Recently, I found myself caught up in the tree of life phenomenon. Specifically, I took a real interest in wire-wrapped, handmade tree of life pendants. I had an opportunity to take a three-hour class, held by Wattle Tree Designs, at a local gift shop. Boy, was that a lot of fun! Women, beads, laughter, and the age-old art of passing down a craft from one person to another. I was hooked! Read on for inspiration and instructions on how to make your own tree of life pendants.
During the class, I made sure to take good notes, along with lots of pictures, so that I could share my experience with GeekMom readers and my girlfriend Michelle. I made sure that I could recreate the same size and style pendant that I made in the class. Walking through the process on my own really helped me remember what I was doing! Then, I showed my girlfriend what to do. We were both pleased to produce a beautiful pendant. If you give it a try, I think you’ll enjoy it too!
After making a few basic tree of life pendants, I searched for ways to add a little flair to my own creations. Pinterest and lots of pictures off Etsy were my inspiration for spicing things up a bit and adding some unique charm to my pendants.
I made a trip to my local craft store and picked up a variety of Swarovski crystal elements, 24 gauge wire, o-rings, jump rings, and bails. Those items, along with a lighted magnifying lamp and a pair of round-nose pliers, were the tools that I used to create my pendants. Of course, you’ll need some sort of coordinating chain too. I went with silver-tone metals, but copper, antique brass, or gold tone also work well.
The only difficult item to find are the o-rings. It’s tough to find closed rings that are in the 1- to 1.5-inch range. I resorted to re-purposing some earrings and large chain loops from the local thrift store’s jewelry craft bags. I even took apart a wrought iron candle holder to get just the right size black loop. Napkin holders and curtain hooks might also work.
These days, I find myself needing reading glasses for everything. It’s so frustrating! I’m pleased to report that although I needed my glasses and the lighted magnifying lamp to create the tree of life pendants, I am able to see what I’m doing most of the time without too much eye strain. I can also point the wire at the hole in the bead without really finding the hole with my eyes.
Basic Tree of Life Tutorial
Let me walk you through the steps for a basic tree of life pendant. Note that these instructions build the tree from the top to the bottom. You build the upper branches and add the crystals first, and then create the tree trunk and roots.
1. First you need to find an o-ring that’s 1 to 2 inches in diameter. You need something big enough that you can create a tree inside of it, but not so big that you don’t want to wear it.
2. Cut six 8-inch pieces of 24-gauge wire. This works well for up to 1.5-inch o-rings. Increase the length of the wire for larger o-rings. You don’t want the wire so long that you are fighting looping and wrapping it. You also don’t want to get to the end of your project and find out the wire is too short.
3. Gently bend each piece of wire in half. You are making a shape that resembles a fish.
4. One at a time, secure the wires to the o-ring. Place the bend in the middle of the wire against the o-ring. Then, take one end of the wire and loop it around the o-ring twice. Pull each end of the wire as tight as you can around the o-ring. You’ll end up with six pairs of wire attached to the o-ring.
Note: When you pull the wires to tighten, use the round pliers and pull from the outer 1cm of wire. That way, you don’t crimp or break the wire in an undesired spot in or close to your design.
5. Take one pair of wires, and put two crystals on each one (four crystals total). Twist the two wires together to secure those crystals keeping them as close to the ring as possible as you twist. You want to twist two or three times. Repeat with the other five 2-wire pairs. You can use one color crystal for the entire tree or mix and match. Remember that the first bead on is at the top of the tree, and the last bead on is closer to the center of the tree.
6. Take two wire bead pairs (four wires total) that are side-by-side, and twist those wires together six to eight times depending on how long you want your branches to be and how big the o-ring is. Your branches shouldn’t take up more than half of the o-ring.
7. Repeat with the other wire pairs, always using two that are side-by-side and working consecutively from one side to the other. When I mixed crystal colors, I liked to put darker colored beads lower and lighter colored beads higher to simulate the depth of a real tree.
8. At this point, you should have six twisted wires, each with four crystals on the branches above. Take three consecutive twisted wires, and twist them together several times to create an even larger inner branch.
9. Repeat with the other three consecutive twisted wires.
10. Now, you should have two large branches. Twist those two branches together to form the tree trunk. End the tree trunk near the bottom of the o-ring.
11. Take each separate wire and wrap it around the o-ring at the base of the tree to create the roots. You can create the wraps as separate roots or wrap them close by and near each other to create one large, swirled root.
12. Take special care to finish the root wire wraps so that the sharp ends are facing away from the wearer/fabric. Use wire cutters to trim as necessary.
13. Secure the jump ring and bail at the top of the pendant.
Silhouette Tree of Life with Background Stone Tutorial
Another super-cool tree of life variation you can make uses a stone as large as the ring itself (or as close as you can get). I followed a tutorial that used a blue lapis stone. I went with a stone that looked like the ground and sky (or is that water and sunset/sunrise?). Note that the stone you pick needs to have a hole running through the middle of it. In this case, you don’t put any small crystals on the upper tree branches. You want your tree to look like the silhouette of a tree that has lost all of its leaves.
