Turn Summer Trash into Christmas Cash (A Holiday Ecology)

The holidays cost big bucks, bigger bucks than some out-of-work elves and cash-strapped consumers can afford.

But if you want to pay for Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanzaa gifts this December, especially during difficult financial times, now is the time to plan ahead, now is the time to turn summer trash into Christmas cash.

I sometimes start as early as May or June, making quilted Christmas ornaments, sometimes to give as gifts, other times to sell, raising the funds to purchase presents for my partner, perhaps  iTunes for my nephews, a mirror for my mom.

These tree ornaments can be made from found fabric and repurposed paper—skirts to shirts, magazines to maps.

fabric version

another fabric ornament

paper version made from canned tomato labels

variation on the label ornament above (notice ingredient list)

This mixed fabric and paper ornament uses recycled New York Times.

close-up of the same fabric and paper ornament

What you will need:

–found fabric (40 squares per ornament, 2 inches each) OR

–repurposed paper from books, maps, or newspapers (40 squares per ornament, 2 inches each)

–straight pins (approximately 200-210 per ornament)

–Styrofoam balls (2.5 inches each)

–ribbon (5/8 inch, ½ inch, and ¼ inch)




Follow these steps:

  1. Cut fabric and/or paper into 2 inch squares.  You will need 40 squares per ornament.

  1. Pierce center of first square with pin.

  1. Fold fabric/paper  as shown in photos below and attach to ball.

  1. Add fabric/paper squares until you have 4 in the first circle, 8 in the next, and 8 in the last.

secure with 4 pins across the bottom of the triangle

secure second folded triangle opposite the first

add the third triangle

add the fourth to complete the first set of triangles

add the first triangle of the next set between triangles of the first, inserting the top pin about 1/4 inch from the center

add the second opposite the first

attach the third triangle of the second set

add the fourth

the fifth

the sixth

eighth triangle finishes the second set

second triangle of third set

third triangle of third set and so on until third set is complete

  1. Repeat steps 2-4 on the opposite side of the ball, again adding 4 squares in the first circle, followed by 8 each in the following 2 circles, until fabric/paper squares nearly meet in the middle and you can see only a narrow band of Styrofoam circling the center of the ball.  (See images below.)

side one and side two meet in the middle

  1. Pin 8 inch strip of ribbon (5/8 inch wide) around the middle of the ball to cover pins.

secure one end of ribbon with two pins

where ends meet secure with two more pins

  1. Add optional ¼ ribbon over the 5/8 inch ribbon to create layered effect and pin in place.

secure quarter-inch ribbon on either end with pin

  1. Attach ribbon to form bow on top in desired pattern and color.  Secure with pins.  I usually use two colors, applied in opposite directions and crossed in the center.

attach first half of bow in the same direction as 5/8 inch ribbon

attach the second perpendicular to the first

  1. Secure loop for hanging with decorative beads and pin.

loop attached with pin

decorative bead finishes the top

  1. Pin optional decorative beads in the center of the smallest star on either side of ornament.

feed bead onto straight pin

finished ornament

(Note:  I would make a number of ornaments with fabric before proceeding to paper, which is more difficult to manage.)

Will you rethink your ethic of giving this Christmas?  Do you have a holiday ecology?

31 thoughts on “Turn Summer Trash into Christmas Cash (A Holiday Ecology)

  1. I have a whole room full of fabric left over from the days when I had my shop. I could make hundreds of these! We don’t worry much about Christmas gifts in our family. We just have lunch with whoever is in town and leave it at that.


  2. OMG. I love these. If you ever come to South Africa, please bring one for me, preferably made from a map of Africa. I’ll pay extra 🙂

    Great job putting together this beautiful post, too. Must have been a lot of work with all the pics. It really should be Freshly Pressed. (Do you hear me, WordPress? Look here!)


    • You are so sweet, Heather. Your comment has helped make my day. I have been working on an ornament that includes a map of Africa. I will share photos later in the week. If there’s a way to get to you, I’ll send it, or save it for you sometime you are back here. I’m so pleased you liked the ornaments!


  3. Kathy the crafty pants! I love this idea. I’m a little nervous to give craft projects another go after the Pimp Stick Box fiasco, but I might just try this one. (read: I’ll be sending you the doctor’s bill!)


  4. These are insanely beautiful but– to the woman who is afraid of straight pins and anything resembling sewing– look INSANELY time consuming!! Maybe I’m all tuckered out from work, but these ornaments look like something I’d cherish to receive but refuse to make and give myself. 😛 Bless you for making them as gifts for the ones you love. They are precious! (I especially like the paper ones.)


  5. These are really pretty and such an eco-friendly gift.

    I make either a stack of greeting cards tied in a ribbon or tiny collages in 1/2 of an Altoids tin. I stick a magnet on the back and instant personal fridge magnet. And I like to make at least one nice collage—I think it’s my sister’s turn this year.


    • Thanks, Sandy! They’re eco-friendly except for those damn Styrofoam balls. Wish I knew of an alternative. If anyone out there knows of one, let me know, PLEASE! Your gifts sound lovely. I love you Altoids tin idaea!


  6. Heather is right, this post should be FP’ed for sure! What lovely work, both the making of the ornaments as well as putting together such a riveting blog post about it! I was wondering where I could get my hands on styrofoam balls….
    Craft projects are so much fun, the more painstaking the better, and I love the look of patchwork…it’s so typically American (I think!)
    For years I made layettes for new born babies (fancy matching stuff), and when I stopped doing that I had lots of pastel fabrics left….so naturally I thought of cutting em up into squares and stitching them into a patch-worked bedspread or some such thing. Hope I finish it some day!
    So proud of you for being so eco-friendly my friend! Absolutely love your work! Kudos! 🙂


    • Thanks so much, Munira! I’m glad you like the ornaments. And how fun that you too think it should be FP-ed! You all are great!

      Here in the US you can buy Styrofoam balls at craft stores. Don’t know how many of those there are in Pakistan. You might try shopping for them online and having them shipped to you. That might be easiest.

      Glad also you appreciate my eco-friendly approach–but it would be more so without the Styrofoam. Just don’t know of another option. Alas!


  7. I’m a guy, so admittedly my eyes sort of glazed over here – I’m not exactly the “crafty” type – but I do like the end result. These would make fun gifts without setting you back an arm and a leg, that’s for sure!


  8. I love this. I wish I had the talent, patience, and time for this project. Unfortunately, I’m not very crafty with my hands.

    Beautifully done, Kathy. 🙂


  9. Wow! Even with your beautiful step-by-step instructions and photos, mine would never look like this . . . 😦

    Have you ever thought of turning your artistic talent and flair for crafts into a business – with you in the role of designer?


    • Actually, I’d love to do that. I’ve sold the ornaments in the past and plan to it again this year. It just takes such an enormous amount of time to make each one, it’s hard to make an amount of money that seems worth the effort. In other words, folks often can’t or won’t pay the amount I’d like to charge to make my effort worth the time, if that makes sense.


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  11. Hi, came over for a visit from Lisa’s blog and was not disappointed! What gorgeous ornaments and such clever ideas with paper and fabric. I love the quilted effect and I will bookmark this. If I finish one, I’ll let you know. Thank you for your very hard work on this…quite a gem of a post!


    • Thanks so much for reading, Georgette! I hope you do try to make an ornament. I’d love to know how it goes for you. Just be patient. It may take some practice–at least it did for me. I look forward to checking out your blog!


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