Make festive wreaths with natural materials
The quality and variety of holiday wreaths available for sale this year are impressive, according to Chip Miller, horticulturist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.
In addition to the odd wreath of fabric, wood or barbed wire, the retail offerings include lovely ones made from all kinds of natural plant materials -- such as evergreen boughs, nuts in the shell, pine cones, pods, grapevines, herbs, twigs, straw. "Of course, those kinds of materials can be available as close as your own back yard, too," Miller adds. "So, you may just want to ignite your imagination by visiting stores or craft shows. Then you can go home to design your own."
Making a wreath is a simple process that requires few tools, and with a little practice, crafters often find the most time-consuming part is also one of the most fun: deciding which materials to use.
Miller recommends starting with a purchased wire wreath form or a homemade frame made from heavyweight wire. The only other needed supplies are wire cutters and some 20-gauge "wrapping" wire.
He also suggests that beginners keep things simple by selecting flexible greenery as the wreath´s base material. "Dried crop plants -- grapevine, wheat straw, milo -- can make a beautiful wreath," Miller says. "But, they´re not the easiest for novices to use." For example, straw can be difficult to keep contained in place. You often have to soak grapevine to make it flexible and then finish shaping it while it´s damp.
The plant world also can provide decorative additions to adorn a wreath - during or after its base construction. Some possibilities are interesting seed heads or pods, twigs with berries, ornamental grass fronds, and such wooly-looking perennial leftovers as dried lavender and silver-edged horehound.
Miller outlined the steps in the wreath base-building process this way:
1. Collect 10- to 18-inch lengths from the terminal end of evergreen branches. (The 18-inch lengths can be easier to work with because they require less wiring.) On average, you´ll need three pieces per foot of wreath circumference.
2. Attach the wrapping wire to the wire frame by making 6-8 wraps around the frame, overlapping in back.
3. On the front of the frame, lay a piece of greenery over the wraps. Attach its cut end to the frame by circling the greenery and frame twice with the wrapping wire.
4. Cover the lower one-half to two-thirds of that branch with another piece of greenery and wire-wrap it into place. Repeat until the frame is covered.
5. When finished, tie off the wrapping wire so that the knot or twist is not visible from the front of the wreath. Use the ends of that tie to form a loop for hanging.
"The variety of decorations you can add then are as limitless as your imagination," says Miller. "Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air -- you know, all that holiday kind of stuff."