This is a special request post. A friend of mine keeps asking how one makes wreaths, and though I have given answers like, “You just wire the stuff onto a form until it’s done,” that hasn’t seemed to be answer enough. So here you go:
1. Get your stuff.
“What kind of stuff?” I am asked. Well, shoot. Any kind of stuff. This is a cheap project. Look around. Some folks buy their materials (shudder!), but, really, is that necessary? When we lived in town, I made wreaths from the old fir tree in the back yard, the boxwood shrub, and the arbor vitae hedge. If you don’t have your own, it’s not too hard to find someone who will share. Everyone who has a hedge wants it pruned. Landscape evergreens make great wreath materials. Take a drive in the country, stop someplace that looks friendly, and ask to cut enough for a wreath. Just seek out evergreen foliage, berries, cones, and things that look like they will last a while.
Avoid: Holly. I mean it. If you have body armor and can work in gloves, then go ahead and make holly wreaths. They will be beautiful, and I will kneel before you in homage. Holly is the most awful thing to work with I have ever imagined. You cannot hold onto it anywhere without it sticking you, and if you get some built into a wreath, then you can’t pick up the wreath to show it off. And you bleed. You bleed out of a hundred tiny wounds. Saints used to bleed like this.
If you want to bleed just a little, perhaps to make yourself feel like the princess in a fairy tale? The stems of the wild roses (see below for my list of ingredients) will work fine.
But you can also de-thorn them and work safely in the world of real things. If you make this wreath, you won’t have to be a fairy-tale princess; people will think you are a Queen!
Maybe avoid: Juniper. Garden beds around offices and schools are full of juniper plants. Juniper has attack spines on the ends of its lovely fronds. They stick you and leave itchy welts. It’s not as bad as holly, but you really want to be prepared to have a good rash for the rest of the weekend if you use it in wreathmaking.
My stuff presently is Douglas Fir, native Salal (Gaultheria shallon), Scotch Broom — or Common Broom, to those across the pond — (Cytisus scoparius), and wild rose hips. But the recipe changes from time to time. I just look around for what might be had.
Buy some wire. You do have to lay out something for the wire. I buy 24 gauge “paddle wire” at the craft shop: $1.49 gets you enough for a couple of wreaths on forms about 12 inches in diameter.
2. Make your form. No! don’t buy one!
When I was young and foolish, I did buy them. And then one year I came up short on forms, so I twisted a couple of limber branches into hoops, wired them up, and went to town. It may not be perfectly round when you start, but by the time you’ve worked all the way around it with your greens, it will be.
I ask you to use a little restraint here. A 12-inch hoop will make into a finished wreath of about 24 inches in diameter. That’s big enough for a door wreath. I’m warning you: if you start out with a form the size you have in mind for the final product, you will be really surprised at the end. You will be able to hoola-hoop it around your hips. You will be able to jump through it on horseback.
3. Make some greenery into small pieces.
Pull or snip off pieces that can become little bouquets, and…
4. Wire them onto the form.
You already have wire going around the form to hold the branches together. Just keep on spiraling the wire around the form, catching the ends of the fronds or other branches under the wire.
5. Add new ingredients in layers.
Don’t skimp on material. Make your wreath thick and bushy. You can always trim later, but it’s a real pain in the butt to add stuff in after you’ve finished and realize, too late, your wreath is skinny.
Some things can be added on the back of the wreath. Here I’ve put on some Scotch Broom that will stick out in swishes off the sides of the wreath:
6. When you get to the end, fold back the material you laid in first and find space to tuck the last few stems of foliage.
Work the wire back and forth between leaves to keep them perky and undamaged while you find a place to wrap.
7. Sew in the end of the wire someplace on the back, and there you have it. Hang your wreath someplace and stand back to admire it.
(Click any images for bigger display.)