Handmade Colorful Bottle Brush Trees at Goat Hill Fair

I am in Santa Cruz this weekend for the Goat Hill Fair where I am demonstrating a fun and timely craft project- Vintage-Style Bottle Brush Trees! I’m not just showing how to use them in projects, but how to actually make your own and customize them to suit your crafts! I brought along lots of examples to share at the fair and thought you’d like a little inspiration, too. Here is a photo of two bottle brush trees. The one on the left was made in China. The one on the right was made in Petaluma, by me.Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-02To make the trees, start with sisal rope. Most sisal rope, found at the hardware store, is a sort of bleached-cream color. Cut short lengths of rope as shown. As you make more, you will find a length that works best for you, whether making one tree at a time or two with the same length. The length determines the final width of the tree.DSC_9184The rope sections are untwisted, then pulled apart into piles of fibers laid in the same direction.DSC_9196DSC_9202A length of 18 guage galvanized steel wire is bent and folded over the pile. I make two trees from one pile, so I place the wires in opposite directions.DSC_9211 I then cut  the pile at a diagonal…DSC_9214 and finally each into a triangle/tree shape.DSC_9216I grip the end of the wires into a vice on my workbench as shown.DSC_9217Using wire cutters, I cut a piece of wire from a coat hanger and bend it into a hook shape. That then goes into my power drill as if it were a drill bit.DSC_9220I slide the hook into the end fold of the wire at the top of the tree shape…DSC_9221then turn on the drill to spin the wire, which will wind from the vice end to the drill end, careful not to spin too long that the entire wire breaks. Not to worry, it rarely happens.DSC_9224The result is a Christmas tree that reminds me of a stray dog in need of grooming. A bit of trimming with scissors and a lovely little tree begins to emerge. Use the two tips of the scissors to “comb” out the tangled fibers as needed while you trim.DSC_9231Use waxy floral tape to wrap the wire stems if preferred. If dying your tree, you may prefer wrapping stems after coloring the sisal. To color, I mix a small mason jar filled with rubbing alcohol with whatever amount of dye I want, more for darker trees, less for lighter trees. The alcohol makes the dye dry very fast and is a great way to dilute the color to preferred hue. For many of my trees I used my rainbow assortment of vintage shoe leather dyes that I found a few years ago at our local recycle center. Store bought liquid dyes work just as great such as Tulip and Rit brands. One thing I noticed while dying the trees is that the ones that were dipped had less kinked fibers (branches) on the final trees than those left their natural color. Seems the liquid or alcohol relaxes them a bit. Here are some of my trees after dying. A thrifted cribbage board works great as a drying rack.Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-01The wires can be trimmed to any size and bases for the trees can be made using anything from vintage wooden game pieces to other things you may already have laying around. Here are some crafts made with these trees:

These trees were tucked into a grungy vintage tobacco tin opposite a reproduced postcard image. Both sides were finished with craft store fencing.Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-04A little pottery vase makes a cute tree urn decorated with a vintage postage stamp. This tree was lightly painted with Mod Podge then dusted with mica flakes.Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-05

Here’s a purple display made from a vintage silver sugar container (with a glittered styrofoam ball inserted to hold the trees) and covered in murcury glass garland, and finished with a county fair rosette.Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-06This little sweetie fit just right into a vintage spool of thread (secured with hot glue) and topped with a stamped brass embellishment.Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-07I just love this old Ball freezer jar, perfect for a frozen display. My St. Nicholas is a little vintage ornament with string removed.Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-08By dipping in two of the same color- one diluted more than the other-  I was able to create ombré trees. These are set into vintage candle holders filled with hot glue and finished with glitter.Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-09Here is a tree that has not been colored, tucked into an antique record cylinder used as an artist trading card display.Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-17You can even make jewelry charms with these little trees! Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-18Sisal bottle brush trees can be used throughout the year for occasions other than Christmas. They make adorable Easter decor. Here’s one tucked into an egg cup. Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-10I glued this glittered tree into a vintage glass drawer knob, placed a jump ring into the bent top wire and created a holiday ornament. Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-11Tiny embellishments can be glued around the tree like ornaments. Here I used tiny jingle bells, and glittered scrapbook supply stars glued back-to-back as the tree topper. I found the tree base as-is at an antique shop- score!Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-12So many cute little containers make good pots for planting these trees. Here’s a vintage and decorated toothpick package stuffed with floral foam and Spanish moss.Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-13Even this tiny tin toy pitcher makes a sweet tree pot. Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-14Of course there’s the ol’ stand-by apothecary bottle filled with glitter. I drilled a tiny hole into the cork before poking the twisted wire into it to keep the cork from breaking. Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-15And, lastly, here is my tiniest tree that is just under two inches tall. Cathe-Holden-Bottle-Brush-16These trees are just so much fun to make. I make them assembly-line-style over many days. One evening I will cut and unravel rope on the coffee table while watching a movie. Another day I will wire and spin and trim. Another time I will dye and dry them. The final trees are great to keep on hand for future craft displays or to use as favors, ornaments, place settings or a few dozen other uses. Have fun!

