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Step-by-step process on how to make a willow wreath ring. These long-lasting pieces are perfect for Christmas wreath bases but are beautiful in their own right. All you need for this project is eight to ten willow switches and a pair of hand pruners.
Fresh Christmas wreaths are a beautiful way to use natural materials for handmade holiday decorations. They’re an alternative to plastic or expensive fresh wreaths and are inexpensive and eco-friendly since they can be composted. You begin creating your fresh Christmas wreath with a circular base. You can purchase one ready-made or create one using willow switches, grapevine, or other bendy and woody materials.
For years, my friend John ‘Dog’ Callister has been showing locals how to weave willow rings as wreath bases. He’s now graciously allowed me to share his instructions on creating your own so that you can use it to decorate a fresh Christmas wreath. In this piece, you’ll learn how to weave a simple willow wreath from him. You can use the finished ring as a Christmas wreath base or display it independently. It’s a stunning piece simply displayed on its own.
How to Make a Willow Wreath
Making a willow wreath is inexpensive if you can harvest the willow yourself from willow trees. You also don’t need anything else to make it other than your own hands and a pair of hand pruners (secateurs). Prepare for the project by sourcing five to ten lengths of fresh or freshly soaked willow switches about 5-6′ long and about 1/4″ to 1/2″ in diameter. Trim the stems of any leaves or twigs so that they are long, straight willow rods. The willow you use needs to be bendy so that you can twist it into shape without snapping the stems.
There are many types of willow, and they come in a wide range of colors and textures. You can choose any of them for this project, and it’s up to you, your preference, and what you have available. You can find willow that’s deep red and shiny, dusky green-grey, or even matte black. All will age to be a golden to dark brown color, though.
If you can’t source willow and greenery from your own land, you might be able to find them at a local florist or tree surgeon. Another idea is to get in touch with local farms and the stallholders at Farmers Markets. Other types of bendy wood or vines could be used, too. Hazel is a good option, as are grape vines. As long as you can bend the wood without snapping or kinking it, feel free to use it to make a wreath ring.
Begin with a Single Willow Switch
Making a willow wreath ring can take about an hour for a beginner. As you become more experienced, you’ll be able to make one in about ten to fifteen minutes. You begin by taking one piece of willow and gently bending it to train it to want to go in a circular shape. Be gentle when ‘taking the spite’ out of it, as it’s called since you don’t want the willow to break or kink.
Twist your switch into a circular shape just over twelve inches in diameter or as large or small as you’d like. The trick here is to twist from the end of the thicker part so that the extra willow left hanging outside the circular shape is thinner and more pliable end. The video below will help you understand the whole process of how to make a willow wreath, particularly this first step.
Weave the Willow Ring
Holding the willow in the circle shape, take the long, thinner end of the switch and weave it around the shape. You do this by reaching your arm through the center of the ring and grabbing the very end. Pull it through the center of the ring, then repeat, reaching through the center to grab the end. If you try to pull from other parts of the wood, the switch may bend or kink. Threading the end of that willow switch this way will naturally twist it and create a sturdy circle. You will likely have extra willow that won’t tuck into the frame at the end. Don’t worry about this; just let it stick out for now. You’ll trim all excess willow at the end.
Weave the Second Switch On
Take the thicker end of a second willow switch and anchor it four to six inches back from the end of the first. By anchor, I mean pushing it under the bottom edge of the ring by inserting it from the front. The switch will hold fast with the tension of it being held that way. Hold the end of the new switch in place with one hand, then reach through the ring with your other and grab the thin end of the new switch. Pull it back through the ring. Continue this pattern around the wreath until nothing more can be pulled through. The willow switches spiral around each other, and this design creates a very sturdy wreath base that will last for years.
Weave More Willow on the Ring
Repeat the previous step with as many or as few willow pieces as you’d like – the willow wreath in the photos is made from eight willow switches. When you’re happy with the thickness of the ring, use your pair of secateurs (hand pruners) to trim off any pieces to create a neat finish. Make cuts at the back of the wreath and at an angle so as to avoid chunky, blunt ends. Optionally, you can now wrap the willow ring with string to hold it in place.
I have several willow rings now, and some are six or seven years old. The wood on all of them has turned medium to dark brown, and over the years, they do loosen a bit as the wood dries out. Keeping string wrapped around them keeps the wreaths in one piece and ready to be decorated the following year. You can also use the string to push decorations through, but there’s a better way to decorate a willow Christmas wreath.
Decorate a Fresh Christmas Wreath
The starting point of decorating a willow Christmas wreath is the DIY willow wreath ring you’ve just learned to make. Once your base is ready, you can start decorating it with greenery from the garden or the florist. I recommend wrapping the entire front of the willow ring with moss, ivy, or other evergreen foliage. You only need string to hold it on.
Then, make small bundles of natural decorations using layers of different foliage and berries. Overlap the bundles over the wreath and secure them using string. Lastly, attach decorations such as dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks, and Christmas ornaments with floral wire. You could even finish it off with a bow or battery-powered lights. For more guidance and step-by-step photos, I go through the full decorating process in my piece on making homemade Christmas wreaths.