Cheap, cheerful and easy: Make a vintage Christmas diorama ornament — free downloadable pattern

Somewhere in the middle of this year’s retro holiday crafting spree, Pam spotted these adorable vintage miniature Shiny Brite diorama ornaments for sale by Ebay seller materialmommy. Originally Made in Japan of a sort of mat board, they are similar to miniature putz houses. But, these are meant to be open in front to showcase your weebits and hang on the tree. Like the originals, our design is just 2.5″ tall… We found these ornaments relatively easy to make — a nice change from the three-hour epic of wreath making!  So get out that glitter and your vintage its and bits and heat up those glue guns — this Kitschmas Krazy Krafty proves good things come in small packages indeed.


Above: The original vintage ornaments spotted on ebay. From the Ebay listing (used with permission):



vintage-ornamentsvintage-diorama-christmas-ornamentPam challenged me to make the ornaments mimic the tiny size of the vintage originals — so I got to work making a pattern that is close to the same shape, size and scale. Once the main structure of the house ornament is built, the customization options are endless. My video shows just a few of the many ways you can make a sparkly, glittery roof and deck the halls of your itty bitty diorama ornament house.


mini-birdhouse-ornament vintage-style-house-ornament vintage-style-mini-ornamentMy newly-made ornaments have simple painted backdrops like the vintage originals — but you could jazz this pattern up by adding glitter or cotton balls to the base as “snow”, by putting some vintage wrapping paper up on the inside walls of the house, by changing up the color scheme — or any other modifications you can dream up.

Clearly, a key to success with this project is having lots of tiny its and bits to play with. Now is the time to scour your Salvation Army and Goodwill — Pam says hers is bringing loads stuff out of the warehouse to the store DAILY. She is going every other day — and every time, comes back with a terrific vintage — and affordable — haul.

christmas ornament dioramaAbove: Pam customized my pattern this way:

  • She used a beaten up vintage Shiny Brite ornament box for the structure of the walls, turning the decorative graphics to the inside of the house. Vintage Christmas gift boxes on hand? These would work, too. Or, line the inside walls of your diorama ornie with vintage Christmas wrap before assembling…
  • She painted the outside red. Use flat paint — even from leftover flat-finish house paint — on these if you want to replicate vintage style. The old paint used on these back in the day was kind of chalky looking.
  • Pam used glitter instead of paint for the edges. Use the hot glue gun to create the bead of glue to attached the glitter — but you need to work fast and get the glitter on before the glue sets.
  • She ignored the glue tabs in my design — and just worked fast using hot glue to glue the house together.
  • She used some clear sparkle stuff for the roof and floor.
  • She made the roof and floor out of plain cardboard. The hot glue bead dipped in glitter covers up the corrugated edge. Update: Pam made some more and found that a different “plain cardboard” she tried working with was a real pain. Best to test one piece (fold for a roof, try to line the edge with glitter, etc.) before committing to a tiny village.
  • The holly on top is plastic, from an old Christmas pick. Pam says she is finding lots of old plastic flower arrangements at the Salvation Army. These are typically made with plastic “picks” — the little gathered arrangements that get stuck into flower arranger forms. They are a great source for its and bits — leaves, holly, pine cones, packages, even flocked birds if you are lucky. You can also use them as part of your vintage ornament wreaths. Don’t overlook them!
  • Pam attached the holly on top of the roof with two dots of hot glue with a gap between — the gap creates a sort of built-in loop in between where she can add a hook if she decides to hang this ornament on a tree. Note: Pam questions my technique of putting the ornie hook on the way back — she fears the ornament will not hang level if you do this. If this concerns you, you can devise a way to get the ornie hook to attach to the center of the roof peak.
  • Her weebit is one of a set of vintage Commodore ceramic place card holders — a perfect sized ornie for this project.

