Making a wreath to hang in your home is a lovely way to celebrate the seasons and it is also a lovely craft for kids of all ages to enjoy.
Since moving to the Orkney Islands, we have been so much more aware of the change in seasons. In this big, unbroken landscape, it is easy to see the changes as we go through the year and we spend so much time outside that we notice every plant and creature come and go. All of our crafts over the past few weeks have been inspired by autumn and one of our favourites has been wreath making, so I thought I would share this with you in case you would like to try.
First of all, you are going to need the basic wreath to decorate. Everybody’s wreaths are going to be a bit different, depending on what you have growing near you. Autumn in the Orkney Islands, looks very different from autumn in Cornwall, where we used to live. For a start there are much less trees and on some islands hardly any at all.
We are lucky that we have a garden full of trees, but most of them are varieties of willow. We made use of this years new growth and cut straight stems of equal length to make our wreaths.
We stripped the leaves from the stems, by running our hands down the stem from tip to base and then carefully bent each stem into a ring. We had 8-10 stems each and each time we added a new stem, we wove it in and out of the previous ones a couple of times as we bent it round.
When we had done that we secured the whole thing with some raffia, wound round at various points, because our stems weren’t as long as I would have liked.
When I have made wreaths in the past I have used ivy stems. You could leave the leaves on or remove them if your doing this and if you have really long runners you’ll be able to curl each one around several times.
You can really use anything that is flexible enough to bend without snapping, honeysuckle vine is another good example, but have a search around and see what you can find.
A few days before making our autumn wreaths, my kids had prepared some dried orange and apple slices in the oven. These are really simple to make and smell wonderful as they are drying, as well as looking great.
First of all, slice some apples and oranges as thinly as you can. Discard the smaller ends (we ate them rather than wasting them!). The apple slices can be placed straight onto a grill rack, but it is important to blot the orange slices really well with absorbent paper or cloth before adding them to the rack. It will help them to dry out properly with out burning and caramelising.
Then pop them into a preheated oven at about 120c. Ovens will vary, but ours took between 2-3 hours. I would advise checking them regularly after the first hour and a half. When they look done remove them from the oven and let them cool.
We had also spent some time collecting autumnal treasures, in the week leading up to our craft session. It’s nice to have a big pile of natural resources all ready for use, so that when your kids are making their wreaths they can really get stuck in.
Again, your finds might look very different to ours. Our island doesn’t have any conkers, pine cones, acorns, sloes or haws for example, but these would all look great on a wreath. Our choice of leaves is also limited to willow and sycamore.
We did have some enormous sycamore seeds, rosehips and bountiful supplies of moss and of course our orange and apple slices. I had also made some stars and leaf shapes from willow bark a few weeks before so we used those as well.
Anything that won’t lend itself to being woven in or wedged between the bands of your wreath, will need to be tied on or wired. Little hands might need some help with this bit. We dried and pressed our leaves a week before use but you could also dip them in wax in advance to help preserve them. You could do this with perishables, like berries, as well.
We didn’t bother with wax dipping, as we didn’t have any and I think that it’s always important to use what you have to hand. It can be so off-putting, if crafts cost a lot of money, particularly if you have a big family. These didn’t cost us anymore than the price of a couple of apples and oranges.
My 16, 13 and 10yr olds, did this whole project without any help, including preparing their own materials and making the wreath base. My two year old likes to join in with what we’re doing wherever possible, so I prepared everything for her, wiring the fiddly things first, so that she could just poke them in.
I have a drying wall in our house for preparing basket making materials. It is fairly empty at this time of year, so we hung their wreaths along the hooks and it has added a lovely bit of colour to our home.
All of my kids enjoyed making the wreaths so much that I am sure that we will make wreaths for the other seasons and it will be nice to see how they change through the year.
Moss is really good for filling out the spaces so if you have any it is worth drying some out and keeping it your craft stash. We are lucky to have a thick layer of moss all over our garden beneath the grasses. It does mean that our land gets badly waterlogged during the winter months, but on the plus side we are never short of any for craft projects!
You could also use this idea to make some lovely seasonal crowns, as we found out when we were messing about. I think that we will make some crowns for our midwinter celebrations. Our girls used to do traditional Cornish folk dancing and would have ivy crowns for their Christmas performance. It always seemed really special, particularly with candles decorating the room.
This year we are planning a big bonfire with lots of handmade lanterns and warming winter treats on midwinters day. So some seasonal crowns will be just perfect.
Enjoy making your wreaths and take pleasure in the natural beauty around you as one season passes into another!