12 Days of {handmade} Christmas Tutorials::Day 10 Advent Calendar/Jesse Tree Ideas

by Edie Wadsworth on November 11, 2012

This is day 10 in a 12 days series of {handmade} Christmas tutorials.

I’m Nicole and I blog at thepantrybook.com, a notebook of homekeeping, crafts, and professional motherhood. Come on over to join me and my family on our journey of eucharisteo (radical gratitude) in the midst of loving our amazing Everett, our one-year-old son who lost over half of his brain in a stroke.

Jesse Tree Advent Activity

Whether you decide to make a wall hanging like ours or use pieces of paper printed from the computer as ornaments that you hang on a branch, I want to encourage you to do the Jesse Tree this year! This is a fun way to create a meaningful tradition for your family. Although it can be fun to gather ornaments over time, you don’t have to wait until it’s perfect to begin. Our first year, we were missing a few ornaments and none of the pockets were sewn on our wall hanging!

Our completed Jesse Tree on Christmas Day.

I just LOVE doing the Jesse Tree with my family during the month of December. I love it because it puts the emphasis on the “Reason for the Season” – that’s Jesus. The name comes from Isaiah 11:1, which says, “A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.” The Jesse Tree is a set of daily Advent bible readings and questions to explain the family tree of Jesus, starting with Jesse, the father of King David.

You have a few different options (in a range of prices and time commitment) to help you find a way to do the Jesse Tree in a way that works for you!

You’ll need: a list of readings for each day, a set of ornaments to represent the theme of each day’s reading, and something to hang the ornaments on each day. I suggest starting by deciding which set of readings you will use, since they can vary (both in number of days and symbols). Then you can get as fancy as you want!

Option One: Quick and Free

You don’t need a wall hanging or fancy ornaments to do the Jesse Tree! You can find the scriptures and questions online for free! I really like the packet put together by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience (find it here). It includes ornaments you can cut out as well as all the readings. Click here to see how Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking used Ann Voskamp’s packet and made her own ornaments to hang on a miniature Christmas Tree.

Additional Jesse Tree bible readings and printable ornaments available here and here.

Option Two: Purchase a set of ornaments ready-made

This kit is ready-to-go, available on etsy.

You can purchase an already-made set of Jesse Tree ornaments on etsy for about $45. You can bring in a branch from the yard, anchor it in a vase with stones, and hang these ornaments on the branch each day as you do the readings. Or, instead of a branch, you can sew or paint a wall hanging and hang the ornaments from buttons or cup hooks. The same etsy crafter above sells a cute set of magnets and a vinyl tree decal for using on a cookie sheet here!

How cute is this?

You could just take a plain piece of fabric and sew buttons (like mine) or you could paint a piece of plywood and screw in tiny cup hooks for hanging the ornaments. The possibilities are endless! You don’t even need to have pockets for the ornaments. You could place them in numbered reusable boxes at the base of the tree and open the box on the corresponding day.

Option Three: Fancy Ornaments and an Appliqued Wall Hanging

I like things on display in my home to be lovely, so our Jesse Tree includes lots of glitter and velvet in rich holiday tones. When I was nine months pregnant with my first child (i.e. when I had a lot more time for sewing projects than I do now with two little ones), I decided to piece this together, essentially sewing a quilt with 24 pockets. If I had to make another one today, I think I would go for something a bit simpler. But, I reeeeaaaally love it and I’m so glad I put in the time when it was available. I also purchased a hardcover book with the daily readings, questions, and prayers – I prefer the look and feel of the hardcover book to a stack of papers that can get ratty after a few years’ use. I also really enjoyed gathering the ornaments, but some were just impossible to find, so I made them myself. For most of the homemade ornaments, I printed an image from the internet, then traced and cut out the shapes from cardboard (cereal boxes) and covered them in different shades of metallic glitter. However, the cardboard ornaments are not super sturdy. This will be our fourth year using ours and they are still holding up fine. However, I like to think of this as a family heirloom, so I plan to eventually replace all the cardboard ornaments with wooden ones (which I will also glitter).

Here you can see how the numbers on the pockets are embroidered in metallic thread. That took a long time, but I love it! I skipped number one because it’s a globe and would need a super-sized pocket to fit. But, it never needs to go in a pocket since it’s the first one to go on the tree. This is a quicker-to make version of the Jesse Tree wall hanging because the numbers are painted on (using foam stamps) instead of hand embroidered. Also, the tree shape and the pockets are sewn down with the raw edges (trimmed with pinking shears) exposed instead of pieced together like a quilt top. You could even use glue or that iron-on tape stuff! This one also uses a different book, which has readings and ornaments for 29 days instead of 25. This is the book we use (available here).

Our ornaments

Here is a quick list of our ornaments and where I got them or how I made them. In order to hang as an ornament, many of these have a teeny-tiny screw eye (available at any hardware store) twisted into the top – to hang from the string. Also, when looking at regular Christmas ornaments, look for smaller ones or they won’t fit in the pockets (or you could keep them in numbered boxes instead of storing the unused ornaments in pockets). If you want to see a more detailed shot of any ornament, just let me know in the comments.

  1. Globe – readymade ornament (ours from here). I also saw a smaller one at PierOne (sold as a lamp finial).
  2. The Fall – plastic snake from craft store covered in red glitter hot glued to silver styrofoam apple from floral arrangement.
  3. Noah’s Ark – homemade cutout shape glittered. You can find a Noah’s Ark picture online easily.
  4. Camel in a Tent – homemade cutout shape glittered.
  5. ram – Schleich plastic toy.
  6. Jacob’s Ladder – a wooden picket fence for a doll house, trimmed to ladder shape and glittered.
  7. Joseph’s Coat of Many Colors – this is cut out from a felted wool sweater.
  8. Shoot from the Stump of Jesse – branch from my yard with green leaf shape hot-glued on.
  9. Josaiah finds the Law – “scroll” with fabric rolled on the ends.
  10. Slingshot – Y-shaped branch from my yard and a rubber band.
  11. Wheat – two pieces of wheat from an old floral arrangement. Actually, this ornament got eaten by a mouse two years ago – he decided to die in our living room on Christmas Eve a few hours before our guests arrived for our huge party! awesome! – so, I replaced it with a brass pin in the shape of wheat from etsy.
  12. Wine – grapes floral pick. I’ll bet you could find some miniature bottles of wine at the craft store, too.
  13. Ten Commandments – glittered cardboard cutout in the shape of stone tablets.
  14. Lion and Lamb Resting Together – two Schleich plastic toys hot-glued together.
  15. Prince of Peace – precut wooden dove ornament (from the craft store) glittered, I still need to add a crown to this ornament.
  16. Shepherd – this is a ceramic figurine for a nativity (mine’s a bit chipped – I found it on ebay) with a screw eye in the top.
  17. Cross – pre-cut wooden ornament (from the craft store) glittered.
  18. The Law, Written on our Hearts – pre-cut wooden heart ornament (from the craft store) glittered with book shape glued on top.
  19. Star – readymade ornament, you can find this one anywhere.
  20. Brick Wall – this is a piece from a dollhouse or Christmas town set (I found this one on ebay).
  21. Fiery Furnace – this is a fireplace for a dollhouse and the flame part really lights up! I still need to add four little stick people on the flame with a fine-tip Sharpie.
  22. Bethlehem – homemade cityscape cutout glittered. You can find the Bethlehem skyline online easily.
  23. Candle – pre-cut wooden ornament (from the craft store) glittered.
  24. Angel – pre-cut wooden ornament (from the craft store) glittered.
  25. Nativity – readymade ornament, easy to find =).

For more ornament ideas, go here. It doesn’t look like her blog is actively being updated, but she has some super Jesse Tree ideas. She used notecards for the first year – until she could find or make all the ornaments – what a great idea to help you just get started!!! She also uses a regular-sized tree and wraps her ornaments in bags below the tree, so her ornaments don’t have size constraints like ones that have to fit into pockets on a wall hanging. I personally like having a wall hanging, but hers is a really lovely set-up too! Check out her post on making Noah’s Ark from an unfinished wooden pirate ship ornament – wow!

Do any of you already do a Jesse Tree with your family? If you have pics online, leave a link in the comments – I’d LOVE to see!! If you have any additional sources for Jesse Tree ornaments, please share those too!!!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michelle November 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Beautiful Nicole! Lots of great ideas! This was a very timely post. I am planning on doing a Jesse Tree with my 1st and 2nd grade Sunday school class in December. We won’t be able to do all the ornaments, but we will do as many as we can. I have found great little ornament kits from Oriental Trading and will use some of your ideas for others. Ours will be on a bulletin board and the kids will take their ornaments home to hang on their trees the Sunday before Christmas. I also bought the book you recommended above. You got me so excited about it that I think I will do it at home with my two kids also. We did it when they were little and a few of their ornaments have survived, but we can do nicer ones now that they are a little older. Thanks for sharing your wonderful ideas!

Reply

2 Nicole November 11, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Thanks, Michelle! I love the bulletin board idea! I’ll have to check out the ornaments at Oriental Trading – thanks for the tip!

Reply

3 Ginger November 12, 2012 at 9:29 am

Ha….I do advent too, but havn’t done a jesse tree yet. I was just getting ready to do this years advent research…I do something a little differet every year. This looks great.
Thanks

Reply

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