Holiday Decor

Sparkly and Glamorous Christmas Tree made from Vintage Jewelry Finds

Vintage jewelry finds make a stunning addition to your holiday decor

One of my favorite holiday decorations is this tree I made from vintage (and not so vintage) jewelry that I’ve collected over the years. I saw a tree 4 foot tall tree made of antique jewelry in an antique store in Baltimore. I couldn’t afford the price tag in the thousands, but resolved to make my own, smaller version. The project can be as simple or elaborate as you like. I hope it’ll be a favorite addition to your holiday decor as well.

My friend and I had so much fun sorting through this box of jewelry from an online auction. The box has fueled several craft projects and we still have plenty left for more.

Materials and Tools

The materials and tools you’ll need:

  • Pliers – small needle nose and jewelry pliers work best, but you can use regular pliers too, if you don’t have jewelry pliers.
  • Safety Glasses
  • Glue: I used A6000 for its strong hold and that it didn’t spread and stain the fabric, it also dries clear. I’m a big fan of using whatever you have on hand, just make sure the glue will work for your surfaces and is strong enough to hold the weight of the pieces once you hang it.
  • Popsicle sticks, toothpicks, or other utensils to spread the glue.
  • Scissors
  • Jewelry – lots of it. Comb your jewelry box for broken necklaces, mismatched earrings, and out of style items you no longer wear. I knew I wanted to do this project for quite a while, so I began collecting inexpensive jewelry at yard sales and thrift shops.
    • Look for a variety of shapes and sizes. Brooches and pendants work best, but any piece with a flat back will work nicely. I used barrettes, bracelets, buttons, earrings, even shoe clips!
    • When my friend told me that it was time to do this project, I still hadn’t collected have enough. So, I scoured the online auctions and bought a box of tangled jewelry. There are auctions that just sell it by the pound, but you have no idea what you are getting. I looked for auctions that showed pictures of the actual pile of jewelry that I was getting. We had a blast sorting it, there were a lot of cute surprises, and we’ve made several projects using this box of jewelry and still have plenty left.
  • Frame – a shadow box frame or a regular frame with the glass removed. Keep an eye out for good deals on shadowbox frames at thrift stores year-round, they always come in handy for projects!
  • Background –
    • Fabric – I found a beautiful remnant of soft grey velvet that perfectly complemented my color scheme in the discount bin of a fabric store. The velvet I used was a very thin velvet. If you plan to use your frame’s original backing, make sure that it will still fit back into the frame with the fabric wrapped around it.
    • Paper – You could also use scrapbook paper, wrapping paper, or wallpaper.
    • Paint – or paint a piece of wood, or your frame’s backing in your desired color.
  • Foamboard (optional) if you have pieces that you wish to keep intact, using a piece of foamboard for your backing will allow you to push pins into the backing and keep the jewelry intact.
    • If using foamboard, you can use small display pins, U-pins or T-pins to attach your pieces so they can be removed and reused later.
  • Duct tape or spray adhesive, you may need to bond your background fabric or paper, or tape down the edges of your fabric to your backing
This adorable squirrel pin was hiding in the box of jewelry – he did not go into any crafts, but rather, found a home in my friend’s jewelry box.

Creating the Tree

Assembling the tree was fun and easy, but did take some time. I spent a good amount of the time making sure I had the arrangement the way I wanted, adding and removing pieces until I felt it was right. The most difficult part is knowing when to stop!

Prepare your backing: If you’re using a decorative paper you can start by using spray adhesive to affix it to the back board of your frame or a piece of foamboard cut to fit the frame. If using fabric, to cover the frame’s original backing, you may want to leave it loose to make it easier to pin pieces that you don’t want to damage to it. If you’re using foamboard go ahead and attach the fabric with spray adhesive or duct tape so it doesn’t slide around when you push the pins in.

Place pieces that will be focal points, drawing the eye, carefully. This teal wreath is the brightest piece, drawing the eye. It makes more sense to center it, near the top, than had it just been sitting at the bottom of the tree.

Lay out your design: I laid out the biggest pieces first to get my general shape. I started with my larger pieces toward the bottom, and edged the bottom with a bracelet to form a straight line to anchor my tree. I interspersed smaller pieces in between. I also tried to be aware of spreading out the colors, textures and sparkles evenly. The teal wreath pin was the brightest piece, and although a little larger, I knew I wanted it to be a focal point near the top of the tree. Take a step back and squint at your layout, or photograph it, to see if the arrangement is pleasing to the eye. If anything isn’t working, don’t be afraid to move it, or take it out of the composition altogether.