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107 Responses to Handmade Colorful Bottle Brush Trees at Goat Hill Fair

  1. #1 - LeAnne says:

    These are AMAZING! I hope I can try to do these some day!!! TFS!

  2. #2 - Jeanne Crockett says:

    Once again Cathe does it! So cute, and I’ll bet they are so much fun to make. Thanks!

  3. #3 - Karla King says:

    I really want to try this! Thank you for posting this tutorial. Your ideas are so inspirational!

  4. #4 - Elaine Allen says:

    These are just gorgeous Cathe! Thanks for sharing.

    Elaine Allen

  5. #5 - elizabeth says:

    This is such a wonderful tutorial – thank you so much for sharing. I will be making these to use in a winter wonderland display for my entry table.

  6. #6 - Sandra says:

    this is genius! love all the colors!

  7. #7 - arlene says:

    This is just the best tutorial I have ever seen. Thank you SO much for sharing! Your little trees are magical!

  8. #8 - Kristin says:

    Your trees are so heart warming. Each with their own personality. Beautiful!

  9. #9 - Lisa H. says:

    Those little trees are amazing, and you are a genius! Loved your tutorial, and all of your creative examples using them. Thank you!

  10. #10 - Frankie Leal says:

    So cute!! I will try this for sure! Thank you!

  11. #11 - Julie Firos says:

    Cathe, Thank you so much for sharing your method of making these amazing trees. I need some teeny tiny ones for little putz houses, and these will be perfect, as well as making some to use in model train displays. You are so kind to share your knowledge and your wonderful skills.

  12. #12 - Cindy Pointe says:

    Love, love, LOVE these!! Can’t wait to try some myself. Thanks so much for the how-to.

  13. #13 - Joanne Kennedy says:

    OMG! You are so clever! I don’t have the tools needed to make these but would love love love it if I could buy one from you. I have a little truck ornament that I wanted to put a little tree in it so it looked like they were driving home with a fresh cut tree. But, I can’t find one to fit! These would be perfect! Please let me know if you would sell me one. I would treasure it more knowing it was made by hand from a fellow blogger that I follow :)
    Thanks!

  14. #14 - Pam says:

    Wow! I love these! What an amazing tutorial! Will be running out to get supplies today- can’t wait to try this! Thank you!

  15. #15 - Megan Hurford says:

    wow! this is a fantastic tutorial – thanks for sharing :)

  16. #16 - elsa says:

    So amazingly clever!

  17. #17 - Christy Grant says:

    This is fantastic. I saw a color-your-own tree demo online last year but love this one even more. The examples you made are exquisite. Thank you for sharing and I’m posting a link on my blog about your article.

  18. Just found and met You :)Loved My visit. Just wish You were on Goggle connect so I could have You show up on My blog roll.I will try to not lose You.FUN FUN FUN-Denise

  19. #19 - Sam W. says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for this tutorial! I’ve always loved bottle brush trees, but can’t seem to justify spending the money on them, because I just KNEW there had to be a way to DIY them.
    What is the largest tree you’ve made? I want to do some 6″ or 10″ tall ones, and am worried about stability? I guess I can try and find out!

    • #20 - Cathe Holden says:

      I think it can be done, though I haven’t done one quite 10″. I suggest a slightly heavier gauge wire and lots more rope fibers. Let me know how it goes!

      • #21 - Sam says:

        I didn’t have a problem with the taller trees. I found that its basically impossible to use too many fibers. If I’m not sure if its think enough, I pile more on before twisting. Thanks again!

