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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Christmas Tutorial #1: Hand Dyed Bottle Brush Trees



The colors that you can achieve from dying your own antique or new bottle brush trees is nothing short of delightful! This is the 5th year that I have been making them and every year I create a different color palette. Last year the colors were bright fuchsia, yellow and turquoise! This year they are soft, muted and peaceful......and ya know what? the very same colors were used! Lets see how I did that, shall we?

1. First you will need bottle brush trees. Michaels crafts has packages of them for around $20 (don't forget to use your coupon!), You'll need liquid or powdered Rit fabric dyes....or any fabric dyes for that matter. I like to mix my colors in the tallest drinking glasses that I have in the house...or vases, pitchers etc. You'll need a large tall vessel for the larger trees which are about 8".....You'll need bleach and a large plastic bucket (I saved my Costco laundry detergent bucket that had a nice lid on it and used that). you'll need water, disposable gloves (hardware store) tongs, LOTS of paper towels, glitter and glue for decorating. I began picking up old perfume bottles and silver salt and pepper shakers every time I saw them at garage sales, antique stores and thrift shops, so I had enough to make a bunch of trees. You can leave the trees right on their bases..you do not have to put them on something different....that's just my spin on them.
2. Fill up your bucket with water and add bleach....the more bleach you add the faster the process is, but the smellier it is...(the ratio is about 3 parts water-1 part bleach)
3. Add all of the trees that you want to bleach out and wait.....the process takes anywhere from 3 minutes to 10 minutes to bleach out the color. This depends on who manufactures your trees and how old they are.....just keep an eye on them until they are a nice light beige color. They will not turn completely white. Take them out of the bleach and rinse them with plain warm water and leave them to dry overnight or a few hours.
4. When you work with the dyes, a little goes a long way! maybe a tsp to 8oz. Again....the more dye the brighter the colors. The more you leave the trees in the color the more color they will have. Don't be afraid to create new colors....especially if you need orange and only have red and yellow dyes...add more pink to the brown to create mauve etc....Once you have all of your colors mixed you can start dipping the trees. Have plenty of paper towels ready on a surface that you don't mind getting stained. I did my process out in the September sun a few years back and last year I had a tree dying party so we were inside in the kitchen on an old folding table. the process is messy and don't forget to wear gloves! Hold the base of the tree and dip in the glasses of colors. A quick 5 second dip will create a light pastel color. You can just leave the whole tree in the color for a few minutes too, to get a real deep color. Have a large bucket of water ready to dip your dyed tree in quickly if you find you got too much color on it. I used layers and layers of paper towels for setting the dyed trees on to dry.
Try using an ombe technique by dipping the tree in portions starting from the bottom to the top...or try dipping your tree in one color and then in another half way to get interesting looks. Have fun with the colors! The more you experiment, the funner it becomes!
5. The trees will take hours to dry depending on your environment. We blow dried them last year so we could glitter them in the class. Once they are dried, take your finger and dip it in white glitter glue, moving along the tips of the tree and roll the tree in glitter that you have put on a paper plate. This way, the tips just get glittered. I have used just clear and silver sparkles glitter and have used colored glitter as well. I used turquoise glitter over a rich brown tree...the look was amazing!!!
6. Don't forget to glitter the bases of the trees if you are going to use them that way. If you are going to put them in old bottles, or the like.....then just simply pull the tree off it's base and glue into the base. Decorate any way you want to. the possibilities are endless! Some students, last year, created little wonderlands on paper mache boxes. Or use old vintage beaded garland for "ornaments" how about using fun flock instead of glitter? I printed out my own stars and glittered them.
Please be a considerate artist and use this tutorial for making trees as gifts and for personal use and not to sell. I sell these on Etsy and the greater San Francisco Bay area. Thanks for being thoughtful in this.
Have a great time and if you are interested in me coming to your home for a home class, I'd be happy too...just contact me via email or phone! Also check out my Sparrowsongs Facebook page to find out when the next tree dying party will happen this October-November at the Sparrowsongs studio.

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