Introduction: Decorate Your Christmas Tree With Trash!

About: Encouraging others to enjoy and create art has been the focus of my career as an artist and teacher. In 1996 I expanded my classroom by launching The Imagination Factory, which is located at http://kid-at-art.…
I like challenges, so one year, I decided to see if I could create tasteful, Christmas decorations out of trash. In this Instructable, I'll show how to make one of the ornaments. The directions for making this gingerbread house are easy to follow, and children as young as eight or nine can make these for your tree.

I think reusing and recycling materials are important in themselves, but with the economy going south, they can help save money, too. I'm an art teacher who has had to deal with budget cuts for a long time, so I've managed to come up with hundreds of ways to reuse items most people throw away.

The following is an Instructable for making a gingerbread house out of stuff you'd usually put out with the trash.

Step 1: Materials List for Gingerbread House

You will need:

*White, polystyrene trays
*Large cereal box
*Brown acrylic paint
*T-shirt paints for "icing"
*Paint brush and pan
*Scrap ribbon
*White glue
*Compass or awl

Step 2: Drawing and Scoring

Cut a cereal carton or other lightweight, scrap cardboard so that it measures 6" by 8".

Working on the plain, uncoated side, use a ruler and pencil to measure and mark off the cardboard into 2" squares, as shown on the pattern. Cut out the shape, which will resemble a "capital letter I."

Fold it as indicating by the dotted lines. This will be easier if you first lay a ruler on the area and score the cardboard by drawing one blade of the scissors across it.

Step 3: Cutting and Folding

a. Cut out the shape, which will resemble a "capital letter I."

b. Pop up the house by folding the roof line.

c. Fold the wall section down.

d. Fold the other wall section down.

Step 4: Gluing

Now slide the two folded wall sections together and glue.

Repeat folding and gluing of the opposite end walls.

If necessary, place paper clips on the ends to hold everything in place while the glue dries.

Step 5: Covering the Open Ends

To hide the open, triangular ends of the house, cover them with cardboard. Using the leftover scraps from the I-shape, lay one piece on your work surface. Line up the bottom 2" edge so that it matches the house, and trace the top.

Cut out the shape, and glue it to the 2" x 2" square at the bottom. Repeat for the other end. Put a little glue along the edge of the triangular parts at the top, and secure with rubber bands till it holds.

Step 6: Making the Hanger

To make holes for the ribbon hanger, find the center of the roof and mark it. Use the compass point or awl to carefully punch a hole about one-quarter inch on either side of the mark.

Step 7: Roofing and Siding the House

Using clean polystyrene trays from the grocery store, cut them into the following pieces: two 2" x 2", two 2" x 3.75", and two 2.75" x 3".

Glue the 2" x 2" sections to the sides of the house, and trace the 2" x 3.75" pieces for the ends, as you did before.

Cut them out, and glue them to the house. use rubber bands to hold the polystyrene in place on the sides and ends until the glue dries.

Finally, glue the 2.75" x 3" pieces to the roof. Space them equally, with the 3" pieces hanging over each end.

Allow about 1/8" between the two pieces along the roof line so that the holes are still visible. That will make it easier to string the ornament for hanging later.

Hold the roof in place while the glue dries, or use rubber bands until it sets up.

Step 8: Painting

Paint all the sections brown to look like gingerbread. To simulate icing and candy, decorate the ornament with craft paints in squeeze-type bottles. These are the same paints that are used to decorate T-shirts, hats, and tennis shoes, and they come in a variety of colors.

Use the paints just as you would if you were working with real icing to make a door and windows, to add decorative touches, and to hide joints where one edge of the house meets another.

Apply paint to the roof, but avoid covering the holes where the hanger will be placed later. Allow the paint to dry for twelve hours before continuing.

Step 9: Attaching the Hanger

Use the compass point or awl to poke one end of a 14" length of ribbon through one of the holes in the top of the roof, and then repeat on the opposite side with the other end. If necessary use tweezers to pull the ribbon through the roof.

Bring the two ends through the house until the ribbon meets the roof line. Match the ends, and tie in a square knot.

Pull the ribbon up through the house till the knot touches the underside of the roof.

Step 10: Finishing the Ornament

Finally, cut a 3.5" square of polystyrene, and then break off the corners and sides into an irregular shape.

Place the house in the center. Squeeze white craft paint all along the bottom edge of the house to simulate snow and to glue it to the base. Set aside for twelve hours to allow the paint to dry.

Creating the houses can be a fun, family activity, and the ornaments will look great on your tree. If you bought the decorations in a holiday shop, they would be at least $10 each, but these will cost you next to nothing to make.

Step 11: More Decorating Ideas

One more tip for decorating your tree with trash is to make garlands using polystyrene scraps. Just break trays into small pieces, and string as you would popcorn.

If you'd like to make beads for your garland, cut magazine pages, scrap gift wrap, or wallpaper samples into long strips about 1" x 8". To make a bead, roll each strip around a one inch section of a plastic straw, and fasten the end with glue. Alternating the paper beads with some from broken jewelry will add variety to the garlands.

Copyright 2008 MJB
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