By Natalia Hook
When the holidays come to a close, what bums you out more? The end of the festivities, or all the decorations to be taken down and put away? Whether it’s Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or Halloween, packing up after the big day is never as much fun as preparing. Dismantling the swag is always a downer.
One way to ease holiday withdrawal and step up your decorative game is with an all-season wreath. You’ll never have to take it down. Just dress it up for the current holiday or season and enjoy! A grapevine wreath is the perfect choice — versatile, beautiful, and easy to put together yourself. Learning how to make a DIY grapevine wreath is a snap in six easy steps. With a pair of pruners, pliers and a bit of wire, you’ll be done in no time.
Wait a Minute… Where Can I Find Grapevine?
There are numerous varieties of grapevine common throughout the continental U.S., in wooded and suburban areas, both wild and cultivated. Vineyards, of course, have plentiful grapevine, forests and parks are often full of it, and many people grow it on arbors as well. Not sure how to identify it? Look for a vine with papery, flaky bark and curlicue tendrils, often growing on fences, walls, and trees. The best time to harvest grapevine is when the plant is seasonally dormant in the fall and winter, but it can be collected when leafy and fruiting as well.
If grapevine isn’t a local grower, not to worry. Honeysuckle, bittersweet, and wisteria are also great options. Although not technically a vine, willow branches work well, too. Be sure to positively identify any plant that you harvest, especially when dealing with vines. You don’t want to end up with itchy poison ivy, or a handful of thorns!
1. Collecting Vines
You will most likely have to pull the vine off whatever it’s growing on to harvest it. In my case, a tree. Use a pair of hand pruners to cut lengths of vine of varying widths. You will need at least one thick vine to use in making your base: a minimum of 1-inch diameter for a big wreath, or a half- inch for a smaller one. Go long if you can, you can always trim down. I don’t go shorter than ten feet for the base vine on large grapevine wreaths if I can help it. For this project, I made a 30-inch grapevine wreath with a base vine of almost 20 feet.
If you aren’t able to harvest pieces this long, don’t worry. Just make sure that you have at least one thick piece long enough to make a circle the size of the wreath you’re planning, plus a little overlap at the ends. The smaller the wreath, the less vine (and shorter pieces) you’ll need. For a super easy starter project, go small. Grapevine wreath sizes can be customized to fit whatever space you want to hang them in, so keep the place you’d like to display yours in mind as you collect materials.
2. Time to Trim
Once you’ve collected your vines, untangle them into individual lengths on the ground. Trim off any foliage, roots, and offshoots that you don’t want to include in your wreath. Don’t be too hasty with the offshoots, though, especially on thinner vines. Multiples will add depth and fill out your wreath.
Most vines harvested in the fall and winter will be leafless, or close to it. Spring and summer vines will have plenty of green leaves, and possibly blossoms or fruit. It’s up to you if you want to keep foliage in your wreath. It can bulk up the base nicely but remember that dry leaves and blossoms don’t hold up as well over time as the vines themselves do. Personally, I prefer a bare vine.
Either way, it’s best to start working on your wreath the same day that you collect your vines, or the next day at the latest. Grapevine is strong and pliable, but dries out quickly, as do most vines. If you’re unable to get started within the first two days, soaking the vines in water for a few hours right before you get started can help them get back some elasticity.
3. Make Your Base
Take one end of your longest, thickest vine and loop it into a circle. Secure the end by snaking it over and under the loop a couple times.
Once the end is secure, coil the rest of the vine into a base for your wreath, as if you’re rolling up a hose. Depending on the length of your vine and size of your wreath, you should be able to make between one and three more loops of roughly the same size. The coils shouldn’t lie perfectly on top of one another. There should be spaces and some unevenness between them. If your base vine is too short to make a second loop, just skip the coiling and move on to securing the second end below.
Secure the second end of the base by again snaking over and under several times or tucking tightly between loops. If you’re worried about keeping the end in place, use a piece of wire to secure it on the back side of the base. Twist the wire until it’s tight with a pair of pliers. The thicker the vine is, the heavier the wire should be. For smaller wreaths, you can use floral wire.
4. Building Up
Once your base is complete, it’s just a matter of adding on more vines. At this point, you should use lengths of grapevine no more than eight or ten feet for a large wreath, with a diameter of about half to three quarters of the base vine. After securing the end of a new piece with the same over and under pattern, continue weaving in and out, filling in the spaces between coils and building up the base into a solid wreath. Secure the end of each vine by tucking it into a tight crevice between other vines.
You may want to stand your base up on its side at times or flip it over to make it easier to pull the vines through. Three to five additional vines should do it. When adding the last one, don’t work it into the existing base. Instead, wrap it neatly around like the spiral stripe on a peppermint stick. This will even out the profile of your wreath and make it more symmetrical.
5. Finish with Filler
In order to make your wreath appear full, add a layer of fine vines last. This is where you want those offshoots and curly tendrils to lend some character to your wreath. Repeat the process used with the final vine from the buildup stage, wrapping your thin vines around the wreath. Don’t worry if you find yourself with three or more slender vines branching off from one you’re working with. In fact, that’s a good thing. Just continue to wrap them around, tucking the ends into the crevices between larger vines. If any ends are loose, you can use a thin piece of wire to secure them. Three or four long, thin vines should be enough to put a nice finish on your wreath.
6. Dry Your Wreath
It’s important to allow your wreath to dry out completely before hanging it. This will ensure that it holds its shape permanently. Dry your wreath flat in a well-ventilated area for two days. If the weather is favorable, you can do it outdoors. If not, bring it inside and place it somewhere with good air flow.
Congratulations! You’ve now officially made your own wreath! Hang it inside your home or on your front door or porch, and bedeck it as the seasons change. Try pine sprigs and berries on your wreath for Christmas, arrange artifical flowers to adorn it in the spring, or keep it rustic with natural elements. What are your favorite vine wreath decorating ideas? We’d love to try them out, so share your thoughts in the comments below!
Images used with permission, courtesy of Natalia Hook, www.dreamstime.com, and www.pixabay.com