recommend using a clear ruler as it will allow you to see what is going on underneath. We would try to avoid flexible rulers.
You should not need a ruler that is longer than 12 inches long, and you may find anything longer than that cumbersome and difficult to use.
If you are going to be doing any crafts that involve sewing then you are going to need to get yourself a set of needles and thread.
Think carefully about the colors of thread you will need – clashing colors or thread that is just too visible can ruin the overall look of a crafting project.
Felt is an amazing material to make Christmas crafts out of. It is very easy to use and it is very forgiving. It is a sturdy fabric that holds its shape which makes it very easy to make good-looking items with it.
We mentioned that you won’t want to get a ruler that is longer than 12 inches – that is because everything longer than that can be done with a tape measure.
Good Quality Cardstock
Good quality cardstock is the foundation on which nearly every Christmas craft is built upon. While not every craft will call for a thick and sturdy cardstock, the majority will and you will see the benefit of using a cardstock that can hold its shape and doesn’t curve in the heat.
If you are making stencils then you are going to need to cut them out. You will need to get a crafting knife (you should not let children use one of these) and a mat to cut on top. This mat will stop your table or countertops from getting damaged.
DIY Christmas Decorations Ideas
Before we get into the stenciling, we wanted to share with you a few other ways that you can make your own decorations by repurposing items that you already have in your home.
Ice Skate Wreath
- Ice skates
- Soil or sand
- Fake or fresh flowers
- String lights (optional)
Why spend hours creating a wonky circle wreath to hang on your door when you can make this adorable DIY.
You will need to start by taking the laces out of your ice skates. Then thread the ribbon into the lace holes, leaving enough ribbon to hang the skates from your door knocker.
You will then want to fill the skates with soil or sand. This will stabilize the skates while they hang and it will make it easier to complete the next step.
You will then want to push the flowers into the soil or sand and stand them upright.
Now you can hang the skates on your door. To add some extra festival joy you can add some string lights to your new wreath.
- Used coffee filters
- Driftwood (optional)
For this craft, you will need to save up your used coffee filters for a few weeks or months depending on how much coffee you drink and the size of your wreath.
Start by cutting out the appropriate size wreath base from cardboard. Tie the ribbon around the top of the wreath, allowing for enough space to hang it.
Then lay the wreath down flat and cover the face side with glue. Then scrunch up a coffee filter and stick it to the wreath. Continue this process until the whole wreath is covered. You can add other elements like driftwood, Christmas tree balls, or paper snowflakes if you want to.
- Small wooden plank
- Craft knife
- Colored cardstock
- LED light strips
This is a budget friendly DIY version of a decoration that we have seen in many stores.
You will want to start by cutting out the house fronts and trees from your card. We recommend doing one house for every stocking and then two trees to frame the whole thing.
Then you will want to glue these cutouts to a small wooden plank, or a long and shallow wooden box. You will then want to glue the hooks to the bottom of that box or plank.
After you have done this, you will need to glue the LED lights about half an inch behind the houses. When you turn the lights on they will light up the house silhouettes from behind.
- Red felt
- White felt
- Securing pins
- Felt tip pen
Take your two pieces of red felt and lie them on top of each other. Use the pen to draw the outline of a stocking onto the felt. Then use your scissors to cut the pattern out of both pieces of felt. Then cut out a strip of white that is twice as wide as the socks.
Then take your thread and stitch the two sides together. Sew the strip of white to the top of the stocking to complete the traditional look. If you need help holding the felt together while you sew, you can use securing pins to prevent any movement.
- Corded VSR Hammer Drill
- 1-3/8″ hole drill bit
- Tea light candle
- Fir tree branch
- Hand saw
You will want to start this craft by sawing the fir branches down the right height. Then sand down the top and the bottom of the branches so that they will sit flush on a table. Finally, you should treat the wood with a clear woodstain.
Next, fit your drill with the drill bit and carve out a two-inch hole in each candle holder. Use sandpaper to get rid of the sharp edges and potential splinters.
You can then add the tea lights.
How to make a stencil decoration
It’s finally time to talk about making stencils.
If you are planning to make a lot of decorations by hand then stencils are a great way to go. When you use stencils, you only have to draw the pattern once, then you can use the stencils to make as many copies as you like. They significantly speed up the process of making large amounts of decorations.
So, you’re probably wondering how to make stencils and how to use them. Well, keep on reading and we will give you all the details!
Step 1 – Choosing your Image
The first step to this process is choosing what you want to make a stencil of. There are some ideas in the next section if you are stuck.
Once you have decided what you are going to make, you will need to decide if you are going to draw it yourself or work from an image. Using an image will make it easier to make the stencils line up if you’re using multiple layers.
Once this is done, draw out a prototype and color it in. Or print out the image you want to use. Looking at the shapes and colors, decide how many layers your stencil is going to have. The more layers you have the more complex you can make the design.
Then make a note of everything you have decided so you can refer to it while creating your stencils.
Step 2 – Cutting out the Layers
Now that you have worked out how many layers you will need. Draw the whole pattern out on each layer of the card. Then cut out the parts you need from each layer. Do a trial run with each layer as you go to make sure you are happy with the shape.
Make sure each piece of card is exactly the same size or you will have problems lining everything up later.
As you are cutting out each layer, we recommend that you write on the layer which number it is and clearly label which colors you are using and where on the layer they will be used. This will save you both time and frustration in the long run.
Step 3 – Securing the Stencil
You will now want to weigh the stencil down to whatever you are painting on. If you are painting on an oddly shaped object then tape is going to be your best option. If you are painting onto paper you should use washi tape or just use pencils to weigh the stencil down.
