DIY Craft: Needle Felted Tree for Christmas or Everyday Decoration
This handmade tree project is a labor of love that uses a number of craft techniques: Needle felting, simple stitching, and basic embroidery. Although this tree has a bit of a Christmas feel about it, I did not specifically design it as a holiday decoration and I plan to display it throughout the year. However, the decoration on this tree could certainly be tailored to suit the winter holidays by using more festive colors and making the flowers look more like poinsettias or holly and berries.
This tree could also be decorated in other ways using buttons, beads, basic patchwork, or more embroidery. Any of these techniques would make a beautiful and unique tree decoration for your home.
This project takes some time and patience, but can be broken down into three parts: first you have to measure and cut the fabric to cover the cone, then decorate the fabric as you choose, and finally put your tree together.
Measuring Your Cone and Making Your Template
a cone (size of your choice) - this can be made from styrofoam, cardboard, or floral foam
fabric to cover your cone - if you are going to needle felt your tree, your fabric must be made from wool. Not all felt fabric is wool, a lot of it is now made from polyester. You can use any type of wool fabric for needle felting, but be sure to check that the fabric is actually wool!
paper for your template, large enough to cover your cone - butcher paper, newsprint, or pattern paper will all work.
a ruler or measuring tape
a compass or two pencils and a piece of string to use as a compass
Making A Compass from Two Pencils
If you don't have a compass large enough for this project, you can easily make one using two pencils, some string, and some tape. Wrap the string a couple of times around one of your pencils and tape it in place (make sure it is very secure). Then measure along your string the distance you need for your compass points (for this project, the distance you would need would be the length of the side of your cone, plus 1 inch). Mark this distance on your string, then cut the string to be two inches longer than what you need. Wrap the other end of the string around the second pencil (using the two inches in length that you added) and tape securely. The resulting space between the two pencils should be the length you need for your compass. Now, hold one pencil as a secure point and swing the other pencil to draw your circle or curve.
Step 1: Measure the length of one side of your cone and the circumference of the bottom of your cone (the distance around the base of your cone).
Step 2: Using a ruler, draw a line on your template paper that is the length of the side of your cone PLUS 1 inch (Point A to B on diagram above). This additional inch will give you some fabric to fold under the bottom of cone.
Step 3: Then using your compass, draw a curved line starting from point B that is equal to the circumference of the base of your cone PLUS 1 inch (Point B to C). This additional inch in width will create some overlap for the seam that runs along the side of your cone.
Note: If you are using a thinner fabric to cover your cone, you may not need a full inch of overlap to cover your seam. A 1/2 inch to 3/4 of an inch might be enough.
Step 4: Complete your template by drawing a straight line from Point C back to Point A. Your completed shape should look like the diagram at the right above.
Step 5: Cut out your template and fit it around your cone. This is important because you do not want to cut out your fabric and find it doesn't fit properly around your cone. Make any adjustments to your template to get the right fit. You'll want some extra fabric to tuck under the bottom edge and overlap on the side seam. However, you may want to taper your seam overlap to be more narrow as you move toward the top. You can leave a little extra length at the top to tuck in at the point.
Step 6: When you are happy with your template, trace the shape onto your fabric. At the same time, trace the bottom of your cone on to another section of your fabric. This will make a round circle to cover the bottom of your cone.
Cut out your fabric and again make sure it fits properly around your cone. You can leave any small adjustments for when you put your tree together.
Decorating Your Fabric
Materials for Tree in Photos:
wool roving for needle felting
needle felting tools
needle and thread
T-pins or common pins
Now the fun begins! But before you start decorating the fabric, I strongly suggest you mark your seam allowance along one side and across the curved bottom of your fabric with pins. You do not want to decorate the area of your fabric that will be tucked under the bottom or overlapped at the seam. By marking these lines, you will know how to place your decorations properly. Also, do not decorate the circle you traced to cover the bottom of your cone.
I needle felted the petals of my flowers, but you can decorate your tree as you choose. Needle felting is the process of using a special needle to attach or "felt" wool roving to other wool material to create designs or three dimensional art pieces. (My first needle felting project was a reindeer Christmas tree ornament.) I've posted a video demonstration of needle felting on wool fabric on my blog.
After felting my petals to my tree fabric, I sewed brightly-colored buttons in the centers of most of them to add more texture and color.Then I used a simple embroidery stitch to connect the flowers with a meandering vine. As you decorate your material, keep in mind how the sides of your fabric are going to meet up when you wrap it around your cone. You may not want to flowers of the same color or style meeting up at the seam of your cone. You do, however, want to cover your material completely so there is not a big blank area at the seam either.
Putting Your Tree Together
You can use a number of things as a base for your tree, or you can just have sit on its own base. Here are the materials I used for my finished tree:
a small bowl to use as a base - you could also use a small planter, candle holder, or basket.
a small wooden base (I painted mine brown)
a dowel for a trunk (I painted mine brown)
fabric glue - be sure to test that your glue works well and dries clear on your fabric
Step 1: Remove any pins you used to mark your seam allowance and carefully start wrapping your fabric around your cone. I used common pins to secure the edge of my material that was going under the seam overlap. As I wrapped the other edge of the fabric, I put a few T-pins in to hold this as I checked that my fabric was smooth and the way I wanted it around my cone. Be sure you are still leaving fabric at the bottom to tuck under.
Step 2: Once everything looked good, I slowly removed my T-pins and glued my top layer of fabric to the bottom one. I worked just a few inches at a time (I left the common pins in the bottom fabric and glued over them). Once the glue was in place, I put my T-pin back in to hold it while it dried.
Step 3: Work this way toward the point of your cone. The point may take some finessing. I tucked the extra fabric under before I glued it in place, then I put a couple of small stitches in the point to tighten up the fabric. Then I let my cone dry completely.
Step 4: I then cut the overhang or extra fabric at the bottom into 1/2 inch fringe. Using common pins, I folded each of these fringe pieces under the base and pinned them to the bottom edge. (See photo to the right.)
Step 5: I drilled a hole in the wooden base to accept my dowel/trunk. Using the same drill bit, I carefully put a hole (about 2 inches deep) in the center of the bottom of my cone, again to hold the dowel/trunk of my tree. To do this, I did not turn on my electric drill, but instead just worked the drill bit gently with my hand into the foam base.
Step 6: Taking the circle that I traced for my bottom piece, I cut a small circle in the center for my dowel/trunk. Then I glued the circle bottom over my fringe, leaving the common pins in place and let it dry completely. (See photo above)
Step 7: Finally, I glued the dowel inside my cone and also into my wood base and let it dry. I then put the wood base in my decorative bowl and surrounded it with some glass pebbles. You can, however, just display your tree on the wood base alone.
Then stand back and admire your work! Depending on the size of your tree, you may need to weight down or anchor your base in some way for it to stand straight on its own. Filling your base with the glass pebbles that are sold for floral displays might help.
Copyright © 2013 by Donna Herron. All rights reserved.
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