Donna enjoys using her arts background to create fun craft projects with a special focus on using repurposed or handy household materials.
I had been looking for a set of reindeer figurines to display on my mantle during the Christmas season, but I couldn't find exactly what I wanted. With a few basic craft supplies and some twigs from my yard, I made this cute woodland reindeer pair.
These rustic reindeer are adorable additions to your home or Christmas-tree decorations. This holiday project tutorial includes different ideas about how to decorate your deer, as well as information about how to adjust them in size to hang on your tree.
Materials for Making Woodland Twig Reindeer
- A sheet of stiff, but bendable cardboard (e.g. from a cereal box). This cardboard will form the body of your reindeer. The size is variable, depending on the finished size of your reindeer. I used a piece that was 5 inches by 4 1/2 inches. Read the directions below for more detail.
- Twigs of varying sizes and thicknesses. These will make the limbs of your reindeer (you can also use dowels).
- A small piece of thick twig or a bottle cork. This will be your reindeer's head.
- Material for decorating the body of your reindeer. I used wrapping paper and some laser cut wood pieces. But you could also use images from Christmas cards, scrapbook paper, paper doilies, popsicle sticks, and other decorative elements.
- Hot-glue gun and glue sticks
- Drill or screwdriver. You will use this to make holes to assemble head and neck.
- Scissors, ruler, and pencil
- Red pom pom or bead to use as nose (optional)
How to Make a Woodland Twig Reindeer
Step 1: Make the Deer's Body
The first step for creating a twig reindeer is to cut a piece of cardboard to make your deer's body. Your cardboard should be stiff, but bendable. The size of this cardboard is variable.
I cut my cardboard to be 5 inches high (this will later be folded in half) by 4 1/2 inches wide. This is a good starting size, as it gives you some area to decorate your deer. My finished adult reindeer is about 9 1/2 inches tall by about 8 inches from nose to tail.
Next, fold your cardboard in half height-wise to form a tent shape. Using my measurements, your folded piece of cardboard will be 2 1/2 inches high by 4 1/2 inches wide.
Step 2: Decorate Your Reindeer's Body
Now you can decorate your piece of folded cardboard to form the body of your reindeer. Be careful to preserve the fold in your cardboard so it will still bend in half. Be sure to decorate both sides of your folded piece of cardboard.
There are many materials you can use to decorate your reindeer (e.g. old Christmas cards or gift wrap). You can use popsicle sticks for a more rustic look, or decorative paper and glitter for a more festive feel.
Laser-Cut Wooden Frames Work Especially Well!
I wanted a woodland look for my reindeer, so I chose first to cover my cardboard with holiday gift wrap. Then I took a few laser-cut wooden frames that I had bought at the craft store and cut them into pieces. I cut the top and bottom off the frames to create decorative wood pieces for decorating my deer (pieces of paper doilies would give you a similar look).
I had a few of these wooden frames in different styles. I cut each one as in the photo above, then took the longer frame pieces (top and bottom) and layered them on each side of my reindeer body. I glued them in place with hot glue, making sure not to cover the fold in my cardboard.
I like how the gift wrap shows through my wooden pieces. However you decide to decorate your deer's body, it will look great!
Step 3: Prepare the Legs and Spine
Cut four twigs or dowels of equal thickness to use as legs for your deer. I made the legs of my deer about 6 1/4 inches long. It's best to make the legs longer than you think you need, as you can always cut them shorter later.
Next, cut a piece of twig or dowel that is slightly shorter than the length of the fold of your cardboard.
Step 4: Assemble Your Twig Reindeer
Turn your cardboard over so you are looking at the underbelly of your reindeer. Glue your short piece of twig or dowel (I used a dowel) down the center of your fold, but leave enough space so that your cardboard will still bend closed.
Next, glue your four legs in a splayed position, with the tops of your twigs almost touching your center stick. Test that you can still bend your cardboard into a tent shape with your legs in place.