Affix your pieces: There were a few pieces that held more value than the others. Those pieces I kept intact and pinned to the fabric, using their original backings or U-pins. For those pieces that were broken or “junk” jewelry, I just used the needle nose and jewelry pliers to cut them up, gently twist off the backings, or twist apart jump rings. Some of the pieces were delicate, so I recommend taking your time and going slowly, so as not to break off parts you want to keep. It’s also a good idea to wear safety glasses during this step as parts can go flying.

Once a piece was laying flat enough, I used a toothpick and popsicle stick to lightly spread the glue evenly on the back of the piece before placing it. As glue drips would’ve stained my fabric, I had to curb my natural tendency to just glob it on.

Fill in gaps between the big pieces with smaller pieces. I did not lay out all of the small filler pieces before I glued, that would have been pretty tedious and time consuming to try to pick them all up and get them glued back down in the right place (or to transfer if you’re laying out your design on a separate paper before starting). Once you’ve completed your placing all of your pieces, allow your glue to dry thoroughly before moving it or trying to fit it into the frame.

Frame it: If using fabric that has not been affixed to the back of the frame, firmly wrap the fabric around the back without pulling the design. Use duct tape to tape the edges down to the backing. Trim any excess fabric that bunches and prevents you from fitting the back fully into the frame. My fabric was a little bit thick, but it still allowed me to push the back into the frame and fit very snugly.

Fold your fabric over the back of the frame firmly, but without pulling or stretching the design. Cut slits into the fabric where the fasteners lock into the frame and trim away excess fabric so your frame will hang flat. Edges can be taped down with duct tape to keep your design in place.

Finishing Touches and Tips:

I chose a color palette of blues and greens, and filled in with clear rhinestones and white to fit with my holiday decor. I recommend choosing a “theme” to give your design a more intentional, “put-together” feel. You could choose all rhinestones, or all enamel, all flowers, or snowflakes, or all Christmas jewelry with cute presents under the tree . . you get the idea. I’d love to see what you come up with!

Give consideration to which piece will be the top of your tree. I chose one that would look like a tree topper, but you could also choose a more “natural” look and bring your tree to a point at the top.

Overlap pieces to give more depth. This also allows you to hide areas where jewelry may be broken or missing some stones. You can also use beads or parts of other jewelry to fill in gaps and missing stones – or not. I left some of the settings open, allowing the shape and shine of the setting to become part of the design.

Overlap pieces for added depth and to cover broken parts or missing stones.

Decide whether your tree will be a simple rectangle with the base at the bottom of the frame or have a trunk. A trunk gives you room to add “presents” underneath or even a tree skirt.

I used two rhinestone bracelets to bracket the corners, I really like how they “frame” the design. To get the crisp, squared profile in the lower left corner I used the jewelry pliers to snip off one side of the bracelet and square it up against the center piece.

Use jewelry pliers to snip apart jewelry to arrange it.

Add animals or birds – when I first started laying out my design the bird pin was in the center of the tree and, to me, he looked trapped. As I rearranged pieces, it felt more natural to let him spread his wings and fly. I’m glad I set him free! Imagine a deer next to the tree, a curled up sleeping cat, or a bunny sitting beneath it. There are so many cute animal pins that can add a touch of life to your vignette.

Now place your tree where it can sparkle and shine on your holiday season!

DIY Home Decor Holiday Decor

DIY Bleeding Candles: Make your own Upcycled Halloween Candles

Every practitioner of the dark arts needs ritual candles. When I saw these bleeding candles online I thought they were so cool. But, I didn’t think they were $15 – $30 cool. Also, they only came in white and I thought they’d look much better in black. I knew this would be an easy project that would let me upcycle thrift store candles for much less.

Two bleeding candles cost anywhere from $15 to $30 online.

You’ll need:

  • Black candles, as many as you want to make (optional use white or other colored candles if you prefer)
  • Red candle, the darker red the better, the dripped wax will be lighter than the source candle, so keep that in mind when selecting your red candle (or get several red candles and experiment).
  • A lighter
  • Scissors or box cutter (optional)
  • Waxed paper or newspaper
  • Candle holders (optional – but you’ll eventually need them), or a box or something you can poke a hole in to hold the candles while you work.
Inexpensive thrift store candles ready for upcycling into fabulous bleeding candles.

Make it:

I bought my candles at thrift stores, because I didn’t care if they were dinged up, I think it adds to the aged character I was aiming for. Also, they are super inexpensive and I was able to get a whole bunch of candles for less than $5.00.

