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  • Julie @ Home On The Hill

Old Christmas Tree - New Identity!

This being the first year in our new farmhouse I have found so many new spaces to decorate for Christmas, and I decided that the family room was the perfect recipient for a second Christmas tree.

But, a wide tree would take up too much room - so I searched the internet for options and discovered the super slim Christmas trees. I longingly looked at image after image of those super slim trees, but they are not readily available here in Australia at a price I could afford, or at a quality worth having. So seeking a way to fulfill my slim tree dream, I hit upon the idea of seeing if I could convert my old wide tree into a super slim.

Well, like many of my 'great ideas', the reality of bringing it to fruition proved to be somewhat of a challenge - my tree at first resisted my attempts to slim it down - so here is what I tried, what failed, and what eventually worked if you want to follow in my somewhat muddled footsteps!

I had my old tree for around 25 years, it was well made with strong thin needles, but over time the needles on the branches had become flattened from being stored. So a few years ago I replaced my old tree with a new one from Balsam Hill that I bought on sale - one that has those 'oh so easy' to assemble drop down arms, the ones that come in their own travel bag, and even have special gloves to wear as you 'fluff' the branches so you don't get prickled by the oh so realistic pine needles!

But, those sort of trees are quality and expensive even on sale, and I didn't feel a second tree warranted an outlay of hundreds of dollars.

I hadn't planned to keep the old tree after I bought the new one, but luckily it ended up being stored in the barn and never made it off the property. So I figured I had nothing to lose by seeing if I could give it a makeover. Well, nothing to lose but time, and at times my sanity that is! It was several weeks of trial and error before the dilemma of the dieting Christmas tree was eventually solved.

I started my tree slimming down by determining what I wanted as my maximum base width, I wanted it no wider than 60cm or 2 feet, so this measurement needed to then taper gradually up to the top of the tree which had a fixed section of branches that I didn't want to change.

The branches of my old tree are made form twisted heavy gauge wire that have the pine needles locked into them and a bare bit of wire at the end that fit into the holes at each level on the pole that is the trunk of the tree.

My first brilliant idea was to cut the branches to length, then bend over the last portion of wire 'stem' to fit into the holes already there for the branches around the trunk section of the tree. So I proceeded to do this, it was easy enough using some bolt cutters to cut the wire, then I used scissors to trim off the pine needles that were where the branch needed to slot into the hole. This however still left little bits of pine needle sticking out of the wire, much like a mini bottlebrush, and this is were the idea fell apart.

I knew these had to be removed or the branch would not fit into the hole and drilling larger holes would have been a very difficult task due to the angle of the plastic branch holders. So, I thought of burning the needles off and I used a candle to see if this idea would work. It did, sort of, but it still required a lot of wire brushing to remove all the needles enough to fit the branch into the hole. So I tried using stronger burning power - my garden weed torch - but don't go there, that resulted in the pine needles close to the desired 'nude' area just melting into a gooey blob - along with a toxic smelling smoke which I'm sure would not be a good thing to be breathing in.

So I abandoned altogether the cutting and burning idea - which is probably a good thing considering it sounds like a medieval torture technique! I then went back to the drawing board and tried to think of new ways to make this tree conform to my plans for it to have a svelte new figure!

I considered trying to unwind the wire on the stem enough to pull out the pine needles I needed to remove, but the wire is wound together very tightly and I abandoned this idea before it really ever got started.

Then after leaving the tree to come up with it's own solution for a week, which I might add it failed to do miserably - I came back to the job with a fresh mind and a new idea, a simple idea that I couldn't believe I didn't think of earlier. Why not try folding the branches to length?

The wire although tough was surprisingly cooperative when I tried to bend it, I could bend it with my hands no problem. So here is a step by step of the method that worked in the end if you want to try your own Christmas tree slim down.


Step 1 - Measure your branch from the outside tip to the new length you want it to be, I wanted each branch to be 30cm, so I noted that spot on the branch and came back a fingers width (I'll explain in step 3 why).

Step 2 - Bend your branch back onto itself at the point you marked.

Step 3 - Now bend the branch back on itself in the opposite direction, so that the part that goes into the tree branch holes is clear of the rest of the branch needles by that finger width you allowed for in step 1. This stops the needles interfering with the ability of the wire to slot into the hole.

Step 4 - Take a hammer and smash the parts that you bent so they flatten down which helps make assembly of the tree easier - also really good therapy to cope with the fact you still have 40 branches to go! But it's so worth it to see an old tree reinvigorated to become something you can admire again.

Each layer up I went I reduced the width of each branch by 2cm so that the taper would end up working in nicely with the top of the tree portion that was a fixed width.

BONUS: The folding has the effect of thickening the amount of greenery on each branch making the tree look fuller when assembled.

My original tree was a 6 foot tree but since our new farm house has higher 9 foot ceilings I wanted it to be taller. My husband created a new stand for it and this allowed me to place it inside an old copper boiler I had found at a market years ago. The boiler had developed a lovely verdigris patina over the years, making it the perfect base for my tree that I wanted to decorate in pastel tones.

I added a nice bow in pink made from natural jute to finish it off.

Here is the full tree with most of the decoration finished, I just need to add a few more ornaments around the base and near the top so my snowflake tree topper isn't so lonely.

I hope you enjoyed my journey with the crash dieting Christmas tree and that if you have an old tree stored away you may also find a way to give it a new identity!

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Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.


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