Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Different Burlap Christmas Trees

 Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches.  There are many representations of the traditional Christmas tree.   You may have a huge evergreen tree decorated with lights and ornaments, or it may be a Charlie Brown tree.  It could be shiny aluminum with a color wheel that rotates casting different colored lights on the tree.  Perhaps, you have improvised something on your wall because you have no room for a full tree.  I have seen trees made from old ladders and decorated that are amazing.   Everyone likes something different.

One of the most beautiful trees I ever saw was years ago when I was doing direct sales and was conducting a party in a home where their tree was a sapling that had been cut in the woods.  The tree was totally wrapped in cotton so that it looked like a completely snow covered tree.  There were lights and ornaments hanging from the limbs and lots of icicles.  The sapling reached the ceiling and it was so beautiful I wish you could have seen it.  The hostess told me this has  been her family's tradition for as long as she could remember and she had continued it.  I know it was a lot of work to do all the wrapping, but it was one beautiful tree.

One night I was about to doze off, when a vision of some burlap Christmas trees came into my head.  It may sound strange to you, but things like that happen to me right before I go to sleep, or when I am in the shower and not thinking of any particular thing.  The trees were simple and lovely.  This is my interpretation of what I envisioned.   They are very primitive which is something I really, really like.

I didn't know how I was going to make them because they needed a form - a support.  So I went to Michael's and wandered around.  I found some wooden squares in the craft section that were $1.00 each.  I bought 3.  Then I found some dowel rods for $.59 each.  I bought two because I knew I could cut them to different lengths.  I had a package of styrofoam cones at home that I thought could work to complete my "form."  I found a package with cut dowel rods at Wal Mart that would make the final shape work.  There were 8 in a package, so I bought two because I didn't know how many I would need.  I used them all.
Dan drilled a hole in the center of each base that would hold the biggest dowel rod for the center of the tree.  To find the center, simply draw a straight line from corner to corner that intersects like an X.  That is  your center.  I held the big dowel rod up and marked where I wanted them cut to make different heights.  Dan cut those for me.

I hot glued the big dowel in each base.  Then, I cut a styrofoam cone in thirds and placed a piece on the top of each dowel.
This is what the first one looked like.  Then, I painted the cones with some brown paint so the cone wouldn't show through the burlap.  I pushed the shorter dowels into the bottom of the styrofoam at quarters of the styrofoam and then filled in between with more rods.  I put hot glue at the base of each dowel so it would hold in the styrofoam.  I painted the base, center, and all rods with some light brown paint.
For the first tree, I cut two long rectangles of burlap.  Make them at least twice as long as the width of the tree and long enough to cover the spokes of the tree when gathered at the top.   Add several inches.  You can always cut it off if it is longer than you like.  Next, I  stitched the side seams together with a tapestry needle and some yarn using a running stitch.
Now, you have a big circle of fabric that is open at the top and bottom.  Using the needle and yarn, I gathered the top edge of the circle using the same running/gathering stitch pulling it as tight as I could get it until I reached the beginning stitching.  I wrapped the yarn tightly around the gathered top several times to hold the "tree" shape and tied it.  I then dropped the burlap over the wooden form.    It was a big puff of fabric with a top knot.  

To make the tree shape, I did an overhand whip stitch with the yarn by attaching the bottom few inches of the burlap to the wooden spoke, then continued the rest of the way up catching only the fabric.  You will have as many seams as you have spokes as well as the two side seams.  Now it looks like a primitive tree.  
It took a little time, but it is so precious and worth every stitch.  Charlie Brown's tree has nothing on this one.

The next tree was made by cutting strips of burlap and tying each piece to a spoke until the dowel was covered.  Next, you progress to each additional spoke until they are all covered.  Continue by cutting longer pieces of burlap and wrapping and tying it around the styrofoam cone.  The last few pieces are hot glued to the top of the styrofoam so that it stand up like the top of a tree.  I folded each strip in half and ran hot glue along the fold, then pushed it against the styrofoam.  Remember, hot glue will come through the burlap, so I used a glue stick to push the burlap so I didn't burn my fingers.  
Oh how I love this tree.  Don't ask me why.  It's kind of pathetic looking, but it has character and to me it is representational of our indomitable spirits.  We are all beautiful in our own way.  

The last tree was made with a piece of burlap ribbon.  I hot glued it to the top of the styrofoam and just swirled it around the wooden dowel rods, adding a little hot glue in places to help it keep it's shape and not all fall to the bottom of the tree.  

This tree was fast and easy.  The other two took a little time, but they were so fun to make.  They all have their own personality just like each of us.  If you made 10 or a 1,000 of these trees, each one would be slightly different.  That is the part about crafting and handwork that I love.  Everything is unique and individual.  Manufactured things can be beautiful and they will certainly have much more uniformity.  That is not what I wanted.  These trees were a vision.  I could no more explain to you where that vision came from than I could explain the universe, but it is more than a joyous occasion when it happens.

I am going to enjoy these trees for years to come and they will always be a reminder of inspiration, how it comes, and the result of such inspiration.

You could use colored burlap to make these trees or you could add some paint with a brush keeping the primitive look, spray snow, lights, whatever you wanted to make them "yours."  I thought about wrapping lights under the trees and letting them shine through the burlap.  Maybe I will do that next year for a different look.  The options are endless.

Give this project a try and see what you can create.  These could be made very small using toothpicks or as big as you want.  Be creative.  Use your imagination.  Let me know if you make some of these trees.  I would love to see pictures.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,
You'll never be unchanging!
A symbol of goodwill and love
You'll ever be unchanging
Each shining light
Each silver bell
No one alive spreads cheer so well
Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree,
You'll ever be unchanging

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