Braiding a Natural Vine Wreath: Tips and Care
It has been a few years now since I completed this project, but I set out with the intention of creating an all-seasons door wreath – something neutral in color and natural in style. Personally, I had never made a vine wreath myself, but I remembered venturing into the woods with my parents as a child to gather vines for one they made at Christmas once. The end result was enormous! We decorated it and used it on the side of the house and in the yard, from year to year. I knew my mom liked to make them still, so I enlisted her help.
On one clear, gray day during the dormant season, my parents and I sought the vines for my project along the sparse edges of the woods in the pasture behind my grandmother’s house. The three of us spent perhaps an hour and a half gathering them. The process takes a bit of patience and care – and a lot of twisting, pulling, and uncurling! Unfortunately, I am not well versed enough in plant names to tell you with certainty the varieties we harvested, but I believe jasmine, honeysuckle, grapevine, and wisteria were among them.
I’ve only ever gathered vines during winter. I’m not sure you could realistically do it while the vines are green. I imagine you would have to dry them. Then you would also have to deal with leaves and sap. They would be stronger too, so more difficult to tear down… It’s probably best to just wait until winter, but if you have done it while they are green, leave a comment! I would love to hear about your experience.
In the end, it looked as if there were enough to make three wreaths! You need a large supply to choose from though, because not all will be usable.
We used the base of an old round trash can to start the initial circle. Anything similar would work, but keep in mind your end goal and size. Decorating it will likely add bulk around the outside, making it bigger than it seems as just a bare form. We began with a few stiff, strong vines and anchored them together with fishing line. After that, we braided and twisted those we liked best in and out of the circular form.
I do consider it to be a two-person job. I do not believe you could achieve the level of intricacy that we did with only one pair of hands. Mom held it down tight, supporting it as I ran the vines through.
I do have a few tips to share with you which I learned from the experience:
WHAT YOU WILL NEED: Gloves, pruning shears, loppers, fishing line or similar twine, scissors, and something round on which to begin your form (like a bucket or barrel).
DO gather many different types of vines. You only need a few stiff and sturdy ones for the initial form. After that, you want thinner, more flexible varieties in order to best weave and braid them. It is ideal to have a large pool to choose from based on your needs as you go and since not all of them will be viable. You can mix a bit of the dry and weathered types in with the pliable ones.
DO aim for interesting textures and patterns. Curly, gnarled, ragged, and torn – embrace the oddities nature gives you. It makes for a more interesting piece.
A NOTE ON CLEANING AND CARE: I clean mine about once per year when I redecorate it. I strip the decorations away, down to the wreath form, and wash it gently in a tub of slightly warm, mild soapy water. I then rinse it and allow it to dry either outdoors in the sun or indoors on a towel and under a fan. Lastly, I coat it with a spray of wood polish. I have yet to have any ill effect from this method of treatment. Just be gentle in all steps!
UPDATE: I decided to add some new pictures after I gave the wreath its yearly cleaning this past week. I skipped doing it last year, so it was quite dirty and in desperate need of some moisture.
I used Murphy Oil Soap Wood Cleaner and Howard’s Orange Oil Wood Polish. I originally made the wreath I believe in early 2016, so it has certainly held up well for its age. In these pictures it has completely dried from its clean and polish, though it doesn’t look like it. It really soaked up that orange oil!
I am beyond pleased every time I look at it. Take in all those exquisite little details! You can’t buy anything that pretty in the store and knowing that I gathered it from nature and made it with my parents makes it something I will always treasure.