Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making Book Trees and Wreaths.

With the holidays fast approaching, I've been reflecting on ways to spruce up our apartment. Matt (my husband) and I have been picking up holiday decorations here and there since before our marriage. My mom gave me a huge box filled with my childhood ornaments for our tree, and I have miscellaneous decorations from all over the place as well.

But when I saw this post by Eva, I was immediately drawn to the book wreath. I had also seen this post by Ash for magazine trees, well I was struck with inspiration. It turns out my mom had seen an article for book trees in a magazine in the gym, so she was up for some holiday bookish crafting as well. Great minds DO think alike. ;)

So, on Sunday I spent some time at my mom's house to get crafty. After a trip to Joann's for some extras (and to return some fabric), we wound up back in her kitchen with lots of supplies. I was going to make the wreaths (I had plans for 3), and she was going to "get started" on the book trees. You see, we both thought that the wreaths wouldn't take as long. But they did. But I'll get to that in a moment.

Here are the supplies, all laid out on my mom's island. We bought a few different ribbons and bead trims for the trees, as well as some buttons for the top (you'll see them on the finished product). I also intended on making three sizes of wreaths, so there is a 6-inch green Styrofoam ring, an 8-inch white ring, and a 14-inch green ring. The original plan was to make 3 wreaths that I was going to bunch together on our wall. I only ended up finishing two at my mom's, but after holding the two up on the wall above our bed, it was too much. I still have plans to make the third one, and there is a spot for it elsewhere in the apartment (the big wreath is above our bed, and the small one found a home over the archway into our bedroom/bathroom area).

You'll also see a stack of books. I did a big culling of my books, and these are a few random titles. And I know, HOW DARE I DESTROY BOOKS, but these were going to be donated. And honestly, the science-fiction titles were so old, I doubt they would ever find a home. The large book on the bottom is an abridged copy of The Count of Monte Cristo I mistakenly bought during a Borders sale (and if you're going to read it, why bother with the abridged version?).

First up, the book trees. These are incredibly simple to make, but I forgot to take pictures of the step-by-step instructions. Go check out Ash's post above for details (it is the same whether you use books or magazines).

This first picture shows my mom in progress folding pages. The basic idea is to fold the top corner of each page down and in to the spine of the book, then fold it one more time. You fold the overhang at the bottom so it sits flat. It is super easy, just time consuming. My mom found that having the binder clip there to hold previously folded pages was a big help. It kept them out of the way!

In this picture, my mom finished the book and was gluing two pages together (what was the "front" of the book and the "back") to form it into a circle. She ended up using craft/tacky glue, and left the pages pressed together with the binder clip until the glue dried.

And here are two of the trees all decorated! She took ribbon and strands of beads to decorate parts of the tree. The toppers are actually buttons glued into toothpicks. The toothpicks were then inserted into the spine of the tree and glued into place. She originally tried using the craft glue, but found that hot glue worked best for getting things to stay in place.

A couple other things we learned while making these...
  • You don't need the front and back covers-rip those off.
  • The books should be around 150 pages. For the first tree, my mom left the extra pages in while folding. When we realized that we really didn't need all those pages, it was hard to cut that back half of the book off while keeping our "tree" portion looking pretty.
  • My mom used a ruler to help fold the pages down and get "crisp" folds. It definitely helped and saved some agony for her hands (she did have some hand cramps when it came down to the last book tree-she made 5-so beware!)
  • If you use older books, like we did, be careful of how brittle the pages are. One of the books we used was in worse shape than the others, and some pages fell out as she was folding. This is a great way to use older titles, just be careful!
I hope that inspired you to make a couple of these. Now that I think about it, those of you with unwanted ARCS of older titles-this is a great way to re-purpose them!

On to the book wreaths...

While my mom was a folding machine, I tackled the book wreaths. Again, my intention was to make three, but I made two that night-the smallest and the biggest. I decided to start with the small wreath, to get the hang of it. I chose The Count of Monte Cristo to rip apart, but because the pages were a lot bigger, they looked silly with the little wreath. I ended up taking one of the small science-fiction titles to make this little wreath.

(I also want to tell you that the instructions linked above were a great help in getting me started. Go read them if you want to make one!)

I started with a sheet of paper under my work surface, so I wouldn't get hot glue all over the counter.

The first thing you do is form the base of the wreath by gluing a layer of folded and rolled pages to the back of the wreath. When you finish, flip it over (make sure the glue is dry so your wreath doesn't stick. It should look like mine...

