‘Tis the season to … make a Christmas tree

‘Tis the season to … make a Christmas tree

Given that it is already nearly the end of November, I thought I would finally indulge myself with thoughts of the festive season.  As I am sitting here writing, a few thoughts came to mind including how advertising for Christmas seems to get earlier each year.  Here in Ireland I have seen ads in August which, like the vampire seeing sunrise, causes me to turn quickly away, run in the opposite direction, and bury my head.

That said, we have a local and, until recently, privately owned supermarket who sells Easter eggs on Christmas Eve.  What started as a joke one year became a tradition locally.  The supermarket owner, sadly now gone to his reward, would hold an annual Christmas dinner for his elderly customers.  Every year each customer was gifted a shopping trolley load full of groceries which they got to wheel home from the party.  This kindness was not advertised.  It was not used as a form of promotion.  This is what made it so special.  I suspect this story is not unique.  There are a lot of kind folk in our world.  If you can lighten our hearts with a story like this one please feel free to share it in the comments section.

In the spirit of sharing I thought it might be fun to make and share a felted Christmas tree with you all.  It is made around a very simple book resist (only three pages) and takes less than 50g of merino wool.  I am including full instructions for anyone new to felting or to the concept of using book resists so if you would like to give it a try, here is what you need:

  • Your usual felting equipment (bubble wrap or equivalent, soap, warm water, vinegar, your hands, towel etc)
  • 50g Merino wool
  • Enhancements (eg silk viscose etc) – optional
  • Bandage cotton (or a piece of cotton with a really loose weave)
  • Heavy plastic for resist (I use under floor insulation material) also decorator’s plastic which will act as a protector between the pages of the book resist.
  • Ruler, marker
  • Pins, needle, thread, scissors
  • Kitchen roll holder (optional but good for popping the tree on to shape and dry)

Step 1 – making the book resist:

Using the floor underlay (resist material) draw an Isosceles triangle – draw a 40cm line and mark at 20cm.  Now draw a 60cm line up from that point.  Join the top to both sides of the 40cm line as in the photo:

Now cut out two of these triangles from the resist material and join them together along the central line using a needle and thread.  Also put a little stitch through the two resists (see the arrow in the picture).  This will create a three page book resist:

Step 2 the layout:

Next, cut out three triangles, the same size as the resist, from the bandage cotton.  Place the first one on the first page of the resist.  Since it is white on white it is hard to see in the photo.   Spray it with water to keep it in place.

Weigh out 3 x 15g of the merino wool.  Using approximately 10g, lay down the first layer of the fibre in a “criss cross” manner.  Now lay out the additional 5g and then add on embellishments.

 

Wet down and cover with a sheet of light plastic protector.  Wet the protector and rub the fibre through the protector:

Once the fibre is wet through, lift up the bottom of the protector.  Place a thin roll of fibre along the fibre just at the base of the resist.  Now fold over the excess of the laid out fibre over this roll.  Wet down and add a little embellishment to the base.  This will tidy off the base.  Cover with the protector.

Then turn the page to page 2 of the resist:

Next lay out the second triangle of bandage cotton and spray it to keep it in place.  Then, fold over the edge of the fibre onto the second page of the resist (see arrows):

Repeat the laying out process in the same manner as before.  Once this is complete, cover with another sheet of the protector and continue on to page three of the book resist.  Tidy in all the loose fibres around the edges:

Step 3 felting and fulling the tree:

Start the felting process, gently rubbing the fibres through the protector.  Take special care of the edges of the pages.  Once the fibres are secure, it’s time to roll.  Using the bubble wrap pool noodle and towel  and leaving the protectors in place roll approximately 60 times in each direction (north, south, east and west) on each page:

Once the tree has started to shrink, set aside the pool noodle and the bubble wrap and roll using the protector (leave the resist in place) 60 times in each direction on each page:

Then remove the book resist and the protectors:

Turn the tree inside out and continue fulling with the bandage cotton on the outside.  Check every now and again to make sure the tree surface is not felting together:

Work the bottom edge by rolling the edges (see arrow in photo):

Keep shrinking the tree until there’s 40% shrinkage (the tree’s height reduces from 60cm to about 36cm.  During this process, I warmed the felt up in the microwave (40 to 50 seconds on high each time being watchful not to burn the wool):

 

Step 4 – Getting scissor happy and finishing off:

Measure out spaces for slits and cut into each space at an angle so that the flaps are shaped like a V.  I graded these so that the bottom layer is 3cm deep, next layer up is 2.5cm etc.  In total there are 6 columns of flaps.  (Just be aware that the first and third photos here  show just one of three sides of the tree – I still have it shaped like the book resist is inside). Tidy up the bottom of the tree and seal all the cuts.

 

Rinse using some vinegar in the final rinse and roll in a towel to remove excess water.  Shape the tree pulling out the flaps along the way.  Leave to dry:

 

Looking slightly wonky when wet!

