to educate, inspire and equip the urban homesteader

DIY Holiday Cheer

December 16, 2010

I love Christmas and I have as long as I can remember. It’s not the presents, which are probably actually my least favorite part, but everything else. I love the music, the feeling, the goodwill, the food, the lights and decorations. I love pulling out the big box of ornaments every year, each one a precious memory of a year gone by. I hang them on the tree, all my favorites in the front, until I realize the front is overloaded and I need to relegate some to the back of the tree. I drink eggnog with Amaretto nearly every night in the weeks leading up to the holiday and I sing Rat Pack Christmas tunes while I decorate absurdly time-consuming cookies. That’s how much I love this holiday.

Unfortunately, because of certain circumstances – not the least of which being that I just lost my little doggie a couple of weeks ago and that we’re going to be out of town for a full week around Christmas – I haven’t put up any decorations yet at all. I’ve barely listened to any festive music and, though I have had my share of eggnog, I haven’t felt much like baking and decorating cookies. I realized today as I was sitting around moping and missing the dog that maybe putting up a couple of decorations was just what I needed (as I write this, the song Mr. Grinch just came on my Pandora radio station).

Since we’re only going to be in our own house eight days between today and New Year’s Eve, it doesn’t make much sense to buy a $60 tree and put it up just to let it die while we’re out of town. I do love the smell of fresh pine though, so I decided to go for second best and make myself some homemade Christmas wreaths.

This is a great project for a little holiday helper!

This is a great project to do with friends or even with little ones. If you’re working with children, you’ll probably want to attach the branches to the frame but leave it up to their imaginations to decorate the wreath once it’s assembled. My little neighbor came by as I was finishing the first stage so I let her decorate the first wreath.

The best thing about this wreath, besides the heavenly holiday scent, is that it was completely free! I tend to save all kinds of strange odds and ends (I prefer the term ‘frugal’ over ‘pack rat’ in case you were wondering) so it was nice to find a purpose for some of them. I made a brief trip to the Castro Valley Christmas tree farm, which is only about 15 minutes from our house, to gather up free discarded cuttings. Then I took a quick walk around my Oakland neighborhood to gather branches with red berries which are in season and on seemingly every corner this time of year. There’s also holly growing wild around the Bay Area so you might want to take advantage of that when you create your wreath. I used metal clothes hangers from my dry cleaning for the frame and a bunch of those twist ties that come on fresh produce for securing the branches to the hanger. Finally, I had a whole collection of ribbons, candy canes, creepy vintage santa heads and battery-powered Christmas lights hidden away in my garage that I used to decorate the finished wreaths.

Here’s how you can make your own holiday wreaths at home.

What you’ll need:

– 1 metal clothes hanger

– 10 or so discarded Christmas tree boughs (free where you buy trees)

– About 20 twist ties or a roll of florist’s wire

– Miscellaneous items to decorate your wreath – foraged berries and leaves are nice as are battery-powered lights, glitter and tiny ornaments


1) Start with a metal clothes hanger and bend it into a circle, leaving the curved hanger part as a hook to hang the wreath.

2) Cut the tree boughs into manageable lengths, discarding any thick, stiff or misshapen branches.

3) Attach the boughs to the clothes hanger frame using the metal twist ties. Attach the thicker end of the branch first, leaving the more polished looking tip of the branch loose to cover up the next thick branch end that you attach. You’ll save yourself a lot of trouble if you choose branches that naturally curve in the direction you’re planning on bending them!

4) Continue attaching branches until the entire wire frame is covered.

5) Fill in any gaps with small pieces of branch and trim the edges with scissors if needed to give the wreath shape.

6) Add any embellishments you desire. If using a battery-operated strand of lights, be sure to hide the battery box behind the wreath and poke the lights through the back side so the wire isn’t visible.

7) Use the hanger at the top of the wreath to display your work!

In photos:

Start with a clothes hanger and bend it

Shape the hanger into a circle

Begin attaching branches with twist ties

Add branches one at a time, using the natural curve of the branch to your advantage

Add subsequent branches, hiding the thick cut ends as you go

Continue adding branches

Fill in any gaps with small branch pieces as you go

Trim any errant edges with scissors if needed

My holiday helper's finished wreath

My vintage-santa-head-inspired finished wreath


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  • These are so great, what a wonderful idea! Great way to use those creepy Santa heads. Even better, you can easily find ALL of these things in the Netherlands (except you’d have to pay for the branches and misc. berries — tree sellers don’t give them away and there aren’t any growing in public that I’ve seen).

    And don’t worry, you’ll get your fill of Christmas decorations and cookies in Nebraska. My Grandma had made 12 dozen cookies as of the first of December, and I believe you’ve even had a special tour of her ornament collection. Just make sure to load a Christmas song playlist on your mp3 player for the plane ride over. We can have a sing-along during the drive down to Eustis. We can also pretend that the deer we butcher is Rudolph. Or is that going to far?

    Can’t wait to see you guys!

  • I love your wreath! Grandma would be so very proud of you, as am I! Remember her wax milk carton that was cut down to make a box for rubber bands? That always makes me smile.
    I’m feeling your loss too, but cheer up and enjoy this festive time of year.
    Golly, I am going to miss you incredibly!