How to Make Paper Ornaments

comments (23) November 27th, 2016     

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Jeff_Rudell Jeffery Rudell, contributor
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These whimsical, gem-toned paper ornaments make a handsome addition to any tree.  
If youd rather recycle materials, many glossy magazine covers are brightly colored and printed on heavy stock. Once cut into strips, you can transform them into beautifully patterned decorations.
Dont be afraid to experiment with the size (length and width) of the strips you use. Here, narrow strips of magenta and purple blend beautifully.
These whimsical, gem-toned paper ornaments make a handsome addition to any tree.  

These whimsical, gem-toned paper ornaments make a handsome addition to any tree.  

Photo: Jeff Rudell
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As someone who's folded 1,000 origami paper cranes, made miles of paper garland, and crafted individual paper shades for seven strings of holiday lights, I can say with some authority that if you're planning on creating crafts for the holidays, now is the time to begin work on those projects! Granted, Labor Day may seem a bit early to begin, but in my experience, things frequently take longer to complete than one anticipates. In the case of the 1,000 origami cranes mentioned above, I got that harebrained (birdbrained?) idea one year shortly after Thanksgiving. Making a paper crane is relatively simple, I thought, so how hard could it be to make 1,000 of them?

The truth is, it's not hard, not at all, but it is time consuming and there's the rub. After the first evening of folding (in front of the TV) I had a total of 15 cranes completed. A little bit of math revealed that was just over 1/10 of 1 percent of the full project. A little more math (of the slightly more complicated type) revealed that at my current rate of production, I would complete my project somewhere around February 4 of the following year! Yikes.

buttons More decorating ideas:

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Not being the sort of person to give up (or listen to reason), I proceeded to increase my production output. I folded cranes on the subway, at the deli, in waiting rooms, at dinner, while watching TV, and walking to appointments. I fielded questions about what I was doing, and the subsequent question, "Why would anyone want to?" I withstood a lot of sidelong glances, a few quizzical stares, and one patently aggressive slur, but I could not be deterred. The project became my own personal Labor-of-Hercules, with myself in the role of demigod.

By mid-December, as I passed the halfway mark, I realized the task was substantially larger than anticipated. Yes, I had to make another 500 cranes, but I would also have to rig up something to hang each of them by. That meant using a quilling needle to make a perfectly positioned hole through each crane's body and threading a metallic cord through the hole and tying it off with a knot.

Time consuming! 

The rest of the story you can write yourself: I did nothing but work on cranes; I grew irritable and withdrawn, and I suffered from a precipitous lack of sleep in the last weeks leading up to Christmas.

The result? Well, much to the relief of myself and my friends, I met my goal late Christmas Eve. However, the truth of the matter is, 1,000 cranes on a Christmas tree looked nothing like I'd imagined. One friend said, gently, that I could have achieved the same effect by taking a bushel of spitballs and tossing them into the branches. A neighbor's little girl was less kind-if more honest-when she asked, "Why didn't you do something pretty, like put Christmas ornaments on your tree? We got ours at Wal-Mart; you can borrow some."

Wal-Mart, I dare say, is not the answer, but I do think it's important to have fun while you craft. When it becomes "work," the fun often drains away. To keep things on the happy side of that division, I have since made it a rule to begin all of my holiday craft projects on Labor Day. I take my time doing as much (or as little) as I can up until Thanksgiving. After that, I stop crafting and take the entire month of December off to enjoy friends, family, food, and the fruits of my labors. I've given up on the idea of homogeneously decorated trees. I now prefer, instead, to make a dozen or two new paper ornaments every year. A dozen or two is enough to keep me busy but not bored, and over the years, I've managed to amass quite a wonderful, if eclectic, collection of paper confections that I delight in unpacking and hanging on my tree each year.

So, as a kickoff to the season, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite recipes for holiday ornaments. These balls-really more like "twisted orbs"-are fun and easy to make. With a little prep work (or some supervision), they are even appropriate for 8- to 14-year-olds as well as adults. 

Please let me know if you enjoy this project. I have a few other tree decorations that I could write up instructions for if the spirit of the season seems to take hold here among the CraftStylish readers. Of course, please post pictures of your own projects in the gallery. One of the nicest, and most helpful, things for me is seeing how this community of crafters take my suggestions and improve on them. I'm learning so much from all your feedback and I am grateful for it.

And, while it may be early, let me be the first to say, Happy Holidays.

The supplies you'll need are: paper, cutting tools, small pliers, some wire, and an awl or needle for making small holes.

Begin with two sheets of color-coordinated paper, 1-3/4 inches x 9 inches.


On the reverse of each sheet, draw guidelines to mark the centers and 1/4 inch in from each short edge (as indicated).


Stack the sheets atop one another and use your craft knife to cut them into 1/4-inch-wide strips. You'll need 14 strips total (7 of each color).

Using an awl or needle, make a small hole in the center of each of the guidelines across the back of the strips (in the center and at each end of the strip).


Cut a 6-inch length of floral wire and make a small loop in one end.


Thread wire through the center of each strip (the loop at the end of the wire prevents the strips from falling off).

A detail showing the strips threaded onto the wire. Note that I have alternated colors: a light strip followed by a dark strip followed by a light strip, etc.


Begin with the bottom-most strip (nearest the loop end of the wire).


Fold this bottom-most strip up and insert the end of the wire through the hole at the end of the strip of paper.

Continue folding strips up and threading them onto the wire. Be sure to always draw the bottom-most strip so that your colors alternate light and dark.


