Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Wreath Frenzy

My holiday decor shopping this year is reaching near-hoarder levels. The shelves in the garage are already full, as is the spare closet...I honestly don't know where it's all going to go once the season ends. But I can justify it all, because I got it for ridiculously cheap at the thrift store, and it doesn't look it.

So, this is the second post in my Thrifty Christmas series (the first was the Holiday Shrub), and this one is all about wreaths. Christmas wreaths are probably the most customizable seasonal decor, but wreath-making can be a pricey craft if you're buying everything new. But if you know where and how to look, creating gorgeous wreaths from thrift store finds is easy and insanely cheap!

The key is to be creative about your resources. I sourced my wreaths and decorative elements from three different thrift stores in the area. Thrift stores usually start putting out Christmas decor a few weeks after Halloween. Though they bring out the merchandise gradually to keep the shelves stocked, as with most things, you're likely to find the best stuff if you start early. I found the big wreath pictured below at the Salvation Army for $3.99. Similar wreaths from the craft store are $20 or more!

Next I hunted around for scraps of fake foliage. When I'm thrifting, I try to remember to look at things not as a whole, but as what they might become when taken apart or repurposed. The sprigs of faux pine below came from a very sad looking plastic wreath that had been partially ripped apart. It was dusty, had parts missing, and only cost $0.49!

The following faux evergreen scraps were similar stories. I found them stuffed in old baskets and bins or sealed in zip-lock bags so grimy you could barely tell what was inside. And none of them cost me more than a dollar.

The faux cypress was an especially important find for me because I grew up in a house surrounded by cypress trees. Years of tree climbing has given me an intimate knowledge of how the plant is constructed. These boughs were a very impressive imitation, right down to the little spiky bumps on the branches.

I also found a bag of mini pine cones for two dollars.

My boyfriend's mother has started a tradition of sending us a live wreath every year. I love the natural wreath look, but you only take full advantage of a live wreath if it's in the house, making everything smell like pine. What I needed was a wreath for the outside of the front door.

So the plan was to make a faux wreath in the natural pine style. No fancy baubles and fake fruit and snow, just a fresh looking wreath that makes you want to lean in and smell the forest.

I started layering the different faux pine boughs into the wreath, starting with the largest cypress pieces, and working my way down to the small needles that have tips of bright green to look like fresh growth.

Then, lastly, I added the mini pine cones. I attached these by tucking green floral wire deep between the tightest bracts (that's what the scale-like things on a pine cone are called) at the based of the cone. I twisted the wire to keep it in place on the cone. I twisted the wire around various pine sprigs on the wreath.

Finally, I added a healthy dose of Christmas with a big bow at the top of the wreath.

There hasn't been that much "frenzy" in this wreath-making post yet, so let me explain. In addition to our front door wreath, I wanted to have a wreath for each of my roommates' bedroom doors. I am fortunate enough to live with three young men who don't roll their eyes at my seemingly boundless holiday cheer, in fact they have plenty of their own. It only seemed appropriate to encourage the seasonal cheer by spreading more throughout the house.

I rescued these three wreaths from the thrift store for about $3 or $4 each. To begin with they were in pretty sorry shape, but remember what I said before about seeing the potential in things.

In my enthusiasm for decorating I neglected to take any progress shots on these. So instead you get the instant gratification of the after shots.

First, the bauble wreath, filled with mini bulbs I found in one of the previously mentioned grimy zip-lock bags at the thrift store. The paint on many of the little Christmas bulbs was cracking and flaking off, but I think it lends the wreath a vintage look, as does the plaid bow, which was recycled from last year's holiday decorations. The holly and berries at the top were snagged from among my parents holiday decorations from years ago.

Next, the classic wreath. This one has all the traditional wreath decorations, including bright red berries, apples, holly leaves, and pine needles dusted with snow. I found the red bells in the bag with the mini bulbs from the previous wreath, a nice little bonus.

Lastly, the poinsettia wreath. This one is a burst of color, so much of a burst that you'll have to forgive my camera's poor handling of the bright red color. Just take my word for it that the red is just as deep and rich as a real poinsettia plant.

I made this wreath by taking apart two "bouquets" of fake poinsettia flowers. The wire stems made them very easy to hook into the wreath. The sprigs of red berries you can see sprouting out at various points I found back in October when I was shopping for Halloween decorations at Salvation Army. I didn't know what I'd use them for, but I knew they'd come in handy.

And there you have it, wreath frenzy has ended. My fingers may be sore from twisting wire stems into place, but it's well worth it. Time to go eat today's treat from my advent calendar.

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