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Christmas Decorating

Hints and Tips for the Best Results

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One of the best things about being a collector is the opportunity to share your stuff with others. When it comes to Christmas and holiday collectors, I'm not sure there are any limits. It's the time of the year that we can go a bit crazy and way overboard. It's what makes this time of the year so exciting and fun.

Even though I can't hold a candle to some of my Christmas collecting friends when it comes to decorating with my Christmas stuff, I do have hints to make it easier to decorate for the holidays with those treasured collections.

Get out your toolbox of supplies and let's get busy.

LED Lights -- Too Bright and Harsh?

© PriceGrabber.com
LED Christmas lights have a lot going for them, more strings can be strung together, often they have the technology of one light out, doesn't mean the whole strand dies. But when decorating with those newer lights, they can be just too bright. The harsh light takes away from the decorations. I decided to try an extension cord with lamp dimmer switch on it, dimming the lights to a softer glow. Perfect!

The Lutron Dimmer cords are the ones I've been using, my electrician gave them a big thumbs up. He suggested to watch the wattage that's being used. If an extension cord is rated for e.g. 300 watts, add up the wattage on the light bulbs being used and don't go over 80% over the wattage.

In other words -- be sure not to overload the cord with more strands than it can handle.

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Ornament Hangers

©Scott Luedtke
There are so many different choices when it comes to hanging those treasured ornaments on the Christmas tree. They can range from less than a cent each to a couple of dollars for the jeweled hooks, so the choices are endless. it just depends on what works best on the type of tree and ornaments you have.

Most of the prolific collectors I know use floral wire or ribbon to hang ornaments on their trees.

I use ribbons for some things, but my preferred choice is chenille craft pipe cleaners. I cut them in half and use sparkly green ones on the green trees, white or gold tinsel pieces on the white feather trees. But when it comes to the Hallmark and other plastic ornaments, my go-to hangers are the inexpensive wire ones.

Read more about Ornament Hanger choices.

Note: The ornament hooks shown here are part of Scott Luedtke's collection of Christmas items made in Wisconsin. He is also the collector who has shared a picture of the Santa Mouse tree.

The Star on the Top

©Koskie
I love the picture perfect scene of putting the final touch on the Christmas tree, the star or angel on the top.

It does make a Kodak moment. How can you not love the picture shown here? But in most cases, it's probably best to put the tree-topper on before the tree is completely laden with ornaments, at the beginning of the decorating.

When a tree is filled with breakable glass treasures, unless one is very careful, trying to reach past them is enough to shake or knock a few off.

If the ornaments are securely fastened, they'll probably be fine. But why take the chance?

The picture shown here is of the Koskie family decorating their Christmas tree. Click for larger image.

Slipping Loops on Ornaments

You buy a beautiful glass Christmas ornament, spend more money than you should have for the collectible piece and when it's time to hang it on the tree, you cringe a little. It's so heavy that you're not sure the loop and cap will stay secure and hold it on the tree.

Although that doesn't happen as much as it used to, some of the older Christmas ornaments, such as Radkos, were heavy enough to make the loop slip a bit, make that quite a bit!

Today I'm seeing more of the manufacturers putting a double-loop on the ornament. Inserting two of the loops into the caps to make it a little more secure. I've done when I had a loop from a broken ornament that I took apart.

The good news is that you can also buy a extra caps and hoops in various sizes and finishes from D. Blumchen & Company. Buy some extras to keep in the Christmas tool box and the next time you have a slipping ornament, make it a little more secure with another loop.

Suggestions:
I've also used a drop of white craft glue on the top of an especially loose cap. I pry open one or two sections, carefully putting a drop of glue on with a toothpick. Then flatten the section back to the original position. Let the glue dry at least 30 minutes or so before attempting to hang on the tree.

Other collectors will use a hot glue gun, putting a drop or two under the opened cap. Or use a few drops of silicone glue. In all cases, be sure glue is completely dried before hanging the ornament.

Toppled Trees

©Getty Images
The saddest thing ever ... a decorated Christmas tree that has crashed to the ground.

There are several reasons this might happen.

  1. The base is too small and lightweight for the heavy tree.
  2. Tree is unbalanced with ornaments and decorations only on one side of the tree.
  3. Unprotected location.
  4. Puppies, kittens and little kids.
Solve the first problem by purchasing a heavy duty base, don't use a cheapy base from a discount store for a tree loaded with hundreds of dollars of treasures. Look at online retailers or local decorators who specialize in Christmas decor to find the best available. I actually bought two 40lb sand bags that sit on the base of our very top-heavy upside down tree. It does not move. At all.

Bolts in the wall or ceiling may sound extreme, but an eye hook with a strong wire are also used by decorators to keep a tree from toppling. After Christmas unscrew the eyebolt and patch the tiny hole, no one will be the wiser. Or if you're lucky enough, perhaps it can be be hidden from view and used again next season.

Always decorate the tree on all sides balancing it as you go along. e.g. don't decorate one entire side and then go to the other side of the tree, the weight can make it unbalanced and tilt to one side, eventually toppling.

Tuck the tree in a corner or in a spot that is not in a traffic pattern. If it is in traffic pattern area, take extra precautions, such as the wires attached to the walls mentioned above.

Pets and Trees -- Good Luck!

©Getty Images
It's hard to keep pets away from the tree, but you know your animals, so decorate accordingly!

Franny Syufy has an article on How to Create a Cat-Safe Christmas Tree that has great suggestions.

Any other suggestions?

I'll Admit it, I'm Clumsy

One solution to stop ornaments from breaking is putting a thick blanket or pad under the tree where you are working. That extra step has saved more than a few pieces for me, ornaments that have fallen, but survived.

When something does break, even though I hate when it happens, I make it work by saving those broken pieces. If there is still a good sized "chunk" of the ornament left, put it aside and after a few years, you'll have enough to make a stunning wreath. See next comment.

When Disaster Strikes

Barb Crews
Make lemonade.

Not many folks will spend the money to put a lot of costly ornaments on a wreath, but when you have a few broken ones, it makes it that much easier. Your favorite pieces are still part of the Christmas decorations, just shown in a different way. The broken ornament wreath shown here has a several dozen pieces. It is filled in with a few pieces that I didn't particularly care for, but felt were fine as ornament fill.

It's also interesting that some of them developed problems that I could never figure out why, such as the gold and red Buddha -- so off to the wreath it went.

Hot glue and wire the individual ornaments on a wreath and no one will be the wiser, except of the rest of us who have been through the same sad scenario.

Larger view of the Broken Ornament Wreath.

Think You're Done? Not Quite Yet!

Barb Crews
Take pictures during the decorating process.

This is so much easier in today's world than just a decade or so ago. No matter what you're doing, working on a wreath, a fireplace, display or the tree, take a digital picture or two while decorating. It's amazing how much different it can look through the eyes of the camera, than just viewing with your naked eye. Even though you think you can see it all, the camera will show where those empty spots are, where a little more garland is needed or even when too much is just, well too much.

An excellent example is when I thought I was just about done with a tree this year. I took this quick picture and after looking at it I see too many bare spots and one area where ornaments needed to be spaced a little better. The Santas on the bottom need to be rearranged better. Back to work!

I probably am over-the-top when it comes to things like that, but if you think I'm bad, you should see some of my friends.

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