Friday, December 13, 2013

The Holly and the Ivy: Natural Snowy Garland and Ice Skate Wreath Tutorial

My handmade fresh "snowy" garland

I can't believe Christmas is almost here! Where has the year gone? With marching band and being sick for so long, I am way behind in my preparations. Usually I'm all finished shopping before Thanksgiving and get the whole house decorated before December. This year, not so much! It's unfortunate, because this house offers the perfect canvas for decoration. We have a fireplace mantle here for the first time in more than a decade. We have lots of breezeways and balconies inside the house, perfect for garlands and ornaments. Our foyer has a large window in the upper story, just right to display a second tree. We did manage to buy a small potted cypress for that window and we got the tree up and lights on the front porch. Everything else is still sitting around in boxes, though, so I'm getting an earful from the kids.

First, gather your fresh greenery.

Yesterday afternoon I went out into the yard in search of greenery for a garland. Our very first home had cedar and juniper and holly growing in the yard and I used to make gorgeous garlands for the mantle there. Some years we still have roses blooming in December so I would often add those to the garland for a bit of color.

Here, I found camellia, buddleia (butterfly bush), cultivated and wild holly, and pine boughs. Before I could even bring them inside however, I had a fit of uncontrollable sneezing and my hands became swollen and itchy and were covered in hives. This turned out to be the effect of the wild holly branches, so those went right out into the yard again. I guess we know which trees we'll take down next!

Before you start, place Command hooks so they have time to set up.

Once the allergens were removed, I set to creating a garland. First, I applied Command hooks to the mantle to help hold the garland and the stockings. These have to sit for an hour before you use them, so I put them on to set up while I made the garland.

Use the largest boughs as a base and tie them to your long strand of yarn.

Next, I planned out the size of my garland. For this I cut a strand of thick yarn the length of the mantle plus a bit more to hang over the sides. I had green wool and acrylic blend yarn left over from a sweater I knitted for my son. Normally, I prefer to use all natural fiber yarn for this, because it will decompose and the entire garland can be composted after the holiday, but this is the only green yarn I had. Once you've determined the length, decide which boughs will form the base of your garland. I chose sturdy pine boughs for the base. Lay the base boughs over the yarn you cut to length and tie them to one another and to the strand of yarn so you have a strong sweep of plant material to build upon.

Arrange the remaining greenery into fan-shaped bundles and tie.

Next, gather bunches of your other materials and arrange them longest to shortest, so you have a fan-shaped bunch of greenery with the longest branches in the back and the shortest in front. My bundles are buddleia, which I think is perfect for Christmas décor because the leaves look like little silver stars, with camellia in front of that and holly with berries in front of that. Tie your bundle together at the base and fan the branches out to shape it. Then tie the bundle to the base. Repeat this, layering bundles so the bases of the bundles face the center of the garland. This means you will be laying them in opposite directions with the tied ends facing the center point. Shape and tie the last bundle into a half circle and tie it over the center to hide the stems of the bundles. When the garland is finished as you'd like, trim any long yarn tied ends so they don't show.

Tie bundles atop base, starting from opposite ends with tied bases facing the center.

When your garland is all tied sturdily enough to be moved, take it outside or into the garage to spray it with "snow". You can purchase this flocking spray at WalMart or art supply and craft stores. It is very useful in decorating for winter and lasts a long time. It will clean off windows and things, as well, so you can use it for a wide range of decorations. I like to spray it on greenery, artificial trees and wreaths, and grapevine or bare branches.

Spray on "snow" flocking

Hold the can 10-12 inches away and spray the snow like spray paint. Don't get the flocking too heavy because it won't dry properly. Just give everything a light dusting. I let the garland dry for about an hour and then brought it in and put it on the mantle.

Before snow spray

After snow spray

After the garland was up we hung the stockings. I wanted to put white lights in the garland and I know we have some around here somewhere, but I can't find them, so Jerry ran out for a strand. I think the lights make all the difference! I was considering putting gold and silver ornaments and jeweled fruits in with the greenery but once the lights were on I decided the garland didn't need that. I was considering making a tiny Santa hat for the Viking ship, but I found a little wreath so I used that. Merry Viking Christmas!

