During the 1930's and 40's it was a very popular pastime to make your own Christmas decor. One of my favorite decorations of the time period is the framed Jeweled Christmas Trees that people would make out of old jewelry bits. If you've ever searched for an original one of these jeweled Christmas trees, you've no doubt found that they are very expensive!
If you love the look, but not the price, this Instructable is for you. It will help you to craft your very own jeweled Christmas tree wall decor. Put on some Big Band music and let's get started!
1/4" plywood or Integra-ply
Old junk jewelry and/or broken jewelry bits
Pliers - Needlenose and small jewelry type
Hot Glue Gun and glue sticks
Soft clothes brush or paint brush
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Step 1: Getting Your Backer Board Ready
First, you'll need to decide what size you want to make your tree. I had a 16" x 20" picture frame already so that pretty much decided what size I was going to make. Whatever size you choose, cut your plywood to that size. I cut a leftover piece of Intrega-ply to 16" x 20" to fit my frame. Once you've cut your plywood, I highly advise you to check and make sure that the plywood will indeed fit your frame before going any further. (Take it from someone that didn't and had to make adjustments after the entire jeweled tree was glued onto the backer board...)
Once you know that your plywood will fit into your frame, set your frame aside until the last step.
Cover your table with plastic or newspaper to protect it from any glue. Use a foam brush to spread a thin coat of Elmer's glue over one side of the plywood. Carefully, lay the wrong side of your velvet fabric onto the glue and smooth out any wrinkles. Let dry thoroughly before proceeding.
Once the Elmer's glue is dry, flip your board over and trim the velvet fabric so that it's about 1" larger than the plywood all the way around. Now you can use your hot glue gun to glue the edges of the fabric to the back of the plywood. I run a line of hot glue on the board, pull the fabric taut, over the hot glue and then use the flat side of a pencil to press the fabric into the glue. It saves me from some major hot glue burns!
Flip your board over and it's now ready to start decorating.
Step 2: Designing Your Tree
Gather all of your old jewelry, even the broken bits and start to visualize how each piece could fit into your idea of a jeweled tree. I had a lot of jewelry that my sister had given me from a shop that she no longer has. A lot of the jewelry is just pot metal and not expensive but it's got a lot of bling! One particularly large piece is what I used for the top of my tree. You can see it in the photo. I cut off the chains that were attached to it, flipped it upside down and glued it in place. After the top piece was in place, I started forming the outline of the tree, making sure to leave a margin around the top, bottom and sides of the plywood. (You don't want to glue jewelry all the way to the edges or you won't be able to fit it into the frame.)
At this point, just laying pieces onto the fabric is helpful. Play with the design before you ever glue anything in place. Once you have a few pieces where think you want them, lift one piece, apply glue and press it back into place. Continue until all of your pieces are glued down.
As I worked, I would periodically lift up and tilt one side of the board to see which pieces still had not been glued down.
Next, I glued a few pearls along the sides to help me stay within the perimeter that I wanted for my tree. A toothpick is really helpful for gluing pearls in place. Stick the tip of the toothpick into the pearl, dab a small bit of hot glue onto the side of the pearl and use the toothpick to press the pearl into place on the velvet. Once the glue is stuck, it's easy to pull the toothpick out of the pearl.
For other small pieces, like rhinestones, a jewelers pliers comes in handy. I hang onto the stone with the jewelers pliers, dab on some hot glue with the glue gun and then use the pliers to press the stone into the velvet.
Continue like this until you have your tree filled in. You can make it as sparse or as full as your want. Some people glue layer upon layer of jewelry until you can't see any velvet behind the jewels at all.
For my jeweled Christmas tree, I used necklaces, earrings, bracelets, a watch and some loose pearls. Don't be afraid to cut the jewelry apart! The jewelry I had was cut up and glued in several different spots. Loose pearls and individually cut rhinestones were used to fill in among the bigger pieces.
Step 3: Finishing Your Tree
Once you have all of your jewels glued on you may find it helpful to use a soft clothes brush or paint brush to lightly brush over the entire picture. This will remove all of the hot glue strings that can get down into the crevices between the jeweled pieces. There will be a lot of them!
Now, fit your plywood into your picture frame and there you have it, your very own dazzling Vintage Jeweled Christmas Tree.
Hang on the wall and get ready for the oohs and ahhs to come.
There's only one drawback to this project. Family and friends will want one for themselves. Well, maybe that's not such a bad thing after-all. These make great Christmas gifts!
Participated in the
Hot Glue Speed Challenge