Vintage style Christmas decorations and Christmas ornaments have once again become a popular way to decorate for the holidays. Until these type of decorations became more readily available in the 1980s, you would usually have to order from a retailer’s catalog and obtain them via mail order.
Most often a shopper would have to search specialty shops or antique stores for these unique Christmas decorative items. However, with the internet, many of these exquisite and unique materials or images are now available online for free and/or at a nominal cost. In addition, you can often find crafting patterns or pre-assembled kits so that you can take part in the crafting of vintage style Christmas ornaments without the hassle of assembling the materials yourself. There are plenty of free and low cost sources on the internet so that you too can decorate your home for the holidays with a vintage theme and recapture the memories of Christmases past.
Victorian Scrap or Chromolithography
Chromolithography or Victorian “Scrap” as it is commonly referred to now was a special type of paper decorative item that was made popular for greeting cards and Victorian scrapbooks through the innovation of several manufacturers during the mid-19Th century. Until the invention of the die-cut machine and a new color printing process, Victorian scrap was usually handcut and hand tinted! With the invention of chromolithography, a process that enabled a printer to print an illustration of up to three colors, and diecut machines that cut out the illustration (similar to the paper punches that are popular with scrapbooking fans today or electronic cutters such as the Cricut machine), Victorian scrap became more readily available. It was an Englishman by the name of Louis Prang who was first credited for the term “chromos”, according to an 1875 London journal. But it was the Germans, who were responsible for the most elaborate developments in embossing and varnishing of chromolithographs which they called "Glanzbiler" (gloss pictures).
With further innovative developments, designs were embossed then die-cut or embossed and cut at the same time. This procedure was used to produce "scraps" or die-cut printed images joined together by tabs or "ladders" into a sheet that could be cut and assembled and made available for Victorian scrapbooks or Christmas ornaments or decorations.
While original chromolithographs are becoming more rare (and thus more expensive), there are many modern companies that make and sell reproduction Victorian scrap at reasonable prices. In addition, there are have been a host of small shops that have sprung up on Etsy that sell a variety of images, tags, printable pdfs as their products. You might want to check them out if what you want is to create the vintage decorative look and are not interested in collecting vintage chromolithographs. Some Etsy shops sell both vintage items as well as vintage images for your diy crafting needs.
32 Degrees North is a reseller of many Christmas vintage style ornaments as well as crafting materials and specialty crafting kits.
D. Blumchen & Company is an online retailer that sells diecut Dresden trims, fancy foil paper, glass glitter, lamett tinsel and Victorian scrap as well as other vintage inspired materials for all the holidays in addition to Christmas.
Victorian Scrapworks sells Victorian scrap as well as the curly metal wire and lametta tinsel used for vintage or Victorian style decorations.
Best Books on Vintage Christmas Crafts
Dresden Style Cotton Batting Ornaments
The history of when cotton batting ornaments is not readily available but the best information on cotton batting ornaments comes from the website of the woman who made them famous on the Martha Stewart Holiday show. According to Lucy Weber’s website, “Cotton batting ornaments were made in the late 1800's by cottage craftsmen of the Saxon Thuringian area of Germany.”
Needless to say, reproduction of these Christmas decorations have become popular once again and there are many online websites that sell the materials to make these vintage inspired , unique decorations.
Lucy Webber sells her cotton batting creations from her online website.
Sassafras Hill sells cotton batting ornaments as well as cotton batting patterns for a nominal cost. This online retailer has a Snowy Batting Birds pattern that she makes available for free.
Vintage Post-War Putz or Christmas Village
Vintage Inspired Department 56 Villages
Christmas Villages - “Putz”
A Christmas village or “putz” is a miniature scale village often set up during the holiday season. The word “putz” comes from the German word “putzen” which means “to clean” or “to decorate”. The tradition of setting up Christmas villages is rooted in the traditions of the early colonists, specifically the Pennsylvania Dutch. In early colonial days, the construction of a nativity scene at the base of the Christmas tree was a very common and popular practice.
The little village scenes often included sticks and moss for trees, stones for a realistic landscape as well as the wooden carved figurines representing the nativity scene. Over time these miniature Christmas scenes became more detailed and elaborate.