At the halfway point, you will have threaded 14 strips onto the wire and your ornament should look like this illustration. Continue in the same direction around the model until all ends are threaded onto the wire and the model is complete.


Once your model is completely folded, trim excess wire and fashion a small, tight loop in each end of the wire and attach a small cord or ribbon from which to hang the ornament.


You can use wider or narrower strips (blue and purple ornaments, respectively) to achieve different looks. The resulting ornaments offer a lovely twist on the standard holiday globe.
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posted in: christmas, ornaments, holiday ornaments, christmas ornaments

Comments (23)

ballidhoot52 writes: nice ornaments. I will love to make ornaments on my own & i will decorate my house with this.
Posted: 11:29 pm on July 26th
bradbates11 writes: best decorating thing at home
Posted: 6:36 am on July 26th
lyunmoss writes: this is very useful for house decoration
Posted: 5:22 am on July 26th
TheThreadLady writes: We watched a PBS show last night that we'd recorded ages ago but never had the time to watch. It was "The Origami Revolution". The very next day I'm reading your article with directions on how to make paper ornaments. I'll make the ornaments but it was the introductory part of your post where you made all those origami cranes that must be total coincidence or maybe even Karma! I hope you saw the program last spring. If you didn't you'll definitely want to watch how origami is now being used to revolutionize the way scientists, engineers and industry rethink ways to design, develop, invent and reinvent how forms should be created.
Posted: 1:11 am on December 23rd
GC1992 writes: Great!
Posted: 7:27 am on January 25th
rubydaly writes: Wonderful! I've always loved working with paper. I even took online Origami lessons several years ago. These look very nice.
Posted: 3:39 am on January 7th
spacart writes: I love your Christmas Ornament balls. Thank you for posting your project and advice. I am one of those who ends of finishing the crafted gifts just before Christmas. I like the concept of having the holidays free to enjoy my home and friends with out "completion anxieties". Now I just have to stick to my decision.
Posted: 1:58 am on January 16th
launenat writes: Beautiful work, you have angel's hands
Posted: 9:02 am on January 14th
Carolemeis writes: I loved your statement: "I stop crafting and take the entire month of December off to enjoy friends, family, food, and the fruits of my labors" .... such a well-purposed plan to keep in mind!

Your hand-made ornaments sure out-class any shop bought one; they're just magical.

Posted: 9:39 pm on January 6th
Jessicalyn_Bliss writes: Great project! I am going to make these and use them to create a mobile for my baby.
Posted: 7:25 pm on January 6th
Eternal_Clouds writes: thats so cant wait to decorate my room with them
Posted: 10:49 am on March 8th
bovata writes: Hey there is a very easy way to keep from getting gaps or the strips collapsing on one another! once you have your paper strips stacked on the bottom wire, alternate the order so that the first strip that was stacked on the bottom wire becomes the first strip stacked on the top. This means that in the changing of order, the strips will cross at the center of the ornament, giving you a swirled look and making the ornament more stable. The only downside is that once this is glued in place, they must be stored like that, so it will take up more room.
Posted: 11:26 am on December 1st
NancyWard writes: Jerry,

Today I posted an entry to my blog with a link to this tutorial.

Would you let me know if that's OK?


Nancy Ward
Posted: 11:17 am on November 17th
farmerchild writes: This is a great idea for wedding decorations on a budget!!! Thanks for sharing!
Posted: 10:12 pm on November 11th
gravityworks2 writes: I made this ornament today! I Love it! I added a bead to the bottom end of the wire for a bit of sparkle. It turned out so pretty my 4 year old daughter wants to make one too!
Posted: 1:28 pm on November 9th
eveh writes: I love these. I would love to see more like this. I am bed ridden right now and miss crafting but this is soemthing I can do from my bedside and feel like I am doing something to make our home cheerful for Christmas.
Posted: 6:27 pm on November 8th
isewformykids writes: I think you have found the solution to my autistic sons breaking of ornaments. Thank you.
Posted: 12:04 am on November 8th
sigridsoto writes: I will try it i imagine you have done over and over and are very good it by the looks of it they are very pretty
Posted: 5:05 am on October 12th
J9 writes: They are beautiful, I am also going to try and cut up plastic strips which should make them suitable for outdoor use. Thanks Jeffery for the great ideas for us not so creative.
Posted: 10:54 pm on September 24th
uucrafteratthebeach writes: Wow Jeff! I found your site 2 days ago and have made 4 of these already. I love them. It's as good as therapy.
After #2, I added enhancements. 1]green paper leaves,slightly curled and 2]the wire ends became longer and I curly-qued them.
I'm taking this project to a UU Crafters group this weekend. We're starting on Halloween decorations. Thanks soooo much
Monika [p.s. belated Birthady greetings, mine was the 7th]
Posted: 2:48 pm on September 10th
directedbyhp writes: Me and my kids (11-16 years old) have been looking for a paper project to do. I have admired your work, and I would love to try this paper project from you. Hopefully follow up photos and reactions of my kids paper ornaments, to follow.

Louisville, Kentucky
Posted: 2:34 am on September 7th
MaeveQ writes: I LOVE these. I think they would be pretty to hang on the trees in our backyard. Thanks, your work is so beautiful
Posted: 10:37 am on September 1st
halfaperfectpair writes: i love this project! maybe this year i'll be smart and start on some holiday crafts early...i think i'll head to the paper store today!!
Posted: 8:03 am on September 1st
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