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How to make clothespin reindeer ornaments, a classic holiday craft for all ages

Posted by Melissa Massello  December 12, 2013 09:02 AM

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how_to_clothespin_reindeer_ornaments_shoestring.jpgPhotos: Melissa Massello/Shoestring

Like many children, the first crafts I remember making with my mom were around Christmastime — specifically, dough ornaments and these clothespin reindeer ornaments, which I broke out en masse for nostalgic adults at last year's Cookie Swap for a Cause hosted by the Boston Food Swap. The reaction blew me away. Dozens of 20- and 30-somethings gathered around the activity table to make their own clothespin reindeers, cooing at tiny pom-poms and recounting their own holiday memories of crafting these and other ornaments with parents and grandparents.

If you're looking for a snow day activity for kids of all ages, or just a nostalgic nod to Christmases past to add to your tree this year, here's how to make an army of clothespin reindeers in virtually no time at all.



  • Glue gun & glue sticks

  • Brown spray paint (or brown acrylic paint & paint brushes or sponges)

  • 12 wooden clothespins (for 6 reindeer)

  • 9mm x 12" brown chenille pipe cleaners

  • 1/4" white pom poms

  • 7mm red pom poms

  • 4mm googly eyes (or wiggle eyes)

  • 9mm gold liberty bells

  • Red or green embroidery floss or yarn (used: DMC red #666)


1. Spread out the clothespins on a drop cloth (I used an old shower curtain) or newspaper and spray with brown spray paint, letting dry at least 10 minutes per side. Repeat with second coat if needed. (Or, if you're using brown acrylic paint, paint front of clothespin and right side, let dry, then flip and paint other two sides.)

2. Once clothespins are painted and dry, use a hot glue gun to glue clothespins together in pairs at the openings, leaving the levers to create "ears" and "legs" for the reindeers. Repeat until you have 6 "reindeers" and let dry about 2 minutes.

3. While your reindeers are setting, cut brown pipe cleaners in half and then bend each half in the middle to create a V. (You'll need 6 bent V's before you can move on to the gluing.)

4. Use a hot glue gun to affix the V-shaped brown pipe cleaner onto the "ears" of each reindeer "head" (front clothespin) and let dry. Repeat with: two googly eyes, on either side just below each V; red pom-pom "nose," just below the googly eyes; and white pom-pom "tail" on the other side (second or back clothespin, which makes up the "body.") Press each item firmly into the glue to set, and allow all the "features" to cool completely before moving on to the next step.

5. Cut six (6) 12" lengths of yarn or embroidery floss, and string a liberty bell, centered, on each one, making a knot to secure. Wrap the floss/yarn and liberty bell under the "chin" of each reindeer, centering the liberty bell to face forward, and then back up over the "hindquarters" of the back clothespin, tying a double knot to secure. Tie a second double knot at the end of the floss/yarn to create your ornament loop or hanger, and voila! Your reindeer is done.

6. Optional: Using puffy paint, paint pens, stencils & acrylic paint, or scrapbook letters, write each family member's name, the family surname and the year, or the nickname for each reindeer on the "legs" of the ornaments to personalize each one!

Are you more of a visual learner? Here's a quick step-by-step video on how to make my clothespin reindeer ornaments:

And, just for fun, here are a few of the original reindeer ornaments that my mom, my siblings & I made way back in 1986/1987. Happy holidays to you and yours — here's to spending the season creating memories together with the ones we love!


This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the Authors

Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out More »
Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »

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