  20. #22 - martina says:

    Thank you! I always wondered if a person could make these. Will definitely try this.

  21. #23 - Tracy says:

    Love every one of these! Thanks for the tutorial and all the amazing, unique ideas for embellishments and display.
    These little trees have always been my favorite! (Elf)

  22. #24 - Seacrow says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. These are adorable and you have so many clever, sweet ideas for use!

  23. #25 - Marie says:

    This is one of my favorite blog posts EVER!!!
    Love all these tree ideas….thanks so much for sharing them!

  24. #26 - CarolQ says:

    aw lovely – what a great idea and what a lot of ideas for us to try!

  25. #27 - Sue McIsaac says:

    These are just adorable and lovely.
    How inspiring you are!
    Thank you…think I might have to give tis a try!

  26. #28 - Michelle M says:

    LOVE!! Just gorgeous! These put a smile on my face. Thank you for sharing your wonderful talent.

  27. #29 - Laura says:

    you win my favorite-person-of-the-week award, hands down. I love these trees so much and have never considered making them. Life changed.

  28. #30 - Tai Bender says:

    This is GREAT! I LOVE bottle brush trees! Pinning!

  29. #31 - Morna Crites-Moore says:

    What a wonderful tutorial! You are so generous to show us all how to make these. Everyone who reads this is going to want to make them. What I love most is your incredible creativity, as shown by the many ways you choose to individualize your trees. Thank you!

    p.s. I came here via a FB post from Mister Finch. :-)

  30. #32 - Gunnvor Karita says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this!

    Bottle Brush trees are no where to be found in Norway, and I’ve been dying to get my hand on some for my Christmas Village :-)

    I only read about half your instructions, then went ahead and screwed it up on my first attempt…lol Obviously I need a vice and my drill to do the twisting :-P So after work tomorrow I’ll swing by the hard ware store for a vice, can’t believe I don’t have one already :-D

    Thank you from the bottom of my Christmassy heart!!! xoxoxo

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  32. #33 - Arshiya says:

    hey! how did you stick the rope fiber to the wire? xx

    • #34 - Cathe Holden says:

      When the wire is bent in two it holds the fibers in place. Then when the wire is twisted using a power drill and vice, it crimps the fibers permanently into the spiral of the wire. No need for any adhesives.

  33. #35 - Betty says:

    Oh My Goodness! I love this tutorial! Thank you so much for providing it. I found it quite by accident and so glad I did because I’m afraid I was going to spend a fortune on buying bottle brush trees. You have no idea how tickled I am :)

  34. #36 - Dixie says:

    this is FANTASTIC… when I was a child my mom had a WONDERFUL Christmas village with all kinds of little trees,, I have been wanting to make my own little village but could never find the trees or other little decorations… NOW ,, thanks to you I can make a BUNCH of trees and let my friend know so they can also.
    Thanks for such a GREAT explanation … Your Great…

  35. #37 - Pam says:

    Just a follow-up to my previous comment- I tried this today and they turned out great!!!! Still some trial and error getting the amount of fiber for each tree just right, but I am thrilled with the results! I’m using a Wooster’s paintbrush cleaning comb (the side with the “nails”) to fluff out the fibers- works great! Thank you again for a great tutorial!

  36. #38 - Jackie says:

    Awesome! You make cute things with the trees, I’m impressed. :)

  37. #39 - Marylinn Kelly says:

    How labor-intensive (using power tools always makes me feel that way) AND how beautiful, how superior to the manufactured products. I love the softness of your shapes and colors. So very imaginative. Thank you. xo

  38. #40 - Audrey Pettit says:

    I absolutely adore these, and had no idea at all how they were made. I’m so tickled to now know, and I can’t wait to give them a try. Really love all your fun ideas. Thanks so much for sharing!

  39. #41 - maryann says:

    Amazing. I have all the supplies and am ready to go. Thanks for sharing your technique.

  40. #42 - Kelli says:

    I adore these! I’m in Petaluma too but can only find natural tan colored sisal. Where did you find the bleached cream color? I’m wondering if I can dye the tan stuff?! Love, love, love these!

  41. #46 - Karen on Bainbridge Island, WA says:

    Your creativity leaves me speechless.