A cautionary tale: I was so anxious to start, I grabbed the nearest candle holders. They look like they’ve survived a massacre and I dread trying to get all that wax off.

Prepare your work surface. This is the the step I always forget because I’m excited to just dive right into the project. I highly recommend at least putting down some newspaper or other covering because the red dye in the candle wax can stain some surfaces.

If you are using candle holders that you don’t want to have wax dripped on, cover them with a paper towel, wax paper or newspaper before you put the candle in. You can also just cut a small cross into a box to insert the candle into while working. If you’re using a temporary holder but want to keep the puddled wax at the bottom when you transfer the candle to the final holder, line the temporary holder with waxed paper.

Trim your Candles. The next step is to determine how tall you want your candles. I wanted the candles to look like a practitioner of the dark arts has used them in many a ceremony. They were too tall and sprightly to have seen so much sorrow, so I cut them off shorter (also, I was too impatient to wait for them to burn down). You can trim them at the bottom if you like, but if you go that route, make sure you trim at at spot before the candle tapers, so it’s not loose in your holder.

With tapers, it is better to trim from the top, for a more authentic look and so they don’t wobble in the holder. Using old craft scissors, a box cutter, or the strength of your bare hands, cut into (or break) the wax using care not to cut all the way through the wick. After the wax crumbles away from the wick, pull it up to expose the wick and cut it approximately 1/4 to 1/2 an inch above the top the shortened candle (you can always trim it later). I didn’t worry about making the cuts even, or the same height, since I was going for an aged look.

Burn down the top. The idea is to make it look like the candles bled while burning. With this is in mind, whether you’re starting with a fresh pristine candle, or one you’ve trimmed, you will want to burn down the new top, or broken edges, before you start dripping the red wax on. Light the candle and let it burn until the top is melted enough to look used. Once you get it to where you want it, blow out the candle.

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Building up layers will make it look like the candle has been well used in your rituals. Pause often to observe your progress, turn the candle, and adjust your drips.

The fun part! This is the best part – just don’t forget in all of your excitement to use caution while handling the lit candles. Fire and hot wax burn people and things. We only want the illusion of bleeding; real bleeding and sacrifice are not required.

Light the red candle, holding it upright a few seconds to get a good melt started. Start dripping the red wax on the top of the black candle. How long you do this, and how much you build up, is a matter of personal preference. I think I might have overdone it just a little on a couple of mine because it was simply too much fun! Build it up until it looks right to you, dripping it down different areas. Drips will tend to gather on top of each other and build up, so play with it until you get the look you want.

Once you like how it looks, light the black candle and extinguish the red one. Let the black candle burn a minute or so to burn off any wax that dripped onto the wick and to develop the proper texture on top for a candle that’s seen many a ritual.


Put these candles in a candle holder and place them on your mantel, your buffet, your table, your alter, wherever you perform your sacrifices. I don’t light them, because they will not “bleed” as they burn, but I think they give an appropriately spooky feel to my Halloween Mansion. Happy Haunting!

These would also look great in a spooky Candlelier or Candelabra. Looking for other spooky DIYs? Check out our Spooky Chandelier and our Faux Spell Book.

DIY Home Decor Holiday Decor

Unique and Inexpensive DIY Halloween Décor

Halloween décor doesn’t need to be gory and grotesque or cartoonish. In my Victorian house I prefer an elegant gothic approach, featuring subtle touches. Read on for classy, unique, and mature (but not boring) DIY Halloween projects.

Skull Chandelier

One of the simplest and, by far, my favorite Halloween project is adding a touch of Halloween to my chandelier.    It’s simple and inexpensive, but looks like the chandelier was made that way.

Using the same spray paint that I used to paint the chandelier makes the skulls look like they are part of the chandelier.

You’ll need:

  • A package of plastic skulls like these.
  • Spray Paint (optional) any color you want.  I used the same oil rubbed bronze that I used to paint the chandelier when I bought the house. I wanted the skulls to match so they would look like they are actually part of the chandelier. 
  • Scissors, box cutter, awl, nail, or other sharp pointy thing.
Halloween skull decorations
This was an extra skull, I used an all in one paint and primer that I had on hand, you can see that the skull chipped some. Most of them did not have an issue, but for better adhesion you can use a plastic paint or a plastic primer.

