I grew up crafty. When I moved to Maine I was cunning (as in, “ain’t you cunnin’.” Insert forced smile here.) Now I’m a maker. I make things—art quilts mostly—but I sometimes deviate and dabble in other media. And when the holiday season hits, hard-wired memories from my teen years helping with our family’s seasonal “Craft Cellar” return and out comes the glue gun and Mod Podge.
A few years ago I was taking a defunct white wire pre-lit Christmas tree to the trash can. A Muse whispered in my ear and an idea formed. I took the tree back to my studio, tore strips from fabric scraps and started wrapping. Transforming that tree became a winter project while I was sitting watching TV or movies. It’s now my year-round studio tree, strung with lights it’s the first thing I turn on when I start my day and the last thing I turn off when I end it. Well, along with the plastic light-up goose. Occasionally I put some ornaments on it—the tree that is—but I love it just as it is.
Below are some before and after photos—the pink pipe cleaners in the left photo are to hold the rings of branches together (there was more than one reason why it was trash-destined). The photo on the right shows it being graced by a few of the funky animal ornaments made by my friend, children’s book author and illustrator Carey Armstrong Ellis. She makes limited edition ornaments every year and I believe I have (nearly) a full set.
Since I made the tree years before a blog was even on my radar, there are no in-progress photos. Still, I would like to share this wrapping project with you—a gift for the other arty-crafty-cunnin’-makers out there. So for this version, I took a newly defunct string of lights as a base for a garland. So when that string of lights goes out in the middle of your decorated tree, don’t despair, you’ll have the start of a garland! Just add fabric scraps.
For this demo, I had a few hours, and a helper: Djinni cat.
Above left shows the string of lights, along with a couple balls I made with half-dead light strings. For some reason the thought of plugging them in gives my husband Tom the shivers. So as a safety-minded gift to him, I’ll (eventually) wrap them as well, I ran out of time to include them in this post! Once you have your wired lights, next comes fabric selection—in my case it’s also known as “playtime with cat”.
I dug into a bin or two of fabric scraps (as did Djinni) looking for longer strips of fabrics, usually ones I’d be less likely to include in one of my quilts, though with some ol’ favorites thrown in. The strip you see top left below, I have no idea where that one came from. I love those little surprises. No doubt it was gifted from someone, and now will find a use.
These strips needed to be torn to about an inch wide. I got a little carried away with tearing strips. In the end, I only needed about 18 of various lengths to complete my six-foot garland—I’ve got a few more than that left over. Because of all that kitty help I was getting, I tossed the strips into a box to keep them separated and contained, though then the box was of feline interest as well.
Now, back to the wired lights, snip off the plugs and cut the wire to a chosen length. I cut it in half, and half again, giving me four six-foot strands. Make loops at each end by tying the wires together. It doesn’t have to look pretty, just secure.
Then grab a strip of fabric, dab on some white glue (my favorite is Aleene’s Tacky Glue—the original version), glue the fabric to itself going around the wire, and start wrapping. I started just below the knot and worked around the loop. Keep a little tension on the strip as you wrap—you don’t want it all bunchy. When I came to the end of the strip I applied more glue to keep it in place.
And voila! First strip down, many more to go. All the rest are done the same way: glue on either end and wrapped tightly in the middle.
I had initially picked out a variety of colors but I liked the way these greens were working together. I was in a more blendy sort of mood, but next time I might just reach into the box and work totally random. You can see why this is a great TV/movie watching activity.
And then it’s done. At least the length is. You can see the loops forming the ends below. I didn’t wrap the bulbs on this garland, yet. If you look back at the original tree, I wrapped the bulbs as I went so they’re covered with all different fabrics.
Djinni finally lost interest, which made it made it much easier not having to watch out for playful cat claws.
She said goodnight and settled in for a cat-nap.
I had decided I wanted this garland to still have lights on it, but a fabric-wrapped version. I tore strips of a yellow fabric for the “glow” and wrapped it up and back down on the bulbs. Some short red strips finished off the “base”.
Yellow lights. complete…
… red accents added. Finished.
Here’s the garland hanging for the holidays. It has a whimsical look and is pretty easy to do—with the added benefit of recycling something bound for the landfill. Wrapping can be adapted in all sorts of ways. I’ve seen wrapped wire lampshades, frames, chandeliers…. If you try this yourself, send me some photos to share!
One more thing, look at that pretty pile of leftover threads pulled from the torn fabric edges. What could I make with those? Hmmm, there’s gotta be something cunnin’ I could do….
While I’m waiting for the Muse this time, I wish you a warm, bright, creative, and illuminating Season of Light.