Here’s a view from the top of the tree to show how I chose to shape mine.

Here is the finished tree.  The 40% shrinkage has helped with stability despite its height.  I popped a set of fairy lights inside it to finish it off.  With the benefit of hindsight, I should have added contrasting embellishment to the tree as I found the ‘green viscose on green merino quite flat, especially when the light is turned off.  Examining the surface closely the sheen of the viscose has been lost, especially given the amount I used.  I think white would have been a lot more impressive.  Having said that, this will give me the opportunity to take fabric paint to the piece.  Gold or silver, what do you think?

Here are alternatives I made a few years ago.  These little trees were felted on ordinary resists using small, medium and large triangles.  Sorry the photos are not better but the trees are still in storage.  I embroidered silver stars on the red tree, inserted lights in the green one and sewed little baubles onto the white one:

I love hand made Christmas decorations.  It doesn’t really matter what they are made of – it could be fabric or felt or perhaps paper. Maybe crochet or knit.  I believe that the one thing they all share is that they are made out of love.  What do you think?  Do you have some favourite pieces that you would like to share?  Or perhaps this piece has spurred you on to making something – perhaps even a Christmas tree.  I would love for you to share them here.

Wishing you joy, peace, health and happiness this Christmas!

sending a virtual hug to each and every one of you,

Helene

20 thoughts on “‘Tis the season to … make a Christmas tree

  1. What a wonderful real-life Christmas story about the supermarket owner.

    The tree looks fab when lit and defo go with the gold decoration. Lovely instructions – very clear thanks.

    Totally agree that homemade decorations are more special.

    1. Thanks Lyn. J.C. Savage was quite the character and the family are long time established in our local town (once a village).

      Thanks for the vote on the gold – I’m leaning that way myself (what girl doesn’t prefer gold … well maybe diamonds … but gold is a better buy!

      Just thinking about the homemade decorations – probably pushed into second place by the creations the kids brought home from school – for some reason they were mostly pasta based in our area.

  2. That story was lovely. Thank you so much for sharing the tutorial, it looks quite fun and it’s time for me to get back to felting so thank you for the inspiration, I have a lot of wool waiting for me.

    1. Thanks so much. Yes! it’s time to break open the wool. I’m delighted that it inspired you. I would love to see the outcome 🙂

    1. Love it Ann! Genius with the tomato cage too. I have actually turned this one inside out now. All the bandage cotton makes it look like it’s been snowing!

  3. Thank you so much for the very clear instructions for tree making. I shall definitely be making one or three. I love your trees.

    1. Thank you so much Marie. I am glad you like them. It is good to be getting into a festive mood. 🙂

  4. I’ve always liked hand made decorations Helene and I can imagine several of us will be making one of these trees. I also like the older versions you made with the different surface decorations.
    One of the ladies at my local textile group did a little “in house” workshop to make a tree decoration last week. When she originally showed us hers it was tiny and we all thought we would have it made before lunch…….five hours later we finally got it finished!! With all that time invested mine is having pride of place on my tree this Christmas.

    1. Thanks a million Karen – I’m laughing here.

      How does the saying go … “good goods come in small packages”. It’s true though, the smaller bits can be so intricate they take an age to make! It does sound like you all had a lot of fun making them.

      I think you may now make tiny arrows which can be hung around all pointing towards your lovely tree.

  5. Love your heart warming story, as you say similar are being repeated in many places silently. Truly incredible folk.

    Your Christmas trees (plural) are fab. And we’ll done you for your clear instructions to help book resist novices.

    Your older trees have a Nordic feel & I can just imagine a few gnomes in the vicinity.
    My thoughts re your tree decoration – Go for gold!

    1. Thanks Antje. As a poet laureate once said ‘Every home should have some gnomes’ I don’t think I will ever be able to view those three trees without looking for them!

    1. Thank you Lindsay. I do like the cone shaped ones and in truth I do prefer them, especially in threes and in unusual colours (like purples and pinks). This is the first one I have made around a book resist. I thought it best to conform with tradition on this occasion. Since posting I got bored and turned it inside out so that the bandage cotton is showing. It’s beginning to look a lot (more) like Christmas. It’s now covered in ‘snow’.

  6. Very cute tree! I’d go for the gold paint, that’s the most Christmas-sy colour of the two to me 🙂

    On a side note, as a needle felter, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s much easier (in my biased opinion) to make a tree with needles than water and soap! I bow to your patience.

    As for decorations, my favourites were the ones my husband and I made last year out of paper and a bit of string and old gold paint. Super simple and they looked amazing!

    Happy holidays, Helene.

  7. Thanks Leonor and I would say the same to you – needle felting a tree would leave me with more holes in my fingers than a pin cushion. Lol! I love the idea of paint paper and string but most especially that both you and hubby were involved – that’s what I call romance! Can’t beat it.

    Many happy returns Leonor. May 2022 bring humankind a little closer. x

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