Step 5. Attach the Legs
Make sure the glue on the legs is dry. Then hold your deer like a taco with the legs facing up and the cardboard held in an inverted V shape. Use hot glue to attach the legs to the center stick or dowel (see photo above). My husband was a little heavy-handed when gluing these pieces together, but the legs did stay in place.
Step 6: Trim and Level Legs
When your glue is dry, you can turn your deer over and trim the legs to your desired length, making sure your reindeer stands straight and level.
Step 7: Attach Tail
Find a short piece of twig or dowel to use as a tail. Glue it in place between the back legs so it hangs out the end of your deer's body.
Making a Head for Your Twig Reindeer
Step 8: Make the Head
I used a two-inch length of twig for my deer head that was about one inch in diameter. You could also use a thick piece of dowel or a bottle cork for the head.
I used a sturdy utility knife to whittle down one end of my twig to give my deer head some shape. This may be harder to do with a piece of dowel, but should be easy with a twig or cork if you have a sturdy, sharp knife. If that seems like too much trouble, just leave the twig or dowel as is.
Step 9: Make the Neck
Put your head aside and find a piece of twig or dowel to use as the neck of your reindeer. My neck is about 3 inches long. You should place the head onto the neck with no glue to check the length of the neck in relationship to the head. Trim the length of the neck if needed.
Step 10: Attach the Neck
Drill a small hole in the base of your deer's head that is large enough to accept the twig you will use as a neck. If you are using a cork for the head, you can probably make the hole by using a screwdriver and twisting it into the cork.
Leave the head aside for the moment. Glue your neck in place between the front legs of your reindeer. I glued mine so that it also rested against the center stick of my deer's body.
Step 11: Add a Wreath (Optional)
If you want to add a wreath to your deer's decoration, do it before adding your deer head. I knitted my wreath using dk weight yarn and this free knitting pattern. I wove some twine through my wreath and tied the ends in a bow, then placed it around my reindeer's neck. You can also buy small wreaths in the Christmas section at most craft stores.
Step 12: Add Antlers (Optional)
Before attaching the head to the body, decide whether you want to add antlers to your reindeer. I cut some arms off these wooden snowflakes I had to use as antlers. You could also use small twigs or wire pieces for antlers.
If you want to add antlers, decide the placement for them on your deer's head, then drill some small pilot holes to accept them. Glue your antlers in position with a small drop of hot glue or superglue. Let dry completely.
Step 13: Attach Head
When you deer head is dry, glue it on to the neck by putting a little bit of hot glue or super glue into the hole in the head. Let dry.
Step 14: Add a Red Pom Pom Nose (Optional)
I added a small red pom pom for a nose on my reindeer. I attached this with a small drop of hot glue. You can also use a bead or button for the nose.
Note: I made a smaller reindeer using the same tutorial. For this smaller deer, I used the shorter sides from my wooden frames that were left over when I cut them apart. The piece of cardboard for my smaller deer's body was 4 inches high by 2 1/2 inches wide (2 inches high when folded in half).
You could add a loop of ribbon to the back of the smaller deer if you wish to use it as a Christmas tree ornament.
© 2017 Donna Herron
Donna Herron (author) from USA on February 08, 2018:
Hi Sheila - So glad you liked this project and are sharing it with your grandson! Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it!
Sheila on February 08, 2018:
What a great idea, I made one ,my grandson love it. I will teach them how to make them. Thank you!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on November 28, 2017:
Hi Patricia - Thanks so much! So glad you like these little reindeer. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
Patricia on November 28, 2017:
These are adorable!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on November 16, 2017:
Hi Shasta - Thanks! These little guys were fun to make and decorate. So glad you like them. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it!
Donna Herron (author) from USA on November 16, 2017:
Hi Heidi - Thanks so much! So glad you like these twig reindeer. Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Shasta Matova from USA on November 15, 2017:
These are adorable! What a cute and clever project!
Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on November 15, 2017:
When I see you've published a new post in the email notifications, I can't wait to see what cuteness you've come up with. And this is certainly cute by combining nature with some crafty cleverness.
If I don't connect with you prior, have a very Happy Thanksgiving!