Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Several friends asked me to post a how-to for my little Christmas trees made from chenille stems (f/k/a pipe cleaners).  I tried to find instructions for a tiny tree like this but the only one I found was about 10-12 inches tall and took about 24 chenille stems.  The assembly was awkward, too, so I decided to try to make my own version.  This tree measures about 4 1/2" with the stand. 
Supplies:  Needle-nose pliers, wire snippers, eight chenille stems, ruler. 
1.  Fold one chenille stem in half, wrapping it around the tip of the needle-nose pliers to form a tiny loop at the middle (in case you want to hang the tree on a tree).  Make a couple of twists.  This is the "trunk."

2.  Cut two 1" pieces.  Arrange into an "X" and twist half a turn.

3.  Hold the trunk with the two loose ends up and place the "X" over the two chenille stems.  Push the "X" snugly toward the top and hold it there while you twist the stems one time.

4.  Cut two 1 1/2" pieces of chenille stem.  Hold in an "X" shape and make a half twist.  As you did in step 3, place the "X" between the two stems of the trunk, then twist the trunk tightly once or twice.

5.  Cut three 2" pieces and six 1" pieces of chenille stem.  Twist a 1" piece about 1/2" from both ends of each 2" piece.  Pinch the twisted spot with the needle-nose pliers to secure.  Hold all three of the completed 2" pieces together so that they cross at the middle (looks like a snowflake).  Hold with both hands (three pieces in one hand, three in the other) and make a half twist .  Place over the two stems of the trunk as before, and twist the trunk stems twice.

6.  Cut three 2 1/2" pieces, six 2" pieces and six 1 1/2" pieces.  Near both ends of each 2 1/2" piece, twist a 2" and a 1 1/2" piece (the shorter pieces nearer the tips).  As in step 5, pinch each twist with the pliers, arrange as a snowflake, make a half-twist, place on the trunk, and twist the trunk twice.

7.  Last set of branches:  Cut three 3" pieces and twelve 2" pieces.  Twist two 2" pieces near both ends of each 3" piece, pinch with pliers, arrange as a snowflake, half-twist, place on trunk, twist twice.

8.  The tree stand:  Mike cut slices (about 5/8" thick) of large dowel rod (1 1/2" diameter) and drilled a small hole in the center.  I painted them white, poured a puddle of glue onto a piece of aluminum foil, plus a pile of white glitter nearby, placed the point of a pencil in the hole and rolled the outer edges of the dowel in the glue and then in the glitter and placed it on another piece of foil to dry.  After the edges dried, I put glue on the top and sprinkled more glitter on.  The hole is just large enough for me to push the trunk of the tree into it, but if necessary, you could glue the tree trunk into the hole.  The trunk will be a little bit too long when you finish.  I usually trim it about 1".

Arrange the branches realistically (HA HA) and you're done.  I found it easier to arrange and bend the branches with the needle-nose pliers.  If you're really obsessive, you can make teensy beaded ornaments for your tree, or how about a garland of seed beads?  Fun!  One last word of advice:  I have used lots of different types of chenille stems.  If you use the metallic, sparkly ones--they remind me of vintage aluminum trees--wear gloves while you are making them.  That stuff is hard on your skin!

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Hope It's Not Genetic

While organizing some things, I came upon a box of "treasures" that my mother had packed when my grandmother moved.  I have many such boxes and sometimes I go through them and sometimes I just pack them away.  This particular box--a tiny one--contained the following:  a rusted sewing machine needle, a two-inch long pencil, a one-inch red crayon, and two notes written by my grandmother.  One of the notes is written on a small piece of an envelope postmarked 1979 and the other is on the back of a receipt dated 1986.  My grandmother set the standard for recycling.  The notes contain information about yardage for pillows and the number of squares needed for, presumably, a pieced quilt.  These items have been sitting on my bathroom vanity for at least two weeks, and I fear I can't throw them away.  Apparently, it IS genetic.