This tutorial was originally posted on The Pigeon Letters blog and contains affiliate links.
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- The template below, printed or traced on an A4 piece of at least 200gsm paper
- A pair of scissors
- A hole puncher
- A 30 cm piece of string or ribbon
- A watercolor set (I use the following colors, but feel free to substitute: Pyrrol scarlet, Buff titanium, Yellow ochre)
- The Pigeon Letters ¾” Studio Filbert brush
- The Pigeon Letters Monoline Studio Archival Pens - 5pc
STEP 1: Paint Your Background Texture
The first thing you are going to do is create a nice watercolor texture for your ornament. And for that you can start by mixing your watercolor. For my ornament, I used pyrrol scarlet with buff titanium, and I dirtied it a bit with some yellow ochre, which gave me a peachy, punchy hue. Of course this is not your traditional Christmas color, but here, in Australia, Christmas is in summer, so I liked the idea of a fresh, fruity hue. However, feel free to use whatever color you want!
Then, flip your piece of paper so the template is facing down, before painting your texture on the verso. I went for a bit of a rough, free-handed texture, using The Pigeon Letters ¾” Filbert Studio brush with very little water, so I could get really clear strokes. That being said, I still wanted enough water that the color could still bleed and evolve over time, which is the beauty of watercolor! As usual though, I encourage you not to overthink this step: stay spontaneous! It really doesn’t matter what the texture looks like in the end, as it is only going to serve as background for your Christmas pattern.
Once you’re happy with your texture, make sure that you let it fully dry, before moving on to the next step.
STEP 2: Cut Out Your Ornament
Once the texture has dried, you can cut out the template. Remember, solid lines are for cutting, and dotted lines are for folding (but that will be later, so don’t fold anything yet). Once again you can find the template just above!
STEP 3: Draw Your Christmas Pattern
Now you can start working on your Christmas pattern! I will be demonstrating the pattern I have chosen, but of course feel free to adapt it, or create your own. Just a little tip if you decide to go for your own design: take a minute to think about the look you’re trying to achieve. What tools will you need? What techniques will you use? For my ornament, I wanted a clean, graphic, stylised snowflake pattern, so The Pigeon Letters Monoline Studio Archival Pens were just perfect for precise, sharp line work.
For my simple snowflake pattern, start with the 09 Monoline Studio Archival Pen, and draw little dots all over the ornament. Not too many, and not too orderly: simply sprinkle them about (once again, don’t overthink it! This isn’t a perfect computer-made pattern, and it’s not meant to be).
Then, keep using the number 09 pen to draw one big snowflake, wherever you want. You can use really simple shapes here, like lines or dots. That way, it doesn’t matter if you think you can’t draw, anyone can do this (truly)!
Next, swap for the number 07 pen and draw another big snowflake. You can of course vary the number of branches, or the graphic elements of your snowflake. It can be more or less complicated; you might want to go for a more minimal vibe; or you might draw all snowflakes the same way: it's really up to you.
As you progress through your pattern, you can vary the size of your elements based on the thickness of the pen. So you can draw the biggest snowflakes with the 09 or 07 pens, then use the thinner pens for the smaller elements, slowly filling the gaps within the pattern.
The beauty of it is that you really don’t need to plan before your draw! I personally love seeing things emerge as I go: it’s almost like a meditative process for me (well-needed amongst the craziness of the festive season). It also means that each ornament I make is truly unique! Which, If you’re gifting them, actually makes them all the more special. Plus, you know making mistakes is just a human trait, after all! So having little imperfections makes your piece that much more meaningful for those who will receive it.
Once you have pretty much filled up the space, switch to the 01 pen, and draw delicate snowflakes in between the existing ones, identifying spots that might look a bit empty. Then, draw small stars here and there, sprinkling them where you see fit, not worrying too much about perfection (that’s really not my thing in case you haven’t noticed). Adding these small elements will link the bigger snowflakes together and create a better sense of flow in the pattern.
Before you go overboard, you might know that over-embellishing is a small flaw of mine, so if you’re also prone to it, try to stay mindful of it and step back before it’s too late!
STEP 4: Fold Your Christmas Ornament
Now, you can fold your ornament, following the dotted lines on the template. I like to mark the fold with my nail, to make it easier to follow the line and create a cleaner fold.
STEP 5: Punch the Holes In Your Ornament
Next, punch a hole in each branch of the template. I used a simple office hole puncher, but you could use a needle, or a stanley knife.
STEP 6: Tie A Knot
And now you can close your ornament! So grab your string, or ribbon, and thread it through one hole, going in, and then through the opposite hole, going out. Make sure both your tails are about the same length, then tie a simple knot. You want the knot to be sitting under the two tips of the branches, like in the photo below:
(If you want to add a little surprise inside your ornament, now is the time! Pop it in before continuing with the next steps.)
Take you two tails and thread them each through a hole, going out. Then, make a simple knot, and your box will close like a little purse!
Next, make a bow, keeping both loops the same size. Once you are happy with your bow, you can snap the tails with your scissors, so they’re the same length. And that’s it! How quick and easy was this?
Et voilà! A unique, handcrafted Christmas ornament, which you can hang on your tree, or fill with sweets for your loved ones. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and if you share your own ornaments on social media, please feel free to tag me, as I’d love, love, love to see what you created! Thank you, and happy festive season!