Crafting, Ornaments

Ornaments 2018

For about six years I’ve made ornaments as part of a holiday swap. This past Christmas (2018), I made lightbulb snowmen and penguins. This time I took still photographs of the process, and wrote about my process below.

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  1. I bought a big box of bulbs at a home & hardware warehouse store: one box of 16 bulbs, and an additional box of 4. In all I was making 10 snowmen and 10 penguins. Usually the headcount for ornaments is 12-15. I make a few extras: one for myself (so I can recall what I made year to year) and then a few extra. This is just in case someone participated in the swap and I learn that on swap day.
  2. I saved the lightbulb boxes, and we also had another bulb box lying around. These boxes are used for “drying stands” when I paint the lightbulbs one side at a time.[Baby food jars, small-mouthed jars, and old egg cartons are also useful for this purpose.]
  3. I used a large jar of white acrylic paint and a square foam brush to paint layer upon layer of white paint onto 20 bulbs. I held them up to the light to see where to reapply the paint. This took a few days.
  4. Next I painted the penguin bulbs half black. I drew a pencil line bisecting the lightbulb from one side of the silver base to the other. In the area I wanted black, I wrote “black,” and repeated this ten times. Then I painted that area and allowed these 10 bulbs to dry.
  5. Next I did the snowmens’ hats. I used clear school glue and wrapped the silver lightbulb base in thick red yarn to look like a hat. I tucked in one end of the yarn on the second rotation of the yarn, then wrapped down to cover the edge of the base. Then I kept wrapping upward. Getting the yarn to really stick to the top of the bulb base was a challenge. I did my best to spiral it up to a finished point and leave a straggling piece. Then I left the bulb to dry a few hours. Once it was dry, I trimmed this end piece off. The base was completely covered in red yarn.
  6. Next I did the penguins’ flippers. I cut curvy flippers out of glittery black foam sheet. These were wavy curves about 1.5″ long. 20 looked like a shallow curved letter “S,” facing right, the other 20 looked like a shallowed curved backwards “S,” facing left. One of each type was used as a right and left flipper.
  7. On the penguins I removed a small part of the backing on one end of the flipper to expose the adhesive. The rest of the backing was left on, but it was painted black and allowed to dry.
  8. I used superglue on the exposed adhesive part of the flippers and glued them in the black area framing the penguins’ white belly, along the “waistline”, the part of the bulb that starts curving outward. Repeated this gluing 10 times.
  9. I cut teardrop shapes out of orange glitter foam sheets.
  10. Next I did the snowmen’s arms. I cut a total of 10 strips of dark brown chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners) in 2.5″ lengths. Then I cut 10 brown chenille stems at a length of 1″. Then I wrapped the 1″ pieces around the 2.5″ stems very close to one end, pointing in either direction so the whole thing looks like a small tree branch. These were the “arms” of the snowmen.
  11. On the snowmen, I took a painted white bulb and used superglue to attach the brown chenille “arms” to either side of the bulb. I used to part of the bulb where the curve begins as a guide, the “waistline” on the snowmen.
  12. On the penguins, I wrapped the lightbulb’s silver base in red yarn similar to those on the snowmen (see step 5.)
  13. I got a bag of assorted pompoms in “Christmas colors”: red, kelly green, light green, white, sparkly red, sparkly white/silver, sparkly kelly green, and sparkly light green. I used 20 of the pompoms that were about 1/2″ around.
  14. I checked all the yarn “hats” to make sure they stuck to the lightbulb’s base. I cut off the yarn end at the top. I secured any loose bits with superglue and allowed each to dry.
  15. I superglued the pompoms in one of six colors onto the 20 ornaments.
  16. On the penguins, I took a black and white painted bulb and attached flippers/wings in the black area framing the white area. I used the edge of the lightbulb’s curve as a guide, so that the flippers/wings are positioned just above the penguins “waistline.”
  17. On the penguins and snowmen, I cut many tiny squares out of the black glittered foam sheet. I estimate they were 1/8″. Once all 40 of those were cut, I cut the corners off of them so they looked more like a lumpy piece of charcoal.  These were the eyes. I cut 40 more this size that would be the mouth.
  18. On the snowmen, I cut 30 (thirty) additional squares of black glittery foam sheet at about 1/4.” I also cut the corners off of all these. These were the snowmen’s “buttons.”
  19. On the penguins, I fine-tuned their “feet,” those orange teardrop shapes I cut. I cut the pointy part off into a semi- circle. Then in I cut three indentations into the opposite end. These were trimmed further with an Exacto knife on a cutting mat. There are 20 of these. Once I had cut them all, I paired them up by size.
  20. On the penguins, I used superglue to apply their eyes.
  21. On the penguins, I cut small triangles out of the orange glittery foam sheet. These were the beaks.  These were probably 1/4″ at the bottom and about 1/2″ long.
  22. On the snowmen, I cut very small triangles out of the orange glittery foam sheet. These were the noses. These were probably about 1/16″ at the bottom and not even 1/2″ long. I eyeballed these, I didn’t measure them precisely as I went.
  23. On the snowmen, I used superglue to glue on their eyes. I allowed these to dry.
  24. On the snowmen, I used superglue to glue on their noses below the eyes, in the middle. These noses pointed to the left or right. I allowed these to dry.
  25. On the snowmen, I used superglue to glue on their buttons on the “belly”, the lower, rounded part of the bulb. They were close to 3/4″ apart. I allowed these to dry.
  26. On the snowmen, I glued their mouths on to form a smile, or curve whose ends are both turning upward. These were four (4) of the black glitter foam pieces that were originally 1/4″ squares.
  27.  On the penguins, I superglued their orange glittery “beaks” on below their eyes, but in the middle. I alternated the position for variety. Sometimes the triangle pointed downward, sometimes it pointed left, and sometimes it pointed right.
  28. On the penguins, I superglued their orange glittery “feet” on the lower part of their “belly” area.
  29. On the snowmen, I painted the white with iridescent white paint. It dries clear with sparkly pastel glittery flecks in pink, green and blue. It sparkles like snow when hit by light. I used large paintbrush on the large white areas of the snowmen, and a tiny pointed paintbrush on the areas near the face and buttons. Then I allowed them to dry.
  30. On the penguins, I painted the black with a glittery glaze for black paint so it would better match their flippers/wings.
  31. On the penguins and the snowmen, I encircled the bulbs with clear nylon thread (aka fishing line) and tied it with a little slack and cut the ends. Then I cut a 4″ piece of nylon thread and threaded it under the tied one.  This 4″ strand is the hanging string for the ornament. I like at least 2″-3″ from the ornament to the branch it will hang on. I tied a double knot in this second nylon thread, and trimmed the excess.
  32. Using permanent marker, I signed each ornament with my initials and the year at the very bottom.
  33. And that’s it! I had 4″ x 4″ boxes to wrap these and used tissue paper for padding. They were well-received.