Wreath-making. Herbal tincture making. Small felted mushrooms. Homeade cranberry gin and tonics. These are the things that suddenly start to take up space in my brain around this time of year. I feel the urge to celebrate the season by making, making and more making. I think its in our nature as humans to feel the urge to celebrate around the solstice since its the darkest days of the year, and it can get a wee depressing. Apparently, early pagan sun worshippers would hold rituals around this time because they believed that the sun may never come back, so in order to herald its arrival, honoring and sacrifices were made to various deities. Thus, why a lot of the evergreen, and holly were so revered because they represented eternal life, as well as other various herbs and plants.
When I was a designer at a busy flower shop in Chicago wreath making was a huge part of the holiday rush. We would busily create wreaths and garlands made to order with greenery like juniper, cedar, spruce, and evergreen, all flown in from the Pacific Northwest. Pieced together with paddle wire and LOVE these sweet smelling decorations became a part of my life from November through January. With skills that I picked up from my time as a florist, I like to create really simple wreaths at home for friends and family.
Here in Vermont, we have an abundance of everlasting greens as well as other beautiful dried pods and seeds hanging out in fields leftover from summer. Last week, I harvested some wild sweet pea vine, young birch stems, and hemlock. I love the idea of creating a completely wild crafted wreath made from all local backyard materials. This is a great way to be in tune with the seasons, connect with the natural environs, and it is much more conservation minded.
Wreaths can be quite easy to make. All you need is; floral paddle wire, regular thin gauge floral wire and a pair of good clippers. I usually use grapevine, a coat hanger, or a wire wreath frame for the base structure. Take a stroll outside with your clippers and see what you can find. Environmentally friendly foraging; remember the acronym STEWARDSHIP. Take what you need, leave some for the forest.
1. Use the grapevine or woody stems like birch to create a circular wreath shape form. Secure both ends of the vine with floral wire. If you don't have bendable grapevine or stems you will need to use a wire framework. If you are using a coat hanger, carefully bend the wire into a wreath shape form, then start to attach your woody stems with floral wire. Begin wrapping more grapevine/stems around and into your base. You will want your base to have some girth, this will help when adding in your greenery. Branches will start to flare out naturally which is what you want, because this adds interest and shape!
2. Once your woodier base is formed, delicately tuck your greens at an angle into your structure, (I usually have all my greens move in one direction but that is definitely not necessary). At this point, your wreath will really start to take shape, keep standing back from it so you can see the composition that is beginning to form. I always feel the most effective arrangements and wreaths begin with a focal point that draws you "in" to the form, as well as equally more empty space to give your eyes a rest. Get creative, allow your elements to inform you of where to put them. The shape will be dictated by how your branches naturally move in space.
3. Once you have a nice display and are happy with how everything looks you're ready to use your paddle wire. The first step in using you're paddle wire is to secure it firmly onto the woodier stems in the back of your wreath. Tie the loose end of your wire to a stem and twist really tightly to form a loop that is fastened firmly against the wood without too much of a "tail". Now you can begin to loop the paddle wire around the wreath in an "in and out" motion, moving around the entirety of the circle, pulling tightly as you go to secure all of your stems; this also ensures that you won't see the wire once you're finished.
4. Other things that you can tuck into your wreath: mossy sticks, acorns, pinecones, berries, ribbon, dried hydrangea, herbs like bay laurel and rosemary. You can "wire" these objects by wrapping a single piece of lightweight gauged floral wire around the outside, twisting it at the base to secure leaving two dangling "legs". Once you have your object wired-you poke each "leg" right into your wreath, wrap the legs to secure and voila! If your feeling fancy, you could even wire other things like vintage ornaments or cool felted mushrooms and acorns like these!
These adorable creations are the work of Petits Cadeaux
Once you have mastered the craft of wreath making, you could throw a wreath making party, and serve mulled wine, or glogg! Oh yes. Stay tuned for my forays into my first herbal tincturing and salve making.