Handmade Personalized Ornaments

Guest post by my sister, Trina, who contributes a little insanity to the blog often. Thanks, sis!

I have a tradition of giving each of my children an ornament every year. It started out as a way to add to our somewhat-sparse tree, but has become the kids’ favorite part of decorating our now very-full tree. As the tradition evolved, the ornaments became more personalized which (for someone who is ridiculously opposed to spending money) meant they had to be hand-made. In fact, a couple of years ago, when I was big and pregnant, I took the easy way out and gave them each a zoo animal ornament that I’d purchased. They were nice about it, but I could tell they weren’t that excited.

So Kendra asked me to share a couple of my best ideas for personalized ornaments from this year and years past.

Several years back, we took a Fall trip to San Diego. We visited Sea World and the beach where we collected a handful of (frankly not that beautiful) shells.  I used these shells, clip art and my color printer, Mod Podge and a paint pen to create the ornaments that year featuring each boy’s favorite sea animal.


In 2007 my kids and I fell in love with Sculpy clay so I used that for their ornaments.  Most of the figures (some of which need more explaining than you want) I just made myself, but I did use a cookie cutter and alphabet stamps to make the stars. The larger pieces I poked holes in before baking , but the smaller ones I just hot-glued to the ribbons. These ornaments are some of their all-time favorites.


This year I jumped on the shrink art bandwagon (though I didn’t really realize it was a bandwagon at the time) and used these ornaments from Better Homes and Gardens as my inspiration. These were some of the easiest personalized ornaments I’ve made, and I loved how they turned out.

I traced my chosen images (things that represent the boys’ current interests, events from the year, or, in the case of my daughter, her nickname this year–“Firework”) with a Sharpie, then colored them in with good colored pencils. I think that another time I may try just coloring with Sharpies because I found that some of the colored pencil (especially the black from the clarinet) was flaking off after they were shrunk. I punched holes in the top of each design and then followed the baking instructions that came with the shrink paper.

Please note that you do want to reverse all images (where it matters) and text before you trace them so your designs come out right.

The BHG project calls for foil tape to go around the edges, and I did find some at Hobby Lobby–a large roll for $6-$7–but wasn’t sure I’d ever use it again, so decided to try for a similar look using a silver paint pen (that I already had) around the edges. I think I’d like the foil tape better, but the paint isn’t bad–it’s just not that noticable. After I painted, I decided to seal the pieces because of the flecks of black and green I was finding. My first attempt was Mod Podge and if I was really careful it did ok, but when I got to the firework ornament, some of the red started to bleed, so I switched to clear gloss spray for the last two (clarinet and cat) and that worked much better (several light coats). I wished I’d started with that–or just used Sharpies in the first place.

The kids thought they were great and one son commented how much they looked like stained glass. Because it was quite easy and I like the design freedom I have, I’ll probably use the shrink paper again, though I feel compelled to come up with something different for next year. Any suggestions?

Any one else make ornaments for their children? We’d love to see what you do!

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  1. Stephanie A. says

    We each make a new ornament every year out of salt dough that we bake and paint. It is something that represents what we have done that year. It is so much fun every December to open the ornament box and talk about the ornaments and accompaning memories as they go on the tree. (Each of my kids first Christmas’s we made imprints of their foot in the salt dough….super cute.)

    • That is such a great idea, Stephanie! I haven’t done the salt dough thing yet, but Trina sent me some pictures of some really pretty ornaments she made from it. Perfect way to document the first Christmas! (Too bad I can’t go back and get those foot prints now!)

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