Appalachia Christmas

Making Christmas Ornaments from Nature

Making christmas ornaments from nature
Several years ago I learned how to make snowflake or snowball Christmas ornaments from the book A Foxfire ChristmasOne of the interviewees in the book described how her family took sycamore balls and dipped them in flour and water to make them white like snow balls for their Christmas tree decorations. I didn’t have any sycamore balls, but I have a never ending supply of sweet gum balls in the woods around my house and I figured they would work just as well.

Sweet gum ball christmas ornaments

I made a thin batter of flour and water and dipped the sweet gum ball in it. Next I rolled it in flour and then set it aside to dry by the heater. Most of the sweet gum balls I used still had their stem on them, which made a handy dandy handle for holding onto.

B. Ruth’s family also used flour to make decorations:

My childhood memory of greenery decoration was gathering small cedar pieces, wetting them under the faucet, placing a 1/2 cup of flour in a large brown poke..while holding the damp branches upside down in the poke, gather the poke around them and shake it….take out.. instant snowfall…we would put them all around in vases and attach little red and silver balls…yes it would get messy after a while but was so pretty to us and would last thru the holidays…back then we only put up our real tree a week or less in advance of Christmas..

I was so pleased with how the sweet gum balls turned out. They did indeed look like snowballs. And what a fun easy decoration to make. We had a good time walking in the winter woods looking for what we needed and enjoyed a cup of Russian tea to warm us as we completed the snowflakes on the back deck.


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  • Reply
    December 28, 2018 at 12:25 am

    Once upon a time 30 yrs. ago when I lost virtually everything I had-including a husband; I made the conscience decision to have a Christmas tree come he#$ or highwater…I gathered gum balls and sprayed them silver, copper and gold; hot glued a hook on them and hung them on my tree. They looked so beautiful that I started foraging around the property for unique pieces of nature. I also hung oyster and mussel shells…it was one of the pretties trees I ever had.

  • Reply
    Carol Rosenbalm
    December 21, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    Merry Christmas Tipper and family,
    May you have a blessed Christmas and enjoy your time with friends and your family!
    I can’t find galax in the valley but I’ve seen it in the smokies and I can’t pick itM. I’ve got gum balls and I’m getting ready to cut my snowflakes out of coffee filters and put them around the house and on patio door!
    Please remember the folks in sevier county that’s lost everything but Gatlinburg is open and wants people to visit and spend money. The outpouring of love from around the US and even from abroad!
    This won’t be a one time deal this wil be going for years! Prayers for these dear people!
    Carol Rosenbalm

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    December 20, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    We have both Sycamore AND Gum balls, and anyone who wants them can’t take away as many as they want for free. LOL
    One of my favorite childhood memories was cutting paper snowflakes for the windows. I also remember as a teen, making a closet sachet for someone out of an orange studded with cloves. It sounded so easy, but the clove spikes were hard on the fingers. Sure did smell pretty after it was done though.
    And, of course, I’ve also done the craft where you dab bits of Elmer’s glue onto the petals of a pine cone with a small brush, then dust with glitter. And I remember doing one that was suppose to be a pickle (it’s good luck to hang a pickle from the Christmas tree) from the inside of a toilet paper roll, glue and green glitter (that looked nothing like a pickle in the end-lol).
    I pray everyone’s having a great week, and a safe one too.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    December 20, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    I love the ornaments! I miss the smell of the evergreen trees since I have an artificial tree. I must go into the woods behind my house and find a little cedar tree or something. Just listened to the girls sing the Beautiful Star of Bethlehem…just precious. Thank you so much for making my Christmas even more homey as you come into my home via the computer!
    Hey, I made your Christmas Crack and it was sooooo good…very addicting…Oh my.

  • Reply
    December 20, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Your upbeat Christmas talk is wonderful. I love this time of year, although I wish we had Snow. Perhaps later.
    Donna Lynn played a lot of Paul and Pap’s music today. When I called the radio station the first thing she asked was “Did you hear Chitter and Chatter singing “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem?” They’re my Favorite! …Ken

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 20, 2016 at 11:05 am

    I wish I could find a sycamore tree here on our place. I am sure there is one somewhere! A lot of confusion exists twix the “Sycamore seed ball” and the “Sweet Gum seed (shell)! I have done it a million times when asking someone if I can pick up the Sweet gum seed shells from their yard! Somehow sycamore shells just rolls off the tongue easier, but the person always seems to know what I’m talking about!
    The best way to remember for me is…The Sycamore is actually a BALL seed on a long stem! If it dries out too much it will explode it’s seed eventually. That’s why it is important to coat the seed ball with a sealer if using natural or go ahead and paint it color you desire. This helps to keep the ball from drying out too much and exploding the seed. I found many of them in Moms attic Christmas box that were painted white with old enamel paint. Thru the years and extreme drying in the attic and some not used, they had broken on the sides exposing the seed.
    The “Sweet gum” is a round prickly shell like the one Tipper used today. The seeds have already been expelled and all you have left is natures ornament with it’s built in hanger. These are wonderful for crafts. I have seen complete wreaths, deer, bowls etc. using these wonderful seed shells, as I call them! They actually make a motorized tool to pick up these as they say nuisance prickly seed shells out of the yard!
    Mom had Sweet gum shells in her old Christmas box as well. These she painted white, gold or silver!
    She also brought from NC those long pine cones. I think they were white pine. She had a tied red ribbon to the stems. Each one a different length of ribbon. There were at least five in the bunch. Painted white and a big bow of the same ribbon at the top with a loop to hand on a nail in the door.
    I remember I got to straighten out the bow, stretch out the ribbons that held the pine cones. That was one of my favorite things. Open the front door, and stand on the stoop to hang it from the nail Dad had put in the door just for this purpose. Back then I thought we had one of the prettiest door decorations in the neighborhood. I had never seen anyone else use those big, long white pine cones hanging on red cross grained ribbon.
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…After we got older Mom started adding newer store bought decorations. But she kept the ones she made and brought from her home in NC. She passed the way she crafted them on to me. I still think those little cedars, homemade ornaments, door hangers etc. were always more meaningful and true to our home!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 20, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Your post reminds me of how common the adjective “store bought” used to be when hand crafting and invention was the norm. To the crafts folks, it could mean not as good as hand made. Or it could mean a touch of pride in having store bought. I was born into the transition from home made to commercial only to see things reverse to a degree.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 20, 2016 at 8:19 am

    I love bringing nature indoors. A lovely ornament

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