Former Extension Educator, Horticulture
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Friday, December 9, 2016
The holiday season can be a great time of joy, filled with family gatherings, rich foods, and festive decorations. Decorating for the holidays is one of the most important steps for many when it comes to getting in the holiday spirit. One challenge that comes with the territory is sticking to a budget. That's why I've dedicated this blog to sharing an inexpensive DIY holiday decoration: a fresh greenery swag!
To start off, here is a list of the materials that you will need.
A wire coat hanger
Fresh evergreen branches
Decorative wired ribbon – 2.5 inches wide
You can trim evergreens on your own property or purchase greenery from a garden center, farm supply store, or florist. Branches around one and a half feet long are ideal, but larger pieces can be trimmed with pruning shears into the appropriate shape. Some types of greenery that work well include pine, spruce, and cedar. Holly, magnolia and others plants with sturdy/waxy leaves make great additions for contrast and visual interest. Some of these plant materials have thorns or prickles, so you may want to wear gardening gloves when working with them.
The first step in making your swag is to pull the bottom of your coat hanger downward from the center to bend it into a vertical line. Then curl the end of the hanger part inward to create a tight loop.
Now that you have your hanger base, select a straight branch that is long enough to cover several inches beyond the end of the hanger and wire it to the hanger with the cut end of the branch at the top (the end with the hook). To do this, leave a tail at the beginning of the wire and wrap the wire around the branch and the hanger several times. Then cut the wire, leaving enough to twist together with the other end like a twist-tie. It is much easier to work with wire that is a little bit too long than it is to work with a piece that is too short. You can clip off any excess after you have securely twisted the ends together.
From this point you will begin layering on more branches. About one third of the way down from the top, wire on a bundle of about three branches, oriented in the same direction as the initial branch. Keep the cut ends of the branches together and wrap your wire around all of the branches and the hanger. Secure the bundle by twisting the ends of the wire at the back of the swag.
For your next bundle, choose three branches that are shorter than the first bunch (or trim them), and orient them in the opposite direction. The cut ends of the branches should be in the same place as the first bundle, but the branches will point up instead of down so that the hanger hook is covered. Wire on the branches as before and secure at the back.
Continue layering on more branches until you achieve a pleasing shape and fullness. You can use all one type of greenery or alternate varieties as you go. One tip for working with plant material is "Do not be afraid to cut out any parts that are discolored or damaged." Also feel free to trim branches to get the size and shape that you need.
When you have finished building the greenery portion of your swag, it is time to make a bow! Before you do anything else, cut a piece of wire about eight inches long and set it aside. Now you can begin working with the ribbon. Begin by making a single loop at the end of the ribbon one to two inches wide. Hold this loop together between your thumb and forefinger. This will be the center of your bow. Then make your first large loop of the bow by folding it out and back to the center. Hold this loop together with your center loop, and then make another loop on the opposite side. Take note that if your ribbon has a pattern or glitter on only one side you will have to twist the ribbon behind the center loop each time you start a new outer loop to keep the glitter on the outside of the bow. Keep stacking up loops like an accordion until you have at least six (if you make more the bow will be larger). When you have made all of your loops, take the piece of wire that you set aside and put it through the center of the bow. Tightly cinch the wire around the loops and twist to secure the bow together.
Now you can bend and arrange the loops to give the bow the shape you desire. To add tails to your bow, cut a piece of ribbon twice as long as you want each tail to be and twist at the center so that it makes an upside-down V shape.
Use wire to attach the tails to the center of your bow. Finally, wire your completed bow to the swag, covering the cut ends of the branches.
In addition to the bow, you can add other decorations such as pine cones and ornaments. You can attach them directly to the swag with wire, or wire the object to a skewer that you can stick into the bundle of greenery. Once you have added your own decorative flair, hang the swag on your front door or in any location that could you some dressing up for the holidays!