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Soda bottle Christmas tree teaches gathering techniques

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Recycle an empty soda bottle into a country Christmas tree decoration, and teach basic sewing techniques for making a ruffle at the same time. The tree can be made from any size bottle. Coke products work best because the neck is more tapered than the store brand, but any brand will do.

First decide how much fabric or lace you will need by wrapping a tape measure around the bottle in a spiral. Start about two inches from the bottom, and wrap around the bottle about an inch and a half apart. This is how much gathered fabric you will need to make.

Cut strips of fabric that are four inches wide and two to three times as long as that measurement. For a 2-liter bottle, I used four yards. Fold under a half inch on each end of the strip, and iron. Fold the fabric in half width-wise and iron.

There are several ways to gather the fabric into a ruffle. To teach hand sewing, use heavy thread and sew a straight stitch through both cut edges down the length of the fabric. Scoot the fabric down the thread to make a ruffle. Make a knot every six inches or so. If the thread breaks, you won’t lose the entire ruffle, and will only have to fix one section.

Some sewing machines have a ruffling attachment. This is a good experiment for learning how to use it. Follow the machine’s instructions, sewing through both cut edges of the length.

A serger can also be used to make ruffles. Adjust the differential feed according to the machine’s instructions.

Put a small amount of play sand or kitty litter into a clean, empty soda bottle. This filler will give it some weight so that it doesn’t tip over. Use hot glue to attach the ruffle to the bottle, beginning at the bottom and spiraling up to the top. Overlap each row enough to cover up the stitching. All-purpose glue can also be used to attach the fabric to the bottle, but it will probably need to be taped in place until the glue dries.

At the top of the bottle, curl the end of the fabric into a cone. If the fabric needs to be trimmed, fold under the cut edge so that it doesn’t show.

Cut two star shapes from yellow felt. Cut a cardboard star, and trim the edges ¼ inch so that the cardboard won’t show. Glue the cardboard star to one star shape. Apply glue to the top three points of the star, and glue on the other felt shape. Spread the bottom points apart, and glue them to the top of the cone.

Buttons, sequins or bows can be glued to the fabric for decorations if desired.

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