Growing up, most — if not all — of the ornaments on my family's Christmas tree were handmade. There, you'd find everything from the strange Popsicle stick concoctions my brother and I would glue together and paint, to the puppy dogs my grandfather would craft out of standard, satin-wrapped ornaments.

No matter how intricate or goofy the ornaments were, they were amazing just the same.

Now, as an adult, the ornaments on my two trees are handmade, too; some of the Disney's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" variety, because it's one of my favorite movies, and some that my niece created.

I love making things, alone with a movie or with my friends and family. Working on a project with the people you love is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening. (Plus, when it's something as silly as a little ornament made from toilet paper rolls, it leaves very little room for chaos — unlike the wintry night my husband and I tried to make our little apartment more energy efficient by attempting to put up plastic on our sliding-glass-door-sized windows, but I digress!)

I also enjoy making things with recycled materials whenever I can, which make the following three holiday crafts pretty great. A couple of them also are great for little ones to help with and decorate, too. So pick one, and gather up the handful of supplies, many of which you probably already have. Turn on some music or your favorite holiday movie; ready a glass of cocoa, coffee or wine, and enjoy the day. 

Silver snowflake

You'll need: 

4 toilet paper rolls (per snowflake)

Stapler with staples

Ribbon, thread or twine for hanging

Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Acrylic paint in any wintry color (we chose silver)



Small photos or objects cut from magazines to decorate


Begin by folding each of the toilet paper rolls in half. Working in twos, hold two rolls together, side-by-side, and insert the stapler into the tubes to tack them together. Pinch the tube on the right in half, and attach it to another tube using the same method. Work your way around until you've completed the circle of four rolls. (It will look a bit like a plus-sign.) Then, use a little hot glue in the center to reinforce your work, and draw the middles of the rolls closer to one another.

Paint the snowflake, making sure to paint the insides of the tubes that are visible, too. Let dry.

Decorate the snowflake, beginning with its center. Cover the hole with a photo, a picture cut from a magazine, or a larger sticker. You might need a little glue to help it stick!

Then, decorate the rest of the snowflake with stickers. 

When the snowflake is ready, glue a loop of string or twine between the top two holes, let it dry, and hang it from the tree.

Source: Adapted slightly from bit.ly/2g0MRVn

Wine cork Christmas tree

You'll need:

4 1/2 wine corks (per tree) 

Hot glue gun and glue sticks 

Needle and thread

Button, to top the tree

Paint or stickers (for ornaments for the tree)

Sharp knife (I used a paring knife)




Begin by making the base of the tree. To do so, cut the end off of two wine corks at an angle, and glue the flat ends together. Create the top tier of the tree by gluing the two excess pieces together.

Make the middle tier of the tree by trimming off about 1/4 of two wine corks. Then, cut these at an angle, too, and glue the flat ends together. 

Line up each of the tiers, and tack them together with glue.

For the base, cut a wine cork in half, and glue the jagged edge of the cork to the base of the tree.

Glue on a button topper, and dot the tree with paint or stickers to give it ornaments. 

Then, carefully feed a needle and thread through the top of the tree so you can hang it on your Christmas tree.

Plastic bottle icicles

You'll need: 

Plastic bottle, with the label removed


Lighter or matches 

Needle and thread 


Needle-nose pliers (optional)


Carefully cut the top and the bottom from the plastic bottle to create a tube, then cut it into roughly 1-inch-wide strips, following the bottle's natural taper. Fold the strip in half width-wise. Beginning at one end, carefully hold the strip above the candle, close enough for it to warm the plastic, but not so close that it burns your fingers, smokes or darkens the plastic. Then, slowly move the strip across the candle, pulling and slowly twisting as you go. Hold onto it tightly until the plastic cools, and give it another pass across, until you're happy with the shape. If you want to keep your fingers even further from the flame, hold the strip of plastic with needle-nosed pliers. 

Once your icicle has enough twists and has cooled, use the scissors to round the top and bottom of the icicles. Use the needle and thread to create a loop at the wider end of the icicle for hanging.  

Laura Anderson Shaw is the editor of Radish magazine.

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