I’ve always loved art. In my pre-NIP years it was my life plan to become an artist (or composer or dog breeder). I learned some tricks from my grandfather, a professional painter and designer, and took art classes all through high school despite the warning that it wouldn’t look as attractive to universities as, say, business class (I still got offers of acceptance from all three unis I applied to).
Making tangible, beautiful things remains one of my passions. Since I’ve become more invested in sustainable living in recent years, I’ve learned to make my crafts more eco-friendly by using repurposed or biodegradable materials. Wild vines are resources that literally renew themselves each spring. In this post, I’ll show you how to turn them into wreaths, globes, and birds’ nests.
Vines like wild grapevine, ivy, and Virginia creeper can choke out other plants, but stripping away the tendrils by hand is quite easy. Twigs from supple trees like willow or birch can also be used. When you’re done pruning, you’ll have a pile of bendy branches that can be turned into a variety of creative shapes. Working with vines is best done before the weather gets too cold, so the plant is still supple and easy to work with (if your vines are brittle, try soaking them in water a few hours first).
You may also need:
- Garden gloves (or similar) to protect your hands
- Clippers or secateurs to cut thick vines
- Hot glue or high gauge/florists’ wire
- Fishing line or string, for hanging the decorations
Safety note: do NOT harvest vines from…
- Private land, unless you have the owner’s permission
- Public land like parks and conservation authorities
- A patch of poison ivy, giant hogweed, or other noxious or invasive plants
Always check your local laws regarding wild plants to avoid damaging the ecosystem or bringing something unpleasant into your home.
Three Things to Make with Vines
Tip: Always collect more vines than you think you’ll need. Remember that vines will become brittle over time, so it pays to add extra tendrils to ensure sturdiness.
The Classic Vine Wreath
This familiar feature can be made in any size and used indoors or out. Different ornaments can be attached at different times of year to suit the season, or it can be left plain for a minimalist, woodsy accent. If you’re short on places to hang a wreath (e.g. you’re not allowed to put nails in the wall), try laying one flat on a table as a centrepiece, perhaps with a battery-operated candle or lantern in the middle.
Mini wreaths look cute in small windows or hanging from the branches of a tree. You can hang them in a row using fishing line, add a string of beads, wrap them in ribbon, use them to frame a small round picture…start experimenting and see where it takes you.
My favourite wreath-making tutorials are this video by Natural Crafts & Recipes and this post by Rural Sprout.
The Vine Globe
Also known as the vine ball. This project requires three wreaths that are the same size. Fit two together so that one is centred inside the other. Next, add a third wreath at a perpendicular angle so that it sits around the middle of the first two. Adjust everything so that it looks symmetrical, then wire or hot glue the wreaths in place (note that hot glue may not work for large globes because of their weight).
Globes can be decorated like wreaths or painted to help them stand out. They look cool incorporated into strings of lights.
Here’s a similar tutorial for a twig ball lantern (Rhubarb and Wren).
The Vine Nest
Essentially a small basket without a handle, this can be used as a container as well as a decoration. To make it, I used one small wreath as the base of the nest and one slightly larger to be the rim. I wove them together by wrapping thin vines under and through the base wreath, leaving large loops for the next vines to weave through in turn.
I’ll admit that the result is pretty lopsided – it might have been better to stack wreathlets of increasing size on top of each other to make a more balanced shape.
Oh well. It still looks cute with a faux cardinal and painted eggs.
There’s a tutorial on Fleamarket Gardening that’s much more straightforward than my woven version. To super-size this project, try Empress of Dirt’s instructions for a giant garden art bird nest.
What will you be making out of vines?
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