This tutorial starts at the bottom, attaching the roots, then building the trunk and branches. I had good success following the tutorial, except that I accidentally broke the wire going through my large stone bead just when I was almost done with the pendant. Thankfully, I was able to take the stone wire off, cut a new wire, and squeeze it back into my root-and-branch design. I’ve done a couple of these pendants now, and on my subsequent attempts, I put the stone wire on at the bottom among the roots. However, I waited to attach the large stone and secure the wire at the top until I was done with the rest of the pendant. This worked fine and resolved my stress about breaking the large stone wire again. Also, my stone was slightly smaller than the o-ring, so I used a small seed bead on the top and bottom to take up the extra space.
Steampunk Tree of Life Tutorial
I really wanted to make a tree of life pendant with a steampunk theme. I found one online that I liked, and I set out to make a similar one. I had purchased some craft store clock gears, but they were too big. Then I remembered that my father’s father was from Switzerland and had repaired clocks for a living. I also remembered storing a basket full of his old clock parts in the attic, and I had a great time pulling them out and picking out a few pieces to use. I felt a little guilty disturbing his things and using the antique clock parts, but I told myself that using his parts was okay, because of the large quantity of tiny gears he had. Plus, this was going to be a personal piece of jewelry for me to enjoy. I felt sure it would help me preserve, and feel close to, my family heritage. If you don’t have access to tiny clock gears and parts and want to recreate this necklace, you can find lots of old clock parts on eBay.
The picture that I had to go by built the tree from the bottom roots up to the branches. The roots were very crooked and bent, as was the tree trunk and branches. I did a little extra work with the round-nose pliers to get the desired spooky feel. Also, to get a truly vintage feel, I used an antique brass o-ring from an old pair of thrift store earrings along with antique brass wire. My o-ring was a little bigger than my previous projects, nearly 2 inches, and I knew I would need more wire to accommodate the increased size as well as to wrap the gears into the tree. I cut eight 8-inch pieces of wire for the tree. I found the gears very hard to secure. Instead of lying flat, they wanted to turn perpendicular to the tree. I ended up overfilling the tree with gears so that I could use the gears to hold each other in place. By overlapping them, I prevented them from turning.
Tree of Life Surrounded by Moon Tutorial
I love moon, sun, and stars themes, and when I saw a tree of life pendant that had a moon wrapped around it, I knew I had to give it a try too!
1. You need two o-rings to make a moon-wrapped tree of life pendant. One o-ring should be a little bigger than the other. I used a 1-inch-wide o-ring and a 1.5-inch-wide o-ring.
2. Create a tree of life in the 1-inch o-ring using the same technique used above in the basic tree of life pendant. It doesn’t matter if you work bottom to top or top to bottom.
3. Use an 8-inch piece of wire to connect the small o-ring with the tree of life to the large o-ring. I did this on the right side of the front of the small tree of life o-ring, to the right side of the large empty o-ring.
4. Continue wrapping around the inner ring and outer ring. I did this in a counter-clockwise direction, but it doesn’t matter if you go down or up.
5. If you run out of wire, wrap the end around one of the rings several times, cut the wire, and push it out of the way. Start with a new 8-inch wire, wrapping it around one of the o-rings several times, and then continuing to wrap it around both rings, adding crystals for the moon as needed and as will fit.
6. You will be wrapping over some of the roots on the small o-ring. That’s fine.
7. As soon as you get to a spot where there is enough room for a crystal, put one on the wire on the front side of the pendant.
8. Keep wrapping, putting one or two crystals on the wire as you pass by the front of the pendant.
9. When the gap between the large and small o-rings gets too small to accommodate a crystal, just go back to wrapping.
10. When you reach the spot where you started the loop, wrap the wire around one of the rings several times, and then cut and push the wire out of the way.
Louise Goodchild Tree of Life Tutorial
If you’re looking for a more detailed and dainty tree of life pendant, check out the tutorial by Louise Goodchild. Michelle and I gave the tutorial a try with mixed results. We started out using wire that was too big/thick for the leaves and flowers. Michelle switched to smaller wire and had good success. I ended up creating a strand of flowers and leaves and then wrapping them into my tree, instead of making them along the way. Still, we want to give this technique another try.
Tree of Life Suncatcher
You can also make larger tree of life designs and use them as suncatchers. I used a 3-inch o-ring with 14 8-inch wires. I also used glass chip beads instead of crystals or seed beads.
Additional Tree of Life Ideas
I have ideas for other tree of life pendants too:
1. I’d like to create a cobweb with blackbirds and spiders.
2. I want to try some different pendant shapes like oval, triangle, and rectangle.
3. I think moss agate would make for a beautiful tree silhouette backdrop.
4. I think a black o-ring with black tree wire would look great with an orange harvest moon bead.
Check out my Tree of Life Pinterest board for more ideas!
Feature image photo by Maryann Goldman.