Update — Pam reports she was very excited by this project, so last night she made three more dioramas::

land of misfit toysland of misfit toysland of misfit toys

  • Above, she made two pretty little forever-houses for two “Land of Misfit Toys: that she found at the Salvation Army last week.
  • The diorama walls are made of a vintage Christmas box. The roof and floor are plain cardboard.
  • The edges are lined with glitter glass. (She bought the kind that is $16/lb.)
  • And she used sparkle snow to create snow for the roof and floor. Tip: To apply, liberally coat your surface with plain Elmer’s glue… then, sprinkle (dump) thesparkle snow on the glue; do not press down; you want the stuff to dry all ‘fluttery’.
  • She found the jingle-bell hangers — silver string attached — at Target.

diorama ornament

Her third ornie made last night used:

  • A vintage Christmas box for the walls. Ordinary cardboard for the roof and floor.
  • Gold glitter glass to line the edges.
  • Vintage clear sparkly stuff for the roof and floor.
  • Vintage its and bits from an estate sale and the Salvation Army.

This was FUN!


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    • pam kueber says

      YES! I’ve been using vintage gift boxes. Good if the “house” portion has some heft — maybe use the old Christmas cards doubled up for that part?

  1. JKaye says

    I love the craft projects. I’ve not been sure I could tackle a Putz house with so much else going on this time of year, but I think I could pull off a few of these tiny houses. I love this type of ornament but never thought of making them myself. I already have a lot of the supplies. Thanks for the easy-to-follow video.

  2. Leslie says

    These are just adorable – typically I like the vintage version best but with this ornament project the newly created ornament using vintage elements is much cuter. Thanks for the great idea!

    • Diane in CO says

      My thought too….. Kate’s and Pam’s creations are just charming! Much better than the old originals! Terrific craft project and video.

  3. Teresa says

    But, but…I collect old Christmas boxes. Just stacked alone they are a great display background for the putz and other vintage ornaments. I guess I will have to see if I have some that are beyond repair as this is a perfect re-use for them.

  4. Robin, NV says

    Another great project guys! I have a box of little wooden ornaments that would work perfectly for this sort of thing. Now that we have our little fiber optic tree, we don’t need tree ornaments anymore but these would make great gifts.

  5. nina462 says

    Neato!! I never could manage making the putz house like my own, but this craft I could do!!

    Also, somewhere in the past I sent a pic of ornaments I made that I found at Sal Army. You posted them one year – let me know if you need another set of pictures to send – it’d be another easy one to “repliKate” (ha!).

  6. vegebrarian says

    Hey, in the last 2 ornament pics, are they sitting on a Little Golden Book called Jingle Bells? I used to have that book ~ cute illustrations!

    These look like great fun, and a good use for all of the tiny gold pine cones I’ve been hoarding!

  7. says

    What a cute project! And Kate is so darned cute giving the tutorial! Just to mention – last year in a blog swap we made something similar. We used the mini size Whitman’s samplers that have 4 candies inside. Both halves of the box can be used. They make cute little “windows” or shadow boxes. Cover the boxes with bits of scrap papers and line the insides then add little goodies and bits ‘n bobs around the edges. Very, very cute also!!

  8. tammyCA says

    I love these! Especially the misfit ones – I’ve got several broken, but still cute minis that I could use.
    I saw some manger/diorama like these in a neat retro/crafty store 2 yrs ago and have been meaning to try to duplicate them but never got around to it.
    Lately I’ve been making mini angels & elves vintage-style…pipe cleaners & felt can be so much fun!
    Have you seen the plastic wine glass dioramas from the blog, “my so called crafty life”? These are darling and I got the supplies to try to make some but I’m still reading my dremel tool instructions..power tools scare me.

    • pam kueber says

      At first I was trying to figure out how to camouflage the broken weebit’s booboos. But then I thought: Give them a forever home!

  9. JKaye says

    I just noticed the stack of Little Golden Books that the last batch of ornaments are resting on. They are a great touch for Christmas too.

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