It's beginning to look a lot like retro: Fun, easy tree trimmings evoke Christmases past

2013-12-21T08:00:00Z 2013-12-23T16:42:12Z It's beginning to look a lot like retro: Fun, easy tree trimmings evoke Christmases pastJulie Dean Kessler Times Correspondent
December 21, 2013 8:00 am  • 

Want this year’s Christmas tree to attract a second look? Is there a second tree in another room that’s a catch-all for leftover ornaments? Then have a very retro Christmas.

It’s a look that lets you have fun with your favorite tree trimmings — attic treasures, an afternoon’s creativity, or shopping discoveries. Or all three.

But wait a minute. What exactly qualifies as “retro”? Turns out it’s pretty specific, said Gloria Malone, owner of Eursell Designs in Merrillville, Ind. “Retro applies to the 1930s, through the ‘60s, and just into the ’70s. Lots of vibrant colors.”

So start with Hollywood glam, glide through the black-and-white and bright ‘50s, and take on the tie-dyes of the ‘60s. You’ll be smack dab into the real retro.

But to paraphrase Robert Redford, “What kind of retro?” Retro popularity is big, so you can mix or match your era. Here’s how …

Stained glass and luxury

If there’s no time for opening boxes of memorabilia, and you’ve never met a glue gun you can conquer, northwest Indiana stores will yield charming ornaments. At Hobby Lobby in Merrillville, Ind., their ornaments are grouped by theme, which makes it easy to scan the angels, for example, or the Santas, for one with a retro feel. At D2E Gallery and Gifts in Crown Point, Ind., owner Michell Mathis said local artists’ works are featured in a wide variety of peace signs and flowers (Did someone hum “Aquarius?”). Lighthouses referencing Lake Michigan, stars that transcend any era, and lots more are created in stained glass, a la your great-aunt’s lamp with the multi-colored shade. “Stained glass is popular,” said Mathis.

Malone at Eursell concurs. The licensed interior designer says, “I’m seeing a lot of stained glass, it’s very big.” Think old Hollywood luxury, she said, and the days of big lollipops with a lot of swirled colors. “Big, bold colors in pinks, oranges — that’s what you look for.”

Little shop around the corner

At the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum gift shop, there are ornaments that Hallmark collectibles issued years ago, said museum volunteer Al Zeller. “Our gift shop also has ornaments like an old car and a sleigh.” For unmistakable ties to the area, there are ornaments depicting the Door Prairie Barn and La Porte scenes with the issue date.

Don’t forget resale and thrift shops, where you’ll often find ornaments with retro shapes and designs.

If you want to avoid the crowds and save your feet a few miles of walking, at we found rustic wooden candy cane ornaments, burlap ornaments and tiny slate chalkboards with twine hangers.

Break out the fun

Then there’s a cozy alternative: creating your own ornaments, from beginner-simple to expert-confident. If you’re in the former category, clear off the kitchen table and go through the ornaments you already have. A sled can take on a retro look simply by switching out the wire hanger with twine.

Burlap is a big trend this year. We found helpful information on ornament making at, including the crafter’s insider info that muslin has a burlap look but is easier to work with and bend. If you’re handy with scissors and a glue gun, you can make all sorts of shapes with burlap. At, there are instructions even the craft-challenged can carry out, with a little burlap, glue and plain, small glass or plastic ornaments.

Chris Saulters, manager at JoAnn Fabrics in Schererville, said, “We have tons of fabrics for ornaments,” which we guessed, but he also offers this recognizable retro: There are lots of tie-dye prints to cut to size for ornaments you have. If you’re a jig-saw crafter, make simple doll shapes, then cut and glue on little tie-dye clothes.

Kids love crafts, so sit them down with red and green construction paper, a bottle of Elmer’s glue or glue sticks, and have them make paper chains, suggests Malone. For movie-star elegance, think velvet, she said. “You can take an ornament and wrap it with velvet, then add a few buttons or sequins. Put string through Grandma’s bows and put them on the tree.”

“Use the things you like, and have fun with it,” advises Malone.


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