Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wreath Making 101 part 1

Last Year's Halloween Wreath with little pumpkins
As the weather gets cooler- at least here in Michigan- and fall is in the air…. I think of Halloween and holiday wreaths.  I have one up all year, but the holidays- Halloween to Valentine's Day- are the best
time for finding supplies to make one yourself.  Every time I am at the craft store I marvel at the price they charge for a completed wreath.  Wreaths are simple to make and can be made much cheaper.  Most wreaths I make top out at no more than $30 for a full, beautiful wreath.  I use a grapevine (available any time) or faux pine needle base (available at Christmas).  I don't bother with Styrofoam wreath bases because they are more work (you have to pre-poke holes) and they require many more flowers because they have to be completely covered.  There is a movement afoot, all over Etsy and Blogville right now that involve wrapping a Styrofoam wreath form with yarn and attaching felt flowers.   I've never made one because, well frankly, I can't decide if I like them or not.  They seem a little "church bazaar" to me.

If I want to secure the embellishments permanently then I use hot glue.  More often than not I don't do anything to secure the embellishments other than weave the stems into the base.  This allows me to just pull out the flowers or add a berry spray or completely change the wreath on a whim.

What do you need for a beautiful wreath?  A base, some flowers, filler, ribbon if you want a bow, wire cutters, and a hot glue gun and glue sticks if you want to secure it.  That's it.  Easy right?   Ok, so you don't think your are crafty or you don't have a design bone in your body.  I still think you can make a pretty wreath if you use my tricks.   If all else fails, you can easily copy a design from a magazine, pinterest, or one of the many design blogs.  You can even use one of Michael's overpriced wreaths as inspiration.
A Bouquet of flowers and filler
My tricks for making a wreath worthy of hanging on your front door…. First buy everything on sale.  Michael's run flower sales almost every other week and they get multiple "lines" of flowers per season.  For example, during the fall season they may get 4,5 or 6 different lines of "fall" flowers.  One is on sale almost all of the time, so patience is rewarded.  Hobby Lobby seems to have both a stable set of floral stems they always carry and then a seasonal line.  The stock flowers are gorgeous and high quality but are priced accordingly; personally, I would avoid these while beginning to make wreaths.  Stick with their rotating stock of seasonal blooms and watch for sales there as well.   Save more money but using their 40% off coupons on the wreath base or wait for them to go on sale themselves- they will.

An Autumn Pick
Now, how to pick embellishments.  My favorite trick is to use pre-made bouquet and picks.  Today, there is always a large selection of flowers that are grouped together in a bouquet with stems of filler materials including acorns, greens (ferns, leaves, and smaller flowers), faux branches, berries, pinecones, and sometimes crazy weird glittery stems.  The filler adds texture, interest, and often glitter (you knew that was coming didn't you?).  All the individual stems are then either wrapped in yards and yards of floral tape or plastic. These bouquets are meant to be plopped into a vase "as is" making it very simple to design a beautiful flower arrangement.  Picks are special little bouquets, readily available from August to Christmas.  You can find picks in any craft store and most stores that carry holiday decorations.  I've found them at Kmart, Target, Walmart, and Tuesday Mornings.  Picks are smaller than bouquets and often don't contain flowers.  They can be found with berries, sparkly ornaments, little wrapped packages, tiny pumpkins…all sorts of yummy little things to make your wreath special and fit your personality. are also intended to be used "as is" and are in fact little bundles
A fabulous Christmas pick

of goodness that make it simple to decorate a wreath- just attach the entire pick on to the wreath as a unit.  A basic wreath would need 5-7 picks, but where is the fun in that?  It would all be too easy and boring.  What I like to do is grab the wire cutters- and I'm telling you the bigger the better- and start tearing the bouquets and picks apart.  The problem you will find is that they are often wrapped a bajillion times with florists tape- a waxy, paper tape that becomes a solid mass when layered.  Once you get through all that floral tape you often encounter the second problem…thick  thick wire (or worse, wireS) in the center.  If you are lucky it will be plastic and thin wires but more often than not you have to deal with floral tape and thick wire.  So rip, tear, bend back-and -forth, scream, grab the hubby..whatever it takes to get the things separated.  I'm talking all-the-way-down-to-the-individual-stems separate.  Keep in mind, just because I separate them all the way down to the individual pieces doesn't mean you have to; you could stop whenever you want, keeping little clusters intact.

