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My New & Improved Steampunk Tree!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I've been spending all my time crafting the Harry Potter tree this month, but in order to make room for it I had to combine last year's two trees into one - so I thought you'd like to see!

I mixed together elements of the steampunk tree - which had lots of jewel tones, copper, and amber lights:


 ...with my not-really-themed-but-sort-of-classic-reds-and-vintage-paper tree:


The result is a mix of copper, bronze, red, paper, and gold - and for something thrown together in an afternoon, I'm kind of liking the new Franken Tree:


The steampunk elements are smaller (I plan to add larger gear ornaments & goggled top hats, but sweet StayPuft, where is the time going?!) but once you get closer you can see all the copper wire spirals, clock-hand snowflakes, hot air balloons, etc.


 You readers have sent me lots of goodies on the tree, from little steampunk robots to laser engraved pins from the museum exhibit that featured my Lady Vadore costume in 2012: 



 The clock-hand snowflakes were a gift last year from my friend Sharyn, who made them herself. Aren't they gorgeous? She also made me this fun steampunk pinecone from faux leather:

John and I don't have sentimental ornaments from our childhoods or early years together, so it's fun building up a cache with memories attached. Whether it's a gift or something we made ourselves, I like that now more and more of our trees actually means something.

Happy to say that after three years our balloons are still holding up great, as is my homemade tree flocking!


 

Oh, and that paper garland I made last year? I packed it in rows of three in a long skinny box, so it didn't take up much room at all - and it's still in perfect condition after a year packed away:


I think (hope?) the vintage book paper adds to the Victorian vibe, along with these glass birds:
 
 

 It was hard leaving all the shiny fuchsia and teal ornaments packed away this year, but worth it, I think, to make room for Potter.

Oh, and the final touch:


Because Trekkie forever.

 :)

Posted by Jen at 9:00 AM   |  25 comments  |   Labels: , ,

Plant Your Christmas Tree In a Potter-Inspired Tree Cauldron!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Potter Tree Update!

It's about 95% done now - just a few more ornaments to make and add, if we have time!

John and I initially tossed around several tree skirt possibilities, until I got the idea of the tree sprouting magically out of a cauldron. In addition to just being super fun for a Harry Potter theme, the cauldron also let us raise our little tree up a good 6 inches, which keeps more of the bottom branches away from playful cats. It's also a much cleaner look than a tree skirt, which - again, thanks to cats - is always getting rumpled and dragged around. And best of all, it hides all the power cords!

You can use this tutorial to make a large rounded pot for all sorts of uses, from plant stands to Halloween decorations to a Christmas tree base, as I've done. It'll cost you less than $20 to make, and you can finish it to look like terra cotta, stone, hammered metal - you name it. So let's get started!

First, full credit goes to Halloween Forum user Old Man Bakke, who wrote up his own cauldron process over a 15 page thread. Mine is essentially the same, but I'll save you the trouble of clicking through 15 pages of user comments.

You Will Need:

- This $7 plastic bucket from Wal-Mart:

 

- 1 or 2 large moving boxes, also from Wal-Mart (I think they were $2 each)

- 2 rolls of duct tape

- Old newspaper & flour to make paper maché


First, make a paper template for the curve you want to add to your bucket:

When you're happy with the shape, trace as many as you can on the large moving boxes, and cut them out with a craft blade.

You'll need a bare minimum of 35 or so, but the more you use, the better your end product will look. (We ended up using over 50)

Now use your duct tape to start attaching these "ribs" to the bucket like so:

I found it easiest to attach the tape to the cardboard first, and then stick it to the bucket.

Work your way around, spacing the ribs about 2 inches apart:


John and I did this together, with him cutting the cardboard and me taping, so we were done in under an hour:


Next, start covering your spines with more duct tape, like so:





When you have a solid covering of duct tape all the way around, it's time to break out the paper maché:

Don't make your paper maché this wet; John got a little overzealous at first. ;)

You'll want 3 or 4 layers for a good strong cauldron - and make sure you let the paper maché dry completely between layers. (This was the hardest part: waiting.)

The paper peeled right off the lip of our bucket, since we didn't cover it in duct tape first. No problem, though; you don't need to paper maché the lip; just fill the holes where the rope handles used to be. To do that, stick a small piece of tape under the holes, and fill with spackle.

For the handles, John found some old rubber tubing in the garage, and plugged each end into a small cut section of PVC pipe:

You could also use towel rings, heavy rope, an old garden hose, or anything else you think you can make a big ring out of. This is purely decorative, so don't worry about it being strong.

Glue your rings to the side (those screws were just for show; they weren't long enough to reach the bucket inside), and prime the whole shebang.

After that I recommend hitting it with a coat of granite paint to add some gritty texture, which will help hide the lines from your cardboard ribs. (If you look closely at my next pic, you can just see the vertical lines on ours.)


 Once you have some good texture on there, paint the cauldron in the color of your choice. We used flat black to get that nice dusty iron look.

