How to Make a Pine Cone Christmas Tree

& other stories.
Welcome (back) to my blog! I put out new posts every Wednesday.

I thought I would lighten the mood a little with some crafts this week. I’m one of those very impatient people who loves to do crafts but doesn’t much fancy anything too taxing or time-consuming; not unless it’s something I intend to take up as a hobby.

If you’re like me and like to have a quick fix when it comes to popular new crafts, then you’ll like this one: a Christmas tree made out of a pine cone.

But first

I told you I’d showcase my Mookychick poem to you, didn’t I?

Click here to read my poem, ‘Weight’, on the Mookychick website!


Well here it is! I’m very proud to see it on the front page. I hope you enjoy my poem and, if you click my author profile, that you enjoy my photo too. I could’ve just used a photo of my face, but I thought ‘Nah – let’s use the one with the squirrel’.

But back to pine cone Christmas trees!

You must have seen these going around Facebook and the like. I’m sure people have been making these for years and years, but crafts go in fads and currently this one seems quite popular.

Not only do they look extremely cute and adorable and Christmassy, but they looked pretty easy to do – so I gave it a go.

And, like most things that look easy, this was actually a little more fiddly and time-consuming than I bargained for. If you want to make an impressive, intricate, painstakingly painted and detailed piece of art then you’ll need a good magnifying glass, tweezers, and a lot of time to dedicate to the ~ finesse ~ that you’ll ultimately want to achieve.

Or, you could be like me and just chuck something together, see what works, and have fun with it.

You can make these absolutely any way you want and with whatever decorations you want – that’s the cool part. You can make several of these and no two should look the same. You could make mini pine cone trees for all occasions!

Tools I used

Superglue
Hot glue gun
1 x fabulous pine cone (try to find a tree shape – mine was a bit narrow)
Florist wire
Oasis
Crepe paper
Red meshy fabric stuff
Li’l baubles (I snipped them off a length of Christmas tree beads)
An angel for the top (a Christmas tree decoration cut in half)
Scissors

Method

First I washed any residue off my pine cone and dried it thoroughly. You might want to do this a day or two before you start crafting, because I think this has an effect on how well the glue sticks to it.

(If you are painting your pine cone, do this first before putting it on the base for obvious reasons!)

Next I got started on my base. I cut a small thick square of oasis and wrapped this with red crepe paper. I glued it down with superglue (this will stick more to you than anything else – beware!) in a parcel-fashion. After that I wrapped around my red mesh, which looked to me like a nice rustic touch to give it a bit of warmth, and glued that down too.

Now you have a base, you need to wire your cone. I used florist’s wire, but I would recommend a thicker piece of wire (maybe jewelry wire or copper wire), because mine bent and was too soft. I wired my cone by weaving or wrapping it around the spines at the base and forming four hooks of bent wire. I used these to stab into the base and keep the cone sturdy. The flexibility of the wire came in handy here because it allows you to make adjustments.

In the future, I would likely buy some mini plant pots to make a sturdier bed for the oasis, but this method works just fine.

You may find it hard to get the wire through your crepe paper or fabric, so think about that when you choose your materials. I personally just stabbed and prayed.
I wrapped some crepe paper around the base to hide the join, and hey-presto.

Now you have a cute base with your pine cone on top! It’s time to decorate.

I first began the dull and arduous process of superglueing each tiny bead onto each spine of my pine cone. Not only did I have to hold it firmly in place for ages, but the things were sticking to my fingers more than anything else.

I switched to my hot glue gun and oh baby, all that changed! The cooling of the glue once applied happens so quickly that you can start dotting on your beads here, there, and everywhere, and they’ll be set in 10 seconds. I very much recommend using a glue gun for speed and ease of use.

I turned my cone upside down to apply these, but ideally you would probably balance them on the tip of each spine. I could not be bothered with this – I’m all about the instant fun with these projects.

At this point you will realise how stringy the glue from a glue-gun can be, and it’ll look like you have cobwebs all over your tree. Never fear, for these come off easily – and if you were making a Halloween pine cone tree, these stringy bits could actually look really awesome.

Lastly, I cut a decorative angel in half and glued them to the top.

There we have it! A very simplistic pine cone Christmas tree. I think even the simplest designs look very sweet indeed and would make a great crafting project with your kids – just be very careful with the glue gun, because these get very hot.

With lots of time, effort, and imagination, you could make some incredible looking decorations out of pine cone Christmas trees.

