26 November 2020
In this miniature tutorial Gayle Baillargeon shows you how to make baubles for your dolls house or miniature scene. Hang them on your miniature tree, stand or place in a box.
But before you get making, let's start with a brief history of these beautiful ornaments...
History of Christmas decorations
Coloured and ornately embellished glass balls are pulled from attics and drawers every year in December to decorate Christmas trees. While the first decorated indoor Christmas tree appeared in a church in Germany in the early 1600s, glass ornaments weren't produced until about 1850.
Blown glass ornaments made specifically for Christmas trees were first created by the glass blowers of Lauscha, Germany. These first glass ornaments were shaped like the fruit and nuts that adorned Christmas trees in that era. The sparkling glass shapes were soon being sold throughout Europe.
Queen Victoria’s Christmas tree was decorated with the German made ornaments and photographs of the royal tree increased the popularity of the sparkling glass baubles.
American merchants imported the appealing novelties and the first shipments were soon sold out. Corning Glass was asked to try using its light bulb manufacturing machines to produce glass balls and mass produced Christmas balls soon out-sold the hand-blown European ornaments.
Antique and modern Christmas ornaments have become a passion for many collectors. The decorated balls are so beautiful they're displayed throughout the year and some shops are dedicated to selling only Christmas ornaments.
Christmas balls are also used to decorate most miniature Christmas trees. Both plastic and glass beads can be used as decorations. Glued into the branches of a miniature tree they add sparkle and colour to the mini boughs.
Ready to make your own?
These miniature decorations are easy to make and by adding a simple stand, an ornate miniature Christmas ball can be used as a sparkling decoration on a side table or in a miniature display case.
DIY miniature Christmas tree ornaments
You will need
- Round plastic bead or commercially available miniature Christmas ball
- Head pin
- Round flat jewellery finding
- Instant set jewellery glue
- Tiny acrylic jewels in various colours and shapes
- No hole beads
- Acrylic paint
- Clear acrylic varnish
- Needle nosed pliers
- Fine paintbrush
For the Christmas ball stand
1. Use jewellers glue to attach a round, flat, jewellery finding to the bottom of a 2in (50mm) head pin. Let it dry well so the join is solid.
2. Hold the pin above the glued finding and bend the pin at a right angle about 1/2in (13mm) above the base. Try not to press against the finding or this will stress the glued join (see photo above).
3. Your stand is now ready to hang your decorated Christmas ball on the spiral. Adjust the height and width of the curl until the ball doesn't touch the side of the pin or the base and the stand is balanced when placed on a table.
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For the decorated Christmas ball
4. The plain Christmas balls that form the base for your creation may be available from your local miniature shop or you can make your own. Thread a head pin through a round bead. The bead should be at least 1/4in (6mm) in diameter but 1/2in (13mm) gives you more space for decorating and is still in scale. Use pliers to curl the pin into a small hanging loop. Cut off the excess pin.
Top tip! Mulitcolured jewels can be shaped like hearts, flowers, moon, stars and teardrops as well as being round or square. The tiny acrylic jewels are available at craft stores and in scrapbook supplies. They're also found in the cosmetic department as decorative nail accessories. Choose the colours and shapes that show well against the background colour of the ball.
5. If you want to change the colour of the ball, paint it with at least two coats of acrylic paint in the colour of your choice. Leave to dry.
6. Hold the ball with self-clamping tweezers or thread the hanging loop onto the toothpick. Use a toothpick to apply a small dot of acrylic varnish to one side of the ball. Stick a small acrylic jewel into the dot of varnish.
7. Turn the ball around and place a dot of varnish and acrylic jewel on the otherside of the ball. Try to place it at the same position as the one on the other side. Check the position of the jewels by holding the ball upside down.
8. Place a dot of varnish and a jewel half way between the two jewels and again on the opposite side from that jewel. You now have the Christmas ball divided evenly in four.
9. Continue placing dots of varnish and jewels in the pattern of your choice. Repeat the same pattern in each quarter section. The jewels could also be in lines or in random spots.
10. Dip the end of a toothpick in varnish and draw a line with the varnish between the jewels. It can connect the jewels or be a curling tendril that scrolls around the jewelled area.
Dampen the tip of another toothpick with water and dip it into a small pile of no-hole beads. They're available in gold, silver, pearl and various colours. The beads will stick to a damp toothpick for a minute or two but will be easy to remove.
Place the beads on the line of varnish and gently push them into line. If there's too much varnish the beads will tend to migrate toward the bottom of the ball. Small clusters of beads can be shaped into flowers, diamonds or squares.
Continue drawing lines with varnish and add beads until you your pattern is complete. Let the ball dry for several hours or overnight so that the jewels and beads adhere solidly to the ball.
11. Use a toothpick or small brush to gently flow small drops of varnish over the entire ball. The varnish should cover the jewels and the beads and fill the areas inbetween. Let the coating dry.
Make sure the varnish does not form a large drip on the bottom of the ball by turning it regularly until the varnish sets. Give the ball a second coat of varnish.
12. Hand your elegant creation on the Christmas tree or on a stand where it can be admired. The baubles can also be placed in a box.
Enjoyed making miniature Christmas decorations? Why not make a Christmas tree to complete your miniature scene?