It may seem a bit early for this type of blog, but honestly, Christmas will be upon us sooner than we can blink. In addition, you will need to start gathering some of the materials for your wreath now with the onset of Autumn.
I don’t purport to be an expert at wreath-making, but I have been making them (and selling them) for more than fifteen years. In the beginning, I drove about forty-five minutes to an auction where I bid on greens which, if won, I would then load onto the tarp-covered back seat of my car, drive them home and unload them outside my studio (as they are best kept in the cold). To make the wreaths, I cut each bough to size, laid them out on the metal ring, clamped them all into place, after which I decorated each one with further greens, dried flowers, pine cones, etc.
Now, however, I start with plain wreaths purchased at various local nurseries, saving time and back-breaking work. I would suggest you do the same, although you certainly don’t have to—still, that is where I am beginning my instructions: with the “blank” pre-made wreath.
List of Things to Gather before Starting (material, tools)
- Wreath, of course;
- Hand pruner (or, in lieu thereof, an old steak knife you don’t plan to use at your dinner table or for any other reasonable task again);
- Green florist wire and (or) hot-glue gun and glue sticks;
- Dried flowers (I often use Queen Anne’s Lace, cut while fresh and hung upside down to dry), seed heads, dried grasses, and various weeds gathered after Autumn sets in;
- Pine cones;
- Greens, such as arborvitae, holly, cedar, boxwood, long-needle pine;
- White and gold acrylic craft paint and a cheap paint brush;
- Ribbon and other decoration;
- Newspaper, if you plan to work indoors.
Always make sure the wreath you buy is fresh, ensuring that it will last through the season and beyond. Quite often, the wreath I make on Thanksgiving weekend still hangs on my door in March. To check for freshness, pinch the needles between thumb and forefinger. They should feel slightly moist if not sticky and leave a residue of scent on your skin. Also, the color should be bright. If the needles feel dry, fall off at the touch, have started to pale or, worse, are brown, move on until you find the right wreath for you. Before you begin shopping for your wreath, make sure you have already prepared your embellishments.
Queen Anne’s Lace: This wildflower grows just about everywhere here in the Northeast, blooming in late June/early July and can still be found blooming into the Fall. Cut the flowers several weeks after blooming, with about a seven-inch stem attached. Wrap a rubber band around the stems and hang the bunches upside down in a dry place until wreath-making time. The white blossoms turn a lovely color.
Seed heads/weeds: The gathering of these items takes place in Autumn, when everything has naturally died back. I have an abundance of Rudbeckia (common name: Black- or Brown-Eyed Susan) growing in my yard. The goldfinches and other birds love the seeds, so I leave about two-thirds of the seed heads in place for them. I also shake the cut heads out before bringing inside, to permit lose seeds to fall back to the earth where the plants have been growing. Leave about seven inches of stem attached to the heads.
Once inside, I place them all in a tall container (usually a glass) in preparation of painting them. The same goes for various other seeded specimens I find. If they stay together well and are attractive, I’ll cut some for my wreaths and set them aside for painting as well. I do not paint the seeded grasses. The delicate fronds would be weighted down.
If you are giving the wreath to someone, make sure you shake loose seeds from every plant you gather. You wouldn’t want something you find perfectly acceptable on your property deciding to set up residence with your neighbor.
Next: It All Comes Together. Check back on Thursday for Wreath-Making 101, Part 2!
Wreath Making 101, Part 1 and Wreath Making 101, Part 2 are the copyrighted product of Robin Maderich and will be part of an upcoming book on Christmas crafts.