Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Christmas Love Story by Betsy Skagen

Nothing sets my heart aflutter like Christmas decorations made from the 1940s-1960s.

Since this era was before my time and people typically collect things from their childhood, my infatuation may not make a lot of sense. But as the youngest child of older parents, most of my family's Christmas decorations came from the 1940s and '50s.
As a child, I loved arranging our broken and ragged Putz houses into cute village scenes and lining up the pink, purple and green Celluloid camels in front of our cardboard nativity. (I still put these same pieces out every year, except for one camel that shattered after a horrific freeefall last year).
My family makes our nativity scenes welcome to everyone. Dogs, giraffes and elephants have been known to travel to the manger. The year this picture was taken, the kids decided Harry Potter would visit Baby Jesus. Apparently, a cow was magically transported to the roof as well. 
Another ornament from this era that I cherish is any figure made from a spun cotton ball. Today, spun cotton ornaments are highly collectible. Try nabbing some on ebay and you will find plenty of competition.

My appreciation for spun cotton ornaments came about from something my mom did for me when I was a young girl.
Our Angel Tree bathed in white , while in the foreground is the traditional "everything goes" tree.

An Angel Tree Becomes a Love Story 

One winter day, when I was just six or seven years old, my mom placed a small Charlie Brown-like Christmas tree in my room. Together she and I decorated it.

The only ornaments we placed on the tree were angels. Truthfully, they were the reject ornaments--those that had lain unwanted and forgotten in the bottom of boxes after the family had finished decorating our main tree with far more colorful mercury glass ornaments.

Many of these forlorn angels had round heads made from spun cotton. Often their tattered dresses, wings and halos were beyond repair. My mom and I crafted new outfits using discarded tinsel, ribbon and even bubble wrap.

Having my very own Christmas tree in my room made me feel special. The little tree my mom gave to me all those years ago has evolved into an ongoing love story of sorts. My mom turned 90 last month. Soon she will come to my house on Christmas Eve and just like every other year, she will see the Angel Tree.

A small act of love that a mother did for a child is now getting passed on to new generations. My children, now nearly grown, know that I will someday pass the ornaments along to them for their own angel trees.

While my family decorates several trees every year (we made certain each of our children would have their very own trees!), the Angel Tree is the most special to all. No longer a small Charlie Brown-like tree, it is an eight foot tree that takes a place of honor near our grand piano.

It includes angels new and old, fancy Radko angels, exquisite Waterford angels, gold angels, dog angels, bear angels, Santa angels, porcelain angels, vintage angels and colorful angels representing cultures around the globe.
However, the two kinds of ornaments I cherish most are the simple angels made by my children when they were young and a few spun cotton angels with bubble wrap dresses made by my mother and I so many years ago.

Tutorial to make a Vintage-Style Spun Cotton Angel Ornament

You can special order spun cotton balls on the internet. I found by trial and error--mostly a lot of error--that 20 mm. is a good size. 
Glue a toothpick into the head. Mix pink, white and a dab of yellow acrylic paint together and paint the ball. Let dry.
Next, use fine line pens to draw on a face. Even if you can't draw well, this is not much more difficult than drawing a stick person. 
Evenly apply craft glue on the top of the head in a circle. Dip in Distressed gold glitter. 
Choose the snowflakes you want from the Snowflake Shape Set
Paint snowflakes with white acrylic paint. Dry with heat gun. Spread a light coating of craft glue across snowflakes and cover with glitter. 
Next cut a four-bump chenille pipe cleaner in half. Bend each section in half.
Twist the two sections together to form two legs and two arms.
Trim the toothpick so it is shorter. insert it into the body and hot glue in place.
Cut a hole in the bottom of a paper muffin cup. Add lace to the bottom of the cup. Slide the body through and hot glue in place.
Glue a snowflake to the back of the head and glue the feet to a larger snowflake for a base. Add another sparkly pipe cleaner between the arms and add decorative elements.  

Great Stuff

Spun cotton balls
Acrylic paint
Clear glitter
Distressed gold glitter
Chenille pipe cleaners with bumps
Glitter pipe cleaners
Paper baking cups
Fine line pens
Craft glue
Hot glue gun
Decorative items


  1. What a lovely story Betsy. I love to hear people talk about their fond memories of their family. Your little spun cotton ornament is adorable and looks so special. TFS this wonderful Christmas idea.