When I saw that my partner in the HO3 (that’s “HO HO HO”) swap had a fondness for Victorian Christmas Trees, I knew what I had to make.
The tree started out to be true 1/12 scale, but because I had to raise the base (to hide some wires), it turned out to be about 11″ — which is larger than the average tree (and larger than I intended), but let’s just say it’s a 1/12 scale tree for a room with a cathedral ceiling.
The tree is a standard “bottle brush” tree covered in “princess pine” (Lycopodium). There are scads of tutorials on how to make such Christmas Trees — the one I found the most helpful was at Victoria MiniLand. Obviously, I went for a fuller, messier shaped tree, but the instructions for attaching the princess pine are the same. Just don’t be so neat in measuring branches and such.
I found the bottle brush tree on Etsy and purchased the princess pine from one of my favorite mini-suppliers, Kitz! Miniatures. I used nearly two full bags from MiniKitz.
If you ever do a tree like this, I offer this tip: some of the bits of princess pine will be too stiff and branchlike. You might be tempted to throw those bits away, but don’t. They come in very handy for hanging heavier pieces (like the cones) or pieces that need to be wired in place (like the candles).
The Victorians didn’t go in for fancy tree skirts (I know, odd that they didn’t tart up the skirt with an excess of tassels, beads, and lace), but rather used a simple white cotton skirt to represent snow. The only fancy bit was tossing on some Epsom Salts to make it sparkle.
I just happened to have a real honest Victorian Petticoat (1880s – 1890s) that was in sad and pathetic shape, but had enough “good” fabric (i.e., not stained, ripped, or filled with holes) to make a skirt (and hide a bunch of wires).
On other end, I had a LOT of ideas about how to handle the tree topper.
But they were all terrible, terrible ideas.
So I ended up where every desperate person with terrible ideas ends up — Google. I found the most wondrous crafty blog with the perfect template for making a 3D Star Tree Topper. Granted, I had to reduce the pattern, but that’s the only change I had to make. I printed the star on plain computer paper, followed the easy-peasy construction tips, and painted it gold. Et voilà!
Even if you don’t need a 3D star tree topper pattern, the Crafting Creatures blog is well worth visiting for the Paper Crafty Eye Candy (the quilled Mickey Mouse is one of my faves).
The paper cones on the tree were inspired by an article in the 1869 Cassell’s Household Guide. The ones with red stripes are filled with “sugar plums” — which are not plums in sugar, but rather a dried fruit concoction that sounds a lot like fruitcake without the cake. The ones with green stripes have hard candies.
The paper cut out decorations (a popular craft for Victorian Era kiddos) are gingerbread men and stars. Yes, I painted each little gingerbread man. But given the “kid craft” nature of these, I wasn’t concerned with the perfect paint job.
The popcorn and cranberry garland is made from tiny balls of styrofoam that was pinched, squished, torn, colored with various markers and paints, and then strung on beading thread. It was a bit tedious, but the only real requirement for making this garland is a skinny-minnie beading needle. Because the bits of styrofoam are so wee, a regular needle just tears through the styrofoam and nothing stays on the thread.
The candles were made from wee bits of polymer clay formed on 30 gauge (skinnnny) wire. When I started attaching the wicks, Mr. Jivvy thought I’d gone round the bend. Always a good sign.
There are lights on the tree (but of course!) — two strands of lights with battery packs. The battery packs are disguised as plainly wrapped packages under the tree. The packages are so tall to accommodate the on/off switch in both positions.
The HO3 swap was to include “one large HO” (the tree) and “two small HOs that related to the large HO”. What else could I do but make two toys to go under the tree.
First, the elephant pull toy. Made out of bits of paper, cardboard, scrap wood, a bit of string, and beads.
And second, the BLISS (American) and GOTTSCHALK (German) inspired dollhouse. The Bliss and Gottschalk houses were fanciful, lithographed, and not overly concerned with issues of scale. It was not uncommon for Bliss houses to use scraps of over-sized lace for curtains.
The house is made of paper and scrap bits of wood (the steps, columns, etc). Oh, and the over-sized lace curtains.
And, last but not least, the scale shot: