Before you head to the department store to shop for Christmas decorations, visit your local flea markets and thrift stores to look for vintage bits and baubles you can hang on your tree. Whether you create a theme tree or add your treasures to your usual holiday mix, here are 10 flea market finds you can use as Christmas ornaments.
1. Tartlet Tins
With their fluted edges and decorative shapes, vintage tartlet tins look perfectly at home hanging on a baker’s Christmas tree. If you find an intact set, you may have enough for a tabletop tree with one purchase. For one-piece versions, make quick, temporary hangers by taping clear fishing line to the bottoms.
2. Old Buttons
String a collection of vintage buttons on thread or fishing line. Then, wrap the finished strand around your tree like a garland. Use old shirt buttons, hand-carved buttons made of wood or bone, or sparkly rhinestone versions, whichever suits the rest of your decor. Or, mix all different types together for an eclectic look.
If you adore all those mismatched, porcelain teacups for sale at most flea markets, start a collection to hang on your Christmas tree. Use different patterns with the same color palette for a sweet, cottage look. Or, go wild with a bunch of unrelated colors and patterns for an “Alice in Wonderland” tea party effect.
4. Fishing Lures
If you have a fisherman in the family, hang vintage fishing lures as Christmas tree ornaments. It’s a great way to showcase a collection you usually keep tucked away, or to jumpstart a new one. Many older lures are quite collectible. If someone outbids you on an antique lure at auction, you can tell stories about the one that got away.
5. Vintage Postcards
You can frequently find vintage postcards for sale at flea markets. You’ll see black and white, tinted, and full color versions. The postcards don’t have to be Christmas themed. Choose a type or subject matter you like, such as travel postcards from a favorite locale, or just hang a random mix. You can also use unframed black and white photos for a similar look.
To hang the postcards on your tree without damaging them, twist 22-gauge, cloth-covered wire into hangers. Twist one end into a hook and the other into a spiral. Slip the postcards between the loops of the spiral ends, and then hang the hook ends on the tree branches.
6. Vintage Jewelry
Whether enameled or covered in rhinestones, vintage jewelry looks right at home on Christmas trees. String beads into garlands, or just hang beaded necklaces over the branches like icicles if you don’t want to alter them. Clip brooches and clip-on earrings onto the branches. Earrings with French hooks hang on branches just like store-bought ornaments. You can also use the bits and pieces from vintage jewelry to create completely new tree ornaments.
7. Chandelier Crystals
Chandelier drops and beads are frequent finds at flea markets, antique malls, and even thrift stores. Some are new, old stock. Others were likely stripped from chandeliers, sconces, and lamps that were damaged beyond repair. You can use crystal prisms, drops, and beads to make dazzling, light-reflecting tree ornaments. String the beads onto clear fishing line to make garlands, or use beading wire you can twist into numerous hanging ornament shapes. Slip thin ribbon through the wire loops of drops and prisms, and then tie the ribbons to the tree.
If you have more plate or sterling flatware than you need for Christmas dinner, hang some of it on your tree. It’s a fun look for a tiny tree topping your buffet or sideboard, as well as a gleaming addition to a full-sized tree. Polish the silverware first, and then make hangers with slender pieces of satin ribbon. Tie the ribbons to the silverware, and then tie the ribbons to the tree branches. Cut the ribbons long enough to tie the branch ends into bows.
9. Millinery Supplies
The birds, flowers, feathers, ribbons and berry clusters made to adorn hats look just as charming on a Christmas tree. Look for damaged vintage hats you can strip for the decorations, or search for old stock that was never used. For a natural look, wire birds, berries, and flowers onto the branches instead of hanging them. Swag satin or velvet ribbons around the tree like garlands.
10. Rag Balls
Once used to keep to keep fabric strips tidy until needed for braided rugs and other home crafts, rag balls have a rustic, homespun look when you use them as holiday ornaments. Look for rag balls for sale in crafters’ booths, or make your own from vintage clothing, fabric samples, and other inexpensive fabrics.
Add ornament hangers to larger rag balls and suspend them from the tree branches. String tiny rag balls on thread to make garland, just as you would with popcorn.