Introduction: Pomander Ball Christmas Gift

Picture of Pomander Ball Christmas Gift

One whiff of the wonderful scent of a pomander ball is all it takes to get me humming Christmas songs and dreaming of going "home for the holidays." Pomander balls are a Colonial American Christmas tradition, and my mother had us make them for all of our relatives every year. They make very unique gifts, and are great conversation starters as well. So this year I am passing on this tradition by making pomander balls for my in-laws.

So what is a pomander ball? It is simply a piece of fruit, traditionally an orange, that has been pierced by cloves and dried so that it lets off a wonderful aroma. Pomander balls can be used in drawers and closets like a sachet, or used as decorations at Christmastime by hanging them from a mantel or tree, or even just set in an attractive bowl on a table. They will continue to give off their scent for years to come!

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Picture of Gather Supplies

You will need:

1 Medium-sized orange
Whole cloves (1-2 ounces per orange)
Piercing tool (a paper piercer or ice pick work well)
Paper towel or napkins

Note: whole cloves can be kind of expensive to buy in the spice aisle at a grocery store. I buy them from a health food store that sells bulk spices, or you can buy them online.

Step 2: Tie Ribbon Around Orange

Picture of Tie Ribbon Around Orange

Cross-tie the ribbon around the orange. The below directions to cross-tie coincide with the additional pictures for this step:

1. Center ribbon on the top of the orange
2. Hold ribbon in place and turn orange over
3. Cross the ribbon and pull it tight against the orange
4. Turn orange over and bring ribbon together at top
5. Tie a bow

Step 3: Poke Holes

Picture of Poke Holes

Using the piercing tool, poke holes in the exposed skin of the orange. This might get a little juicy, so do it over the napkin or paper towel. Keep the holes spaced fairly far apart.

Step 4: Insert Cloves

Picture of Insert Cloves

Insert cloves into the holes. They don't need to be that close together, because the orange will shrink as it dries.

Step 5: Done!

Picture of Done!

The orange will dry out over the next week and will shrink, but it will continue to smell wonderful for years to come!


40wolvesadancing (author)2013-12-05

honestly.. it doesn't rot?

It depends. If you live in a very humid part of the world, it probably will. Try putting in a cool dark closet in a paper bag and check on it every day or two. Some suggest a light coating with orris root powder and/or cinnamon. Hanging helps. Piling a bunch in a bowl is not a great idea.

TomB361 (author)2017-01-05

Just got back from a Christmas Market Tour Down the Danube ... this is what they were selling in Bratislava, Slovakia

AdamC254 (author)2016-12-19

What kind of arranges did you all use? Navals? Valencias? ... Navals are bigger but can be oblong. Valencias are smaller but have thinner skin and are juicier. Thanks for the feedback! Excited to make these.

roisin0501 (author)2016-12-15

instead of ribbon at the start i put tape around the orange and the when i was finished i put the ribbon around

AlisonS48 (author)2016-12-04

How do you dry them when you can't afford heating? Put it in window sill but I live in yorkshire!

TinkerBake made it! (author)2016-11-29

Thank you for this tutorial! I just made two of them and they already smell wonderful.

DaveM247 (author)2016-11-19

I made 3 of these, just from seeing them for years, they smell very nice and the oranges are drying nicely too, Dave.

JoanF19 (author)2016-01-05

I made one for the first time in ages and for some reason the orange fermented. What happened?

LukasB17 (author)2015-11-30

Hello! Lovely tutorial, but there was something I wanted to mention. The "pomander ball" is actually an old Wiccan tradition as well, where the cloves and orange/apple would represent the Sun God and it's passing onto the next Sun God. They're special little gifts for Yule, and are of Celtic origin, not Christian. :)

msnipes (author)LukasB172015-12-15

duh, Christianity has refitted pagan customs from day 1, moving on....

wiccanman82 (author)LukasB172015-12-05

You read my mind...great ible though. forgot all about these. gonna make an with the kiddo today

Sagestar11 (author)2015-12-06

Warning! I made this before and the smell gave me and my mom a migraine. If you easily get migraines do not make this!

Sagestar11 (author)2015-12-06

Warning! I made this before and the smell gave me and my mom a migraine. If you easily get migraines do not make this!

anne.f.harper (author)2014-11-13

Thank you for the instructions - will be making these as stocking fillers - a slight improvement on the traditional orange at the bottom of the Christmas stocking.

RaucousAuk (author)2014-10-26

My parents (who live near Williamsburg and whose house is a copy of the Wythe House) always have these around at Christmas. This year our daughter wants to make them too, so thank you for the reminder about how to do it correctly!

canida (author)2007-01-01

Nice presentation!

Here's another version of the pomander with a complementary set of suggestions. Useful stuff in the comments, too.

outofthewoods (author)canida2007-01-01

Oops! I suppose I should've checked to see if anyone had a pomander instructable posted already!

