I embarked upon the Yuletide season with a trip to the country and a bit of antiquing. My sister and I spent a festive afternoon exploring the garland- and light-bedecked market stalls, on the hunt for vintage Christmas ornaments with their faded colours, tarnished tinsel and that nostalgic old-world feel.
One of my favourite decorations at this time of year is the bottle brush tree. Whether they’re plain green, bleached ivory, or dyed soft pastel, have tips touched with snow or glitter, or are adorned with tiny glass balls in rose, pale green, blue, burnished gold and silver, they make wonderful decorations that can be displayed in so many ways. One vendor had this display of modern bottle brush trees cleverly fitted with antique door knob/cabinet pull bases, and I couldn’t resist bringing home the three on the right – even though I knew I could easily make something similar myself. (I loved the chipped red one, but alas, the state of my pocketbook ruled it out.) Indeed, the next day…
… I found some inexpensive yet good-looking cabinet knobs at a discount store. (Each style came in a pack of two – a true bargain.) One looks and feels like weathered bronze and is quite heavy; the other has a shiny brass finish which I briefly considered trying to scuff up and give an antique patina. (I decided I liked the play of all the different finishes, so I left it alone. Probably a good thing.)
The trees also came from the bargain store. (They and the cabinet pulls were the only items I had to purchase for everything I made here; all other supplies came from my disconcertingly large craft stash.) A dab of hot glue to affix the wire stems in the hole in the knobs, and I had instant old-timey décor!
I had some trees left over and didn’t have to look far to find more bases. And so… I “planted” the largest tree in an old glass inkwell that came from the same antique market on a previous trip. First, I filled it with glittery silver vase-filler pebbles, to give it a bit more interest. The cloudy glass and subtle glimmer (hard to fully appreciate in these photos) mimic the metallic sheen of mercury glass – one of my very favourite things ever. Not wanting to damage or mar the inkwell, I stuck the tree stem into a cork that just happened to be the right size (okay, I have about four bags of assorted craft corks), and wrapped the neck of the bottle with ivory lace. I’ll probably change out the red ribbon (all I had) to something a bit more aged looking, like dusty pink or celadon green.
The little round “topiary” is glued into a thimble that came from one of those emergency sewing kits. It was the perfect size for this tiny faerie tree! All it needs is a sprinkling of pixie dust, and the Wee Folk will be celebrating.
When I bought the bottle brush trees, I also found a sweet spirally wire tree ornament that fit one of my cabinet pulls. I removed the hanging loop and a jingle bell that was attached to the bottom. With a bit of hot glue, I had yet another type of door-knob tree in about one minute. (Of course, these and the bottle brush trees, with their various bases, would make lovely hanging ornaments, if they’re not too heavy.)
I could have gone on making an entire forest of these adorable trees, which look so great grouped together, especially since they’re not all the same. I love the subdued mix of metals and glass, colours and textures, combined with the shimmery snow-tipped branches. For bases, there are so many other possibilities! Wooden spools, wine corks, (drilled) toy blocks, miniature teacups, shot glasses, tiny gift boxes or vases, apothecary or essential oil bottles, will all lend an old-time air. Use cork, florist foam, Styrofoam or sticky-tac putty for tree stem stabilization if necessary. I kept my trees fairly plain (except for one), but of course you can dress them up any way you wish, or go nuts with the glitter. In fact…
… see the ivory-coloured tree? I made that one! I’d read that bottle brush trees can be bleached to turn them pale green or white, but only if they are a natural material such as sisal. I’m pretty sure my trees are synthetic, in which case the bleach probably wouldn’t work, so… I dug out a roll of sisal twine and some craft wire, followed online instructions and made my own. My ivory tree needed some glitz, so I painted the tips with matte Mod Podge and sprinkled on some silver micro glitter (also hard to see in the photos). Okay, so it’s not exactly the classic bottle brush shape, but I’m pleased with my vintage-y sisal tree!
And finally, I love snow globes and domes, and I’ve always wanted to try making one with a mason jar. First, I embellished a bottle brush tree with glued-on pearly “gems”, then hot-glued its base to the inside lid of a large mason jar. I wanted the tree to be just barely glimpsed through a perpetual snowflake swirl – as if the dome had just been shaken – so I painted the inside of the jar with a thin, even coat of gloss Mod Podge and threw in a few pinches of clear, iridescent glitter, quickly turning and rolling the jar to distribute the glitter where I wanted it. (Concentrating some of the glitter at the bottom makes it look like a snow-laden sky when the jar is inverted.) I was pretty heavy-handed with the glitter, but I rather like the misty, dreamy effect. After everything was dry, I tucked some fluffy faux snow around the base of the tree and screwed on the lid. Et voilà – instant waterless snowdome!
Stay tuned for more Yuletide crafts, coming soon!