Thursday, December 10, 2015

Wreath Decorating 2015: Day 2

I'm still having a little trouble getting photos to load on my laptop. Here's a wreath from Monday that showed up yesterday. I'm always so focused on whatever wreath I'm working on that I can't recall any of the others I've done. So this was a surprise. But then I remembered the pomegranates, which went peacefully onto the wreath without having to be punctured by an awl. And the flash of red at the top is a cardinal. 

My first job on Tuesday was a heading for a red door on Beacon Street. The customer had chosen a pretty, neutral ribbon decorated with reindeer in gold glitter. She wanted mostly natural materials but also some "glitz," so I used gold spray paint and glitter spray on pinecones and magnolia leaves. I also added gold "pearls" and those long, spiky metallic things, which give a lot of bang for almost zero effort: 

We had a pinecone shortage last year (partially due to me since I love pinecones and use too many of them). The Garden Club put the call out in the early fall for everyone to gather as many as possible from Cape Cod and elsewhere. Many members have second homes in woodsy places, so bags and boxes of cones from various New England states were delivered on Monday and we were all set with a huge amount and much variety. 

Among my favorites are these little ones that are still attached to branches, often covered in lichen. I believe these come from the scrubby pines at the Cape. They are fun to work with and give wreaths instant interest and a rustic, old-fashioned look. I hoarded way too many of them, I confess, but I also used loads:

Some years we have a lot of holly; this year we had variegated (yellow and green) holly but not much with red berries. I was able to get a little for this wreath. Here's a close-up, which also shows lotus pods (purchased by the bag) and milkweed pods (gathered by members):

My next pair of wreaths turned out to be a nightmare, since they were not my "type" and the person requesting them is one of the Wreath Week organizers. She is a decorating pro of the highest caliber. She is in charge of approving everyone's wreaths before they are sent upstairs for delivery. So no pressure there.... The ribbon she selected was beautiful —  a peacock feather print in my favorite blue. I was also given a pile of materials to use — all of them big, plastic, glittery, and glamorous. There were beads, "jewels," fake branches and crystals, these loopy, glittery things that looked like floppy whisks, and more. And it was all supposed to land on these wreaths to make "A Statement." 

I was soooo out of my league. There are plenty of designers in the club who would have done an amazing job. I should stick to my dirty old pinecones. I finally had to beg an expert for help — a designer who routinely does gorgeous, drop-dead wreaths with twice as much glitz and pizzazz as these. Here's what they looked like after she fixed them up. 

I found a few real peacock feathers in our stash from years past:

I figured out afterwards that I was chosen for these not because I'd create a lovely design but because my wreaths are tough and sturdy. I use plenty of wire and floral picks to make sure everything stays put even on townhouse doors that get a lot of use. Bows may get squashed and need foofing, but only loose berries ever fall off. For some people (especially, say, husbands) that can be a top priority. My wreaths may not be as elegant as most, but they take a licking and keep on sticking.

I saw these wreaths upstairs in the church courtyard the next day and they looked better in daylight. I'll show you a photo tomorrow. I asked their owner if she had tinkered with them and she denied it.

I returned to "all-natural materials" after those, to my relief. This was easy:

And then I went home and collapsed.

I've been protecting the tips of my thumbs and index fingers with layers of medical adhesive tape, and it prevents a lot of wear and tearl while allowing me to twist tiny wires and do delicate work. But my hands still get covered with fine scratches and small puncture wounds, mostly from the tiny, sharp thorns on rose hips, which I hoarded and used on almost every wreath. (They are the tiny berries in clusters, above.) Whenever my hands get wet, they feel like they are burning from the scores of little wounds.

Everyone's hands get covered with pine pitch, which we remove by rubbing with Crisco, which comes in convenient tubs that sit by the church's kitchen sink. First we slather it on and rub for awhile, usually while wandering around and watching other people work. Then we add dish detergent to rinse off the fat. It gets hands reasonably clean (except for my stubborn surgical adhesive) and it's even a bit moisturizing.


  1. I like your natural ones best but there's something about that peacock ribbon that makes me feel all magpie-y.

    Have you had any luck with something like finger-less mechanic's gloves?

  2. The wreaths are all beautiful. You should be very proud!


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