For traditional folks, Christmastime doesn’t start on the day after Thanksgiving. Traditionally, the two weeks before Christmas was the time to slow things down a bit, take some time off work, spend time with family, and decorate the homeplace with handmade decorations. Black Friday is a modern invention that many of us would rather ignore.
A great way to get back to the old ways is to make a homemade Christmas wreath for your front door. A homemade wreath is much more beautiful than an off-the-shelf, plastic unit
from China, and the materials for a beautiful West Virginia pine wreath are right outside your door.
Ebeneezer Scrooge was right about one thing. It’s good to save money (but bad to be greedy). A homemade West Virginia Christmas wreath will cost you no more than five dollars. The only store-bought materials you will need are a little bit of wire, some ribbon to make a bow, and maybe some spray paint. Most people will have those around the house already. Big-box stores will sell you a bag of pine cones for five dollars. Why spend money when you can get the stuff for free?
Finding the stuff to make a wreath is the best part of the project – much better than fighting the crowds in a big-box store. Even in December, the materials for a beautiful wreath can be found on a short walk in a West Virginia forest. Dress warm and pick a Pocahontas County forest for a hike, preferably where different species of pine trees are growing. Spruce, white pine and hemlock can be found growing together in many areas of Pocahontas County. Take along a small set of garden snips. If you’re going onto public land, check with the park ranger or district ranger to make sure it’s okay to cut some small snippets of pine branches and grape vines. A wreath-making expedition is a great opportunity to teach youngsters evergreen tree and plant identification.
For this particular project, six to eight-inch snippets from spruce, hemlock and white pine branches were used for vegetation, but any or all of these varieties can be used. Don’t cut more than two or three pieces from any single tree to avoid aesthetic damage. Short, skinny lengths of grapevine are perfect for the wreath ring, but skinny, flexible branches or saplings also work well.
Grape vines are common and often found wrapped in the tops of fallen trees. A good place to look for cool-looking, airy lichens, in different shades of green, are pine trees that have fallen over streams. Fern fronds are everywhere, but during winter, you might have to search a little bit to find some in good condition. Let your creativity flow and find different materials to use to adorn your wreath.
After you’ve gathered your materials, it’s time to make your wreath. You’ll need a $2 roll of fine steel wire (28 gauge) from Glades or Richardson’s, or some similar fine wire that they sell
for crafts. If you have enough garbage bag twist ties in your kitchen drawer, they will work, as well. For this project, a small
amount of gold spray paint was used to paint the pine cones, but that’s optional. You might like to use a different color or no paint at all. Pine cones gathered in December are likely to be wet, so dry them out next to a wood stove or somewhere warm before painting them.
Take the grape vines or branches and form them into a braided ring of desired size. Secure the ring loosely with a few pieces of wire. Insert pine snippets into the braided ring and secure the snippets tightly into the ring with wire. For this project, the spruce snips were inserted first, followed by the hemlock and white pine, but experiment to make a basic wreath that looks good to you.
The world is your oyster when it comes to decorating your pine wreath. As mentioned earlier, natural materials from your foraging hike, including fern fronds, pine cones and lichen, can be used. A $1 piece of ribbon from the dollar store can make a nice bow. As shown in the photo, the finished product is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind creation. Hang your wreath proudly on your front door and brag to your neighbors about making it yourself. It will last longer if hung outside. Merry Christmas!