All fall-long, Delaney and Sinclaire have been leading retreat center groups through wreath making. It’s a great holiday craft, with room to get really creative. Thanks to Laney for putting together this tutorial!
Don’t know what to get someone for Christmas this year? Or maybe you need a little more Christmas spice on your front door? Why not make a wreath? They’re beautiful, they smell nice, it gives you a chance to stretch your creative legs (fingers, really), and it’s definitely a lot cheaper than buying one in a store.
Disclaimer: Wreath making WILL bring out the perfectionist in YOU!s
Before you start making your wreath, consider what shape you want your wreath to take. The traditional circle is a good place to start, but if you’re feeling particularly crafty, go ahead and try a heart, a star, a cross, or perhaps even a candy cane.
To start, you’ll need a backbone: A reusable frame which gives your wreath its shape and provides a surface on which to mount your chosen materials.You can make your backbone from a few different things. Here at Camp Stevens, we typically use dry, clean straw wrapped with craft wire, giving you total control over shape and size. We’ve recently been adding grapevines into the mix to provide more strength and symmetry, but with it we lose some control over shape. If you’re really aching to make a heart-shaped wreath, go with straw; if not, throw in some grapevines, or scratch the straw entirely. You can also make a backbone from a coat hanger by bending it into the shape you want your wreath. However, coat hanger backbones do not provide as much surface area as a straw or grapevine backbone would, making it a little harder (but not impossible) to attach your materials. But don’t just stop there! You can always mix and match your backbone materials to achieve the desired shape and strength.
If you don’t have a bunch of straw, grapevines, or wire coat hangers lying around (Nobody’s going to blame you!), than you can hop on over to your favorite craft store and buy a wreath form.
- Straw, grapevines, a coat hanger, a store-bought frame, or whatever you think will work to make your backbone
- Craft wire (can be found at your favorite craft store in the floral or jewelry section)
- Your wreath materials! Consider: Real and/or fake flowers, sticks, berries, leaves, grass, herbs, feathers, ribbons, etc. Go crazy!
- Material dependent: hot glue gun and glue
- Building your backbone: Before your start, consider what size your wreath is going to be. I highly recommend starting small, especially for your first wreath, simply because the smaller the wreath, the less materials and work you have to do. I personally shoot for the inner circle of my backbone to be around 5 inches in diameter since the size and fullness of your wreath depends on the materials you place on your backbone. If you have a specific place in mind for your wreath, it might be a good idea to measure how much space you want between any features you plan to hang your wreath around. (ex: door knockers, peep holes, etc.)
- Straw backbone:
- Grab a handful of straw, around 1 inch in diameter, and wrap it a couple times with your craft wire (Do not cut wire.).
- Continue to add straw by stuffing another handful into an end and secure by wrapping with more wire.
- As your backbone gains length, start to bend the straw into the desired shape (Don’t worry if it starts to crack, you can go back and reinforce those areas with more straw and wire after you’ve completed the circle.).
- If you are having difficulty manipulating the straw, use either a wire hanger or a grapevine to achieve your shape and wrap straw around it.
- Grapevine backbone
- Loop the grapevines around in a circle and wrap together with craft wire.
- You will need enough grapevines to make multiple layers in your circle. If you don’t have enough, you can add some straw to bulk it up.
- If the vines aren’t supple enough, soak them in water until they are flexible.
- Straw backbone:
- Wire hanger backbone
- You can use as many hangars as you want More coat hangers means more surface area to attach your materials.
- Undo the “coat hanger” form and straighten out the kinks in your wire
- Make a circle with the wire, overlapping if necessary, and either wrap the overlapping pieces around each other, or use craft wire to attach the ends securely.
- Mix and match!
- If you’re planning on mixing and matching, start with the sturdier material first and add less sturdy materials after (wire à grapevine à straw)
When you’re satisfied with your backbone (it’s important to remember that you will not see your backbone when your wreath is finished, so a few pokeys here and there can still be perfect!) make a little loop with the wire so that you can hang your wreath up when it’s all done. The loop indicates the top of your wreath.Once you make a backbone, you never have to make it again! When you are done with your wreath, don’t just throw it away: Discard the plant matter and materials from the backbone and save it for the next season!
2. Gathering and adding materials: When searching for materials, you want to consider wreath longevity. While you certainly can buy wet foam backbones to create a “living wreath,” most wreaths do not provide water to the plants they carry and thus dry out. Typically, things that have a flimsy and delicate structure do not dry well or will droop. It’s always better to cut your plants longer than you think you might want them – you can cut more off later, but you can never make them longer!
- If you are harvesting off the land (especially when it is not your own), I like to keep 2 rules in mind:
- Keep the plant alive
- Keep the plant beautiful
- Backbones that include straw or grapevines:There are a couple different ways you can add material to your backbone:
- Stuff the ends of your material (you may need to cut down the stems) into the straw or grapevines until they are secure.
- Place your material on top of the backbone and wrap with craft wire until secure.
- Do a little of both!
- Continue to add materials until your wreath is complete.
- Backbones made from only wire
- Place material on top of the wire backbone and wrap with craft wire until secure
- Continue to add materials until your wreath is complete
3. Hang it up!