Wreaths are an integral part of the holiday season. With a history as old as civilization itself, DIY wreath making is not only a fun craft, it also connects us with a tradition stretching back thousands of years. Despite the elaborate wreaths sold in stores, wreath making is actually quite simple. Here are the basic steps you need to make a wreath for every holiday.

Starting With The Frame

The frame of the wreath gives you a solid base to build the rest of your wreath. There are several possibilities for frame material. Before you begin, think about the design of your wreath and where you plan on placing it. Outdoor wreaths need sturdy, waterproof frames that won't dissolve in rain, wind, or snow. Indoor wreaths require less durability. If you plan on decorating your wreath with heavier materials, choose a sturdy frame material to support them.

For sturdy outdoor wreaths, consider using wire or vines. Styrofoam works as well, provided the wreath materials are heavy enough to prevent it from blowing away. Many craft stores sell wreath frames for those who want a headstart or don't have access to these materials at home.

Heavy duty wire makes a good start for your frame. One strand alone won't be enough. Most wire frames require at least three wires held apart by shorter pieces of wire. Always wear gloves and use pliers when working with wire this thick. Wrap the wire with burlap, ribbon or cloth to give your frame a surface to work with.

Wreaths are traditionally circular in nature, although you are by no means bound to this convention. Choose materials that you can manipulate or cut into a circle without too much effort.

November is the perfect time to harvest wild grapevines. The foliage is gone, but the vines are still flexible enough to bend. Create a frame as thick or thin as you like. Consider wrapping a final vine around the others for an artful touch.

Indoor frames offer more flexibility. Wire and vines remain viable options, but styrofoam, cardboard, and clothes hangers work equally well.

Finding Materials

Historically, harvest wreaths incorporated crops into the circle. Braided stalks, grains, fruits, nuts and other crops symbolized the bounty of the harvest. Garlic wreaths are still sold at farmer's markets today as a way of showcasing the crop and decorating the home. Advent wreaths first appeared among German Lutherans in the 16th century. Used as a way to symbolize the four weeks of advent, these wreaths now include candles and were a part of the evolution of the decorative Christmas wreath.

For the winter holidays, traditional natural wreath materials include pine boughs, pine cones, dried red berries, dried flowers, nuts, branches, dried plants, dried fruits, small gourds, and dried leaves. Accent these with spray paint or other decorations as you please.

Man made materials are just as aesthetically pleasing, especially when combined with natural elements. Balls of yarn, ribbon, Christmas ornaments, fake plants (like leaves, berries, gourds, flowers, etc), lights, bells, and painted objects add festive cheer to your wreath.

Attaching Materials To Your Wreath

The hardest part about DIY wreath making is getting your materials to stay on your wreath. Hot glue, string, and thin wire make this process easier.

Many wreath making frustrations are the result of a poor base. After trying to glue pine cones and nuts to a wire frame for hours, I can personally attest to this. Things got much easier once I wrapped the frame with burlap. The burlap gave my pinecones a broader surface to stick to, and the rustic material was not visible when I finished. Ribbon, burlap, twine, yarn or strips of cloth wrapped around your frame make gluing objects to your wreath simple.

Wreath makers using branches or boughs face different struggles. For these wreaths, wire or string make efficient binders. Thin wire is a good way to secure branches and boughs to the wreath frame. Try to be sparing with your wire use. Secure the material only where necessary to create a more natural look.

String, especially a colored string that matches your materials, works for more delicate materials like dried grasses and stalks. Taking care not to wrap too tightly, tie off your decoration and overlap the string with new material to hide it from view.

Keep small children away from the glue gun and use appropriate wire cutters.

Finishing Touches

These are the basic guidelines necessary for wreath making. Using these pointers, you can make a wreath for every occasion. For a finishing touch, spray your wreath with a fixative or spray paint to make it last longer. If your wreath turns out better than your expectations, us it again next year and take care to store it properly. Pack wreaths with packing peanuts or paper to prevent damage, and store out of excessive humidity or light.

Once you know the basics, consider inviting kids or grandkids to help make wreaths for a fun holiday craft. Wreaths also make beautiful homemade gifts for the holidays.