Every year as I was growing up, we’d prune back my grandmother’s grapes in the fall. She lived in Northern California where the growing season is 11 months long and we didn’t have to worry about things like severe frost and snow. We’d sit on the grass, stripping leaves from the prunings and carefully form them into fat wreaths.
We eventually learned to make pots and baskets, too – click here to read that tutorial.
Fall Vines Make Fall Wreaths
I love grape vines for wreath making still – especially the curly-cues that reach off the vines. We’d have to remember to bulk up to the green wreaths to at least double their desired thickness because as the vines dried out, they’d shrink.
Since I have snow in the winter, I’m careful to only do some lighter fall pruning to help shape my vines for the coming snow load. Pruning stimulates growth so if you have a severe cold headed your way, better to keep your cuts minimal so that you don’t encourage your vine to put off a bunch of new growth only to have it freeze off. Also, do your wreath making earlier in the fall as opposed to right before you customary snows come.
What Kind of Vine to Use?
Any semi-woody stemmed vine will work, as long as you can bend it. I’ve used grape vine, like I said, and they’re very sturdy and durable. You can also use lace vine, honeysuckle vine, thin willow branches and wisteria before and they all worked well.
In most climates, fall is a great time to either winter prune your vines by cutting them way back or you can just do lighter pruning to shape and control fall growth.
Each vine has its own characteristics and the best way to learn them is to experiment yourself and see what pleases you. This year, we’re making lace vine wreaths because, if I don’t prune that monster back, the snow is going to topple the fence on which the lace vine rests. I love lace vine with its amazing growth habit, its lovely white blossoms and its year round beauty.
How to Make a Wreath
First Step – Cut Vines
This fall project is great to do with children, with a group of friends, fellow crafters or any group willing to get a bit dirty and have some fun.
Get your best pruners and cut lengths from your vine, as long as you can make them. You’re looking for stems that are still supple enough to bend. Bear in mind, this is a living thing so don’t go crazy and cut off limbs willy nilly – always do what’s best for the plant. Learn to prune grape vines here.
Having said that, most prolifically vining plants are pretty sturdy and usually appreciate a bit of a haircut now and then. The longer the length of vine, the less tucking and securing of ends you’ll need to do later on and that’s helpful.
How many lengths of vine you’ll need is entirely dependent on how big and how thick you want you wreath to be in the end. The short answer is that you’ll end up needing more than you think you will! Unless you really want the look of dried leaves (which shatter over time) in your wreath, set your crew to running the lengths of vine through their gloved hands in order to pop of the leaves.
The lace vine wreath being worked on in these photos was the creative project of my oldest daughter and she ordered that some of the leaves remain, so there they are.
Begin Twining the Vines to Make a Fram
- Root through your pile of vines and find the largest (while still being bendable) and longest vine you have. This will be the beginning of your wreath and will act as the foundation for the frame you’re about to create.
- Hold the vine on your lap, curling up the sturdier end and pulling the thinner end up and around to form a circle. Make sure its the size you want and then start weaving the end of the vine around the circle. This will form a loose “O”.
- You can secure the larger end to the rest of the vine you’ve just woven in order to make it more secure. Florist tape will work temporarily and thin wire will hold a lot longer. If you work quickly and keep your vines tight as you weave, everything should really hold itself together for the most part. I’ve used wire now and then with grapevine but usually only when I’m making a really large wreath that I simply can’t hold onto as well while I weave in each new vine.
A Wreath Begins to Form
So, you have your “O” and it really doesn’t look like much and you’re beginning to wonder if it ever will.
- No worries, just pick up another length of vine and, starting at a new place, pop the end into any hole on the “O” you can find and start winding and weaving in the new vine.
- You want to be wrapping each new length of vine around the “O” – around and around. This will require putting the end of the vine through the center of the “O” each time your wrap it around.
- Once you get to the end of that vine, secure the end in any hole or chink you can find. Keep your winding as tight as you can without breaking the vine. Each layer will build upon the last, securing each other to the frame.
- Keep twisting on new layers of vine until you either run out or your wreath reaches the desired thickness.
- Just a reminder, plan for your wreath to shrink in size by at least a third, sometimes a half as it dries. If you’ve twisted tightly enough, it will still hold together just fine and look wonderful.
- How long the wreath takes to dry totally depends on what kind of vine you’ve used and how thick the vines are. Give it two weeks for smaller vines like honeysuckle and at least a month for grapevine wreaths.
- You can decorate and hang it just as soon as the wreath is dry.
What If I Break a Vine?
Don’t worry if you break a vine here and there; it happens. Just secure loose ends and start with another vine.
Stop every now and then to push the “O” back into shape; as you pull and twist, its common to weave a bit sideways so you want to stop and readjust the wreath every few vines to keep a nice, round shape.
I suggest that little children stick with little wreaths as the big ones do get really heavy as they fill in.
What to Do With Your Wreaths
This fall project is seasonal in the making, but you can use the wreaths all year round for various things.
Small wreaths can be used to make our family’s “famous” rag quilt Christmas tree ornaments. To learn how, click on our guest post tutorial at Melissa K Norris’s site as part of her Homemade Christmas series. Click here for that tutorial.
Scraps of vine can be twisted into crowns for sisters, miniature wreaths for the fairies or swords for your brother – for our brother, anything can become a sword if you look at it the right way. They key to any craft is imagination!
We’ve used our homemade wreaths for fall door decorations, Advent table decorations and Easter/Passover celebrations.
The sturdy ones will last for years and the more delicate ones will keep on truckin’ if you take good care of them. Once they’ve served their purpose, you can always add them to the woodpile and make a new one next year.