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Family Craft Ideas

with Leah

I'm Leah--wife, mother, editor, writer, photographer, and rickrack apologist. There's craftiness in my DNA, but between the kids and my work and the house and the television and my blogs (http://www.agirlandaboy and http://www.workitmom.com/bloggers/workingonmotherhood, among others), I have to keep my projects quick and easy if I hope to finish them before my boys (born December 2008 and July 2012) graduate from college. You're a working mom and you're busy too, but if you still want to get your craft on, join me here for some fun projects!

Easy Felt Trees

Categories: felt, no-sew

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Here’s my definition of the perfect craft: quick, easy, inexpensive, endlessly customizable, and goooooood-lookin’. When I came across some simple and modern felt trees (Christmas or otherwise) in one of my favorite catalogs, I knew I had to at least try to make them. To tell the truth, sometimes my “inspired by something I saw in a catalog” DIY crafts are epic failures, but this one? This one was even easier than I thought it would be, which is why it’s genius for busy families, even ones who think they don’t have crafting skills.

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Putting the tree together takes almost no time at all, but there is a fair amount of prep, which makes this a good project to start while kicking back with a cup of tea (or hot toddy) and watching a holiday movie you’ve seen three dozen times. (It doesn’t get better than Love, Actually, yeah?)

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What you’ll need:

  • papier mache cone
  • sheets of felt
  • small circle for tracing (I used the rim of a shot glass)
  • pen for tracing
  • hot glue gun or craft glue

Here’s the inspiration design, available in one size and three colors from the Land of Nod (on sale for $12):

They have soft, rounded bottoms, are sewn and stuffed, and would be way too much work to replicate exactly, which is why we’re making some working-mom adjustments, starting with the tree form. I found three sizes of papier mache cones at the craft store, and they were just the thing. They’re inexpensive ($2 to $6), easy to work with, and they stack away when the holidays are over. If you can’t find paper cones, I bet styrofoam would work too.

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The cones are 7″, 10.63″, and 13.75″ tall. Here’s my almost-four-year-old holding the medium-sized ones, for scale:

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I loved the muted colors of the original trees, but I happened to have a giant sheet of bright green felt already, so that’s what I used for my first attempt. I bought some red felt (the cheap kind that comes in 9″x12″ sheets for $.29) to balance out my collection.

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I traced circles onto the felt using a shot glass and a really inky pen (but one that didn’t bleed through the felt to the other side). Each circle measures just under 2″ across; I made them all the same size so I wouldn’t have to do any math. If you have an ink pad, I bet you could even stamp out the circles, which would speed things up even more. (If you’re doing trees in several sizes, it would probably look great to do smaller circles for the smaller trees, and larger for larger, but you certainly don’t have to.)

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The number of circles you need will depend on the size of your tree and how close together you glue your circles. For the medium-sized tree in these photos, I needed 47 circles; for the smaller red tree I used 27. I traced and cut the circles out not while drinking tea and watching a favorite holiday flick but while bouncing my baby in his carrier. So it goes.

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Now comes the fun part! Glue the circles onto your cone in rows starting at the bottom. Let this bottom row overlap the base of the cone so you can either flare the ends out onto your table or tuck and glue them under for a finished edge. I worked around the cone from left to right in rows (rather than in a continuous spiral, if that makes sense; basically, go all the way around the bottom, then start a new row above that). You can tuck the edge of the last circle in each row under the first circle from that row for a seamless look.

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I used hot glue because it dries almost instantly and makes the process go faster. The only things you need to be careful about with hot glue are (a) not using too much or letting it get too hot that it melts the felt and (b) not gluing your fingers together (ouch). Craft glue (even Elmer’s) is the other option, although you risk the circles sliding around before the glue dries. I’d definitely use craft glue if I were doing this with kids, for obvious reasons.

And there’s not much to it other than that! I glued the circles onto the medium tree in about 15 minutes, which was great because I wanted to make a whole forest of these for my dining room table. (I have small children and naughty cats, so my decorations need to be unbreakable.) If you want to get really fancy, and if you have access to a wide range of felt colors, you could pick shades that would let you do a cool ombre pattern from tip to base. If you have wacky kids who love to make wacky crafts, you could cut out circles in all kinds of crazy colors (do they make neon felt?) and create multicolored trees. If you’re into glitz, mist your finished trees with a bit of spray glitter, or glue on something shiny like beads, sequins, or ribbon. Instead of cutting circles, you could cut triangles for a pointy tree. Hey, how about using those zig-zag fabric scissors? So many options. So much fun. Let me know what you come up with!

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