Ornaments have always been a big part of my family’s Christmas traditions: my brother, sister, and I each have plastic tubs full of the ornaments we’ve been gifted over the years, and my mother has been hand-making ornaments for us and for friends and family for as long as I can remember.
Some of my favorite of these are the clothespin ornaments she made when we were children: soldiers, ballerinas, and carolers that we stuck on our tree and carefully wrapped in tissue paper once the holiday was over. A few years ago, she began making them again. She started out with traditional subjects like elves and angels, but little by little began to branch out into the wide world of media, making beautiful pint-sized versions of Elsa from Frozen, Batgirl, and Supergirl to guard our trees.
She taught me how to make these ornaments, and now I’m going to teach you! I’m not as artistically talented as my mother, but these ornaments are very forgiving. If you’d like to make some for yourself or as a gift, just follow these steps, and get ready to be complimented!
What you’ll need:
- A character to create and visual aid of said character
- Round-headed wooden clothespin (sometimes called “traditional” clothespins) such as these
- Popsicle stick, sliced in half at an angle
- Acrylic paint (I like to use paint markers, because they’re easy to handle and less messy than a paint and brush, but you may find you need a wider range of colors or more detail than the marker point can handle.)
- Embroidery floss or yarn for hair
- Newspaper or paper towel
- Felt in appropriate colors
- Pipe-cleaners in appropriate colors
- Metallic tape
- Holiday music in the background
How to do it
Gather all the pieces you’ll need. Lay out the paper towel or newspaper on a flat, well-lit work surface, like a counter or table. Make sure you have your visual aid in front of you, so you can reference your work as you go.
Pencil out the costume on the body of your clothespin. This is just a rough estimate and isn’t necessary, but I like to have some sketched lines to follow.
Outline each section and fill it in with the appropriate color. For Wonder Woman, I’m filling in the red and blue sections first and will follow with the gold and white details once the paint is dry.
You may want to give your sketched pattern a wide margin to account for bleeding color.
(I let the paint dry by hanging the clothespin to the fridge with a clip magnet.)
Once your paint is dry, add any painted details that are necessary. Here, I’ve added the white stripe to Diana’s boots, her gold accessories and tiara, eyes, and mouth.
While the paint dries, work on the accessories. Take your popsicle stick halves and paint them the appropriate color for sleeves. For Diana, I used silver paint to recreate her gauntlets.
Optional: You may switch the popsicle sticks out for pipe cleaners in the appropriate color, as I did for Ms. Marvel (below), so your ornament has flexible arms.
I also used this time to make Diana’s lasso (out of gold pipe cleaner) and cut some black embroidery floss for her hair.
Some people may prefer to use metallic tape instead of paint to create belts, boots, and cowls. Depending on your character, you may want to make a cape, or costume out of felt or fabric. You can see some examples of that below.
Once all your paint is dry and all your accessories are complete, it’s time to assemble! I used hot glue. For her hair, I used dabs of ModPodge and attached the strands one at a time in layers to give it a thick look. It’s easier to cut and style once it’s all glued on, so don’t worry if your strands are mismatched or too long. Add your accessories: masks, lassos, cowls.
(No pictures of this because both hands were busy and also covered in glue.)
Step back, admire your work, and gift to someone who could use a hero within arm’s reach!
Want to see how this technique works with other heroes?