Make It:

  1. The first step is to cut the skulls.  Using an awl or large nail poke a hole through the top and the bottom of the skull.  I held the skull up next to the part of the chandelier where I wanted it to sit so could judge the angle and then marked a spot on the top and bottom by eyeing it. 
  2. After punching holes in the top and bottom, Use your craft scissors, or a box cutter, to cut a down the back seam between the holes. 
  3. Once you’ve split the back seam, round out the top and bottom holes to the size of the part you want the skull to sit on.  Take a little off at a time, and fit it as you go.  If you get it to fit snugly enough, it’ll stay in place without any assistance.. 
  4. Paint the skulls however you like.  (I’d love to see someone do these as sugar skulls!)
  5. After the skulls have dried, just squeeze them open and place on your chandelier.  After you can easily remove them for storage until next year (or leave them up year round if you like).

Want more DIY Halloween Projects? Check out our Halloween Bleeding Candles and our Faux Spell Book!

Handmade Gifts Pet Projects

Easy Fishy Cat Toys

I made these DIY fish cat toys as a gift for a friend with new kittens.  They were super easy to make and used up the scraps from another project.  Sewing the fish right-side out makes this fast and easy. 

The final quirky cat fish toys

The materials list is pretty short:

  1. Scrap fabric – cotton, heavy felt and upholstery fabric are all good choices
  2. Thread – your stitches will show so choose a color that matches, coordinates or contrasts as you like. I chose colors that matched the fabrics, but alternated them so that each fish had a thread color from one of the other fish. 
  3. Scrap felt, fleece – for catnip pouches and stuffing.  I like using pieces of fabric to stuff animal toys because I don’t have to worry about fiberfill stuffing coming out and being toxic to or choking the animal.  At worst, they will pull out a piece of scrap fabric that is too big for them to eat, and you might find a slobbery wad of fabric on the floor. 
  4. Dried Catnip
  5. Paper, paper bag, etc. for template
  6. Scissors, Pinking Shears (optional)

I started with laundered fabric scraps. You want to make sure no sizing chemicals are left, that might cause harm to your furry friends.  

I drew a fish pattern on a paper bag, which I used for exactly one fish before I realized it was too wide for the rest of my scraps.  I had initially planned for all of the fish to be the same size and shape.  But I had my heart set on using up those scraps, so I adjusted on the fly and ended up with different sizes and shapes. 

Once I cut out my fish bodies, it was time to work on the stuffing.  I’ve had commercial cat toys before that shed catnip all over the house.  I didn’t want to do that to my friend, so I took a little left over fleece and made little pouches to stuff the catnip into.  This also gave the fish a little “body”.  I wasn’t exact about the size or shape of these pouches.  Just snipped a few scraps, folded them in half and sewed two sides, making sure to back-stitch the ends so they didn’t come undone.  Once I had a bunch of little pouches I stuffed them with catnip.  After you’ve stuffed all of your catnip pouches, sew closed the final side of your pouch, again backstitching the ends to make sure they stay closed, these will be treated roughly, so you want to make sure the catnip stays inside.  Insider tip: After completing my first pouch, I made a whole fish and tossed it to my cats to see how they would react.  I wanted to make sure that the fleece wasn’t so thick that they wouldn’t smell the catnip inside.  They pounced immediately and I could tell it was working. 

Once all of my inner pouches were done I placed my two fish halves right sides out and began sewing.  I used the side of my presser foot for the seam allowance and started sewing at the tail, up and around toward the head.  I lifted the presser foot and adjusted the fabric as necessary to sew around the curves, and make clean corners.  

Sewing the fish cat toy closed.
Stuff the fish, while it is on the machine, after sewing halfway around. This saves you from having to pin and sew around the whole fish while it is stuffed.

I sewed around the fish until I was just past the head.  Made sure my needle was down, and lifted the presser foot if necessary.  Then I stuffed the pouches of catnip into the heads and bodies of the fish.  I also cut little triangles of the fabric to stuff into the tails and added some strips or small pieces wherever I thought fullness would be necessary.

Adding fabric to cat fish toy tails
I didn’t want these to be fully stuffed as my cats like floppy toys, so that’s the design I chose.  You can just as easily stuff them as full as you can, while still being able to get the presser foot back down and maintaining your seam allowance. 

Once stuffed, I finished sewing all the way around the fish. 

Sewing around the cat fish toy body.

I finished off the edges by fraying them, or using my pinking shears, to give them each an individual look.

A lovely cat fish toys for your cats or a friend’s.
A bit of leftover ribbon tied around the tails completed the gift.

Looking for other projects to use up scrap fabric? Check out these cute scrap heap monsters!