Armed with your base, flowers, individual filler pieces and glue you are ready to go.  I usually start with the big flowers first.  It is always best to use an odd number of anything which will keep you from trying to find perfect spacing.  Cut the stems short and if you are using hot glue squeeze some on to the tip of the stem or if the flower is big enough you can put glue directly on the back, near the center of the bloom.  Be sure to have something underneath to protect your floor or tabletop from dripping hot glue.  You wouldn't want to spend hours peeling glue off your Pergo floor would you?  After the main blooms are in place, begin to fill in with the filler pieces.  There is no secret to how do this; just play around to find a pleasing arrangement.  When you are satisfied begin to glue things into place.

The pink and white Christmas wreath was made for my grandmother.  I used pink velvet poinsettias, a variety of greenery, acorns and berries, Christmas ornament balls, and ribbon.  Notice that I make the poinsettia blooms smaller by cutting off the bottom layer of petals and using the them more like a leaf.  I love the retro vibe of this wreath.

The purple and white wreath was made using only Christmas ornament balls; flowers.  I just glued a variety of balls, in a small palate of colors, directly to the faux-pine wreath.  This type of wreath is very simple to make and if you shop around for good deals, you can make it very inexpensively.
This gorgeous purple wreath is one of my favorites.  I posted it when I made it last year, but it is a favorite so here it is again.  It didn't photograph well; in real life it is stunning.  I used large purple velvet hydrangeas cut into smaller clusters of petals, berry and acorn picks, a variety of faux greens with real pinecones, glittered faux eucalyptus, and more Christmas ornament balls.

The grapevine winter wreath is one of my all time favorites.  The variety of textures make such an interesting wreath.   I was lucky to stumble on some high-quality faux-pine and pinecone picks at an after holiday clearance.  The white gold color with the green and brown is beautiful.  Of course it is sparkly- with both white gold glitter and brown glitter on the berries.

This wreath is decorated only on the bottom of the grapevine wreath and is fairly symmetrical from the center of the arrangement.  Sometimes I like to put the cluster on the side rathe than the bottom and sometimes I make it more asymmetrical like I did in this spring wreath I made for my neighbor.

The final touch can sometimes be a big bow.   I am lucky that I worked in floral shops when I was in high school and early college so I learned to make them.  I can whip out a bow in only a few minutes.  If you don't live close enough for me to make you one, well then my advice is to learn to make them yourself.  I've seen what they charge at craft stores to make one and it is ridiculous.  I've also seen the pre-made crap now sold  everywhere and those bows do not belong on the beautiful wreath you will make.  Buy some inexpensive, 1/2-1 inch wide ribbon and practice, practice, practice.  Rebecca Cole has a terrific instructional video here although I'm sure you can find other videos if you Google it.  After you can make a nice narrow bow, then try with a wider ribbon.  You will want to use wider ribbons on medium to large wreaths.  Wire vs. no wire? I prefer no wire.  Why? I prefer the look of a soft ribbon; the way it folds is exquisite.  But wired edged ribbon is far more forgiving.   If you like the look of wired ribbon- go for it.

Be sure to send me pics of any wreaths you make.

Laters Baby


  1. Now I feel like I have to make some wreaths - at least you've provided good instuctions with your inspirations.

  2. What a wonderful post - I love all the different photographs you shared - The different items that are available to us etc - I may just need to make my own this holiday season!

  3. ooh thanks for the tips just might have to try making on now. Keyword "might". Your's are all so beautiful!My fav is the spring wreath at the bottom.


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