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Ornament obsession keeps the tree covered

November 27, 2001

Ornament obsession keeps the tree covered



By ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY

andreabh@herald-mail.com

Nancy Bowers' Christmas tree is 18 feet tall but hard to see.

More than 3,000 hand-made ornaments hide just about every inch of the towering tree in Bowers' Smithsburg home.

"Everybody says, 'Where's the green,'" said Bowers, 48. "Every time I think I can't get any more ornaments on it, I tell myself, 'One more will fit.'"

Bowers started making ornaments from cloth, wood and other materials about five years ago when she and her husband, Jerry, built their new home with the cathedral ceilings she had always wanted to display a tall tree.

Bowers begins crafting ornaments each summer to fill the tree she and her husband put up in early November. She stands at the top of her loft staircase to hang ornaments on the highest branches. The couple then moves the tree to its showcase spot.

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After the tree is decorated, Bowers often continues sewing, painting and gluing well into December. This year, she reached her goal of 3,000 ornaments before Christmas Eve.

A four-faced cloth snowman perches at the top of the tree, casting his gaze at every corner of the Bowers' living room. The snowman holds a U.S. flag this year to show the Bowers' patriotism.

Smaller hand-painted snowmen made from thread spools, ice cream sticks, furniture plugs, felt, wooden stars and tongue depressors dot the tree's branches.

The tree holds wooden American flags, tiny gift packages, cloth-strung bells, embroidered pillows, wooden and fabric gingerbread men, angels with cinnamon stick legs, fabric candy canes and Santas made from materials ranging from wood to paintbrushes.

Bowers said she leans toward rustic, or primitive-style, ornaments.

Bowers sometimes has helpers. She made little aprons for two of the three young children for whom she provides daycare so they could help her with such tasks as painting and stuffing snowmen. Her little "elves" love the work, Bowers said.

Her favorite ornaments are the Raggedy Ann dolls she crafts from muslin and home-spun fabric, dying the clothed dolls in tea to give them an aged look.

A Hagerstown man cuts from wood the stars, snowmen, Santas, carrot-shaped noses, angels and other designs created by Bowers. The carpenter cut 1,680 pieces for her this year, she said.

In the past, Bowers has hosted an open house prior to dismantling her tree in January. She has sold many of her ornaments then and re-stocked her collection in the months preceding the next holiday.

She plans to keep all the ornaments now on her tree, she said.

But that doesn't mean Bowers will stop producing new ornaments and dolls. She sells her crafts at Country Home & Health in Smithsburg and gives them away as gifts during the holidays and throughout the year.

"I've always loved to do crafts," Bowers said. "I enjoy giving them away. I don't do it for a living."

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