When I moved to Australia seven years ago, one of the hardest things to adjust to was having Christmas in the summer. It didn’t help that the David Jones windows were full of jumpered up revelers sitting in front of a blazing fire, while I was stepping inside to shop for a swim suit. I wanted Australian Christmas to look like Australian Christmas, and every year since, I’ve been trying to get my southern hemisphere holiday just right. Gone from the playlist is “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” and in are the cold salads and prawns. This year, I dreamed up a new addition to my Australian Christmas decorations – an Aussie-as thong (flip-flop) Christmas wreath.
The Mini-Artsplorer and I created it together, and it’s really open to interpretation, so grab some thongs/ flops/ jandals/ whatever you want to call them, and let me show you what we did. You can adjust with whatever says Australian Christmas to you!
What we used…
- Large piece of cardboard (thicker is better)
- 4 pairs of children’s sized thongs
- Mini koalas from the tourist shop
- Felt Santa hat (you could just as easily use red and white felt)
- Ornament (optional)
- Hot glue
- Paint and paintbrush (not pictured)
I picked out the smallest size thongs I could find, which were children’s size 6. The little ones all had an elastic strap on the back, which we cut off.
What we did…
We started out by laying the thongs in a circle on the cardboard to get the right size for the base. We outlined the base by tracing the inside circle and a rough outer circle at about the halfway point of the shoes.
If you’re clever and have a compass around, you can use that to complete a perfect circle outline. Or, if you’re like me, and you haven’t seen once since 11th grade math, similarly shaped bowls or mugs also work well.
Use a craft knife or strong scissors to cut out the base (definitely an adult job).
We put a quick, down and dirty coat of craft paint on the base. Just use a color that compliments the color of the thongs you’ve chosen. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as it’s just to cover small spots that will peek through.
We set the base aside to dry, and then got to work on the koalas. Now, I think they would have been just fine as they were, but to make them a little extra festive, we decided to give them Santa hats. (For what it’s worth, Mini said that was her favorite part of the wreath, when we were all done).
I made a template for cutting out the hat. It’s a very simple triangle, sized to the koala’s head. You have plenty of leeway for error here, so don’t stress getting it perfect! Cut it out, and use it for tracing.
My super simple trick for creating little Santa hats is to cannibalize an existing Santa hat (if you’d rather not do this, a pieces of red and white felt would work just as well). Use one of the cheapy felt ones, not the nicer velvety ones. Cut out a section that includes some of the white band and some of the red part. Glue that to one of the pieces of cardboard left over from making the base. I used hot glue, but white craft glue ought to work just as well, and is more kid crafting-friendly. I also cut off the puff at the top for snipping off bits for mini-puffs on the little hat.
I traced the template, and cut the hats. Then we glued small cuttings from the puff on top. These can easily be trimmed, so it’s fine if you don’t get them exactly right.
I hot glued the hats on our Christmas koalas. I think they’re cute!
With the paint on the cardboard base dry, we then laid the thongs out again. I found it worked best to put the left feet on the left and the right feet on the right. But, you could also lay them end to end or stagger them. See what you and your artsplorers prefer. You’ll just need to decide before you cut the base. This was also a good time to work out the arrangement of the hanging ornament. You can use any ornament you like, or none at all.
We attached the ornament by the string with staples.
Then, we hot glued the thongs on. As the thongs are relatively heavy, I used a good dousing of glue on the cardboard. I trusted Mini to be careful setting the thongs down on the hot glue, but be mindful of your child’s age and skills when you decide how and if they’ll be hands on in this part. We don’t want any kids hurt by hot glue!
We arranged the koala Santas and hot glued them onto the thongs.
Using a piece of ribbon, we cut a loop for a hanger. Not taking any chances with this bit bearing weight, I went full throttle and attached it with hot glue on the back and a couple of staples through the cardboard.
We finished it off with one more bow for flourish. And, then, it’s straight to the pool room … I mean front door!
This project is definitely a do-it-together one, and does require supervision with all the cutting and hot glue, but there’s plenty for a child pre-school aged and up to do. Mini loved the unexpected fun of crafting with thongs, and she’s so proud that our work is hanging so prominently. She’s pointed our very Aussie Christmas wreath to every visitor.
Wreath crazy? Here’s another one to try – a super cute Christmas bauble wreath!