‘Tis not the Season: An Untimely Holiday Ecology

I know.

‘Tis not the season.

At least, not yet.

But, this time around, Freshly Pressed has evolved into freshly stressed.

Overwhelmed by too much to do, I’ve resorted to prematurely reworking a post I shared during the holidays last year.

I’m cheating.

Most of the ornaments I share below are new.  The tutorial at the end is not.

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

So if you don’t have the cash to pay for Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanzaa gifts this year, especially during these difficult financial times, you can make lovely gifts from what you might otherwise trash. (Even this post has been recycled.)

The Christmas tree ornaments below, for example, can be made from found fabric and repurposed paper—skirts to shirts, magazines to maps.  They are also available for purchase at idiom ART, my Etsy shop.

Don’t you want to practice some holiday ecology?

Ornament from mixed fabric and canned tomato labels

Another ornament from recycled fabric and labels–

Ornament from fabric and recycled, 1949 edition of “The Seven Dwarfs”

Ornament from fabric scraps

Another ornament from canned tomato labels

A variation on the label ornament above (notice ingredient list)

Ornament from recycled New York Times–

Christmas ornament from recycled fabric–

Pride ornament from recycled fabric–

Ornament from recycled street map of Lexington, Kentucky

Detail of ornament above–

Ornament from fabric scraps and map of Africa

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?

Note:  My partner Sara and I hope you’ll check out our ever-evolving, creative enterprise called idiomART on Etsy; and if you haven’t already, please visit and like idiomART on Facebook.

Thanks to the editors at WordPress for featuring my post “Redefining Front-Porch Culture:  Bloggers and a World-Wide Notion of Neighbor” on Freshly Pressed this week.  And thanks to everyone who read and left comments, especially my many new subscribers.

I’m preparing to leave for Pennsylvania to visit my aunt and will be without internet service.  However, as soon as I’m home again, I will be visiting your blogs, so I can thank you personally.

Thanks to my loyal, long-time readers, as well.  When I’m home from the Pittsburgh area and have access to WordPress again, I will be catching up on my blog reading, as well.  Thanks so much for your patience.  I’m hoping for new memoir material from this upcoming trip.

72 thoughts on “‘Tis not the Season: An Untimely Holiday Ecology

  1. These are beautiful! I’ve been on a mission to find good – and aesthetically pleasing – ways to use every bit of paper from my studio. I’ve been weaving old drawings into baskets and recycling painted papers into collage…these lovely ornaments with your SO clear directions are going on my list. Thank you!


    • These would be perfect for that. You just have to be careful not to push the pin all the way through the paper. You will figure out just the right amount of pressure to add with a bit of practice. Let me know if you make any. I’d love to know how it goes. Your baskets sound fun–as do the collages. Great to hear from you today!


  2. I must have missed this post the first time around, Kathy. I don’t remember seeing these beautiful ornaments. I just love them! They have a wonderful “homey” feel to them. I find that I enjoy decorations most when they are homemade.
    Congrats again on FP!


    • Then I’m glad I repeated the post–if only for you. Most of the ornaments here are new, different from last year, but the tutorial is almost entirely the same. I love homemade decorations, myself. Thanks for the congrats–and the comment as well. Hope you have a great day.


  3. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!! I am so jealous/proud of you…. Hope your visit with your aunt is inspiring and quiet and lovely. Come back

    with more of your wonderful family stories!!!  xoxoox b



    • Thanks for the well-wishes. I suspect the trip will be all of those things. Last year when we went, we got caught in the insanely early snow storm that graced the NE in late October. Hoping to avoid that this time around. Great to hear from you, Betty!


  4. I love the decorations and the fact you have been FP. There is a nice little button that says you have been Freshly Pressed you can put on your site. I think if you google Freshly Pressed Button it will come up. Congrats again. It was a breath taking post and deserves the recognition!


    • It’s great to hear from you, Chris. I’ve already had one of those buttons for a while. I was so happy when WP created them. I don’t know how I figured out that it existed. Usually I need folks like you to fill me in. I’m kinda ditzy that way! LOL

      Have a great day, my friend!


  5. Oops, you were FP’ed for a third time and I missed it since I have not been much less focused on the blogosphere during my hiatus? I see it was for the porch piece I failed to comment on since I have never lived anywhere with a porch in my entire life. Congratulations buddy! The ethic to my giving is simple, I show up so they get to see me, not to imply that I’m such a great gift.


    • OMG–you have surfaced from hiatus! You’re not supposed to be here, my friend. And I’m sure your presence is gift enough. That’s exactly the kind of thing my Sara would say LOL Keep at it. And let me know how it’s all going. Loved hearing from you, even though you are supposed to be otherwise engaged!


