WON Landing Page November 2021

Pokeberry & Wood Christmas Ornaments

The following guest post is from our teenage writer, Anna. She has written several craft tutorials and a recipe review for The WON, and is getting us ready for the Christmas season with this festive wood Christmas ornaments craft. ~ The Editors

Every year, our family chooses a Christmas ornament to make, and we give them as gifts. This year, we decided to go rustic, using berries picked from our own backyard. Pokeberries, found on the poke plant, can create a beautiful plum-colored dye, ink or stain. My mom, my sister, Rose, and I enjoyed putting our own spin on each ornament.

Wood cookie and pokeberry stain holiday banner
Wood cookie and pokeberry stain holiday banner

Wood Christmas Ornament Materials

  • Wood beads
  • Wood burning pen, and assorted tips
  • Wood cookies
  • Wooden letters
  • Paint brushes/toothpicks/Q-tips for the stain
  • Pencil for laying out designs
  • Pokeberries
  • Stainless steel or glass bowls
  • Container for the ink
  • Plastic bag to hold the berries
  • Stencils
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Twine

Pokeberries

Early Americans used the ink for writing letters, especially since commercial ink was expensive. Pokeberry ink was often used in the Civil War by soldiers who could find nothing else. Pokeberry juice has also been found in paintings to add a pink tint.

Collecting ripe pokeberries along a fenceline
Collecting ripe pokeberries along a fence line

To make our stain, we picked the ripe berries. You’ll know they’re ripe when the stems are magenta and the berries are plum colored.

Pokeberries have been used for ink
Ripe pokeberries
Rose pulls pokeberries from the stem into a stainless steel bowl
Rose pulls pokeberries from the stem into a stainless steel bowl

Rose removed the berries from their stems. Then we sealed the berries in a zip-seal bag and stored them in the freezer. When we were ready to make our stain, we let the berries thaw.

Next, we squeezed them while they were still in the bag to extract the juice and make less mess. We also pressed the berries through a strainer, leaving only the violet juice. We read how you can mix the stain with isopropyl alcohol or vinegar to thin the dye, but we chose not to. 

Straining the pokeberries to create a stain
Straining the pokeberries to create a stain

Be very careful when making the dye. Pokeberries stain very easily, so we only used stainless steel bowls. The berries are also poisonous, so make sure kids or animals don’t accidentally ingest any.

Wood Cookies

Wood cookies are very easy to find for this project. If you have a large branch, you can saw your own, or you can buy them. You can find commercial wood cookies that already have a hole bored through them, too. If you do cut your own cookies, try to let them dry before using them; otherwise, they could split. We used cookies that were between three and four inches, though you could make smaller ornaments, or even large signs.

We spent a lot of time experimenting on practice cookies, with different paint mediums and tracing tools. We learned that our berry stain by itself created a wonderful color, but spread out, creating uneven lines. Markers also bled into the cookies. The wood burning pen was the best way to prevent this bleeding. 

The burning pen that Mom purchased came with many different tips. This particular pen’s temperature range was from 200 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, Mom always supervised us when we were using it.

Adding Details

Rose chose to use a reindeer stencil on her wood Christmas ornament. She traced the design onto her cookies, and outlined it with the wood burning pen. Afterwards, she filled the reindeer in with the pokeberry ink. Her ornaments turned out beautiful, both with the woodburning and the stain. 

Rose applies pokeberry stain to her reindeer design on her Wood Christmas Ornaments
Rose applies pokeberry stain to her reindeer design
Rose's reindeer wood christmas ornament with pokeberry stain
Rose’s reindeer wood cookie ornament with pokeberry stain

When I tried to burn my design, it looked more like a wood burnt massacre. After that, I decided to go with an even simpler design, making use of the burning tip that looked like a flower petal. Five or six of these petals around a circle make a nice Poinsettia. Then I filled the center with stain.

Anna uses the burning tool on her wood cookie ornament
Anna uses the burning tool on her wood cookie ornament
Anna's poinsetta wood christmas ornament with pokeberry stain
Anna’s Poinsettia wood cookie ornament with pokeberry stain

If you don’t have a wood burning tool, another option is to buy small wooden letters. Mom chose this route, and stained the letters to form the word ‘Noel.’ Then, she glued them onto her cookies.

Stain wooden letters and glue them to wood cookies to make a holiday banner
Stain wooden letters and glue them to wood cookies to make a holiday banner

To tie in our color scheme, we stained three different sizes of wooden beads, and threaded them onto the twine we used to hang our ornaments. We liked how it added more color.  It was a great way to decorate the ornaments a bit more while still keeping it simple.

The rustic wood christmas ornaments and holiday banner are complete
The rustic ornaments and holiday banner are complete

Pokeberry & Wood Christmas Ornaments

Anna's poinsetta wood cookie ornament with pokeberry stain

Here is the simplified version of this Christmas craft. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • Wood beads
  • Wood burning pen, and assorted tips
  • Wood cookies
  • Wooden letters
  • Paint brushes/toothpicks/Q-tips for the stain
  • Pencil for laying out designs
  • Pokeberries
  • Stainless steel or glass bowls
  • Container for the ink
  • Plastic bag to hold the berries
  • Stencils
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Twine

Instructions

    1. Collect the pokeberries. Either use immediately, or freeze. If frozen, allow them to thaw before using. To make ink/stain/dye, squeeze the berries to release their juices. You can either squeeze them in the bag they were stored in, or you can mash them using a pestle. Strain the mashed berries so you are left with just the juice. Safely discard the berry pulp to the trash (away from animals or kids). 
    2. Plan your design(s). Use a pencil to draw them onto the wooden cookies.
    3. Trace your design with the wood burning pen.
    4. Paint your design with pokeberry stain. If you don’t have paint brushes, you can use toothpicks or Q-tips. 
    5. Dip the wooden beads into the stain and let dry. Once completely dry, thread the twine through the beads and cookie and tie securely.
    6. Hang and enjoy!
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    The Women's Outdoor News, aka The WON, features news, reviews and stories about women who are shooting, hunting, fishing and actively engaging in outdoor adventure. This publication is for women, by women.

     

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