Wreaths aren’t just for Christmas, which is very good news, as there are two …. let’s say, not quite finished… wreaths in our sunroom ,waiting patiently for attention that did not arrive before Christmas. I’m sure you can all relate to the rush that the weeks before Christmas become, and especially this year at our house, as my daughter has started school and, shockingly, has developed a busier social life than we adults have, what with the Christmas pageant and an outing with Granny to see her first panto. Hmmm. Need to think about whether that is festive, or inhumane!
When not playing with her new toys, my little helper has been keeping an eye on the drying flowers hanging quietly in the hallway closet. I have been reminded not a few times that I did promise her some wreath-making and the flowers “are done sleeping”. So, this past weekend I threw an old sheet down over the kitchen table and got started.
First, I showed her how to poke the heads gently, to check for the proper stiffness. In late October we hung up some roses, heather, baby’s breath, and statice. The purple and yellow of the statice held up beautifully; the pink roses have faded a bit, and shrunk, but that is to be expected.
Traditional holiday, whether Christmas or New Year’s or Twelfth Night (we missed that one, too… sigh), wreaths are made with textured leaves, twigs and berries, cedar, pine, fir, redwood, magnolia and oak clippings, parsley and sage, and of course lots and lots of holly, but if you find time closing in, forgo the darkest foliage and include more flowers. If you have a willow tree, lucky you, they make excellent bases for winter wreaths.
To get started, regardless of “ingredients”, all recipes are about the same. Use a wire wreath frame or even make your own from a wire coat hanger- just unbend and rebend into a circle. You can use the hook to hang your finished wreath. Finished wreaths will be about 2-3 inches larger than the frame, so judge accordingly.
Gather together scissors, fabric remnants or ribbons, pins – florist pins if you have them – fishing line, wire and a selection of leaves, flowers and the like, with long stems.
Once you have a proper circle, or square, if that is your desire, attach floral wire – sometimes called paddle wire – anywhere along the frame. Tie it to the frame at that point with fishing nylon. and keep unspooling it and wrapping as you go around the frame. Heavy-duty thread can also be used, but it is a risky choice. Before things get bulky, attach a bit of wire on the back for hanging, or cut a length of ribbon and run it through the back so you can hang the wreath from a hook or nail.
I like to decide where the bows are going to be first. I cut 2 foot streamers of gold or textured ribbon, depending on the size of the finished wreath and how big you’d like the bows to be, and loop under the fishing line. Leave the ends loose for now.
Start with the lightest color leaves, arranging several sprigs, stems outward, to make a curved row circling the form. Tuck the longer stems under the fishing line, and use the florist pins to attach the shorter stems.
Create a second and third row with the rest of the foliage so that the three rows are equidistant from each other. Be sure to keep all sprigs curving in the same direction and to overlap the sprigs to hide the pins.
Using the same technique, make overlapping rows all around the form. You should now have ten to twelve rows on the form. If you are adding berries or twigs or anything small, carefully attach them to wire and shove the wire deep into the wreath. Give it a good shake. If it moves, you’ll have to dig down into the wreath and press the ends of the berry-wire around the central wire to secure.
Now tie the bows, make any adjustments, and there you go. Remember, there are 12 days of Christmas, but January and February go on forever. That gives you lots of time to get beautiful homemade gifts into the hands and homes of those that will treasure them.
Francesca Biddle Weston