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November 28, 2012

Christmas tree decorating tips + tricks

A couple of weeks ago I learned how to really decorate a Christmas tree from my friends' mother/mother-in-law, Leslie. I've always admired "designer" trees in showrooms and expensive department stores, but from experience, they're a lot harder to create than you'd think.

The thing is, I'm allergic to pine needles. I know -- it stinks, but it's the truth. So, because I'm allergic, we have a fake tree. The number one thing that irks me about fake trees (besides the scent. Tear.) are the gaping holes that are practically impossible to fill. In the past I've been known to stick various tree fillers inside the branches, frustrated that they wouldn't stay put -- irritated that despite my efforts, the holes were still there. In short, while they may have looked "OK" from a distance, my past Christmas tree "designs" were a bit of a hot mess up close.

Well, Leslie and her friends taught me how to fix this plus a few other things, and I want to pass the knowledge along to all of you! So, without further ado, let's dive right in:

First, buy a roll of tulle to fill any holes in your faux tree. (You can find tulle at fabric and craft stores for less than $5.) I chose a dark green to match the needles, but other shades, especially metallics, could work well, too. Before you touch a strand of tinsel (or strand of lights -- blarg!), cut long strands of tulle, gather and tuck them inside your tree to hide any "holes" -- places where you can see straight through your tree. I cut pieces anywhere from a half a yard to a yard long and tucked them deep inside the branches to mask the holes. Guess what? This trick totally works. Your tree will look pretty and full before you add a single ornament!

Next, grab some floral wire. It will be your best friend if you want to create a full, professional-looking Christmas tree. Instead of filling your tree with dangling ornaments with various ribbons and long-hanging hooks, wrap floral wire through them instead and tie tightly to branches for a cleaner, neater look. 

If you add ribbon to your tree, use floral wire to secure the ribbon to the branches. I chose a champagne, glittery ribbon this year, and I wanted to achieve a "cascade" look around my tree with it. To do this, I cut a strand of ribbon the length of my tree, and then fastened it securely at the top with floral wire.  Every 12 to 18 inches or so I would fluff the ribbon out, then bring it back inside the tree, fastening the ribbon to another branch. I did this three to four times with every strand of ribbon around my tree. (For the best results, choose wired ribbon -- it's easy to shape and control.)

After you finish adding ribbon/tinsel/lights to your're ready to add the ornaments! A few simple things to remember: 
  • Use large ornaments to fill any remaining gaps in your tree
  • Fasten ornaments deep inside the tree, then work your way out 
  • For a cohesive look, choose ornaments and a color scheme that complement each other, and when possible, buy ornaments in bulk; too many different pieces can be distracting.
  • Add your favorite ornaments to the tips of branches at the very end so everyone can see them!
  • Finally, think outside the box! I tuck 5 to 6 12-inch woodsy deer inside my tree, and Leslie said she once fastened the pieces of a friend's entire Nativity to various branches of a tree (I just love that idea!) Other suggestions: sheet music, large pinecones, pom poms, balls of yarn -- the possibilities are endless!

Finally, to make my whimsical tree topper, I bought a package of twisty sticks (Michaels), a package of pinecones on sticks (Target), and a bouquet of glittery feather picks (Hobby Lobby) and stuck them into the top of the tree, one by one, using my floral wire to keep everything in place. (Use wire cutters to cut long pieces to fit if you need to -- some picks are super long, and if they're not cut you will see them straight through your tree!)

And as a finishing touch...I added this little guy to the very tip top of my tree:  

So, when it comes down to it, two simple things under $10 will make your tree shine: tulle and floral wire. Who knew? (Thanks, Leslie!) 

What about you guys? How are you planning to decorate your Christmas tree this holiday season? Any tips or tricks to share? I'd love to hear!

Happy tree decorating....

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