Now that the stencil is secure and won’t move, it is time to start painting. If you have labeled what colors you should use and where on the layer then this step will be very easy.
Load your paint onto your brush but make sure to wipe off any excess paint before you start stenciling.
Take a sponge or paintbrush and gently tap it onto the stencil. You want to make sure that you don’t layer the paint too thickly onto the stencil but you want to make sure that you haven’t missed any spots.
After you have finished painting, use a paper towel to dab away any excess paint on the page.
Finally, you want to leave the painting to dry before you do anything else with it. Not letting it dry could cause it to smudge or for the painting to tear if it has been done on paper.
*REPEAT Steps 4 and 5 until you have finished all the layers of your stencil*
Now that you have learned how to create and paint a stencil, it is time to look at some pattern ideas for your first Christmas decoration project.
Our first suggestion is the humble snowman. A snowman is an iconic Christmas image that anyone can create no matter their skill level.
We recommend using three layers to create the snowman. Layer 1, the white body of the snowman. Layer two, the coal buttons and eyes of the snowman. Layer 3, the carrot nose, and a bright scarf.
Rudolph is another iconic Christmas figure. There are many different ways you can create Rudolph – you could go for a whole body picture or just do his face.
If you are doing the whole body then you will want to do the shape of the reindeer as one layer and his red nose as a second layer. Doing his face requires more detail, so, therefore, will need more layers.
This pudding has a dark brown body, a layer of white icing, and a bright red cherry on top. While its shape is very simple, the combination of colors can be quite striking.
We recommend having layer one be the body of the pudding. Then if you want to add more detail you can do an extra layer in a lighter brown to pick out the route. Layer 2 should be the icing and layer 3 should be the cherry.
We won’t spend much time on this option because every American has been making Turkey crafts for Christmas and Thanksgiving since they started going to school.
Remember the key to capturing the iconic details of a Turkey is to use multiple layers.
Not many people think of donkeys at Christmas time, but they do play a key role in the Christmas story.
If you are feeling adventurous you could try and make a donkey with Mary sitting on top of it.
Christmas trees are an easy shape that anyone can use. When we make Christmas tree-themed decorations, we only use one layer. We create the green layer of the tree with the stencil and then we add the decorations on the tree freehand.
Trying to create a stencil detailed enough to add string lights, Christmas Tree balls, and tinsel to a tree can be very tricky.
When making an angel, we would use 3 layers. Layer 1 would be the wings of the angel. Layer 2 would be their bodies. We would then use the third layer to add their face, halo, and praying hands.
Bells are a classic symbol of Christmas and are one of the easiest stencils to make. You only need one layer and if you struggle to get the shape right, you can make your stencil straight from a picture of two bells.
We often make the body of angels out of bells and then add the faces, wings, and halos on top. That way we can get more use out of bell stencils.
Gifts are a simple stencil to make and by using different color combinations of the wrapping paper and ribbon you can make endless decorations with the same stencil.
This stencil only needs two layers. Layer 1 will be the box and the wrapping paper. Layer 2 will be the ribbon.
Finally, if you are struggling to find an idea then you can always make a stencil of Santa. You will need to do all of his red as one layer. The white in his costume as a second layer. His pink face as a third and his white beard as a fourth layer.
You could also do a close up of his face, although this might be slightly more complicated to do. Don’t forget, Santa needs to be surrounded by elves.
Stencil tips for Christmas
Before we leave you, we want to give you a few more tips that will help you make beautiful Christmas decorations this year.
Stenciling can be a tough art form to perfect, especially if you have grand ambitions. So, don’t be upset if you aren’t great at it the first time. All good things take time and a lot of practice.
Our first tip is to stabilize the stencils when you are making them.
What we mean by this is that you want to keep your stencil still as you are painting or your work might get smudged or come out looking wrong. To prevent this you will need to use something to stabilize the stencil and what you are painting onto.
You can do this in a few ways – including using washi tape to tie the stencil down, using blue-tack, or even weighing the paper down with a glass of water or paperweight.
If you need to change the angle that you are working from you will need to move the whole piece and not just the stencil.
If you want to make a slightly more complicated pattern then you are going to have to make multiple layers of stencils.
Each layer that you add will make the painting more detailed. However, it will take more time for you to complete the project. But, trust us, it will be worth it for the extra detail.
If you do make multiple layers then when you are creating your decorations you should do things in batches. If you need to make 40 decorations with the same stencil, do all your first layers at once.
When you are making stencil paintings you really need to be careful with how much paint you are adding to the page – especially if your painting is going to have multiple layers.
Adding too much paint can warp the paper or cardstock that you are stenciling on. But it will also mean that the paint takes much longer to dry and if you add too much paint it will never fully dry.
To prevent too much paint from being added to the page you should tap the paint on lightly with a paintbrush. And you should be using paper towels to add off any excess paint whenever you can. It is better to do it as you go along.
Our final tip is to be patient when you are stenciling.
If you are using multiple layers then you are going to need to wait for each layer to dry completely before you start the next layer. If you don’t you can risk smudging the paint and ruining the picture.
You should also avoid trying to dry the paint by putting it next to a radiator or with a hairdryer. Doing this can damage the item that you are painting on.
Making your own Christmas decorations can save you money and reduce the amount of waste you produce over the holiday period. Learning how to make these new items can be fun and teach you new skills. They can also be an activity that you can do together as a family.
These decorations can be kept, reused, and treasured for many, many years to come.
If you are struggling with ideas for Christmas decorations to DIY this year, then you will find a lot of inspiration in the article above. Now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get crafting!