If you ask anyone which scents they associate with the holiday season, chances are that several of them will name warming spices, and citrus fruits. From gingerbread cookies to blood oranges tucked into stockings, these scents have been associated with winter celebrations for over a thousand years, and bringing these aromas into your home with scented decorations is both easy and fun to do. The type of pomanders that I’ll be describing below have been used as ornaments since the 14th century, and work as well in modern homes as they do alongside rustic, vintage decor.
What You’ll Need:
- Fresh, firm, hard-skinned citrus fruit of your choice (oranges, lemons, and even grapefruits work best, but you can make these with firm-fleshed apples as well)
- A cup or so of dried cloves (with the stems on!) per fruit
- Scotch tape or masking tape in whatever thickness or thinness you prefer (see ribbon note below)
- Darning needles, or small-gauge metal knitting needles
- Ribbons that match the thickness of the tape you’re using
- Straight pins
- Small hot glue gun
- Glue gun sticks
When it comes to making pomanders, you can use one of two different techniques: The most common (and easiest) technique is to stuff as many cloves as you can into the fruit’s skin, and the other is to make geometric (or other) patterns with the cloves. The latter technique may be easier if you’re doing this craft with small children—poking the cloves in is rather time-consuming and they might get bored or frustrated with the process—but the technique I’m going to describe is the one where the entire surface is covered to create a dense ball.
Try to find ribbon that’s the same width as your tape, and use one strip of it to encircle the fruit completely. Then, use another strip to cross over the first one you made, so if you look at either end of the fruit, the tape will make an X. This is where you’ll place your ribbon to hang your pomanders from. (Note: If you’d prefer to just create scented globes to nest inside bowls and such, you can skip the tape/ribbon bit.)
Near the top of the fruit, outside the masking tape border, make a small hole with your darning or knitting needle. You don’t want to slam your needle through into the juicy part of the fruit; what you’re aiming to do is just create a dent so that the cloves’ stems are easier to push in. Take one of the dried cloves and gently press the stem into the hole you’ve just made: it should be held firmly by the fruit’s skin. Repeat this process until the entire surface area is full of cloves. Try to place them as tightly together as possible so that you don’t see much of the fruit skin between the spices. Any leftover oranges can be eaten, and their peels used for candles. Ta-da!
Remove the tape gently. Place a small bead of hot glue at the bottom end of the fruit, and after finding the center point of one of your ribbons, press it against that glue bead to hold it in place. Draw a bit of hot glue up along the bare strips and press the ribbon strips against them so that they’re held in place as well. Repeat this process with the other piece of ribbon so that they’re both criss-crossed over the fruit. Remember that X that they formed at the bottom? Push a straight pin into the center of the X to secure it. You’ll have dangly bits of ribbon at the top of your pomander now, so tie those off securely, push a pin into that end as well, and use whatever length of ribbon is left to make a loop so you can hang the ornament wherever you like.
If you’ve chosen to skip the ribbon part and have covered the entire fruit’s surface with cloves, you can just place it (or them, if you’ve made several) into a decorative bowl, and set that any place that you’d like to make a bit more festive. These pomanders don’t just make gorgeous ornaments—they make wonderful gifts. You can wrap them up in tissue paper and hand them out to friends, family members, teachers… you can even pop one into your mailbox as a “thank you” for your friendly neighbourhood mail carrier. As the fruit dries, the peel will harden and shrink, holding the cloves in so that they don’t tumble out at random. I like to place some of these in my linen closet in late November, so that by the time xmas rolls around, all of my sheets and blankets smell like oranges and spices.
These ornaments can last for years, but if you find that their scent lessens over time, you can spray the cloves with a bit of water that has both cinnamon and clove essential oil mixed into it to brighten things up again. If you’ve only made patterns with the cloves and left a fair bit of the fruit’s skin visible, you can dip a cotton swab into orange, tangerine, or grapefruit essential oil, and rub that into the dried skin to replenish the citrusy scent as well.
All images via Shutterstock
An avid permaculture gardener, locavore, and novice (but enthusiastic!) canner, Lana Winter-Hébert joins Inhabitat after spending the last decade working as a writer and event guru for non-profit/eco organizations. In addition to her work with this site, she writes features and blog posts for Vegan Cuts, Green Pigeon, and several event planning websites based in London, UK. Currently, Lana divides her time between writing, and doing collaborative projects with Winter-Hébert: the design studio she runs with her husband. Best described as “endearingly eccentric”, she spends any spare moments wrestling with knitting projects, and devouring novels by obscure Czech writers. A Toronto native, she has recently chosen to leave that splendid city in favor of a tranquil lakeside nook in rural Quebec, where she and her Sir co-habitate with two hand-raised sparrows that live in their writing-desk.