I started making willow branch wreaths this past fall when a willow tree came down in a storm, and found that I really enjoy making them and decorating with them. Before I run out of branches, I thought I’d write a post on how I make them—it all began with my idea for an Interchangeable Seasonal Wreath.
Willow branches are uniquely suited to wreath-making because of their flexibility and structure. Each branch has a thicker end that branches off into several thinner branches. When you start making your wreath with the thicker end, the finer end with all the little branches really fills out the wreath nicely. It’s really neat to see it take shape.
Fresh willow branches (still green from a live or recently felled tree)
First, cut your fresh willow branches, allowing them to be as long as possible. The ones pictured here are much shorter than I usually use because deer have been decimating the fallen tree all winter long. Longer branches will help you make a larger wreath; although you can make a smaller wreath with long branches, you can’t make a larger wreath with short ones. The branches must still be green to have the flexibility for shaping.
You may need to pre-bend the thicker end of the branch to encourage a nicer, more rounded shape:
To begin, take one branch and form a circle, starting with the thicker end of the branch. Wrap the thinner end of the branch (the end with all the little branches hanging off the main branch) around the thicker end of the branch; continue wrapping around and around until you run out of branch.
Here is where finesse comes in: You’ll get a feel for the shape and size wreath this branch “wants” to become. Don’t try to force a smaller circle than what the branch is capable of, or it’ll end up snapping. If you don’t get it right on the first try or accidentally break your branch, keep on trying!
Here is what you end up with after the first branch:
Take a second branch and lay it to the right of the starting place of the first branch, entering the wreath from the back (see photo below). Now wind this branch around the wreath following the same direction as the first branch—if you wound your first branch in a clockwise (outside to inside) fashion, do so for all subsequent branches. You'll find that your second and subsequent branches help to secure the first branches in place. Be strategic as you add more branches to give your wreath a nice shape and evenness.
Add a third branch the same way and repeat the winding process. Repeat as any times as you like to get the size wreath you want. I usually only need three or four branches to get the shape and thickness I’m after.
Here’s what my wreath looked like after four branches:
Tuck in the ends of the branches where possible, and snip the ends of the ones that don’t.
I made two small wreaths with the pile of branches shown, with a small amount of broken branches left over. The cut branches had been sitting around for a few days, so they were starting to get brittle. Same-day wreath making really is best.