I hope you enjoyed that.

If you’d like to see more of my crafting attempts or book recommendations or musings on health-related topics, then please subscribe. I put out new content every Wednesday.

Best wishes,
Ashleigh

How to Dye Your Clothes

Hubble bubble…

Welcome to my blog; I put out new posts every Wednesday.

Today I’m going to show you how you can dye your own clothes in an easy and cost-effective way.

There are massive benefits to the environment when you fix or dye your clothes to renew their energy. Imagine if we just transformed our clothes into something new, rather than throw them out and waste them? Vivienne Westwood says that we should “buy less” by paying more – but you can buy fewer clothes *and* save your money by rejuvenating your old ones.

This is an especially great way to make your clothes feel truly yours. Have you ever paid a bit too much for an item of clothing and realised – just a little too late – that you’re just not feeling it? Whether fashion is important to you or not, I do believe our clothes tell a story about who we are and where we are in our minds.

I’ll give you an example: Just a couple of years ago, I was known around the office for my “femme-fatale dress sense”. I kid you not. And those aren’t even my words – more than a few times, I was told I had a “1940s vibe”. It was probably more to do with my obsession with pencil skirts, platform heels, and bobby pins. I was putting out an ultra-feminine image which, at the time, made me feel powerful. It didn’t help that I worked in a huge office building at the time, full of pretty people, and I was “just an admin”. Psychologically, I probably felt I had something to prove – not just in terms of job performance or climbing the career ladder, but in my appearance too. I lived by the mantra: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have“.

2016. Colour-coordination eluded me. A bit “extra” for the office environment, no?

As things have changed for me, different styles of dress make me feel powerful. I now feel better in my Dr Marten boots and a thick black dress. I’m competing less and feeling stronger with both feet on the ground. It’s better this way, though I don’t regret my time in skirts and heels – I still had my offbeat, slightly awkward sense of style. That’ll never die! (dye?)

With that in mind, I’ve been going back to my DIY roots. As a teenage goth in platforms and dreadlocks, I am old-hat at adapting clothes. I fondly remember sharp pins pinging all over the dining room as I sewed lace onto my umbrella, and breaking the needle as I haphazardly sewed directly over the metal struts in the canopy. Pin-studs played a big role in my youth too, as did brooches, badges and odd accoutrements.

Dyeing, however, is new to me. The following is a guide on my first go with Rit dye.

This is not a sponsored post and you are encouraged to use whatever dyes you think are best.

I bought a coat and a dress from a charity shop – the coat was in a ‘new’ condition, £5, 100% cotton, in a cream leopard print design. The label was H&M.
The dress was another charity shop find, 100% polyester, £3. Polyester is a problem, but I’ll get to that later. Cream leopard print design (again!).

The dyes cost between £7-£10 each – not too much for a hobby or a one-off!

I used Rit all-purpose dye in Dark Green for my leopard-print coat and used the “bucket method” as per their instruction on the website. I also used their colour-stay dye fixative formula.

This method worked a dream.

I used a huge black plastic bin, which I washed out beforehand as it was probably a spider’s paradise (sorry speedies). Then I followed the bucket method step-by-step, using hot water from the hose pipe, some dish soap, and some salt. I used a length of wood for stirring, as – my god – that dye gets everywhere.

I plonked the whole lot in and stirred for about 40 minutes, watching it turn from cream to a subtle dark green.
I believe these dyes are non-toxic, as the instructions say you can pour these away in the drain like normal, and you can even use these dyes in your washing machine.

It needed a lot of swimming space, because although this is a fairly thin jacket, the stiffer material does require more space to flow freely through the dye, absorbing it evenly.

I washed it out several times with warm water until it ran fairly clear. Then I soaked it in another tub of fresh warm water and the colour-stay fixative.

I rinsed that out, hung it up on a hanger, and left it to dry overnight. I was absolutely overjoyed with the results! The dye left a subtle, dried-out sort of colour, which was perfect for me because while I love bold colours, I didn’t want it to offend the eyes.
You can see the result here:

A muted dark green that doesn’t assault your eyes – I love it.

Then came the polyester dress.

The dreaded polyester

This did not go so well, for one reason which should have been obvious after reading the website: Polyester does not like dyeing.

While I was hoping to achieve a midnight navy blue, I ended up with a soft pastel shade.
Now, if that’s what you were looking for, then I guess you could call that a success – but unfortunately, I wasn’t, and I do not wear baby blue.

Even with the Rit dye for synthetics, the Polyester fabric just wasn’t going to take on that depth of colour.

Still, this was my first try with a synthetic dyes and I’m happy to share the result with you.

I used the Rit synthetics dye in Midnight Navy, and followed the recommended stove-top method. I also used salt, dish soap, and more colour-stay fixative.

This actually felt a lot trickier because, let me tell you, getting a huge pot of water to a rolling-boil on an electric “stove” was practically impossible. However, this level of heat is required to get the colour to take to the fabric, and needs to be kept consistently at that level throughout the dyeing process.

I plonked in my whole bottle of Midnight Navy with the salt and dish soap and stirred that Mother for a good 40 minutes, feeling like the fourth witch in Hocus Pocus.

Unfortunately, I could tell that it wasn’t going quite dark enough, and I soon realised I wasn’t going to get a great result. Sad times.

Still, I persevered!

Once the dress dried, I was left with a sort of baby-blue-grey. Some research taught me where I went wrong with the fabric, and I noted for the future: never buy polyester. Or at least, don’t bother trying to dye it. You can see the result here:

A grey failure. Sad times.

On a plus (sized) note, I actually tried this dress on and found I didn’t like the way it fit me! So even if it had worked out, I would have been forced to send this dress back to the charity shop, or perhaps sell it on Ebay. I was hoping it would fall in a more boxy-shape like so many of my other dresses, but it clung around the hips and wrecked the look I was going for. That’s not to say it looked bad at all, but it just wasn’t exactly what I wanted.

So I guess some things just aren’t meant to be, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot of fun trying. As they say, you win some, you lose some.

Overall, what do I think of Rit dyes?

For a subtle look, ease of use, and price – I’d say go for it. However, don’t expect bold results.

I hope this inspires you to give clothes-dyeing a go yourself.

Best wishes,
Ashleigh

DIY Autumn Candle Holder

You need this.

Because obviously you need this. Don’t argue.

I made this using a tutorial I followed in a beautiful book called Dried Flower Arranging. I bought this at WH Smiths for £9.99 on a 2-for-1. You can find it on Amazon by clicking the link – enjoy it! (This is not a sponsored post – this is my actual life here, folks)

I thought the book looked gorgeously autumnal and pagan, so obviously I was all over that. It includes techniques for styling all kinds of arrangements whilst being simple and straightforward, as well as Christmassy biz, so it’s my kind of book.

Supplies I used:

Materials:
– Flower pots, charity shop, £1.50 each
– Oasis, The Range, £1.25 each
– Fallen leaves/thistles/conkers, free! (Collect a massive pile of these)
– Ribbon, about £1
– Pot pourri, about £2.99
– Candles, about £1.99 each
– Misc scissors, cutters, bendy wire

This isn’t a how-to exactly; I’m just showing off what I made. I’ll give you the gist of it though:

(Bonus points for the Golden Girls boxset in the background)

Stack the bottom of your plant-pot with paper or hay (hay looks amazing), then stuff in your block of oasis. I used a standard block of oasis for artificial flowers, cut it in half, and then shaved off the corners until it fit. You want this oasis to stick out the top of the pot so that all your decorations stick out and look full and luxurious. Slope the corners to give it some dimension. Use the paper/hay/tissue to pack it in tight around the sides.

Next you need to wire your candle, or glue it in place with superglue. I wired mine to keep it sturdy. This involved taping around the base of the candle with sellotape, and then attaching hooks of wire (just a short length of wire bent-double) all around the base with more tape. Squash these gently down onto the oasis to hook it in nicely, and then cover the wire loops with a decorative ribbon (or whatever you like really; it’s your life mate).

This is how mine turned out. Cute, eh?

You now have a base pot, oasis, and candle – now go crazy with your decorations!

I used thin wire to bunch leaves together, and a small scalpel to drill holes into conkers and thread a piece of wire in. I hated it at the time, but in hindsight, I’m dead proud of it.

This is harder than it looks and can get tedious at times (especially if you’re a faddist like myself and get bored after approximately 30 seconds), but persevere – you’ll end up with something totally unique and, best of all, it’s got your little stamp on it.

My boyfriend described this craft as, “Something you’d find in the Next home department with a ridiculously high price tag”. I think he’s saying it looks like overpriced tat – and I like that. I’ll take that.

I hope you enjoyed that little glimpse into my world.