Initially, these scenes were placed under the Christmas tree; but they expanded to fireplace mantels, window ledges and dish cupboards or shelves. This enabled the family in the household to create their favorite biblical scenes. Noah’s ark was a very popular theme and miniature carved wooden animals decorated these scenes.
By the mid-19th century, more secular figures were incorporated into the village scenes. The house was decorated with separate scenes or villages with tiny figures and trees. Eventually, with modern developments in transportation mechanical toy trains were included in these Christmas scenes.
After World War II, several Japanese companies started mass-marketing cardboard or paper houses, churches, and other village scenes. These small buildings usually had holes in the back or the bottom through where miniature Christmas lights were placed inside in order to light up the tiny villages. The buildings had tiny cellophane windows and were decorated with mica-dusted roofs to give the appearance of snow. Since these buildings were made of inexpensive material and were widely available throughout the United States, they became a very popular Christmas decoration.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that porcelain or ceramic homes became available which were made popular by the manufacturer Department 56. In addition, Lemax also manufactured these ceramic or porcelain homes. They became such a popular Christmas décor item that many drug stores or dollar stores made inexpensive copies made from cheaper materials available; although the standard of quality was not as detailed nor were they as finely hand painted.
Papa Ted's Place: This site has a chockful amount of information about christmas villages (as wells as other popular Christmas traditions) and photos on the history, materials, and uses of Christmas Putzes.
Holiday Card Making
Vermont Country Store sells mica decorated cardboard houses as well as other vintage and antique items.
Home Traditions also sells snowy miniature cardboard villages, including tiny churches as well as feather trees and other traditional Christmas ornaments and decorations.
Author’s Note: The videos I have included all address the types of vintage inspired Christmas decorations that you can craft and have been addressed in this article. I have included an additional video, MACM- Make a Card Monday because although the Christmas tag design is slightly more contemporary, her technique and instructions are great and can be adapted with vintage images, Dresden trims or Victorian scrap. The changes to the instructions that I would recommend in order to make this craft idea more vintage style is to use vintage themed materials substituting in all the videos that don't mention them specifically. There is a video on Youtube named , Making a Glitter House, that explains just how to paint and glitter a tiny house. The video above explains with clear instructions how to make the house but you might want to see the video mentioned for more instructions on painting and applying mica glitter.
There is an additional hub on Hubpages by Wordplay “Free Vintage Christmas Images” where the author has made free downloadable vintage images available. Enjoy your Christmas crafting!
Author's Update - New Source for Finding Vintage DIY Crafting Ideas
Since first writing this article, there has been a new online resource with a host of ideas to search for vintage pictures and images available for your diy crafting needson the internet... and that awesome resource would be Pinterest.
Pinterest is a massive online virtual bulletin board that has become the fourth most powerful traffic source for web traffic as well as a diy crafter's dream resource for finding images, additional ideas, products and sources for your vintage decorating ideas. It is easy to navigate and compile those ideas or "pins" that you might want to return to later by posting them on boards.
In addition, many individuals, or small design businesses make vintage images available on Flickr, usually free for personal use or under a Creative Commons License for commercial use. Both of these websites are worth checking out.
Vintage Inspired Pine Cone Santas
Dru Cortez (author) from Los Angeles County, CA - USA on August 22, 2013:
Thanks for your comment. I luv, luv Christmas villages...I'm glad you have had such warm memories. :)
Brandon Hart on August 22, 2013:
I really enjoyed your post war Christmas Village. My grandmother had something that looked much the same.
andywilson11 on December 01, 2011:
I bought some lovely christmas decorations this year from my local garden centre in Rochdale (UK)
Dru Cortez (author) from Los Angeles County, CA - USA on November 20, 2010:
Thank you for your kind comments. :) What a great idea you have to promote Christmas and the spirit of giving! Wish you the best. Thanks for the additional resource, too.
Arizona Golf Guy from Gilbert, AZ on November 20, 2010:
Awesome, We definitely need vintage brought back to the holiday season. This year we are making each other ornaments and only giving hand made gifts. To restore Christmas giving back to its roots. Anyway here is another great modern twist to Making gifts for one another. http://www.bestonlinescrapbooking.com/