When I was home for Christmas last year, I was smart and remembered to pack my camera. After the preparation whatnot of my parents’ hosting Christmas Day guests, I helped my mom take down the tree and realized she’s (of course) holding on to all of the really amazing handmade Christmas ornaments and decorations made by my Great-Grandmothers or she and the other women in her family.
A couple years ago, I shared twelve ornament ideas for Christmas, which you can check out here. This year, I want to share my top seven picks from among my mom’s stash of holiday DIYs. Today I want to start off with this TOTALLY CRAZY Santa made from an old bleach bottle. This somewhat creepy dude is probably at least 50 years old, made by my Great Grandma in the 1960s. According to my mom, there just didn’t used to be a whole lot of Christmas home decor items readily available in stores back then, so that was part of why people made things themselves, often out of upcycled items. My Great-Grandma was born in 1900 and lived until 2002 (she was even at home for her 100th birthday), so she lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression and even 9/11. She knew very well how to make things stretch, and she loved crafting.
empty bleach bottle with handle (for a chubbier Santa, you could try a milk jug)
red and white tulle
white pipe cleaners
Santa doll face (I found some here.)
wooden skewer (optional)
Cut your tulle into several squares, and cut your pipe cleaners into several 4 inch lengths. Gather a piece of tulle into a bundle, fold a pipe cleaner piece around the bundle’s center and fold the pipe cleaner in half. Twist the ends of the pipe cleaner together.
Carefully cut a hole in the back of your bleach bottle as shown using an x-acto knife.
My mom tells me bleach bottles were a very popular craft supply when she was a kid. She also had an Easter bunny and a troll doll bassinet (that I eventually played with when I was a kid), made from bleach bottles too.
Attach your styrofoam ball to the threaded top of the bottle and secure with styrofoam safe glue. (Here‘s a guide for selecting the right glue.) Let dry. Then, attach the Santa face to your styrofoam ball using straight pins.* Poke several pilot holes in your styrofoam ball and poke some tulle and pipe cleaner bundles into those holes to create Santa’s hat. For the tip of the hat, you’ll use longer pipe cleaners to add some shape to it.
*Back then adhesives weren’t as great as they are today – according to Mom, they used pins a lot in crafting.
Poke holes all over the body of your bottle with an x-acto knife, and poke a tulle bundle through the hole, bending the pipe cleaner down inside the bottle to secure.
For the arms and hat of your Santa, you’ll need to create special pipe cleaner and tulle bundles. The red bits need to be attached to longer pieces of pipe cleaner and tipped with white tulle.
Cut two feet out of black felt. Poke two holes into the bottom of the bottle per foot (4 holes total). Attach the feet to the bottom of the bottle with one pipe cleaner piece each. You’ll have to reach inside the bottle to twist together and fold down the pipe cleaners to lock in the feet.
Cut a strip of black felt to use for Santa’s belt. Cut a belt buckle shape out of gold paper and thread it onto the felt. Wrap the belt around Santa’s waist and glue it together behind Santa’s back to attach. You’ll notice the belt buckle on my mom’s vintage Santa is the one part not doing so hot after a few decades of use.
If your Santa’s getup is looking a little sparse, you can always poke more holes and add more packets of tulle to fill it in.
I realize this Santa is totally weird, but that’s why I love him. Heck, that’s why I love so many midcentury crafts. They were weird, funky, funny and didn’t always make any sense. The other crafts I photographed for this series are all significantly less weird, I promise. :)