Juiroame (author)outofthewoods2010-11-22

You should never worry about whether or not someone else posted the idea before you. I found that its great to have many different viewpoints because you can learn a little from each idea. Its like finding pieces of a large and beautiful puzzle in different places.

Your piece of the puzzle was using the punch to poke holes in the orange. I made the holes, with a handy wooden skewer, big enough in ones I am currently experimenting with that the cloves fit snug AND It doesn't require you to tape your fingers. That's a pretty awesome.

So thank you for posting this instructable. This helps me a lot.

Have a Fun and Happy Winter!

Grunambulax (author)Juiroame2013-12-19


canida (author)outofthewoods2007-01-01

No worries- there's always room for another good Instructable! While it's always good practice to check for (and link to) similar projects, Instructables is all about the variations on a theme. Your pomander is slightly different from radiorental's, and complements the existing Instructable nicely. Even if you'd described the exact same technique, you'll give a slightly different spin/emphasis. There are multiple right ways to do a project, and we like to see them all.

Oscelot (author)canida2008-12-12

Yeah, and if you can't understand the instructions on one instructable, it's always nice to be able to look at a different instructable to see what you're missing..

radiorental (author)canida2007-01-03

this is a much nicer presentation, nice gift.

Thanks! But the credit for presentation should go to my mom. Although, I think she only had us do them this way because if you cover half the orange with a big wide ribbon you use fewer cloves and it takes less time to cover it, especially when you're dealing with six-year-olds!

porcupinemamma (author)2010-01-14

I never thought about placing the ribbon first.  what a good idea.  Your instructions were so good!  Thanks

santy22 (author)2009-12-28

Also what other fruits would work? Like, how about lemons? Ah, the sweet smell of a lemon...

Timsan (author)2009-12-07

There's something called Orris Root that serves to accelerate the drying process and also to retain the aroma for a lot longer. Add some (a teaspoonful) to the spice bath. It may also go by the name of Black Flag. Found this out via

pls (author)2009-12-04

 Made one of these few years back, hurt my thumbs so much.

jaymeb (author)2009-11-27

When I make these, I put them in a spice bath. A few teaspoons of a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Although you could use any nice smelling spice. Then you flip the fruit every once in a while so the whole thing is covered. It takes 2-4 weeks for the fruit to cure. Then you brush off the excess spice and it's done. And as far as I know any citrus would work, but you're supposed to pick the thin skinned ones so the cloves pierce right into the fruit.

jakobien (author)2008-12-22

Great idea. I used one of those large necklesses with tiny beads to hang them and it turned out well!

jakobien (author)jakobien2008-12-22

...and now with photos

MrL33TPenguin (author)2008-12-13

you can always go to a oriental market and get like 2 lbs. for like 2.50 and i live in a place where everything is expensive.

artedeluxe (author)2008-11-27

I am making these with apples! but covering the whole surface of the frut: as you cant see its skin anymore: takes me about 2 hours to do it ( in front of the tv, everynight, a whole movie!) I am preparing these as gifts to my friends : its looks lovely! Thank you for the great site! James

Kayjay (author)2008-02-09

nice, i had to make one of these in like grade four lol it still stayed full of smell for a long time haha

dobeedobeedo (author)2007-11-21

Nice instructable. I remember doing this in Girl Scouts and had forgotten how wonderful they smell. So much nicer than those commercial air fresheners that always have a faintly chemical odor. If your a little fumble fingered like me, you can keep the ribbon from shifting by either sticking a thumb tack through it where it criss-crosses, or use a clove. This also works with lemons and also smells great. Has anyone ever tried this with limes or grapefruits? Wonder if the grapefruits would be too big....

pharoah (author)2007-05-09

I think I read somewhere that they believed this would cure the black plague :)

aubois (author)2007-01-08

I always attempted to put the cloves into some sort of "artistic" patterns. An easy way of doing this was to hold a coin against the orange and arrange toothpicks around it evenly. Often, I wouldn't take out many of the toothpicks until I wanted to stick in a bunch of cloves (the heads are rather brittle so having a lot of them allows you to apply pressure more evenly and they tend to remain whole.) On the other hand, an orange that had a lot of toothpicks in it looked like a rather bizarre porcupine - I've got some interesting photographs of those. Other than coins, I would just take a sort of random walk with the toothpicks, making a curvy pattern that would sometimes bifurcate and so forth.

My Mom once put hers in a closet - this is a Big No-No. As noted elsewhere, basically the orange desiccates through the cloves and the cloves tend to keep the orange from rotting. However, in a closet there was effectively too much humidity and it molded - she was not happy about that. On the other hand, windowsills are great places to leave them - some of the ones I've given people at least 14 years ago are still intact (although they have only a faint pleasant odor now).

About This Instructable




More by outofthewoods:How to Make a Paper CorsageMint Chocolate Chip Valentine CardHow to use heat embossing and chalk on your cards
Add instructable to: