Papa’s Bird Ornament

Today’s ornament in my 12 Days of Handmade Ornaments series is very special to me.  It may not look like anything great, but to me it means a lot.  The title on the photo should give you an idea as to why.

Ever since I can remember, my grandpa (who we called “Papa”) wore these long-sleeve, button up, plaid or striped shirts.  He paired those shirts with some jeans, a big belt buckle, and his grey, New Balance, shoes.  One year we bought him a “Worlds Greatest Grandpa” hat, and he wore it every day until we had to buy him replacement ones.  He was very proud of being a grandpa, and all of us grandchildren loved him very much. (Aw dang, now I’m starting to tear up.)

The only time I ever saw him waver from this uniform, was when he had to get dressed up for special occasions.  For those, he had a brown suit that he would wear.  This is him dancing with me at my wedding.  Those suit pockets are filled with the programs from pretty much every funeral he’d ever been to.  Haha!  Please excuse the weird look on my face.  I was touched that he got up to dance with me… apparently this is my “touched” face.

Papa was an avid bird watcher and almost never left the house without his trusty binoculars.  I remember countless times being in the car with him and having to pull over so he could stop and look at birds.  Thanks to him, I now know how to identify several local birds.  Every time I see a bird, I think of him.

He passed away about five years ago, and my mom still has a few of his old clothes.  I asked if I could have a shirt and a pair of pants to make something special for Christmas.  To me, Christmas is a time of reflecting on the past and making family traditions.  This Christmas, I’m making one of these little bird ornaments for everyone in my family.  I am making birds, for obvious reasons, but you can make whatever you like.  A heart, a cat, a car, or even just a circle.  If you want to make a bird, you can use my pattern here.

Trace the pattern onto the paper side of some fusible interfacing (I used Wonder Under, Pellon 805).  The interfacing keeps the fabric from fraying around the cut out wing.

Iron the Wonder Under (webbing side down) onto the back of the fabric.  This is fabric from my grandpa’s shirt.

Cut out the pattern.

Peel off the paper backing.

Iron the bird onto the front of another piece of fabric.  This is fabric from my grandpa’s jeans.

Cut off the excess of the second fabric so you have your bird again.

Using three strands of embroidery floss, make a running stitch around the wing.

Cut a second bird out of the first fabric.

Pin the two birds right sides together and add a little loop of ribbon for hanging.  You want the loop to go inside the bird like in the picture.


Sew a 1/4 inch seam around the bird, leaving a small opening on the bottom.

Turn the bird right-side-out and iron it flat.  Fill the bird with stuffing and hand stitch the opening closed.

A little piece of grandpa to remember him at Christmas.

Miss you Papa!

<<click here to go to day nine of this series>>

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed everyone for the day, make sure to go back to the first post in this series to enter the giveaway!  I’ll be announcing winners in just a few more days.

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41 Responses to Papa’s Bird Ornament

  1. This had me tearing up. What a great keepsake this will be for your family. My father always wore flannel shirts. Wish I had kept one of his shirts and thought of this, Thank you so much for sharing this!!!

  2. My Dad died this year and I have some of his flannel pajamas. I know my Grandkids will LOVE these….
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hey! I’m making a few of these for my family (it is our first Christmas without my grandpa). I have a couple of plaid shirts, most of which I still wear, that are his. I plan on making hearts out of one of them, and I was wondering if it was okay if I posted on my craft blog (which is still in its early stages) about this craft. I of course would credit it back to you, but just wanted to make sure that was alright! Thank you for this amazing craft, I can’t wait to get started.

  4. This is such a sweet idea. The sentiment alone is so great, but to turn someone’s clothing into a beautiful ornament is even more special.

    Katie @

  5. This was such a sweet post, and the bird is so perfect given that your “Papa” loved birds. How cool that you are making them for everyone in your family. They are really neat ornaments. (I’d like to try making one sometime.) This really inspires me, because I have many of my late husband’s favorite shirts (also called Papa by his grandchildren) and my goal is to eventually make quilts out of them for my two grandchildren. I just took my first quilt class to prepare for this task. Anyway, I was so touched by your love for your grandfather. He must have been a very special man to garner such love. Thank you for sharing.

  6. This ornament would be the first one I would put on the tree. It just reminds me of the lost opportunities that I’ve had regarding family members and friends. This is a perfect way to commemorate our loved ones, and keep their wonderful energy in our holiday spirit. Nice work, and great idea. Love the back story also, it just rings with the love you felt for Papa.

  7. What a wonderful thing to do! So perfect to make a keepsake to remember a much loved grandad, knowing it will be on the tree every year. You have brought a tear to my eye and given me an idea. Thank you.

  8. Just came across this, and am sitting here in tears. Such a sweet story and way to remember your grandfather! Mine has been gone for 10 years now, and my dad died this year. I have clothes from both, and will be making ornaments from them. Thank you so much for the idea.

  9. I was wondering if you could tell me where I could possibly find someone to make these amazing ornaments for my family. I am not a crafty person and I do not want to ruin such a beautiful way to remember our gma.


  10. What an amazingly beautiful idea! I think I’m going to attempt to learn to sew so I can give this gift to my family in honor of my Nanny this Christmas. Thank you for sharing!!

  11. Thank you for this tutorial. I recently lost my mother and something like this would be wonderful for all the family.

  12. My neighbor asked me to make a memory pillow for her son out of her dad’s shirt. While I was doing some searches on them, I came across this post. Thank you so much for this great idea! I made an ornament for both of her kids out of the extra fabric from the shirt. They turned out so nicely. It’s been a lot of fun to do this for my friend and her family.

  13. Such a wonderful memory you shared Jessica. As my father in law who was 98 yrs old just passed, I was asked to make a dozen memory pillows and saw your idea of the ornament and will be using the extra material for those as a special surprise.

  14. After my father passed in 1998, my mom allowed each of us children and grandchildren to pick out a favorite shirt of his. They all then gave them to me and for our first Christmas without him…everyone received a teddy bear I made from the fabric. A total of 30-some bears. My children were very young at the time …I don’t know where I found the energy or time to do such a project but the Lord provided. In 2013, I lost both my mom and 4 months later my 20 year-old daughter. My heart is still too broken to even consider making even one bear…but a small heart ornament…perhaps that might actually be possible. I might also be able to make them for those that loved them so. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • I’m so sorry to hear about your losses! I can’t imagine how hard that must be. What a special gift to make teddy bears out of your father’s clothing. I’m glad you found some inspiration for ornaments here. I treasure my “Papa” ornament and love the reminder that it gives me of him each Christmas. Hugs to you and your family.

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