Monday, 29 April 2013

End of the chestnut story: DIY tutorial and beaded trees showoff

This past week I have been too busy to post, although I managed to do two blog-worthy things at once. I'm pleased to announce that my chestnut tree I wrote about a few posts ago is done! It is now time to talk about my beaded trees and how I make them.

I made my mind to finish this tree before actual chestnuts bloomed. I observed them every day to make sure I would be in time. The day I had all my leaves, Mom pointed me to this:

In my defence, this one was really precocious. Everywhere else, chestnuts were still asleep. Even now, three days after I finished, they are just starting to open.

Anyway, I hurried to make my tree bloom before the regular ones. I already had all my leaves, the wire, everything - time to put it together!

Assembling the chestnut

I gathered all my supplies:

- the leaves and flowers
- any thread
- pretty thread to cover the branches
- thick soft wire
- sticky tape, either paper or textile
- wire cutter

I used 88 leaves and 16 flowers for this tree. I forgot to refill my jar with green beads when I took it to mom's so I beaded leaves until I ran out of beads. I figured I had plenty, laid everything on the table and twisted 3-4 elements together into small bunches:

Some have flowers and some are only leaves:

I cut random lengths of the thick wire:

To attach the leaves, I wrap sewing thread around the joint:

I don't tie knots, just secure the ends with painter's tape. Sometimes I use a fabric tape (like bandaids), but I couldn't be bothered to look for it.

I wrap more tape as I go, to keep a consistent thickness. Here is a branch:

For thicker branches, I tie several wires together. The one above has three wires that all start at different points.

The branch is now ready to be wrapped. Sometimes I wrap the ends of each branch before I tie them together, sometimes I form bigger bunches and then wrap. I use thick, shiny thread for this. Most trees I've seen are wrapped with beading wire, which seems like a terrible waste to me. The thread is also softer and easier to handle.

I secure the thread with tape near the base of the branch and go up to begin wrapping at the tip:

I use the thread straight from the spool, which is why it twists a lot. I make a tight fist around the thread and use my index or thumb to arrange it around the branch, which I spin with the other hand. I wrap to a point where another branch will be added, tape the thread again and cut it.

This time I decided to put the whole tree together and then wrap it. I wanted to see how the shape turns out. I don't know why I twisted the wires, usually I leave them straight.

I covered the whole thing with tape to smooth the surface. Then I wrapped the thread, starting from the top of the tallest branch. When I reached a new branch, I moved the thread to the top and continued to wrap downwards. Joints require wrapping in every direction and figure-eights. Places like this make me cry:

The finished tree looks like this:

The roots are bent into hooks, ready to be potted.

Potting a beaded tree

Here on the table I laid:
- the tree
- a pot
- plaster of Paris and something to scoop it. I used a piece of paper
- some water and a spoon
- something to mix the plaster (a wire piece works for me)

At this point my camera battery died. I'm not sure I would have been able to take pictures anyway, so I'll describe. It's not complicated at all.
  1. I cover the holes in the pot with a piece of paper
  2. I fill it with plaster and poured water. I don't measure.
  3. The mixture should be quite fluid. I add more plaster and water until I have a decent amount (plaster de-poofs after water is added), then stick my tree in there.
  4. I hold the tree straight and centered with one hand, using the other to pour more plaster and water around. I break the lumps with a wire and smooth with water.
  5. The tree and edges of the pot can get a little dirty. While waiting for the plaster to harden, I tidy it a bit with paper towels (or fingers).
Done! IT just needs some embellishment to cover all that plaster.

I use stuff for real flowers (stones, beads or sand from the flower shop), white glue, water and a brush.

I spread a generous amount of glue and water on the plaster and pour some stones on it:

I use more water and glue to hold the stones together. This can get frustrating.

The tree is now completely assembled. In a few hours I turn it upside down to check for loose stones. The tree still needs some work. There are white stains on it.

 Nothing a little paint wouldn't solve:

I spread all the leaves and bend them into a more natural shape:

And there's the finished tree!

I now have a chestnut that blooms year round! I like to make interesting or challenging trees that aren't just generic colourful tree-shaped decorations. Check out my other creations:


I made the first tree in 2009. It was a gift for Dad:

After autumn, I wanted a spring tree. I brought it with me to work and made another one for my sister:

These yellow bushes grow everywhere and they are very nice this time of the year. I made two or three for friends and family:

A friend wanted a summer tree. I'm not a fan of plain green, so I put removable fruit on it:

A thin birch for my Russian mother-in-law:

The rose bush was a fun experiment:

The most difficult project was a holiday tree. I made it in 2010 and completely changed the decorations the following year. They are, like the apricots, completely removable with hooks:

This is all for now. I hate doing the same thing and I only redid two because I was asked nicely. I didn't make so many trees, but I like that they are all diverse.


Upon assembling the chestnut, I realized the same flower pattern could be used to make lilacs. I'll leave that project for another time though. Lilacs are already blooming and it's not fun to bead them now. Besides, as my fingertips are cut and bruised from all the wire twisting, I'll need a long break from beaded trees X)

Other plants I'd like to bead in the future are:
- pink sakura trees
- some hibiscus, because I accidentally beaded flowers that look like it
- a smaller holiday tree

Do you have other suggestions? Which of my trees do you like best?

Love, the BlackKitty (^^)~

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