I learned to make these ornaments from my husband's grandmother. They're so simple to put together, and they're one of those things that always makes me think of the winter holidays. They make great gifts, stocking stuffers, or are a nice touch when tied to a bigger package.
Items You'll Need To Make A Toy Soldier Ornament:
- 1 Piece Clothespin
- 1 Popsicle Stick
- 1 White Pom Pom
- Exacto Knife (or just use your scissors, if the popsicle stick is thin enough and your scissors are strong enough.)
- Fine Sandpaper
- Glue - We recommend The Ultimate! water based super glue for this project.
- Acrylic Paint: Red and Blue
- Acrylic Paint Pens: black, red, blue and/or green (you can also use regular paint and a fine paint brush, but I find it easier and faster to make the face details with a paint pen)
- 1/8" Gold Metallic Ribbon or Braid (for the chest and waist bands, and to make a loop to hang the ornament up with)
- 3/8" Gold Trim (for the shoulder braids)
- Paint brush
- Round Stands: There are round stands that hold clothespins upright. These are very useful for standing up your soldier as he dries. They're not required but definitely helpful! Also you can opt to use a stand for the final display instead of the ornament hanger.
- Clear Coat Acrylic Spray
Cut The Arms, Prep The Body
Cut the popsicle stick to about 1" long. Divide it in half again lengthwise. Sand the wood on the arms and body if it's a little jaggy.
Painting Your Toy Soldier
First, paint the legs. Using the blue paint, paint from just above the split in the clothespin down to the bottom, making sure to cover the very bottom and between the clothespin prongs. Next, paint the area above the blue to the "neck" in red. You might need to give everything a second coat of paint before proceeding further.
Now it's time to paint the face! I tend to keep my faces very simple - you can do more if you feel so compelled. Otherwise, I simply put a smiley face with eyebrows on my soldiers. Two green or blue eyes, a red mouth, and eyebrows that match the hair. For the hair I pretty much use a Lego-style haircut on him. I give him long sideburns that define where the ears would be, and then trace around the ear area, filling in the back and top of the head. You don't have to get too detailed on the top of the head though because the pom pom "hat" will be glued up there.
This is optional but spraying the parts with a clear coat will help protect the paint from coming off over time.
Glue The Parts Together
I'd like to take a moment to say why I think hot glue is not a good idea for this project. This is a Christmas ornament and will probably be packed away into hot attics and storage units during the rest of the year. We've used hot glue on projects like this before only to find the next winter season that the hot glue shifted and reset itself, often resulting in lost limbs and pieces! So I recommend a water based super glue for this project. It dries fairly quickly and holds the pieces together really well.
Before you glue the arms on, you need to glue the trim. Beginning on the side at the waist, apply a small dot of glue and the end of the 1/8" gold braid. Loop it up and around the neck, and down to the opposite side at the waist. Cut the braid and glue that end down also. This will create a criss-cross on the front of the soldier. Next cut a piece for the belt, applying dots of glue along the waist, and securing the braid down.
Now apply a line of glue on each side where the arms will go. Be sure to cover the braid as well with glue; wherever the arm will be resting. These things pop off easily so it's best to glue them down as securely, but neatly, as possible. Now glue the pom pom to the top of his head. I've found with the pom poms I purchased, they aren't entirely round but tend to have flat sides. I use those flat sides as the sides of the hat. It seems to give it a more vertical appearance, like European or marching band Shako caps. Now cut a short piece of the 3/8" metallic trim, about 3/8" wide. This will be the shoulder braid. Carefully glue it to each shoulder.
Finally, cut 6" of the 1/8" braid and glue a loop to the back of your soldier. That's it, you're finished!