Vintage Thread Spool Ornaments

I decided that since it’s ‘beginning to look a lot like Christmas,’ it was time to bust out a Christmas-themed project.  So I came up with the idea of making these thread spool ornaments.  The project began simpler than it finished up, though.  Originally, I was just going to make a Santa ornament…but then he seemed lonely, so I made him 2 elves.  Then I decided they were incomplete without Rudolph…and then I decided that 4 ornaments were enough for now!  

I was able to find all the (vintage!) buttons I needed among those that I’ve picked up at various garage sales and antique shops over the past couple of years, and I had plenty of spools left over from all the collecting I did to gather spools for this project.  I picked from them the appropriate spools and then used the same basic technique for all of the characters.  Each one was fairly quick to make, though the fact that I hand-painted each one slowed the process down as I waited for the paint to dry.

I gathered the following materials for each ornament:

  • 2 wooden thread spools – 1 large, 1 small
  • Buttons in various sizes (hats for Santa and the elves; Rudolph’s nose)
  • 1 extra button, used to hold spools on- this button was large enough to cover the holes in the spool but smaller than the overall diameter of the spool
  • 2 pipe cleaners or ~2 feet of ribbon
  • Needle (for stringing the ribbon)
  • Round wooden beads – large and small (for elves’ and Rudolph’s heads and feet)
  • Acrylic paint and paintbrushes


To assemble the little ornaments,

  1. I began by painting the spools.
    • For Santa, I used two empty spools and painted Santa’s suit on the larger one with his face on the smaller one.
    • Since the elves needed to be smaller than Santa, I needed to use the smaller spools for their bodies so dug out some round wooden beads for their heads.  I liked the idea of using a spool with the thread still on for their bodies and was able to find two small spools in my collection with similar dark green thread still on them.  I used two of the small wooden beads for their feet.  Not very elf-like, but I wasn’t sure what to use to make pointed little elf shoes.
    • Rudolph turned out to be baby Rudolph before his antlers grew in (mostly because I couldn’t figure out a way to add antlers that didn’t look completely goofy), so I used another small spool for this body and the same wooden beads as the elves for head and hooves.
  2. Once the spools were dry, I joined together the pipe cleaners and began assembling Santa, beginning with the round white button for the top of his hat, and progressing down from there, ending with the large body spool and small button to hold him together at the bottom.
  3. I twisted his pipe cleaner legs together once under the button so they’d hold up his body, head, and hat, then folded them under to make little feet.
  4. I finished by adding an ornament hook above his hat.

To assemble the elves, I followed the same basic steps as Santa using ribbon instead of pipe cleaners and tied knots in the appropriate places to hold everything together.

Rudolph was a little bit different since he is basically sideways instead of upright.  I still threaded him the same as the others, except from front to back instead of top to bottom.  Once I had threaded him, I threaded a piece of ribbon back through the spool to create a hanger.

Hope you enjoyed looking at and reading about them as much as I enjoyed creating them!  I haven’t painted anything in years, so I was pretty pleased with the way the little guys came out.  Perhaps I should make some more little characters for gifts and such… 🙂

Time: ~45 minutes per ornament (including paint drying time)
Cost: free (used items I already had)