Leggi questo post in: Italiano
A couple of weeks ago I published a tutorial for a children’s activity, making woven Hopi Eye Christmas ornaments, for the advent calendar countdown at the blog Creare per r’ESISTERE (in Italian, while the English version can be found here on cucicucicoo.com). Elisabetta asked me to contribute a second tutorial, so I proposed this project which is, like the first one, a project that I did as a child with my mother and makes a wonderful Christmas gift for children to make and give away during the holidays.
These sweet little Christmas trees are really easy and fun to make. They also cost next to nothing because all you need to do is collect a few pine cones and buy a little bag of plaster of Paris. Then to decorate them, just use things you already have in your home.
So let’s get everything you need. Besides the powdered plaster of paris and the pinecones, you’ll want some disposable containers, preferably used and upcycled. I found that larger yogurt containers work well. Then you’ll need another upcycled disposable container (here a regular yogurt cup) and a popsicle stick to mix the plaster, a tablespoon, green and white paint and then, to decorate them, glitter, beads, ribbons, yarn, etc.
Check the bottom of your pine cones. If there are branchy parts sticking out, like the one above on the right, break or cut them off. We want the bottoms to be as flat as possible.
Cut the big yogurt containers so that you just have the bottom. Make sure that the base of the pine cones can fit in.
Start mixing the plaster of Paris in the smaller yogurt container. I admit that I was a little worried about this stuff, thinking that it would stick everywhere and be impossible to clean up. I guess I was thinking of cement but plaster of Paris is actually super easy to mix and clean up, so don’t fear! I found that, for two big yogurt container bottoms, it worked well mixing 4 tablespoons of water in 10 level tablespoons of plaster powder. If it ends up too thick or thin, adjust the proportions and, if your plaster has different instructions, just follow those. I suggest not preparing more than what you’ll need for two trees at a time because otherwise it can start hardening before you’ve finished pouring it into the molds.
Your mixture ought to have the consistency of a thick liquid. Mix it well with the popsicle stick.
Once I tried mixing white poster paint in, but it really didn’t make much difference in terms of the plaster’s final color, so I wouldn’t suggest doing that.
Now you need to work quickly because the plaster starts drying pretty quickly. Pour it into the bottoms of the big yogurt containers.
And squish the bottom of the pine cones down into it. If the mixture is thick enough, the pine cone will stand up on its own.
The plaster does dry quickly, but I still suggest you wait at least 24 hours before removing the trees from the molds. Just make a cut in the plastic container and then just continue tearing it with your hands. The plastic comes off easily.
And there’s your plaster base!
If you’ve mixed your plaster and water to the right consistency, it will have perfectly taken the shape of the container. Above you can see the bottom of a plastic bottle (which I don’t suggest because the center, being too high, isn’t deep enough to sit the pine cone in it very well) and the bottom of a large yogurt container.
While the plaster dries, it settles, so it’s normal to find some plaster stuck to the lower “branches” of the pine cone. You will also probably have little raised bits along the edges, where it touched the mold. Just break those off with your fingers.
And there’s your little forest! Here you can see what it looks like when your plaster mixture is too thick and the bases don’t come out smooth (far left and far right). You can just leave your trees like this, but the next part is the most fun of all: decorating the Christmas trees!
First paint the pine cone tree green. You can leave the plaster base as it is, but we preferred painting it not only to make it more of a snowy white color, but also for the next step: adding glitter.
I advise first painting the upper green part. If the child wants a very sparkly tree, use a generous amount of paint and you can pour the glitter directly on the wet paint. It’s a good idea to put a piece of paper or plastic plate (preferably used and upcycled, not new) underneath to collect and reuse the fallen glitter.
If you prefer a more subtle look or just to get more glitter under the branches, sprinkle the glitter on the tilted pine cone.
When the upper part is done, move on to the base, painting it white and sprinkling silver glitter on it for a bright snow look. If you change the plate or paper underneath, you can collect the fallen glitter, without mixing it with the other colors, to use it again.
We decorated one pine cone in the same way, but with kosher salt (and a pinch or two of glitter) on the wet paint to make it look like snow.
Once the paint is all dried, gently shake the pine cones over some newspaper pages spread out to get all the extra glitter and salt out. If you don’t do this, you’ll find glitter all over the place! Then, if you have it, you might also spray some fixative on it, but it’s not totally necessary. I also tried using spray adhesive but, as I could’ve imagined, the surface remained sticky even after it dried, so I wouldn’t suggest using that.
We decided to try making a different sort of snowy look on another tree with cotton wool. We stuck little bits of it to the base and between some of the branches with a glue gun.
We like how it came out, but in the end we decided to add a bit of silver glitter, too.
We then glued on beads, little bells and sequins to decorate the trees.
We wound organza ribbon and yarn around another couple of trees, which was an idea that I’d seen here.
And there we have a nice little group of Christmas trees, all decorated and ready to be given away!
There are all sorts of creative possibilities to make different types of pine cone Christmas trees!
Kids have lots of fun making this project which will definitely not break the bank and they can decide who to give them to, so they can start understanding how good it feels to make gifts for others with their own hands!