Few things in life make me feel as close to genius as when I make pretty things out of rags. I guess rags is a loose term – I’m not talking about that thing you use to wash the car so much as the scraps of another project from a long time ago. The one that used some fabric that was probably way too expensive but you bought it anyway because it made you feel accomplished to make something. Well here you, again, making stuff. Way to be awesome like that!
Credit Where Credit is Due
The tradition of rag wreaths goes back way farther than google (although, I found some impressive archives) but I recall making one with my mom about 1985. My mom really wasn’t much a maker-crafter-hands-on-do’er, so the few things that we made together before she died hold a special place in my heart. One of the wreaths we made together involved one of my dad’s torn up old bandanas – I tied it on and she called it my Punky Brewster wreath, after my favorite TV show at the time, featuring a little girl who wore all mismatched clothing and a bandana tied around her knee. Punky was a BIG DEAL in my world back then so the reference stayed with me long after the wreath got eaten by a moth. That’s the power of 80s sitcoms y’all. They don’t make them like that anymore! Mark my words, nobody is ever going to remember making a Two and a Half Men Christmas craft.
But I digress…
I had written off rag wreaths as outdated and granny, but then I saw these images wreaths in the windows of my favorite store I have never been to— Black and Spiro, in Brisbane Australia (side note for anyone else in the Anna Spiro cult: Furbish Studio is now carrying a limited run of her first book (the only place in the US to carry it)…and I can tell you first hand, it is glorious!!!!). The wreath she featured in 2007 looks to be a grapevine wrapped in ribbon and a few silver baubles. Stunning, and slightly Punky Brewster like in an elegant, sophisticated way. Plus, pink and green – no explanation needed. I was smitten. So I tore into a grapevine wreath sitting in my basement and 30 minutes later, something beautiful was born! You can see a photo of the first one I made last winter at the end of the spread of my house in Flea Market Décor magazine, although, I think I’ve made about 15 of them since then and the process has evolved a bit. That said, now I look at that original grapevine at Black and Spiro and want to make something fresh all over again. Isn’t it funny how things can inspire you in totally different ways?
If you are interested in making one, I’ll break down directions for how I made mine using an inexpensive faux evergreen base, though, the concept is unlimited. If you can tear fabric and tie a bow, you can make this wreath in under 30 minutes and for very, very little money.
One Wreath, any kind. A natural base like grapevine makes a lovely contrast to bright colors and patterns, but you will find that these faux evergreens are very easy and inexpensive to find this time of year, so that’s what I’m doing here. My favorite place to find wreaths is the thrift store – very often they come with silk flowers or hot glue berries – just yank them off and dust it off. Bam.
Fabric scraps torn into 1 yard lengths, 3”-5” wide. Keep a couple of them extra long for the base. Any kind of Fabric will work, but I find that plain cotton in bold patterns make the best bows. Also, when I say tear, I mean tear. Don’t cut the fabric – tear it. The frayed edges add an extra bit of texture and magic.
1. Take one of your longer pieces of fabric, tie it to a piece of evergreen, then wrap around tightly, spreading the fabric around the wreath as you go. Secure with another knot when you reach the other end of the fabric. Repeat, working your way around until the entire base is covered. If a few pieces of greenery poke through, don’t worry – they’ll be covered soon enough.
2. Locate one of the gaps where the greenery is poking through, and use one of your 1 yard pieces to wrap around it twice, tightly, then secure with a bow. Continue doing this all around the wreath, alternating patterns and textures as you go.
3. Add ornaments, if you want. Or not. I think it looks pretty nifty without, but I’m not one to turn down sparkle.
- While plain cotton makes the best bows, you can wrap the base in just about any fabric. I used orchid polyester velvet salvaged from this nightgown. She was at Goodwill for a dollar, cigarette hole in the butt. Remember when people would just sit around smoking in orchid velvet? Yeah, whatever happened to that? Wow. Way to dive deep, Christmas nostalgia.
- While I feel very smart for using up fabric scraps on this project, I did go out and buy a few yards of tulle netting. I usually hate tulle, but there is something about it at Christmas. It just feels festive. It’s also a really good way to tie on ornaments, as it is thin enough to pass through the hanger holes. Also, tulle is so light and airy it makes a great foil for heavier patterned fabrics. Colors like mint and color read to me as neutral, but I’m also a fan of the fluorescent yellow!