For this smaller wreath, I followed the instructions above and began gluing in layers around and around the wreath, slowly working my way towards the middle. While this worked, it made gluing the inside pieces VERY difficult. I had to push through all my pages to get pieces in. I suggest immediately gluing pages to the inside of the wreath (all that open space in the picture below) BEFORE filling in. I did it that way for the second wreath and it worked MUCH better.

You continue rolling and folding pages, gluing them in open spots until you fill the wreath. This is where it helped to have my mom. She held up my wreath for me when I was "finished" to make it easier to see where I needed more pages.

As you near the finish, you'll also want to add in a hook. I should have done this before completing the front, but didn't. But now you know to do this. :) I took ribbon and looped it. I glued the crap out of it before also applying a little hot glue to two straight pins and sticking them into the ring. I wanted to make sure that it wouldn't fall!

And here is the first one!

And leaning up against my mom's cupboard!

After finishing the small wreath, which took about an hour and a half, I decided to make the largest one next.

I will be honest with you, this one was a pain in the butt because of the styrofoam. Unlike the two smaller rings, this one was a different form (you can see the difference in the picture with our supplies above). DON'T BUY THIS KIND. It took a lot more glue to get the pages to stick and parts of the styrofoam MELTED because of the heat of the glue.

You'll notice that I switched books. I finally started using pages from The Count of Monte Cristo, since they were much bigger and filled out the ring better than the small pages. Anyway, I had to devise methods to weigh down the pages as I worked my way around to attach the first layer around the outside. I only got a little glue on the scissors. :)

After completing the outside, I flipped it over and IMMEDIATELY did the inside ring before filling in. I also made the decision to add in pages from the older book as well. I liked the contrast between the crisp, white edges of the newer title and the aged look of the older book (it was at this point I decided that the third wreath would be all new pages...a good contrast between the three wreaths). Here it is in progress:

I also took a picture of the back so you could see how I glued some of the pages down:

Here it is, all finished and sitting up on my mom's counter. I really like how this one turned out (it took about 2ish hours).

Again, here are some things I learned if you are planning on making a book wreath:
  • Buy the hard stryofoam rings. They take the glue much easier and don't melt all over the place. The pages stick easier to them too!
  • The instructions I followed said not to fold the pages, but to roll them. Honestly, I did some rolling of the pages and some folding. It took me awhile to figure out how to get the pages to look good...and STICK. Don't freak out, be patient. You'll eventually find a technique that works for you.
  • The pages stick well if you fold the bottom little chunk of your rolled/folded page about a 1/4 of an inch. This offers a nice little "flap" that you can cover with hot glue and stick to the wreath. You can see that some of my flaps were bigger on the picture of the back of my wreath. Adjust them as you see fit.
  • Be very careful with the hot glue. I was not. And now I have burns on my fingers. And blisters. And they hurt. Really bad. Don't do that.

There you have it, my bookish holiday crafts (I say holiday even though the wreaths are staying up permanently)! I hope this was helpful and that you'll consider making a wreath or book tree. :) I now have an obsession with finding ways to re-purpose some other old books without a home, so I will let you know what I come up with!


  1. My sister used to manage a book store and would bring home several books that had to be "destroyed." By ripping off the covers they would be deemed destroyed so they could not legally be sold (even in garage sales). That's an awesome idea in recycling them instead of just having to throw them away.

  2. Those wreaths are awesome awesome awesome!

    The trees are also very cool, but those wreaths look really amazing.

    Thanks for the inspiration! I have a box of Reader's Digest condensed books that I got for free, intending to use them for crafts. The covers are pretty and I use them to make journals. But I didn't know what to do with the pages. Now I do!


    Rose City Reader

  3. Thank you so much for posting this! I might try a hand at it even though I'm SO impatient they will never come out as gorgeous as you.

  4. I did this too - a couple years ago. Here's my post about it:

    AND I just helped a friend make one on Tuesday night. It came out gorgeous, and I wish I would have taken pics. I agree that the different ways of rolling and making them into waves makes it look fuller.


  5. I love the Christmas trees! Maybe I'll keep some of the books I had to read for school and make a couple of these.

  6. Although I think it would hurt me a bit to destroy books that way, the book trees are really, really cute. Plus I have some older books that I was going to take to Goodwill someday, but right now are just taking up room stacked on the floor... so I may give this a whirl. Thanks for posting, they looks so pretty!

  7. They look lovely and I'll definitely take the ideas and plan some Xmas bonding-sessions with my cousins.

  8. I love these! Will have to see if I have any books that could be used for these projects. Thanks for sharing!