Making a wreath

As requested, here is a description of how I go about making a wreath from willow, and  the results.  I’m not an expert, and the finished article will not last as well as some shop bought ones, since I used fresh rather than dried willow, so the shrinkage will be significant.  The shrinkage leads to loosening of the weave eventually.  I once went on a weaving workshop, and learnt a little of how difficult the craft actually is.  You may think it’s just a matter of bending a few twigs together, but the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know.  I could probably knock up a wonky basket now if I needed to, but it is hard work on the hands and fingers.  You really need the sensitivity of working with bare hands, but also quite a bit of strength in the fingers to prebend the willow stems.

cut stems
Cut lengths of willow

Anyhow, I was just making a simple wreath, which is much easier.  You need at least three long stems of bendy twigs like willow.  For a rustic wreath a little branching will be fine, but the more flexible the twigs are, the easier it is to weave.  I had about eight stems that I had cut a few days previously.  If you leave them too long they will dry and become brittle, so will need soaking overnight in water to make them flexible again (this is what ‘real’ willow weavers tend to do).

Take a nice long one and first pass it through your fingers bending it inch by inch in a long curve.  If you bend it too much it will kink, but by bending a little it loosens up the stem fibres, so that the twig becomes more flexible.  This I find the most difficult and hardest part.  Somehow you get the feeling for when the willow is about to overbend, but this does take practise.  For something like this the odd kink will probably not matter, but if a fine cosmetic finish is required, then it may be worth practising on a few spare stems before you start on the real ones.

first loop
First loop

When the whole length has been prebent (maybe more than once to get an evenly flexable stem) take the thickest part and tie it in a knot: a loop of the diameter you want your wreath to be.  This time I made the wreath a bit smaller than last year’s (which is still adorning the top of the failed pea’s wigwam in the front garden).  I found that the larger wreath was knocked quite a bit when people opened the shop door, although larger wreaths are probably easier to make.  Once you have a loop of the desired size close to the thick end of the willow, tuck the thick end round again if necessary, until there is no protruding end, and do the same with the thin end.  Wind it round and tuck it through until you have the first thin loop made up of one single stem.

To make a thicker wreath, so that there are more stems to hold the greenery in place, take another willow stem, prebend it and wind it round the loop parallel to the first.  Repeat until the wreath is the desired thickness.

adding holly
Finished willow wreath and holly waiting

You can use whatever greenery you want to fill in the wreath. The stems need to be quite stiff to push in between the willow, or you could use a neutral coloured jute twine to tie them in.  I used holly, which I have plenty of growing well in the front garden.  I have used spruce before, but found that actually more prickly to handle.

bit of red
a touch of red

I don’t have any holly berries yet (only male flowers this year) but the wild rose hips from the front garden are lasting well and make a good substitute.  I got complemented on my lovely big holly berries!  I have used baubles and ribbons in the past as well.

shop wreath
Wreath on Glendale Shop door


The final wreath is hung on the shop door, and I hope that the birds and sheep will leave the berries in place for a week or so till twelfth night.

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