Saturday, December 3, 2011

Twine Christmas Trees

I'm back in the blogging world!  The Holiday sale event I participated in this week was very successful, and now I've cleaned up my craft room - I mean my kitchen - so now I can actually cook again.  Or rather my husband can.  He was very happy to see the sewing machine go back in the closet, and the bags of yarn and other miscellaneous crafting supplies go back to the basement.  Don't tell him, but so was I.  It's nice to see what my kitchen table looks like again!

So the first project I started on, and what I'll describe here, are Christmas trees sculpted from twine.  This is a very messy project, but not hard.,  After all, that's my main criteria, remember?  EASY ENOUGH FOR ME!  And it's relatively quick - about an hour once you're ready to start will create a set of 3 (small, medium, large) trees, then it's just drying time and adding any decorations you might want.  I did some simple beading, used some fake snow, tried different colors, and left some plain.  Be sure to check out my cost saving suggestions at the bottom.

My initial inspiration came from LemonTreeCreations where there is a great tutorial with better pics than mine.  Check it out.

Step 1:  Gather your supplies
    • Styrofoam trees - one for each size you make.
    • Tin foil - I use the pre-cut sheets that you can buy at Costco.
    • Fabric Stiffener - Stiffy brand works great.
    • Straight pins.  The kind with the colored balls on the ends really work well.
    • Twine.  Bought mine at Home Depot & got 525 yards for $4.50.
Step 2:  Prep your materials
    • The twine I bought came in a light color, and initially I wanted something darker.  I experimented with various methods of coloring the twine.  See my earlier post "Painting Twine".
    • Cut twine into manageable lengths.  I generally worked with 2 yards at a time.
    • Spread out some tin foil to work on (remember, it's sloppy work!).
    • Leaving the plastic wrap on the form, cover your tree form with tin foil.  The original tutorial used freezer paper, but that did NOT work for me.  It stuck badly to the finished tree.  The tin foil releases well.
    • Place some straight pins evenly about 1/8 - 1/4"  above the bottom of each tree.  You'll use these to wind your first few rows to form a sturdy base.  
    • Create a "drying station" - a piece of tin foil in an out-of-the-way spot.
    • Pour a small amount of fabric stiffener into a small bowl.

Step 3:  Start sculpting!  
    • Working with one length of twine at a time, soak it in the fabric stiffener.  As you pull the twine from the liquid, run your fingers down the length to "squeegee" the excess back into the bowl.  Don't prep too many lengths at once - they'll start to dry out before you use them and then they're harder to work with.
    • I usually started my winding from the base, anchoring my starting point with my finger or a straight pin until I had wound more twine on top of it.
    • The pins on the bottom will help keep your lower circles in place because they have a tendency to want to slide up the form.  You need to make sure your "base" will be level when removed from the form, so watch your placement carefully at the beginning.
    • As you finish lengths & start new ones, use a straight pin to anchor the ends.  Don't worry if any ends stick out - they can be trimmed off when dry.
    • While winding your form, be sure you criss-cross as much as possible.  The finished project needs the structure created by these criss-crosses to stand straight.
    • Done?  No big holes?  Set it aside to DRY THOROUGHLY!

Step 4:  Finishing
    • Remove every straight pin.  This is why I suggest the dressmaker pins - they're easy to see.  If you miss even one it will make it REALLY hard to remove the finished tree.  
    • Carefully loosen the tin foil from the form.  I found this easiest by starting at the bottom, loosening the tin foil & exposing the styrofoam.  GENTLY grip the tree around the middle with one hand, & holding onto the styrofoam with the other hand, give some gentle but firm twists,  Your tree should "break loose" & slide right off.  Some require a little more manhandling than others, but it WILL come off!  Then remove the tin foil from the inside the tree.  (DON'T throw the tin foil away if it comes out in one piece.  I'll show you how to re-use it later.)
    • Now decorate!!!  I had some white pearls that I used on one set, on another set I painted the pearls gold (before hot gluing to the trees).  On yet another set, I sprinkled Epsom Salts - great fake snow!  The options are endless!
      Like these but don't feel like getting messy?  These sets and others are available now on at my Etsy store for only $29.00/set!!  Order now!
Medium Tan - Natural

Dark Brown Set of 3 With Berries

      Red Set Dusted with "Snow"

Cost Saving Suggestions for this project:
  1. Buy cheap twine.  I bought a big roll at Home Depot & changed the color myself.  It's W-A-A-A-Y cheaper & easier to find than colored hemp at the craft stores.
  2. If making multiple sets, re-use the styrofoam forms.  I made over 50 total with the same three forms, and they can still be used for something else.
  3. Use a small bowl & small amounts at a time for the stiffener.  Anything left in the bowl will be thrown away.
  4. Re-use the tin foil.  Open it up & use it flat - or use it just on the top end of one of your forms.  Use the same process & create hanging ornaments.
Hanging 4" Tree Ornaments

Happy Twining!!

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