Making a Christmas wreath from scratch is not difficult but it does take time and patience. It takes me about 2 hours to create a wreath, and I’ve been making them every year since about 2004. My horticultural society used to hold a wreath-making workshop for our members every November, and that was where I learned how to do it.
I make my own wreaths partly because of cost (it is more economical to make your own, for something of comparable quality), but mostly because it allows me to customize to my hearts content. I create winter arrangements in two large urns for a client, and I like to use the same greenery in my wreath as in the urns–I like the unified look it provides (and of course, I trim them both up with the same colours of bows, etc.) Also, for many years my own front door had a window that was rounded at the top and then straight along the bottom–I mimicked this shape out of couple pieces of cardboard, taped them together, and was able to have a wreath that exactly mirrored the shape of the window.
To make a wreath you’ll need:
- wire cutters
- a spool/paddle of green floral wire
- secateurs (aka pruners)
- fresh greenery
- a wreath form
- plastic garbage bag or other plastic bag
- gloves (or be prepared to scrub sap off your hands later)
You can make a wreath form (the wreath base) out of lots of different things. You could use a purchased grapevine or straw wreath–in fact, these are a little easier to work with than a wire wreath in some ways because they’re solid. But typically, to make a wreath like this you would use a wire wreath form, which you can purchase for about $5 at most craft supply stores.
Preparing your greenery
If you have evergreen trees, euonymous, holly or other suitable material growing in your garden you have all the makings of a wreath! Or you can buy cut greenery from your local garden centre or most places that sell fresh Christmas trees. My favourite wreaths use a mixture of different types of greenery, but they always include cedar (it makes for a fluffy, full looking end product, and is very nice to work with–no prickly bits and it bends).
Cut your greenery into pieces about 5″ (13 cm) long. If you cut the pieces longer your wreath will look shaggier (and at some point you cross the line from shaggy to unkempt).
Stack three or four pieces of greenery together (if you’re using 3 different kinds of greenery, use one piece of each) into a little bundle (pretend you’re making a little bouquet) and then wrap some wire around the stems 3 or 4 times, and snip off, using your wire cutters (don’t use your secateurs on wire or you’ll ruin the blade).
Make another bouquet. And another until you have a little mountain of them (this is where patience and persistence is required).
Preparing the wreath form (for wire wreath forms only)
Cut your garbage bag into 2″ wide strips and wrap them around the wreath form, covering all the wires. (I didn’t have a garbage bag, so I used a white shopping bag for this example. A black or green bag is easier to hide behind the greenery). Doing this makes it easier to keep all your greenery sitting on the front of the wreath (where you can see it!) and not slipping through to the back. It only takes a minute and it’s well worth it.
Making the wreath
(Note: these instructions are for right-handed people. If you’re a lefty, please modify accordingly)
Hold the wreath in your left hand, parallel to your body (you’ll probably want to braced the bottom on a table or against your body).
Hold the paddle of wire in your right hand (note that you will be working with the wire on the paddle the whole time–you will not cut the wire until you have completed the wreath).
Wrap the wire around the top of the wreath (kind of like you’re sewing on a button) a couple times to secure it (advanced tip: make a little hanger out of the wire the back of the wreath and secure it to the wreath frame, first).
Lay your first bundle of greenery on the wreath frame, with the stem end to your right, and the green fluffy part to your left. Wrap the wire tightly around the wreath form and the stems of the bouquet two or three times. Remember that as the greenery dries out it will shrink a little bit so you want the wire to be quite snug–done properly, it should be able to withstand a winter storm.
Lay the next bundle of greenery just a little bit to the right (i.e. it overlaps the other one, and covers the stems you’ve just wired in place), and wrap the wire around this bundle’s stems and the wreath form two or three times.
Repeat, alternating the angle of your bundles slightly, so that one points up a little and the next points down a little (the idea is to get the greenery looking even and full, all the way around the wreath). Continue in the same direction, turning the wreath as needed, until you have covered the entire wreath form. It will be a little bit awkward to wire the last few pieces into place, as you need to tuck them under the first piece you started with, but persevere. Snip the wire, leaving a few inches of tail, and then twist the tail into the wreath form to secure.
The back of your wreath will now look like this:
(advanced tip: If you have a door that is easily scratched, use hot glue to adhere pieces of felt onto the back of the wreath.)
Turn the wreath around, ta-dah! You did it! You have created a hand-tied wreath!
Dressing up the wreath
But it’s a naked wreath. And you probably wanted something a little more finished looking. Now is the time to add bows and whatever other accessories you like. I usually use the floral wire to attach larger things (like big bows) and attach smaller things (like ornaments and pine cones) with hot glue. Often, I’ll do both (remember, this wreath has to stand up to winter’s winds!)
Here are a few of the different ways I’ve dressed up wreaths over the years:
This article was originally published November 16, 2013 on jenniferarnott.com, my old blog. Because it was a favourite post, it’s been migrated to TheFabulousGarden.com