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DIY Colorful Bottle Brush Tree Tutorial

Published Nov 18 2019 in Cottage Decor, Cottage Living, Cottage Style, Holidays, Projects, Winter

There’s something about vintage Christmas decorations I’ve always been drawn to.  Their charming details and whimsical colors never cease to delight me.  They definitely take me back to childhood and add a sense of playful lightheartedness.

Of all the decorations I look forward to bringing out around Christmas, glitter (or putz) houses factor prominently into the decorating around my cottage.  And, well, what does a village of glitter houses need?  Trees, of course!

In the last few years, there’s been a real revival of bottle brush trees. Original ones can be difficult to find in good shape, and are rather collectible.  While there are more reproduction options available these days, you can also make your own—suited to your own tastes and style--with supplies found at any major craft and hobby store. 

Bottle brush trees are a perfect complement to any Christmas village. And grouped together on a tabletop or mantel, or displayed under a glass cloche, they add a lovely level of ornamentation to your holiday decorating!

To make your own colorful bottle brush trees, I've put together this step-by-step tutorial.

Materials

  • Assorted bottlebrush trees (found with Christmas village decorations or the model train section)
  • Gloves
  • Bleach
  • Vinegar
  • Dye of choice, such as food coloring or clothing dye
  • White glue
  • Craft paint brush
  • Glitters (such as extra fine glitter, regular craft glitter, glass glitter)
  • Fake snow
  • Small beads from Christmas garland
  • Glue gun

Let's Get Started!

The process of making your own bottlebrush trees falls into three main steps: bleaching, dyeing, and decorating.

Bleaching

While wearing gloves, submerge trees in a solution of water and bleach and swish around periodically.  I did this step outside and used a 5-gallon bucket with a solution of approximately 2 gallons of water and 2 cups of bleach.  Alternatively, the trees can be bleached in a stainless steel sink or a large plastic container like a dish pan.

Small trees bleached completely within 10 minutes, while larger trees took up to 30 minutes.

After the trees are sufficiently bleached, rinse them in a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water to neutralize the bleach.  Set the trees out to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Dyeing

I used Rit® dye (in Scarlet, Teal, Fuschia, and Purple) for this batch of trees. The trees take this dye extremely quickly and will result in bold colors.  If you prefer pastel-colored trees, food coloring is a good alternative.  Trees will likely need to be dyed for several hours, or even overnight, if the latter method is used. 

Regardless of the dyeing method you choose, prepare the dye according to package directions in glass bowls or jars.

(And break out the gloves again unless you’d like colorful fingers!)

Dip the trees into the dye for a few seconds then check the color saturation.  If the color is too dark, rinse the tree with water to remove the excess dye.  Otherwise, return the tree to the dye and once you are satisfied with color, set the trees out to dry.

For vintage white bottle brush trees, simply skip the dyeing step.

Decorating

The fun part!   I used extra fine, regular craft, and clear glass glitters, as well as fake snow and beads cut from Christmas garlands, to decorate these trees.  All of these items are available from craft and hobby stores, usually at a discount thanks to sales or coupons.

While holding a tree by its base, apply white glue all over the tree with a simple craft brush, working the glue as best you can into the branches.  Working over a paper plate or piece of paper, lightly sprinkle glitter on to the tree while rotating it to get even coverage.  Then sprinkle fake snow and/or clear glass glitter over the glitter to give the tree a wintery touch.

Allow the glitter and snow to dry to the trees.

Finally, if you’d like to simulate the look of glass ornaments, add plastic or glass beads.  I snipped beads off silver, gold, aqua, and red garlands.  Mardi Gras beads offer even more color options.

With a hot glue gun, apply a dot of glue to the back of each bead and press gently to the trees until they adhere.

To finish your trees, paint a layer of white glue on the plastic bases, then sprinkle with fake snow.


And there you have it!  Making custom, and colorful, bottle brush trees is a lot of fun because it adds a personal touch to your decorating.  I first made colorful bottle brush trees 7 years ago and they've held up well with careful packing. So if you make these, they'll last for years to come and you can proudly say you made them yourself!


If you make trees with this tutorial, please let me know in the comments below.  I'd love to hear how you enjoyed the project.  And if you share on social media, please tag @harmonyfarmcandles so I can see your creations!

Happy crafting!

-Erin


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