Yardstick Holiday Tree


I finished my yardstick Christmas tree last weekend! I have no idea how many cuts I made or holes I drilled, but I’m sure it took over 12 hours to make. While this is not a tutorial I’ll cover the basic steps in case someone wants to take this on for their own home. I thought of this idea last year and started bidding on yardstick lots from eBay. I collected from 80-100 yardsticks and was able to use most of them. Of course, that was last summer and I had planned on building this in October.

Last week I started by marking the angle of the tree and figuring out the most efficient use of the sticks. Then I used a chop saw to cut all of the lengths. I didn’t even try to keep them in order of length. I recommend drilling the holes with a Forstner bit set up with a jig on a drill press. I tried a regular bit, but the yard stick is too thin and rattled around until the hole was a chewed up mess.

Tree-baseNext year I’m going to modify the base, however the basic idea worked out this year.  I made a few last-minute modifications, which is why there are so many parts. Basically I bolted a galvanized steel pipe to a bucket and then filled it with rocks for stability. I can toss out the rocks after the holidays and store the light weight bucket. This almost worked, but the tree tilts easily and I need more support to keep the center rod straight. I have some ideas…

tree-close-up-3I then organized all the cut yardsticks by length (took longer than expected) and stacked them on a 6 foot piece of 1/2″ all-thread. The advantage of all-thread is the ability to use bolts to make the stack of yardsticks tight on the pole. I then connected to another 18″ piece that slid into the galvanized pipe in the bucket. That means the tree is 7″-6″ tall and about 36″ wide at the base. If I can find a longer piece of all-thread next year, I may add another foot or so at the base to make it even taller and wider!

close-up1I was planning on taking my cordless Dremel and drilling holes for ornaments, but the tree is already interesting enough as is. I found these cool little lights on Amazon and that seems like enough! The whole thing folds flat and is light enough for me to carry it to the basement for storage. I’m going to take a week or so off of posting so I’ll be back the first week of January. Happy Holidays to all!!

Around the World Blog Hop

I was delighted when my sewing friend and fellow blogger Myrna Giesbrecht invited me to follow her on the Around the World Blog Hop. As Myrna explained on her entry, we officially met in the lobby of the Ashland Springs Hotel while attending the Spring DOL. While there was immediate recognition, it took a few seconds to realize that we knew each other solely through our blogs! The same day, my husband and I stopped into a restaurant for lunch and the same thing happened with Gayle Ortiz. I have invited Gayle to follow me next week on the 15th. Both women have wonderful blogs documenting their creativity. In addition, both inspired me to start my blog a little over a year ago before I had met them in person.

The Around the World Blog Hop suggests answering four questions.

#1. What am I working on?

This weekend I finished a mask for the annual fundraiser of the Fort Collins Museum of Art . While I can’t show you the 2015 mask until it gets mounted in the show next March, my art website WendyFranzen.com has a page of masks covering the last 10 years.

yardsticks-webLater today I’m starting an alternative Christmas tree project made of vintage yardsticks that I have been collecting all year. I hope to show it in next week’s blog.

lake-placid-sweaterI’m almost finished with the Lake Placid sweater. Of course that’s not the real name, but if you follow my blog you will know that I usually name my project after the most horrible movie my husband picked while knitting. Do you remember the movie? It’s about a mega-gigantic alligator that has found it’s way to Lake Placid New York. Betty White is feeding it cows, and it crashes a helicopter before they catch it. There is no way I could be making this up!

more-fabricWe drove to Dallas to celebrate Joan’s (Husband’s mom) 90th birthday. Some of you will notice that she follows my blog and often writes clever comments. She is a delight! While on the road trip, I bought tons of new fabric at a great independent Dallas area store Fabrique Fashion Fabrics. Then I bought even more in Santa Fe, NM at Santa Fe Fabrics, so I know I will be sewing something in the next few days.

I also have a few Christmas gifts in the works that I can’t show until they are given to friends. Whew! I love having projects going!

