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Make a willow wreath to start off a DIY Christmas

Elegant and easy to personalise, willow wreaths look stunning hanging from the front door, on a mantle or as a centrepiece at the dinner table.

A willow wreath can be used in many ways. It offers a sustainable natural structure to which you can add many different styles of foliage for as many different occasions. Although great for the entire year, holly, ivy and mistletoe are popular choices at Christmas time. For a unique touch, why not take a walk through your local green area and forage for the adornments that best suits your home?

This project was taken from Jenny Crisp's book Willow: A Guide to Growing and Harvesting - Plus 20 Beautiful Woven Projects with kind permission of Quarto Books.

Willow wreath finished product

What you need to make a Christmas willow wreath

  • soaked or semi-green willow, 8 rods, 2m (6 1⁄2ft) long
  • secateurs
  • a bottle/wooden pole to wrap the weavers around for flexibility 

Step 1: Prepare each rod

To start, prepare each rod by wrapping it around a bottle or large piece of cylindrical wood to encourage the fibres into shape. This helps to avoid kinks in your rods as you wrap the willow. With a firm grip, hold the butt end very tightly against the mould as you wrap the remaining rod away from you until you reach the tip. It will spring off in a spiral and will be easier to weave. Starting with 1 willow rod, curve half of it to make a circle of 20cm (8in) diameter.

Preparing the rods by Jenny Crisp

Step 2: Making the circle

It may take a few goes to achieve a smooth circle without a kink, as with the first wrap with the first rod you will find there is a lot of disparity between the strength of the butt end and the part of the rod that wraps over it. Encouraging a good, generous curve at the butt end with your left hand and holding it there firmly with your thumb will help to retain a consistent circle.

Turn the willow into a circle

Step 3: Wrap the remaining half of the rod

Wrap the remaining half of the rod around your hoop 4 times until the tip meets the butt. The shape will feel a little out of balance until you put the next rod in.

Looped cane on a table, overhead shot, person sitting next to it

Step 4: Wrap around the hoop

Start opposite the first butt, but insert it so it is travelling in the other direction. Notice in the picture the top butt is pointing to the right and the lower butt is pointing to the left, and both are sitting on top of the circle, with the tips underneath. It’s important to get this sequence right. If you wrap your rods in the same direction the wreath wouldn’t hold together as well. Wrap the rod 7 times around the hoop. On the seventh wrap you should finish with the tip at the place where the butt started. 

Wrap around the hoop

Step 5: Add two more

Thinking of the numbers on a clock face, you have 2 butts sitting on top of your hoop at 6 and 12 o’clock. Add in another 2 butts, 1 at 3 o’clock and another at 9 o’clock, making sure the butts are inserted in opposite directions, as you did with the first 2. You should now have 4 butts on top of your wreath and 4 tips underneath. You have used 4 rod so far, and are halfway there.

Willow wreath on its way to completion, laid flat on the table

Step 6: Final steps

Turn your wreath over and repeat Steps 4 and 5 so that you finish with another 4 butts on the second side. The wreath will start to become more and more solid as you wrap more into it. For this design we have used 8 rods, but you could carry on wrapping in the same pattern to make a thicker wreath. (To make a larger wreath I would advise using longer willow.) Trim all butts and tips with secateurs, leaving a short slype cut.

Finished willow wreath, pre-cut

To decorate, you can wind twines of foliage around the wreath, as is done below with mistletoe.

Willow wreath, completed and garnished with holly

Your completed willow wreath

Now that you've finished your willow wreath, all you have to do is find a place to put it. And if you want to get your hands on more willow-inspired projects to add to your home, pick up a copy of Jenny Crisp's book Willow: A Guide to Growing and Harvesting.

For another brilliant festive willow idea, pick up a kit from artist and Yodomo instructor Julia Clarke to make a willow star, including all the materials you need to add a natural touch to your holidays.