Wednesday, September 10, 2008

AUTUMN WREATHS

I think I may have told you about my obsession with Bittersweet. It all started when my kids were toddlers and I wanted just a few sprigs for seasonal decor a la Country Living. But the berries are poisonous, so I had to wait, rather impatiently, until they were either old enough or smart enough not to eat them. Easier said than done and since my boys are 4 year apart it made for a long wait. Alas, they are 24 and 28 this month and since neither live at home I am free to scavenge it wherever and whenever I see fit. It is now against the law to sell the plant in Massachusetts because it has become so invasive, and many of the places it grows best are just a bit dangerous, ie: the sides of major highways or medians on divided highways. The leaves start to loose some color by the end of August so I can see where it is good pickin' is going to be. I usually start to cut the end of September, but last weekend I was at HomeGoods and in the back of the parking lot I spied some potential pickins. It was absolutely THE BEST, thickly vined around each other and heavily berried. I tried to convince myself to let it stay until it ripened a bit further, but like all addictions it was not to be denied. So, looking both ways in case I should be spotted cutting a parasitic plant from a guard rail, I snatched my trusty clippers and started cutting. Below is the result.
I came home and was so excited I didn't even bother to strip the leaves, which is a rather tedious chore. I just twisted it into a circle, added a couple of wires to keep it together and hung it from this peg. Now, here is the thing, the berries are still inside their little husks, but as soon as they get some direct sun or heat they will "pop". This usually happens in the back seat of my car!


By Sunday night they had almost all popped and I had stripped most of the leaves off. I like to leave a few for the organic feel of it. Note it isn't really round and that is just the way I like them, kinda free form. Now the problem is...where to hang it. It is not really big enough for my front door and I don't usually hang them inside as they are messy, what with more husks falling when you walk by. So, not very practical, but I have to make them. Anyone know of a 12 Step Program??

Today my friend Jane ( she of Southern California fame) mentioned on Blissfully Domestic that she was going to hang the grapevine wreath I made for her 25 years ago. Yes, she is practical and sentimental. When these wreaths first became popular, once again in Country Living ( *the* magazine of the early 80s), you couldn't just buy them, so my Ex-husband and I gathered grapevines on the side of the road, soaked them to make them more pliable and made a couple of wreaths for gifts. I must be smarter now because I make them with very little time or effort. It is very helpful to cut the vines while they are still alive.

Grapevine growing in the rear part of my yard known as "The Woods". I kept it on the ground this year. Much easier to harvest if it is not growing up a tree, lol.
Cut the vines as long as you can. Leave the tendrils and cut off the leaves. Makes me think I should use them to serve cheese or something. Leave them on the ground to rot!
Bring the stripped vines to the table to work on them
Find something round or another set of hands.
Grab all the vines at once and twist into a circle. Add wire to hold the circle in place. These vines were long enough to go around again. I wired it top and bottom. Now go back
and weave any shorter vines in. Use the tendrils to "lock" pieces together if possible, the tendrils are so cool.
This is what it looks like now. I will let it dry for a few days and then remove the wire at the bottom. After it is dry you can weave other vines into it. I have used Honeysuckle vines or even Morning Glory Vines. I bet squash vines would work too. I love how the different vines are different thicknesses, textures and dimensions. I love my wreaths to be very organic in feel with a lot of depth. Okay, I know you can go to Michael's and buy one for $2.99, but I get tremendous enjoyment out of doing this in the sunny fall weather.

Later,

19 comments:

  1. Love your tutorial on how to make a beautiful bittersweet wreath. It certainly feels like fall when I see these gorgeous berries~love it!:) chris

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  2. Awesome wreath! Several years ago I made grapevine Christmas trees. It was quite a chore, but they were really cute. I later saw some at a Prim Shop, and they were pretty expensive. I need to clip the vines from the fence and get started on a new wreath.

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  3. I just adore bittersweet, both the plant and the word, come to think of it. It reminds me of my midwest childhood. As far as I know, it doesn't grow here out west. A half dozen years ago a friend in Wisconsin surprised me with a box of it. I shared a bit with my mom, who was just as deleted with a gift of "weeds" and the rest is still in a vase above a shelf in my kitchen.

    I didn't think of using squash or pumpkin vines to make wreaths - hmmm, I might try that this year.

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  4. Oh thank you for posting this. Yes, you can buy them cheap. But it is nice to own your work. Clarice

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  5. love the wreaths! both before and after. friend-made wreaths are way better than storebought. i'm going out scouting the neighborhood for berry vines. who knows what grows in socal?? jkj

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  6. I also love bittersweet, but we don't get the real thing here...dammit! I don't have grapevines either, but I shall begin lookin for some to pillage. Thank you for your nice comment, it means so much.

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  7. Lucky find of Bittersweet!
    It has become hard to find it "wild" around here. Happy wreath making!
    Karla & Karrie

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  8. Great wreaths! I love bittersweet too, but I never see it around here.

    Thanks for the mention of my Home Goods gig and the sweet comment for me over there. I was keeping it a secret until my first post.

    I just posted so, tell all of your friends to visit me at:
    http://openhouse.homegoods.com/index.php/2008/09/11/old-world-cottage-chic/

    Hugs,
    Penny

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  9. Okay...I am having major jealousy issues...both of these are so "wonderfully Fall"! Nothing like that here...hmmmm...maybe I could make a wreath out of crabgrass. :)

    Very cool...especially love that bittersweet!

    Cassie

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  10. Janet,

    The wreath is lovely.

    Happy Almost Autumn!

    Melissa

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  11. Lovely wreaths!

    I made a lot of grapevine wreaths back in the 80's too. I seem to remember stripping the bark off the vines first. It made them much more supple, without the need for soaking first...

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  12. Beautiful wreaths...I love Bittersweet :o)
    ~Des

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  13. Well, aren't you a crafty thing you! I think it is beautiful! I too love bittersweet. I used to wirk in a country/antique shop and I well remember the year we got bunndles and bundles of bittersweet. A man that the shop owner knew brought it to us from his cabin in the mountains. We made wreath after wreath after wreath.

    I think it is sweet that Jane still has the wrteh you made for her years ago...and I am betting it still looks great.

    Love,
    Sue

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  14. Great wreath making. There is a lot of work invovled but guess it is better when you are working hands on with nature making things for your own family and friends that makes it all worth while.

    Thanks for your suggestions and ideas.

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  15. I love bittersweet too, but I don't think I've ever seen it growing around here. Great wreath and tutorial!

    Manuela

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  16. What a wonderful vacation!. Thank you for sharing it with us, I have always wanted to go to Canada. Your full wreath is really in the spirit of fall with all the berries. I love the color changing of the berries.
    Have a great day,
    Elizabeth

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  17. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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Thanks,
Janet