DIY: Halloween Tree

Fall in the Midwest is amazing.

The leaves are changing colors, the air is crisp and clean, there’s fresh apple cider, and everyone is preparing for Halloween! Between the creative costumes and the heart thumping creepiness factor, who wouldn’t love Halloween? Last year, my husband and I made a set of creepy Halloween trees. We displayed them at our Halloween wedding (directly on either side of our head table, covered in fairy lights!), but now they’ve found a place in our home among all of our other fall decorations.

Today I’m going to walk you through step-by-step how we created these awesome beauties 🙂

What You’re Gonna Need:

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  • Thick cardboard tubes (we bought concrete molding tubes at a local hardware store)
  • Chicken wire (or other moldable wire mesh)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Hot glue and glue gun
  • Newspaper or paper mache pulp
  • Masking tape
  • White glue or cornstarch
  • Water
  • Black spray paint

How to Do It…

First, figure out how big you want your trees to be and cut your cardboard tube to about two-thirds that height. We were able to create two trees out of one tube that was about six feet long to begin with. Our final trees were 4 or 5 feet tall.

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Next, take your chicken wire and cut out a section long enough to wrap twice around the cardboard tube.You will need the extra length later to create the branches.

Attaching the cardboard and chicken wire is a bit tricky. Make several cuts in the bottom edge of the chicken wire and bend the wires, alternating inward and outward before setting in place on top of the cardboard, then pinch the wires together. This allows the wire to nest on top of the cardboard. Glue everything in place well with hot glue. Make sure this is all sturdy before moving on.

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Now it’s time to make the branches! Make a cut in the chicken wire, roughly cutting the sheet of wire in half. Don’t cut all the way down to the cardboard base, but about three-quarters of the way down. Manipulate the wire to roughly form two separate branches, twisting any bare wire edges together to hold everything in place.

Add additional cuts to the top edge of the chicken wire where you feel comfortable to create more forks for separate branches. If you’re feeling daring, cut out smaller tubes of chicken wire to splice on to create even more branches. Use the pliers to twist the wires together firmly and be careful to make sure that you evenly distribute branches to either side of the tree. Too much weight on one side and the whole thing topples over!

Once you have the number of branches you like, bend them around to make them look extra craggly and creepy 🙂

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If the tree still feels a little sparse, no fear! Use aluminum foil to cover the chicken wire mesh. This adds extra stability and allows you to add additional smaller branches while filling in any large holes in your wire framework.

Now that we have a solid tree skeleton, it’s time for the paper mache. You can either use strips of torn newspaper or purchase paper mache clay or pulp at a local craft store. I’ve heard the clay version is easier to work with and creates a cool textured effect, but I’m cheap so I used my own newspaper.

Start by rolling up sheets of newspaper. Tape these vertically to the tree to add extra texture. Tape some around the base for roots and to add a little stability for the tree.

Then, using your paper mache liquid, made either from cornstarch or white glue and water, start covering the entire tree in paper mache. I’d recommend doing at least two layers, allowing the tree to dry at least 12 to 24 hours in between layers.

Now it’s time for paint! Depending on the final look you’re aiming for, you can use either matte or gloss spray paint as a base coat. We wanted black trees since our wedding colors were black and white, but you can add grey or brown highlights for a more realistic looking tree. If you’re planning to put them outside at all, make sure to add a coat of lacquer to protect the paper mache from moisture!

Since we used these for our wedding, we added some battery powered fairy lights. Slightly more whimsical than creepy that way…

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Happy Haunting!

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