It is so easy to make a bottle brush tree to use for an upcycled Christmas decoration, and the results are a million times more adorable than the shop-bought kind. The process is really quick and simple, and you can customise your trees by using different textures and colours of wool, yarn, or string.
Not got much time or just want the bullet points on how to make these? Click here for the Quick Read Instructions.
How to make bottle brush miniature trees
I have been slightly obsessed with wanting to make bottle brush miniature trees for ages, but this Christmas I finally found an excuse to give it a go. They turned out to be so easy, I wish I’d done it years ago!
This post uses affiliate links, which means I receive a small amount when you click through to a link and buy. You can find out more on my ‘about affiliate links’ page.
- Wool, yarn, or string (anything made from multiple strands twisted together will work – I used this.)
- Any thin wire – we used a mix of galvanised wire and coated garden wire as we were trying to reuse existing or waste materials.
- Wine corks
- Sharp scissors
DIY Bottle Brush Miniature Tree Instructions
Cutting, cutting, and cutting…
1. Decide how tall you want your finished bottle brush tree to be (including the trunk), then cut a length of wire that will be double this, plus about 10m (roughly 3 inches) extra, just to give you some extra for gripping.
Fold the wire in half and set to one side.
2. Decide how wide you want your bottle brush tree to be, and cut a piece of cardboard that is roughly this width and a little bit taller than your tree height. The extra is, again, for gripping.
Now wind your wool, yarn, or string around the cardboard. You’ll only need to wrap it to a depth of one or two strings (unless you want a really bushy tree or have very thin yarn).
3. Cut the wool down one side, and lay flat on your work surface, so that you have a row of short strands as shown below.
4. Now place your row of strands between the two bent halves of your wire, as shown, so that the wool/string is centred sandwiched between wire. Do a little twist at the top and bottom to hold the wire and wool loosely together. Don’t worry – we’re going to tighten everything up in a minute.
5. For this next stage, you are going to hold on to the wire at either end, and twist in opposite directions, keeping the wool/string trapped in the middle and the wire stretched out in a line. You can use two pairs of pliers to do this, holding the wire between them and twisting one set of pliers one way, while simultaneously twisting the other pliers the other way.
The kids I was working with found it easier to use an old corn cob skewer at one end, and pliers at the other, as they found it easier to keep the wool in place. But I used the pliers without a problem, so just experiment with what is easiest for you.
(I’ve no idea where I got those skewers from – they were possibly a random Christmas cracker prize – and, alas, I can’t find anything similar online. But you could improvise with anything sturdy that you can wrap one end of the wire around. For example metal curtain rings, heavy duty hook screws, or just twist the bend-end of the wire around a strong short stick or a dolly peg.)
First you twist, then you untwist…
6. Once you’ve twisted your wire so much that the wool looks like a demented, deformed, and rather scraggy pompom, you’re ready for the next stage.
At this point, it’s probably still looking a bit scrawny, like the last tree left in the Christmas tree yard on Christmas eve. We’re going to fix that now.
Untwist each length of wool/yarn/string to divide it into separate strands. Once you’ve finished, you should find that your tree is looking much more full, and you may even have a lovely crinkled texture like mine, that is satisfyingly tree-like.
7. Almost done – and It’s time to give your tree a haircut. Using your sharp scissors, cut diagonally up the sides of your bottle brush tree to create that classic triangle fir tree shape.
Turn your tree to repeat this from all angles, until your tree is pointy at the top, and big at the bottom. Ahem. All that’s left now, is to give your bottle brush tree a base so that it can stand upright.
It’s all about that base…
8. Drink some wine. This is a very necessary part of the process, but you can skip it if a kind friend will do this for you, and pass you their discarded cork. Once you’ve got a cork, take a
serrated kitchen knife cutting implement your life-partner won’t mind you using (I got in such trouble!), and slice your cork down to an appropriate size for your tree.
Then poke a hole in the top, and insert the tree-trunk end of your wires. You can use glue to secure it, but all ours stayed in place perfectly fine without.
And you are done! All that’s left is to decide how and where to display your lovely homemade bottle brush tree, and whether you are going to need a whole forest…
Miniature bottle brush tree decoration ideas
So you’ve got yourself a woodland’s worth of miniature bottle brush trees… now what? They are, admittedly, great decorations all by themselves, and look lovely in little groups.
As part of my day job, I run an upcycling, reuse, and repair club for teenagers. With Christmas round the corner, I wanted to do some sessions with the kids making Christmas decorations out of old junk and household bits and pieces.
Alongside classics such as paper chains and baubles made from paint-splattered wallpaper remnants, and wreaths made from cut up fabric sample books, we also made these fabulous bottle brush Christmas trees. We put ours to use by glue-gunning them to the roofs of old toy cars, and sticking them on the inside of jam jar lids, which turn into snow globes or mini arctic terrarium decorations.
Stick them on a wreath, drape them with lights, make them into a centrepiece or Christmas dinner placeholder, or put them in a dolls house for the perfect mini Christmas. What will you do with yours?
More Christmas Kids’ Activities from Rhubarb and Wren
Looking for more fun things to make and do with the kids this Christmas? Check out these great activities from Rhubarb and Wren!
Pin this bottle brush tree tutorial for later!
Want to bookmark this for later? Save this post to Pinterest!
How to Make a Bottle Brush Tree – Quick-Read Instructions
For when you just want to get right to the point…
(these are all Amazon affiliate links – see my ‘About Affiliate links‘ page for more information)
Wool, yarn, or string (anything made from multiple strands twisted together will work – I used this.)
Any thin wire – we used a mix of galvanised wire and coated garden wire as we were trying to reuse existing or waste materials.
1. Cut a length of wire double the height you want your finished tree to be (including trunk), plus about 10m (roughly 4 inches) extra.
2. Bend the wire in half and set to one side.
3. Wrap wool, string, or yarn around a piece of cardboard roughly the width and height you want your bottle brush Christmas tree branches to be.
4. Cut the loops you’ve made down one side of the cardboard only, and lay the strands out on your work surface. Keep them spread out as they were around the cardboard.
5. Sandwich the threads in the middle of your bent piece of wire, keeping the strands spread out. Twist the wire once at both ends to hold loosely in place.
6. Grab either end of your wire with pliers (see above for alternatives). Pull the wire out straight – keeping the threads in position – and then twist each end in opposite directions.
7. Straighten the wire out (without untwisting it), and use scissors to trim the twisted strands at a diagonal, starting wide at the base and going into a point at the top. Turn and repeat until you have a tree shape you are happy with.
8. Cut a cork to an appropriate height, then make a hole and insert the end of your wire ‘tree trunk’. Use glue if necessary to hold in place.
Hints and Tips:
Try other materials such as tinsel, different types of wool or yarn, and try different colours too. Add snow to your tree by rolling gently in PVA (white glue), and then in crushed salt or white glitter.