Arrange the garland as you'd like.

Add accessories such as lights and stockings.

The finished garland, all lit up.

The Viking ship hung in my grandparents' house all my life and I have very early memories of my grandfather lifting me up so I could touch the shields. They bought the ship in "Little Norway" in Michigan back in the 1950s or 60s. Luckily, all their children think it's hideous, so I was allowed to take it after my grandparents died. Right now, if you can get to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse Museum in Northport, MI for Christmas, you can share a little of our family history. My great-great-great grandfather, a Danish-American and former lighthouse Keeper, is being honored with Danish flag decorations on the Christmas tree in the Museum. Although my Scandinavian blood is mostly Norwegian, I have some other influences.

My stocking

I was initially thinking of doing the mantle all in white and gold and silver, maybe with a little turquoise, ice colors. It would look fabulous in this house. I thought I might replace the Viking ship with a snow-flocked silvery grapevine wreath. The stockings are such bright colors, however, I decided it wouldn't look right. After all, we must put the stockings up! I still have my own childhood stocking, knitted for me by my aunt when I was a baby. So, I left the ship and let go of my wintry white décor ideas for now. Maybe when the kids are grown and gone and take their stockings to their own houses.
Merry Viking Christmas!

Our pretty Christmas fireplace
Last year I saw one of our neighbors, who always has amazing outdoor seasonal décor, tied a pair of ice skates to her garage light fixture with a big ribbon. This brought to mind my old ice skates. When I was eight or nine my mom and I found the most beautiful skates I've ever seen at a yard sale. They are pale blue Canadian Flyer leather skates with a silver leather insert running down the tongue. The tops are trimmed with gray faux fur and the laces are white with silver shimmery threads woven through them.

My beautiful ice skates

The skates were too large for me but Mom went ahead and bought them for me to grow into. That winter, the skates were still a bit big, but wearable, but the lake didn't freeze. The next winter it still didn't freeze, or the winter after that. Because our hometown was situated on the lake and had its own public skating pond there were no ice skating rinks there. We moved away to North Carolina and finally had a skating rink, so I was thrilled I was going to be able to wear my skates at last...and I put them on only to find I'd outgrown them! That same year the lake froze hard in Ohio and I could have gone skating while we were home for Christmas if only I had some skates!

 It was such a great disappointment. I never could bring myself to sell the skates, even though they're still barely worn after all this time, because I love them so much. I was thrilled to have an idea to use them. I decided to make a wreath for the front door trimmed with the skates. I forgot to pick them up while we were home at Thanksgiving, so Jerry drove all the way back and got them for me.

Hang the wreath to dry

I had an artificial wreath from our old house and I decided to use that because the skates are heavy and I don't think a fresh handmade wreath would hold them. Besides, I'd like to use this one every year. I simply sprayed the flocking snow on the wreath just as I did the garland. Jerry had the idea to hang it on the shovel to dry.

The finished ice skate wreath

When the wreath was dry I tied the skates on with their laces. Then I stuck icy-looking ivy and sticks under the laces. I covered the knots with a Scandinavian-print wire ribbon bow. I love the way it looks! It's very classic but not specific to Christmas so I can leave it up all winter. If I want to I can stick fresh greenery under the laces some years. So, now we're done with the exterior decorating and most of the interior. I just have the village and nativity to set up and everything will be finished so we can relax and enjoy the season.

Retro boys' toys in my store, like this He-Man

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mutant Module Vehicle

Besides all the decorating, I've been busy cleaning and listing a bunch of boys' toys from the 1980-early 90s. I bought two large boxes of toys to get some Ghostbusters items for our 5-year-old's Christmas present. He's really into the Ghostbusters right now! Besides the Ghostbusters, the boxes contained a ton of RoboCop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, and Beetlejuice stuff, most of it complete and in excellent condition. My boys don't know about those, so I decided to sell the extras. It's been a funny trip down memory lane. In high school I babysat for a little boy who had almost all this stuff! Check my store for all these retro boy toys:

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