Make Your Own Holiday Ornaments

Start a new tradition by making tree ornaments out of recycled and repurposed materials. Instead of store-bought trimmings for their office Christmas tree, the Plenty magazine editors (along with a few crafty friends and family members) made ornaments entirely from found or recycled objects–no buying or using anything new. The resulting decorations were fresh and festive. Here are a few standouts.

Tin Can Star
Three 42 oz. aluminum cans
Aluminum take-out food containers

1. Clean and dry cans. Then, carefully cut off each can’s top and bottom and uncurl the remaining piece of aluminum, flattening overnight under a heavy book if necessary.

2. Make basic origami stars using flattened aluminum instead of paper (just be careful of the sharp edges). You can view an animated diagram of the pattern and folding technique at

3. Use one of the flattened 42oz. cans to make the biggest origami star. Use the aluminum take-out containers to make stars that get gradually smaller as you layer them. I used three stars for stacking.

4. Use another 42 oz. can to cut out the flat base star.

5. Coil the third flattened can into a cone shape. Use a dab of nontoxic glue to seal the overlapping edges.

6. Hold the smallest origami star with its center point facing away from you. Place a dab of glue inside the point. Put the next biggest star inside the smaller star, glue next center point and attach a slightly smaller star, and repeat, working toward the smallest star.

7. Place the stacked stars on the base star. Add dots of glue where stackers touch the base star’s surface. Make rays from thin strips of tin. Glue these to the back of the base star.

8. Carefully place star on tin cone, using a tiny dab of glue. Tin cans come in every conceivable color and pattern–have fun mixing it up.

Bottle-Cap-and-Ribbon Bows
Photos or magazines
Bottle caps
Non-toxic glue
Leftover scraps of gift-wrapping ribbon, various lengths and widths

1. Cut an image to fit the size of the bottle-cap interior and glue it in, pressing to make sure the image lies flat.

2. Take one of the wider ribbons and tie it into a bow proportional to the size of the bottle cap.

3. Then, take a thinner ribbon, preferably one with wire in it for stiffness, and thread it through the top of the bow’s knotted center. Once threaded, pull ribbon to desired length and tie a knot at the top to form a loop.

4. Glue the back of the bottle cap to the bow.

Coffee can lid
Non-toxic glue
Raffia (or yarn)

1. Cut out the inside of coffee can lid to use as wreath base.

2. Wrap raffia around the lid and tie in back to make a loop.

3. Glue cut shells and smaller seashells onto raffia.

4. Glue on raffia for hook to hang.

Gingerbread Man
A piece of sandpaper
A used brown paper bag
Large handful of dryer lint
Scraps of used ribbon
Mismatched buttons
Scrap of old fabric

1. Using sandpaper, lightly sand the surface of the paper bag until it has a soft, felt-like texture.

2. Cut two identical gingerbread man shapes out of the paper. Sew together with thread, using large stitches, 1/8 inch away from the edge, stuffing the dryer lint into the arms and legs as you go.

3. Once you have fully stuffed and sewn up the gingerbread man, make a hole at the top of the ornament and thread a piece of string or ribbon through. Knot at the top to form a hanging loop.

4. Glue the buttons down the front of the ornament and draw a face with a pen. Cut a thin strip of fabric from the scrap to tie on as a scarf.

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Kirsten Bergen
Past Member 8 years ago

Nice ideas. Thank you.

Marian Pearn
Marian Pearn9 years ago

I'm confused about which part of the star is aluminum and which part is tin.

Renee Martinez
Renee Martinez9 years ago

Since my now 7 year old was born, every year we have given away a foto ornament. I use the top of a frozen juice container and cut a foto round and drop it in the lid frame, glue it with white glue (usually scan a school pic and print multiple ones). A wire ornament hook can be attached to the back with clear packaging tape. I date them, and in the early years my son decorated the back with colored sharpies. These days he writes a wish. His aunts and uncles and grandparents get one for their tree. A gift only a relative could love, but sometimes I have used fotos of the person and my son together.