Category Archives: wreaths
As some of you know, my family really likes making our own Christmas wreaths. This year was no exception. I think six or seven wreaths were made during our annual Thanksgiving Family Retreat and Wreath-making Extravaganza.
In prior years, we’ve roamed our cousins’ property cutting boughs from a wide variety of pine and fir trees. This year we used the scraggly lower branches of a couple freshly cut balsam fir Christmas trees and some showier white pine for accents.
For some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to go with a white and gold color scheme for my wreath:
My bow is a little small, but that’s what you get for buying a new, unmarked roll of wired ribbon at Goodwill. I still like it, but I’ll probably keep adjusting the bow all season.
Once I get my gold Christmas lights up outside, it should look even better. This may be my favorite wreath so far.
Making wreaths is one of my favorite family traditions. What are your favorite creative holiday traditions?
The only downside of our family’s new Thanksgiving tradition of making our own fresh Christmas wreaths? I’m always the last one to finish. But the effort is worth it.
We’re fortunate to have access to plenty of balsam, white pine, red pine and other random evergreens on our cousins’ wooded property, but this time of year you can usually buy boughs (or maybe even pick up free trimmings) wherever live Christmas trees are sold. For us, going out to cut the branches is half the fun.
We foraged mostly for balsam, white pine, and red pine, but a little spruce, hemlock, and jack pine may have worked their ways into our pile of greens. We didn’t have our full contingent of wreath makers this year, so we only filled one wheelbarrow with boughs.
It gets messy dealing with all those pine needles, so this year we tried putting the branches on a tarp to make clean up easier. It helped, but we still had to do a lot of vacuuming when we were done.
Most of us re-used our old wreath frames. They’re not expensive, and in January when people discard their Christmas wreaths they’re pretty much free for the picking; if you want to take time to remove the old greens you’ll have a usable frame. (One of my older blog posts explains how to deconstruct a wreath.)
This year my sister decided to make a swag instead of a wreath. She made her own frame by bending a coat hanger into a diamond shape, and our cousin, Mark, happened to have some chicken wire to stretch over the hanger.
With a frame in place, it’s time to start bundling. Some people make several bundles and wire them to the frame at once, others wire each bundle to the frame as they go. I did a little of each. Hoping to speed up my work this year, I only used about 5 sprigs per bundle…usually four balsam plus one of the showier greens. Last year I think I did seven or eight.
Here are a few more photos of the process…
Mark had to help me finish the last third or so of my wreath so we could take the photo before dark. The last two years I thought I was slow because I’m allergic to pine sap and have to wear gloves. But in the photos above you can see Lisa and Brice wore gloves this year too. Yet I was still the slowest wreath maker.
Later that evening, Mary helped Lisa and me make bows, and the next day we added our finishing touches. My decorations include a few pine cones, some gold jingle bells I bought at a dollar store in Eagle River, and the bow made of ribbon I bought at Goodwill in Rhinelander. Here are our finished masterpieces:
And the game-changer this year, Lisa’s swag:
For the second year in a row, our family gathered at our cousins’ property in the North Woods for a wonderful Thanksgiving retreat. And once again, wreaths were made.
We started by collecting boughs, like last year. Then several of us sat around the table and followed Mark’s lead in assembling bundles of greens and attaching them, with green floral wire, to our wreath frames. Most of us used 18″ round frames, but Brice got fancy and used a square frame. His wreath (which I don’t have a photo of, hint, hint) turned out great….except for the decorative little bird on it that chirped sporadically all that night, about three feet from where I was sleeping.
As usual, Mark was the fastest worker since he’s had more practice at making wreaths:
And once again my sister and I were the last ones to complete our wreaths, even though we started making them at the same time as everyone else.
Lisa took time out to prepare our (delicious) dinner that night, yet still finished her wreath about two minutes before I finished mine. Brice and Mark were already cleaning up the unused boughs and vacuuming pine needles off the floor when I was decorating my wreath. I’ll blame my slowness on the fact that working with thin wire is tricky when you have to wear work gloves to keep the sap off your hyper-sensitive skin.
Here are a couple of the finished wreaths:
Yeah, the right side of my wreath got a little crushed, but it still smells great!
Remember how a bunch of my family members made fresh Christmas wreaths last year? At the time, Mary told us once the wreaths were past their prime we could disassemble them and reuse the heavy-duty wire wreath frames next year.
Spring is here, and my community has resumed collecting and composting yard waste, so it was time to deconstruct my glorious wreath.
Any wreath constructed around a metal frame can probably be disassembled, too. Even a store bought wreath. Not sure how your wreath is constructed? Take a look at the back.
Untwist or cut the greens free. We tied small bunches of greens together before attaching them to the frame, so I started by pulling a few out. (Do I even need to point out you should be doing this outside if your wreath is made from real greens?)
Each of these little bundles was bound with green wire. If you’re planning to mulch or compost the old greens you need to remove all of those wires. Some of the greens slipped right out of the wire for me, others had to be unwound or cut. The wire-free greens were tossed into a paper yard waste bag.
I simply reversed the process we used when making the wreaths and systematically worked my way around the frame.
It probably took about 20 minutes to untie and pick wires out of the greens, but now I’ve got a wreath frame ready to be reused.
Deconstructing the wreath wasn’t as much fun as making it, but the faded greens still smelled wonderful – and my gloves didn’t get covered with sap this time!