I think it is partly because of my upbringing on a not-so-prosperous Saskatchewan farm and partly due to my abhorrence of waste and rampant consumerism, but I take great pleasure in making things “from scratch” or using someone else’s castoffs to create something useful and beautiful. There is lots of opportunity to do just that during the Christmas season as many decorating ideas can be implemented by using garage sale finds, seeking out thrift store bargains, or reusing objects which would otherwise hit the garbage bin. The old saying is true, “Somebody’s garbage is someone else’s treasure.”
For years I admired large, elaborate Christmas wreaths in retail shops but was loath to spend the money to buy one. Over the years I had collected a bunch of Christmas odds and ends and had not thrown out several lighted garlands whose lights had stopped working, so a few years ago I decided that I could make a large wreath with the items I had on hand.
First I needed a frame on which to build the wreath, so I simply stopped on a side road and cut a half-dozen sturdy willow stems about two metres long. I took these stems home and fastened them into a circle about a metre in diameter, by using sturdy yet pliable wire. By overlapping the stems so that the joins were at different spots around the circumference of the circle, I achieved a sturdy frame. It doesn’t have to have a perfect shape as it will be completely covered; it just needs to be strong enough to support the wreath. I use the same frame year after year.
The next step was to cover the frame with several garlands that I had on hand by winding them around and around the willow frame to cover the willow. The ends of the garlands were wired to hold them in place but the fact that they were wound around the frame kept them in place. Luckily, I had a couple of pieces of old garland that was a different colour (it was frosted) so I fastened pieces of this garland here and there to add contrast. The garlands can be cut into pieces with wire cutters.
I wired lots of large cones in place around the wreath, cones that I have gathered over the years. Some I left plain and some I “frosted” with a bit of white paint. Then I got out my boxes of Christmas “odds and ends” – old Christmas balls, ribbon, stems of artificial flowers with small white flowers, and anything else that I thought could be added to the wreath. These are usually fastened to the wreath with wire but sometimes the individual stemmed wires from the garlands can be employed to hold the items in place. After gathering the items, I decided that I would limit the colours to gold and red simply because that seemed to be the colour of most of the items I had. Any colour combination could be used.
The first year that I made the wreath I did have to make a trip to the thrift store to get a bit more stuff, but since then I have kept my eyes open during the summer run of garage sales and have picked up several things that I have incorporated into my wreath.
A large wreath requires a lot of material and is quite heavy. I can hardly lift the one I make up onto a nail on the wall above the stairway to the rec room. The wreath could be hung outdoors but the items would probably have to be fastened more securely to withstand the outdoor elements. If you undertake this project, you might want to adjust the size of the willow circle according to how large you want the wreath to be, where you will hang it, and how much material you have to make it.
Before hanging the wreath I always add a huge festive bow just to finish it off. The wreath is the first thing guests see when they enter the house during the holidays as it is on the stairway wall that faces the front door. It has become a tradition at my home during the festive season and it just wouldn’t seem like Christmas without my homemade wreath featured prominently on the wall.
– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba