Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fancy Christmas Balls


There was a time in the recent past, defined here as my teenage years, when elaborate sequin and bead-decorated Styrofoam balls were all the rage for Christmas ornaments. Mother and I thought they were pretty and decided to make some. She dug out remnants of pretty material, tag ends of ribbons and decorative trim, odds and ends of discarded and broken costume jewelry, to which we added newly purchased sequins, beads, pins, and balls, and we were all set. I don’t remember the exact year we started or how many we came up with that first Christmas, but it was fun, and we enjoyed adding to them each Christmas after that.  Later Grandm0ther got into the act and so between the three of us, we came up with decidedly different designs, which made the tree interesting.


Grandmother was quite the seamstress, as was Mother, and Mother was also very artistic, so their creations were more intricate and elaborate than mine, but over the years I have come up with some pretty nice designs myself. I don’t know what other people would call these decorations, handmade Christmas ornaments, I suppose. In my house they have always been referred to as the fancy Christmas balls. 


Using these balls is trip down memory lane. Several are covered with the brocade material Mother used to make my wedding dress. The material was brought back from India by Eloise’s father, Bill’s grandfather, who worked overseas as an engineer. There are a couple made with my bridesmaids’ dresses material, a shiny burnt orange satiny stuff. I assure you burnt orange would not have been the color of choice had we already been at A&M-we had a fall wedding and the dark russet color seemed appropriate then. Then there are the three red satin-covered, already decorated Christmas ornaments that I carried in the bridesmaid’s bouquet when I was in Sharon Vacek  Guest’s Christmas wedding. I added a few decorative  flourishes, and they fit right in on the tree. And looking at some of the balls puts me back in the location where I remember making them: Mother’s kitchen; our little trailer house in College Station; the house in Edna, in front of the computer/TV here in Muleshoe.




The tree is really full enough now; I don’t really need to make any more balls, but I can’t stop myself. I have this rather old-fashioned sewing kit full of  the  material, ribbon, beads, sequins, unstrung pearls, everything necessary, and I can’t stop myself.  I I keep making more balls. Yes, my OCD is showing up again, but it’s fun, and it keeps me off the streets.


I do have one helpful hint just in case you might be inspired to try some of these yourself. I found out the hard way when balls would fall apart, that those little short sequin pins are pointless-hah! Mr. Gulley, I made a pun without even trying-they don’t stay in over the long haul. Use regular dressmaker’s pins and use extra long pins when pinning on larger beads. They just stay better.  They are a little trouble when making little balls, as they tend to run into each other in the middle of the Styrofoam, but on those just use as much fabric as possible. And wrap them individually in pieces of flimsy drycleaner plastic when storing. It protects the balls from each other and sequins and things don’t pull out.


I would blather on some more with tips for making these things, but I don’t have time. Christmas is coming up, and I have silver sequins and pins staring me in the face as we speak…


Erin Liles said...

I love how unique these ornaments are, and I am equally impressed at the amount of time my kids (your grand children) spend working on them! Even my dear husband made one this year! Ok, he didn't finish it, but still. The ornaments are truly lovely-maybe we'll pick up the tradition....

Alice Liles said...

I would like that. Picking up the tradition, I mean. I enjoyed the time we spent working on them. I am sure AJ will finish his, and I look forward to helping the kids finish theirs.