This bucket isn't quite large enough to fit a stand in, so John made a new one out of some scrap wood. It's essentially a skinny post with a hole in it, braced on a round base:


Making the switch was surprisingly easy, even with the tree already half decorated. John just lifted the tree straight up, I popped the old base off, and then he plunked it down into the new base. We added a power strip inside the cauldron, too, so there's only a single power cord coming out of the back.

And finally, to help hide all those cords in the cauldron, John cut a round piece of cardboard like this:


 ... and after spraying it with a little spray adhesive, I covered it with some sparkly fiber fill:


Here it is in place:


Depending on how the light catches it, it either looks like smoke or bubbles. Either way, me likey.
 


Hope you guys like our Christmas tree cauldron!  And I'd love to see this finished in different ways to suit different styles, so if you ever decide to make your own, please be sure to share pictures!

Posted by Jen at 9:00 AM   |  23 comments  |   Labels: , , ,

Festival Of Trees 2014: The Great Wreath Roundup!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Time for the second half of my Festival of Trees tour!

First up, the wreath I most wanted to take home with me:

Look at those glorious owls. 

(Who is selling those adorable owls? HOO? All I can find are ones made with sticks!)
And that combination of silver mercury glass with rustic branches & twine balls? So good.


Of course I have to take pictures of a seahorse wreath. HAVE TO.

Feel like it could have used a little white "greenery" to soften it up, though.

This next owl is less glorious, but I'm digging the feathery flowers:

And I never get tired of lime green, red, and black & white:

Although lime green and turquoise is up there, too:


It didn't photograph too well, but I thought this was a neat idea:

It's not exactly my style, but there's a lot of kitschy faux taxidermy you could use like this, too, like a cute plush or a cardboard version, like this:



I bet you could leave this rose-and-apple (and pomegranate) design up year-round - and I totally would:

SO PRETTY.

Here's another hole-less wreath:

I like the idea of building a wreath around a special figurine or knick-knack in the middle. You can wire almost anything in there: toys, statues, a framed piece of art, etc, so don't be afraid to think outside the wreath... for inside the wreath. :)

You'd never know it at first glance - or even the 3rd or 4th - but this one had some neat little treasures tucked in its branches:

The ribbon swag in the middle spells "believe" in typewriter keys, and there are tiny bits of jewelry and old keys sprinkled around:


 It's a cool idea, but completely lost from more than a foot or two away. As with trees, sometimes you've got to go BIG to get a theme across.

Like this next one, which almost looks like one giant piece of jewelry:

Love the idea of hanging one show-stopper ornament in the middle, so the wreath acts like a frame. That bottom dangle by the bow was my favorite, though:

Spaaaarkly.

This one used fiber fill in the branches to simulate snow:
 I'm not sure it worked, exactly; a little too fluffy. But not bad!

I like the tufts of straw in this Western-themed one:
If you look closely you'll see some itty-bitty saddles in there, plus real belt buckles.

I think this is a teardrop swag, hung upside down to look like a mini wall-tree:

I've never seen anyone do that before, and it's pretty clever! If you added a little tree topper and let more greenery show, this would be an AWESOME space saver vs a table top tree. All you need is a wall to hang it on! (Oh! And then you could add a little shelf under it for mini-presents! Eh? EH??)

These little straw deer are adorable:

And if you got close enough, you could see some equally adorable ornaments:

Did you spot the mini Coleman lantern?

The Festival hosts a gingerbread house room each year, but my day job has prevented me from ever being terribly impressed. However, this gear-filled clock tower caught my eye:

Great design! I like it.

There are also a few rooms of tablescapes and miscellaneous decor pieces to check out. I'm digging this simple driftwood centerpiece with burlap cone trees:

Those trees would be a snap for you DIYers out there.

And I know this is pretty basic, but now I want to dress up some decorative lanterns at home:
Plus, have you seen these new flickering flame LED candles? The ones with the "flame" that moves? They're freaking amazing, but sooo expensive. (They were selling them there for like $50 each. Ouch.)


A sparkly silver table for a December birthday, perhaps?


And this one was... interesting:

I know it looks like a tree fell on it - followed by a bucket of salt - but I kind of love it. 

More specifically, I love the part with the spotlight on it, which was hardest to photograph:

 
Sparkly icy spriggy goodness in a pretty silver box!  
Reminds me of the white witch of Narnia.

But seriously. There are logs on the table. LOGS.
(And a random seahorse, which I just spotted in the first pic. Whuuut.)

Here's a fun scrapbooky Advent calendar:

Or does it count as an Advent calendar if you don't have to open anything?

Anyway, I like all the little vintage treasures:


And finally, there were these two mannequin torsos there, and...

Before you ask: I don't know. But I like it.

Although not as much as I like THIS one:

 
It's like a scarf of festive spikey sea urchins!


K, that does it for this year's Festival of Trees! Hope you had fun, and maybe picked up a few ideas. (And if any of you make a sea urchin scarf, I want pictures.)

Posted by Jen at 8:30 AM   |  24 comments  |   Labels: ,

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