How to nail the nostalgic DIY holiday decorating aesthetic

14 easy tutorials to help you add some old-timey cheer to your home.

14 easy tutorials to help you add some old-timey cheer to your home

Left: Overhead shot of red paper garland for the Christmas tree. Middle: A hand holding a glue gun and making a wreath of dried oranges. Right: Overhead shot of hands making a paper snowflake.
(Source: Instagram. Left to right: @baileyandthebabies, @life_of_glow, @thekwendyhome)

As the countdown to the holidays really begins to accelerate, give yourself the gift of a quiet evening in making handmade decorations for your home. Pour a mug of your favourite warm beverage, throw on some seasonal tunes and make as many of these cheerful DIY decorations as you please (since they look great layered) with this collection of helpful how-tos.

The old-timey vibes of these ideas from online creators will help your home feel extra merry and bright this year. Plus, they have the feel-good bonus of mainly using natural materials rather than very unsustainable plastics or foams from the dollar store. 

Salt-dough ornaments

You likely haven't made salt dough since you were a girl guide or scout, but these gingerbread-people ornaments are an easy and adorable project. This recipe by Kelowna, B.C.-based Dawnalee Croteau of Floyd Kinney Living adds cinnamon to the dough for a spicy-warm smell as the ornaments dry in the oven. Try different cookie cutters (snowmen! dreidels!) to make other fun creations.

Quickie wreaths

No forest-foraging trips or wreath-making workshops are required to make these simple but stunning wreaths, also by Floyd Kinney Living, that use herbs and spices you might already have in your kitchen.

Paper magic

Fold-and-cut paper snowflakes are always fun (and surprisingly satisfying!) but if you want to level up your paper crafts this year, try these quick but beautiful ideas: Toronto-based DIYer Wendy Lau of the Kwendy Home wows with paper bags, and these kite-paper stars by Ashley Koshimizu at Woodlark will light up your windows.

Orange slices 

Dried orange slices are nature's stained glass, and these tutorials from Robyn Chubey at Prairie Glow Acres in East St. Paul, Man., and Kirsten Krason and Erin Morgan of House of Jade Interiors take full advantage of adding a dash of citrus to your holiday decor. For those who don't have time for slicing, there's this option by Christine Higgs at For the Home to make orange and clove pomander balls. (Random fact: Pomander balls were used as early as the 13th century to ward off infection or evil spirits.)

Popcorn garlands

Strings of popped corn are probably the first thing you think of when it comes to DIY holiday decor, but this idea from Alyssa Stokes at Playful Petals adds freshness and colour to the standard white string.

Playful paper

Here's another technique you probably haven't tried since you were a kid — using a potato to stamp out a pattern on paper. In this tutorial by DIYer Geneva Vanderzeil, you'll be creating playful checkerboard wrapping paper, but you could use this technique on a smaller scale, carving out trees or menorahs to stamp gift tags, for example.

Perfect bows

Dig out your old rolls of ribbon and learn how to make picture-perfect bows in this tutorial also by Vanderzeil. Use them to decorate your tree or mantel, or to attach to gifts wrapped in fabric or brown kraft paper. 

Paper chains

If you have scissors, paper and a stapler, you can create sweet, kindergarten-chic paper chains to drape over a tree or across a doorframe. Michael Wurm Jr. from Inspired by Charm offers this playful twist that uses leftover wallpaper. Alternatively, try Nicola Bailey from Bailey and the Babies' inspired take on upcycling old clothing to make pretty-patterned chains. 

Yarn stars

If you have leftover balls of wool or yarn you can't bear to part with, this DIY from Canadian content creator Sarah Robertson-Barnes at Sustainable in the Suburbs is a great way to, ahem, string together a bit more joy for the holidays.    


Jen Lauriault is a Collingwood, Ont.-based writer and editor whose work has appeared in Maclean’s, Today’s Parent and Chatelaine.

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