Umbrella usage is ubiquitous during all seasons in South Korea. While walking on the streets one can suddenly become engulfed in a sea of umbrellas at the onset of a slight mist. If making your way through crowds on a bright day, you must keep a watchful eye or risk being nicked by umbrellas opened to shield the sun’s rays. To provide for the culture’s demand, stores supply a wide variety of umbrellas in many different styles, colors and qualities. Despite the availability of well-made, long-lasting umbrellas, cheap, low-quality umbrellas seem to prevail, especially when one can pick up an umbrella for a buck if they are caught empty-handed when an unexpected storm strikes. Evidence of this is found not only on store racks, but by the sight of broken umbrellas along the side of the road, in the bushes, or lying atop garbage piles outside of apartment complexes and businesses.
For months my husband and I have been occasionally collecting broken umbrellas, sometimes surprised to find that an umbrella is not broken at all but simply nicked on the handle or missing the velcro strap. We put the umbrellas that still work properly to good use and set aside the broken ones so that we can determine a better use for them than the garbage.
Last weekend, while emptying a small bag of Christmas decorations, my eyes fell on a box of miniature ball ornaments. In the corner, lay my stack of broken umbrellas. What followed was a trip to the hardware store, an hour of fancy finger work, and an upcycled Christmas tree.
Need a Christmas tree but don’t want to buy a plastic one from the store? Have a broken umbrella in the back of your closet that you’ve been meaning to toss? You too, can make an upcycled umbrella Christmas tree! Here’s how:
one broken umbrella, with a straight (unhooked) handle
one rubber band
needle nose pliers with a wire cutter
assorted ornaments and lights (optional)
Begin by removing the canopy (cloth part) from the umbrella by cutting just around the top of the umbrella (the cap). Carefully remove the canopy from the ribs of the umbrella by snipping just the strings or unhooking the fabric from the ribs. You can use the canopy to act as a Christmas treeskirt or save it for a future upcycle project.
While holding the handle, lift up the umbrella to determine the heighth and width of your tree. When you have found the perfect size, wrap the rubber band around the stem of the umbrella, a little lower than your desired height. The rubber band will act as a guide for the next step.
Take a 2-foot piece of the craft wire and, leaving a small piece of the end loose, begin wrapping the wire around the stem of the umbrella again and again, just above the rubberband. Test your tree by holding it up by the handle. If the wire “catches” the umbrella notch and holds your tree shape in place, you are ready to cut the wire, leaving the other end loose as well. Twist the wire ends together, using the pliers until the wire is tightly secured around the umbrella stem.
If your umbrella has a nook that you can tuck the twisted wire ends into like mine, great! If not, bend them into a decorative hoop to protect your fingers from the sharp wire. Unwrap or snip the rubberband to remove it.
Bend each rib upwards (the natural way an umbrella folds) and secure the rib ends to the rib tops (close to the top cap) with wire.
If your handle can stand up sturdily on its own, splendid! My umbrella handle was rounded, so I hot glued it to a bottle lid.
Your Christmas tree is now ready to decorate! You can make it festive and gaudy with various lights, garlands, and tinsel, or choose to keep it more rustic with a few simple ornaments.
I hope you have enjoyed this project and will try it at home. Feel free to share your own upcycled holiday decorating ideas in the comment section below.