#2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

While I don’t work solely in one genre, there is a universal aesthetic that comes through in my work. My background as an architect appears throughout my work. Math, technology, nature and color all inform my design process. However, I also like to throw in the surprise of something unexpected. This is when I throw process to the wind and try to add a bit of spontaneity to the work.

#3. Why do I create what I do?

I think we all have that one thing that guarantees that we will be happier when we pursue it. My husband is always happier after watching a movie. Yes, a man-eating alligator movie actually cheers him up! If I feel the blues, or pulled in too many directions, I just need to go to my studio. Just looking at my fabric stash or planning a project puts me in a great mood. Creative pursuits define who I am. Wearing or seeing someone else wear a piece that I made gives me much joy.

#4. How does my creating process work?

I’m well trained with 8 years of architecture school and 3 years of art school, so I follow a fairly conventional process.

First, define the problem. Something like I want an alternative Christmas tree.

Second, define the parameters. Where is it going? Does it need to fold up for storage? Is there a specific size or shape needed?

Third, research influences and ideas. This tree is a good form for inspiration.onetwotree-600x400-600x400This one gave me the idea of using yardsticks.IMG_0717I love the Internet! While I did not find a tree that was exactly what I am making, the internet provided the inspiration to go in my direction.

Forth, design the project. Somewhere in the previous 3 stages the idea will gel and materials gathering starts. In the case of this tree it took several months to gather that many yardsticks.

Fifth, make it, but be flexible if an idea does not work exactly as planned.

Sounds easy and methodical, but of course there are moments of both frustration and pure inspiration.

Around the World Blog Hop Next week

Please make sure to check out Gayle’s blog: http://gayleygirl.blogspot.com. She is an inspiration to me and many other sewists, and is one busy woman. She owns a bakery and rosticceria/café that opened in 1978. Locals have told me that this is not simply a bakery, but a destination not to be missed! In addition, she’s on her town planning commission, so I have no idea how she manages to sew. Like many of us, she learned to sew as a young girl and has only started again in the last 10 years when she travelled to New Zealand and learned a sweater reconstruction technique from a very creative gal. She sews art clothing and everyday clothing occasionally for sale but mostly for herself.

Eco-Dyeing with Ayn Hanna

Eco-Dyeing_11This last October I took an eco-dyeing class with local Fort Collins artist Ayn Hanna. It was just a whim to try something new, and this process is very different from anything I’d tried before. Ayn is very organized and had class notes and worksheets all ready for us. She also had various leaves, natural dye baths and a couple of steamers heated up. The plant knowledge needed for this type of dying is more than I can describe in this blog, but there are several good books on the subject. I highly recommend taking a class from Ayn or someone in your area.


Preferably starting with wool or silk, start by soaking your natural fabric in water. Then wring the piece out, lay it flat and place an assortment of leaves on top. Using a dowel or copper pipe roll the fabric strip tight and bind with cord before placing the bundle in a steamer or dye bath. You can see the cord binding on the bottom edge of the dyed cloth where the dye bath is also the strongest. After soaking for several hours minimum, the bundles sat in my garage for about 3 weeks until I unwrapped them to see the magic.Eco-Dyeing_10

Why are some of the leaves black and some orange? Well that is where the knowledge and experience come in. Strangely enough, eucalyptus leaves dye the fabric orange, but I didn’t get consistent results on this first try.Eco-Dyeing_4

The piece above had some raspberry juice added, and I love the colors!

Eco-Dyeing_2This one is on rayon and silk velvet. It ended up a gorgeous texture and sheen.

One of the challenges for me with this type of dying is the washability of the textile. Setting the dyes is not as sure as when using fiber reactive dyes. I made about 20 pieces of varying success that weekend and plan on experimenting with setting the dye on some of the rejects first. Will I use this dye process in the future? Well I might take the class every year! The set up was extensive with 5 dye baths and two steamers for about 8 of us to share. If I did this at home I think I would need to choose just one or two dye baths…maybe onion peel and walnut. Steaming worked well, but more pastel and I like a deeper color palette.


Eco-Dyeing_9I’m sure that you will see some of these appear on future blogs, even if I only make purses out of them they would be beautiful! Thanks Ayn!