  42. #47 - berta says:

    Those trees are amazing, thanks for sharing the how to’ s. I hope Friedman’s has some sisal rope. They are having a sale this weekend!

  43. #48 - Heidi Caminiti says:

    I LOVE these trees! Thank you so much for posting the tutorial. I found this on Pinterest and I now I am going to check out the rest of your blog. :)

  44. #49 - MOI says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. Can’t wait to give this a try. Just hope mine turn out as good as yours. Now to get hubby to let me use his drill. :)

  45. #50 - Sasha says:

    This is great, thank you. I cannot believe how creative you are! The little up cycled toothpick containers and vintage finds and the way you crafted them all together are amazing! What talent you have:)

  46. #51 - Lori says:

    Great job! I like your idea of making your own drill bit to turn the wire. Thanks for sharing!

  47. #52 - Wendy says:

    You have L.I.T.E.R.A.L.L.Y. Changed my life A.G.A.I.N.!!!
    Thank you. Unbelievable.

  48. #53 - Gloria McAllister-Roop says:

    I have always wanted to try this and now you’ve given me everything I need! Or so I thought. I’m 2 for 2 on breaking them off. Not quite sure what I’m doing wrong. Maybe my vice grip isn’t tight enough…or maybe my drill is spinning too slow or too fast? Any guesses?

    Gloria in Virginia

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  51. #54 - Tamsyn says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. I wanted some of these for a project I had in mind but couldn’t find the right size or ones that weren’t really pricy, now I can make some :)

  52. #55 - Heather - Chickabug says:

    Thank you, Cathe! This tutorial is wonderful! : )

  53. #56 - Bree says:

    This is the best tutorial on bottle brush trees that I have found! Thank you for posting!!

  54. #57 - Sakura says:

    What an amazing idea and amazing job you did making those! Thanks for posting this, I have been looking for ideas on how to make tiny trees for a while!

  55. #58 - Arshiya says:

    thanks Cathe! xx

  56. #59 - judy cooper says:

    YOU are my new idol~~wow, you’re talent just blows me away~~those little trees are fabulous~~i needed something really different using an altoid tin and there it was!! many thanks for you detailed tute

  57. #60 - StCroix says:

    This is fantastic, thank you SO much for sharing it

  58. #61 - autan says:

    merci pour ce tuto
    j’aime beaucoup c’est très joli.

  59. #62 - Kristina says:

    These are incredible! My husband may think I’m crazy trying to make these, but nevertheless, I will!

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  62. #63 - Karina Richardson says:

    Have you ever made them as tall a 3 feet or more? If so I was told that rope is not hard enough to make a tree that size and that you would use broom material. What do you say

  63. #64 - becky says:

    These are wonderful! I have seen other tutorials like this one, but yours makes it look so simple that I just might have to try it! And all your inspiration photos are fabulous! TFS!!!

  64. #65 - Dale says:

    So fun looks like a bit of work but outcome is so cool

  65. #66 - Edie Manring says:

    You are just brilliant!

  66. #67 - lois says:

    So incredibly talented…the trees are perfection! Thanks for sharing.

  67. #68 - Shannon P. says:

    You are so amazing. I enjoyed your sisal trees so much!

  68. #69 - Marcia says:

    Great tutorial…can’t wait to try these for next year!
    Thank you for taking the time to do this.

  69. #70 - Annabelle says:

    Best Christmas craft ever! Thanks for the tutorial , will definitely make some with my family this Christmas.

  70. #71 - Diane says:

    OMG, I seriously with there were a few weeks left before xmas I would make tons of these trees. The home is over the moon. I love Delta and the Addison is my style. Thanks

  71. #72 - jul says:

    These are wonderful! Thank you for sharing,

  72. #73 - kate says:

    Oh. My. Word! You are so stinking awesome, it’s not even funny. So awesome! Thanks for sharing! I hope to one day try them myself.

    Have a Very Merry Christmas!

  73. #74 - Leah says:

    I want to make a candy corn tree. any suggestions how to keep the yellow clean while dying the orange?

  74. #75 - Merri Jo says:

    I am in complete and utter awe of your creative know-how!!

  75. #76 - ANA MARIA JIMENEZ says:

    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I love these trees and never thought they could be made, I bought green ones and had to bleach them, I saved three, the other ones were ruined but your idea is the best and easier. Thank you so much for your God given talent, and sharing with us.

  76. #77 - Geralyn says:

    Hello, I have been looking all over the internet on how to make these from scratch. Thank you so much for taking time out to do this. When you touch these, are they really hard or soft if I may ask? My girlfriend bought one from a store (very expensive) and it was hard to the touch. It was just beautiful, and I’m hoping to make one like that. Even if they are soft I plan on making a bunch of tiny ones. Again, thank you for sharing all of your ideas. I can’t wait to spend time going through your whole site. Geralyn

  77. #78 - linda says:

    so excited to see these directions. I love these trees. My family will NOT be happy–they’ll be living in a miniature forest. lol

  78. #79 - mew says:

    I have never seen such a cute tree.
    I also want to make, but the type of paint and how to paint the color do not know.
    Would you please tell me if you feel up to it?

  79. #80 - Ruthann Hedge says:

    Thanks for the bottle brush tutorial. I think I’ve
    found something my dh would do for me. He’s retired and likes to work with is hands. I paint…….sounds like a good combination!! Right now I’m going to look at the rest of your offerings. Thanks again.

  80. #81 - Clara Grass says:

    Muchas gracias por compartir este tutorial, me encanto.

  81. #82 - Clara Grass says:

    Muchas gracias por compartir este tutorial . Me encanto.

  82. #83 - PATTY CHASTAIN says:

    I search pintrest all the time to find cute ideas. This is the best one ever. I cannot wait to make my little trees for an altoid box.
    Thank you so much for sharing.
    Patty C

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  84. #84 - ROSA Mª MIRO MONTSENY says:

    Molt bonics i originals!

  85. #85 - Kristy says:

    Thank goodness I found your page! I’ve been looking for a tutorial on how to do this that was a bit more in depth. I’m so looking forward to making these. Thanks for sharing your step by step process!

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  87. #86 - Shelley says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your tutorial!!!! I have seen a few others, but yours look much easier and yes, cuter, than the others I have seeen. Now I just have to find my sissal rope and get to creating! I alreadyy know they will be quite addictive and I’m looking forward to all the glitter mess and finding the perfect ornaments to tuck between the branches.

    be blessed~Shelley

  88. #87 - Pam Lane says:

    Thanks for the wonderful tutorial! I have the rope & a husband with a drill – gonna give it a try!

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  90. #88 - suzanne says:

    read through tutorial with my husband who has a drill and a miniature train layout and I think he’s more excited to make these than me!!

  91. #89 - pam says:

    Wow !! What a great project !

  92. #90 - Rhonda Hunter says:

    These are Wonderful!! I have a Dept. 56 Dicken’s village and my daughter has Christmas in the City. These will be a wonderful addition! The ones I have now are not the right color and I will have so much more control on the size and color! Thank you so much!

  93. #91 - vusale says:

    Çox gözəldir,Əlaa!
    Gözəl fikirlərə görə sağ olun :)

  94. #92 - Kathy says:

    Can you tell me more about the colors. Are you mixing colors of dye to get some of them? I’m having a hard time finding very many bright colors in the liquid dye. Can I use powder dye and dilute it less that the directions say? Love the bright one and the varity of colors.

    Love your work.

  95. #93 - Jennifer says:

    Absolutely adorable! Thanks so much for sharing all the details to make them, and how you use them. Very very inspiring.

  96. #94 - Cecelia says:

    Cathe, I just love your tutorial and gift ideas for your brush trees! If you have an emailing list, I would like to be added to it. Can’t wait to make my own little trees! ~~Cecelia

  97. #95 - Nat says:

    What sweet little trees! Thankyou for sharing your tutorial.

  98. #96 - Ruth Chatelier says:

    Thanks for the generously shared tutorial. The trees are incredibly cute. Now I have to think of a Southern Hemisphere use for them :-) I live in Australia. I’ve always loved the idea of a white Christmas but instead, usually swelter in the heat….

  99. #97 - deb kloberdanz says:

    Absolutely love the vintage look . I will be making these tomorrow !!!

  100. #98 - Nancy says:

    Thank You so much for sharing this. They are so pretty.

  101. #99 - Lisa Angel says:

    You ROCK these are awesome, and I cannot wait to try this!