      • I am otherwise engaged, but I have been popping up on sites (much less so) and I had intended to write something snarky on your porch story … but then I forgot. Considering that you were hammered with WP love, it probably was fortuitous that I came around The Post After, real friend am I.


      • Yes, this is definitely the post in need of comment love. So thanks for saving it–dear friend that you ARE! Now get back to you other engagement–which I KNOW is way more important than stopping by here. I’m cheering for you–friend that I am! LOL


  6. Are you kidding me? FP again? I would start to take this personally if I actually read Freshly Pressed, so I think I will continue to stay away! Congratulations on this recognition, you deserve it and so much more.


  7. Congratulations on the FP. As you know, I tried some of your ornaments last holiday season and they were a lot of fun, and very popular. I moved the bag containing all those goodies just the other day and thought about starting early – but then “bagged” that idea!!! I’ll be scrambling as usual. Your craft pieces always inspire.


  8. These ornaments charm me! Wish I had the patience and time to create even one. I especially loved using the printed word, whether from a map, or a label or a book, very cool! Thanks for sharing!


    • So happy you are charmed, Kami. I have to agree about the ornaments with text. They are fun, aren’t they? Maybe especially for those of us who write. I appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. Great to hear from you.


  9. Okay, Kathy… First of all, is to the season! I’ve been planning the holidays for weeks (perhaps because it’s the first time ever I’ve felt so comforted in my community and life)…. but I am way excited and I am going to send this link to my e-mail and do a test drive of this on my own because this seems like a perfect lesson for one of the groups of kids I work with. I wanted to make ornaments with them and it seems ideal for a lesson about re-using our things and understanding of how to constantly bring new life to old belongings… …. my mind is still brewing… maybe I’ll have them bring pieces of things that they once loved but they can’t so much use anymore and make them an ornament to celebrate so it lives on. Hmmmmmm. This just seems like some great lesson could come of it. Of course I’d probably have to do lots of prep work on my own…. oh! I’m gonna stop typing now but I just got a great idea.


    Oh and this is the 6th comment I’ve posted!!!



    • I’m so, so happy to hear you’re feeling good these days, Currie. I remember how much you love Christmas. It’s a magical time of year for me, too. And how great that you will try this with the kids. Be sure to use fabric with them, as paper is much more difficult to work with and might frustrate kids too easily. I’m tickled to hear from you, my friend. ANd sorry you are having trouble leaving comments. That would irritate me to no end. Hugs to you, my dear!


  10. Bye, Kathy! Will miss you! Love your art. These ornaments are spectacular. You lay the instructions out well, yet I’m overwhelmed by them. Clearly I don’t have a knack for this. But I so enjoy seeing your pix. Have a wonderful time visiting your aunt!


    • I feel the same way, Megan. Christmas for me is way more about giving than receiving. And WATCHING them open is one of the best parts of giving. I don’t think you’re weird, my friend. Hope you have a great weekend.


  11. I feel awful about not having kept up with your blog, but now that everything is finished (and by “finished” I mean, not quite as stressful…on to the job market! lol), I feel like I can breathe a little bit and read without too much guilt. 😉 I love this idea, and I am so grateful that you posted a tutorial. I’d like to give it a shot this year for Christmas (either as gifts, or for my own personal use for now…until I’m more confident in my abilities). Money is tight, as usual, and this just seems like a fantastic idea. My hobby store actually bundles scraps of fabric together for a fairly good price, so I might start there. Thanks again for the tutorial! 🙂 I’ll let you know when I give it a shot. 🙂


    • Oh, Amanda, you’ve been busy doing things way more important than following my blog! At the same time, however, I can’t tell you how tickled I am to hear from you. Hope that sweet baby of yours is doing well! Hugs to you, my friend!


  12. Enjoy your trip, Kathy! As you travel, maybe your stress will melt away. It’s hard to believe Christmas is around the corner…and now you’ve inspired us with some new decorating ideas. My daughter wrote asking for gift ideas yesterday. Yep, tis–almost–the season.


    • I’m sorry to say my trip has been cancelled due to hurricane Sandy. I’m disappointed, but I’m afraid my aunt is even sadder! Isn’t it crazy to think the holidays will soon be rolling around again? Time truly does seem to accellerate the older I get. Thanks for stopping by, Kath!


  13. You were FP’d again? Wow, Kathy – congrats! To paraphrase Sally Field – they like you. They really, really like you.

    Thanks for reminding me that I haven’t purchased SQUAT for Christmas yet this year!


    • You have plenty of time to shop, Mark. Won’t it be fun to celebrate the first holidays you and Tara are living together. I remember how special that was for Sara and me. Maybe WordPress does like me. I have to admit that this Freshly Pressed thing still excites me. I’m like a kid.


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