Thursday, December 15, 2011

Deck the House

Despite all the shopping, the gift-wrapping, and the baking, it’s when home decoration begins that my holiday spirit really picks up.  Like a magpie, it’s the vivid colours and sparkling lights, the smell of garlands and tree, that cheer me most.

Last week, a friend dropped by with arm-loads of cedar boughs and pine cones so I’ve been busy making a wreath for the front door and a centrepiece for the table.  Granted, it’s not as easy as buying ready-made items, but it’s definitely budget friendly, especially if you prefer the fragrance of fresh over plastic.

Making a wreath is easy and inexpensive.  If you don’t have access to fresh boughs – or kind friends who provide them – you can trim lower branches from the (undecorated) tree.  If you don’t have the budget to buy craft wire, you can use (wire) hangers and (stripped) twist-ties.  Ornamentation can be achieved with nature’s bling – pine cones and seasonal berries – or cloth remnants and tree curios…whatever you have on hand.
Stripped twist-ties

To make your own wreath, garland, or centrepiece, you’ll need:
·         Boughs of cedar, spruce or fir (avoid poisonous hemlock or other evergreens for which you have sensitivity)
·         Heavy gloves (and long sleeves) to avoid skin irritation when handling the boughs
·         Heavy wire (gauge 10, or thicker) or wire clothes-hangers for the frame
·         Lighter wire (gauge 20 or thinner) or “stripped” twist-ties (see image at right) for attaching boughs and ornamentation
·         Pliers (needle-nose work best)
·         Ribbons, cloth remnants, bows, tree ornaments, seasonal berries, tree cones, glitter, spray snow and/or bells for decoration

Image #1
Straightened hangers

For the frame, I use two wire hangers, “opened” and the bends straightened with pliers (image #1).  Then, I rejoin the hangers, using their curly ends (image #2) to secure them together.  With gentle thumb pressure, form the wire into a round (image #3.)  If you desire a perfect circle, bend the wire around a large bowl. 
Image #3
Form a round frame

Once the frame is ready, put on your gloves, gather the boughs (image #4) and begin weaving.  Start at the top, propping the stem end of a large bough behind the hook, and wind the stem gently around the wire.  Secure the stem to the hanger with pieces of fine wire.  Do the same on the other side of the circle and weave the lower tips of both branches together at the bottom.  Then weave smaller boughs into these larger base branches.  Secure as needed, concealing wires with loose fronds.

Image #4
Ready to weave
After you’ve placed the boughs, add the ornamentation of your choice, securing these with fine wire also. I attach decorations at the top, when using cedar boughs – it’s easiest and doesn’t clutter the boughs sweeping appearance.  Spruce and fir have sparser branches so I detach branchlets from the main bough and  finish the wreath by securing the branches with ornaments around the circumference.  As an added touch, wrap ribbon around the hanger’s hook and then bend its open end into a tighter loop for hanging.
Image #2
Secure hangers at curly ends

Employing similar methods, I use only one hanger (bent to a round, hook removed and the curly end bent into the round,) for a table centrepiece frame.  Once the greens are attached, a pretty bowl in the  hub keeps candles from igniting the boughs, or fruit and nuts from  contamination.   Opened hangers, bent in pleasing twists, and joined where necessary, work well for garlands and can be easily “fit” to door top, railings, or mantelpiece.

The fragrant, natural wreath or garland can be used indoors or out but will dry more easily when indoors.  It’s a good idea to spritz these decorations daily with water to keep the evergreens hydrated as long as possible.  For this reason, when making indoor wreaths, I avoid using glitter or spray snow as watering spoils these applications.

Whatever your traditions may be,
I wish you and yours
peace and much good cheer this holiday season.