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SEASONS: FALL - CHRISTMAS - VALENTINE'S DAY

Folded Fabric Ornaments

Supply List:
3" styrofoam ball
40 pieces of material cut into 2 and one-half inch squares. (20 pieces for each side. Use five different patterns with 8 pieces of each pattern. You can coordinate these any way you see fit.)
Approximately 200 straight pins (one-half inch length is preferable).
Pearl topped pins and other ornamental pins, charms, etc.
10" of gimp or trim to glue around the middle to hide where the two sides meet.
18" of wired ribbon for a hanger

Instructions:

Begin by pushing a pin through the center point of one piece of fabric from the wrong side. Pin this into the styrofoam ball. (It doesn't matter where...this is just your starting point.)

Now fold the fabric in half so that you have a rectangle. Then fold the sides into the middle so that a triangle is formed. Pin the corners and the center flaps down using four pins. This is the basis for the entire ball. You use this same folding technique on every piece of fabric you place on the ball.

Choose another piece of fabric (same design as the first) and push the pin through the center from the wrong side. Place this pin into the ball at the point of the triangle formed by the first piece of fabric you pinned to the ball. This is very important - ALWAYS work "opposite". If you place a piece of fabric on one side of the ball, then you go to the other side and place that same piece mirror-image on the other side. Repeat the folding process ... rectangle first, then triangle and pin.

Now you use the same fabric and fill in the two gaps between the first two triangles of fabric. If, for some reason, there are gaps where you can see the styrofoam when you fold the fabric perfectly, this is the time to adjust by spreading the fabric out just a bit. The gap in the middle of the triangle area will be a bit larger but it's not noticeable.

OK, you've finished your first row. To do the second row and subsequent rows, you simply repeat the process above by coming down one-quarter to one-half inch and placing the "point of your triangle" (which is formed by where you insert your pin) into the center crease of the triangle above it. Remember to work opposite sides. Do one side and then turn the ball around and do the other side.

When you're finished with one-half of your ornament, it's time to do the other half. This is where it DOES matter where you put in that first piece of fabric. You must find the exact opposite point from the top of the first side and begin there. I find it helpful to put a piece of fabric - laid out flat - over the ball where I think the center point is. Then I look to see if the distance between where I finished the first half and the new piece of fabric is about same all the way around. When you've found that center point, just repeat the entire process.

When you've covered the entire ball, you'll have rough edges where the two sides meet. And, you may even have some small gaps where you can see the Styrofoam. Cover these with your trim or gimp by using hot glue. I usually glue one end of the gimp to the ball and then glue as a I stretch the trim around the ball.

Finish off with pearl topped pins and other decorative touches and, of course, with a hanger made from ribbon. To attach the ribbon, find the center point of the ribbon and glue it to the ball. I usually also push another pearl topped pin in through the glued point. Then tie a loop and finish off with a bow.

There, you've done it! Now, if the first one you make doesn't turn out perfectly, don't fret! Practice really does make perfect on these ornaments. Also, begin by using cotton or some other sturdy fabric and then graduate to silks and satins. The cotton doesn't fray and slip as easily and you won't get frustrated!

Wreath-making 101

Click here to see photos of some of Mark's holiday wreaths.

I have always loved wreaths! Most people only display wreaths around the Christmas holidays but I keep a wreath up at my house almost year round. Valentine's Day brings with it a wreath fashioned from wooden hearts, my city's spring Cherry Blossom Festival is celebrated with a glorious profusion of pink blossoms, the Fourth of July wreath features various red, white and blue components exploding from a grapevine wreath. Fall has really begun when the wreath featuring all the wonderful reds, yellows, deep purples comes to visit along with pumpkins and mums. And, of course, the Christmas season brings a variety of evergreens and other seasonal decorations in a celebration of all that is wonderful about that time of year.

Where did all this wreath hoopla start? Well, the Greeks gave winners in the earliest Olympic games wreaths of laurel leaves; the Romans used wreaths to symbolize success; the Chinese thought that wreaths represented long life and even immortality. Pre-Christian Germanic people used wreaths with candles as a sign of hope during the long, dark, cold winter months. These wreaths were forefathers to the Advent wreaths used by many religions today. The evergreens in a wreath represent continuous life, the unbroken circle of the wreath says that there is no end and no beginning symbolizing eternity and the decorations used symbolize the celebration of life itself!

With all this history and symbolism, it seems to me that everyone ought to have at least one wreath hanging around their house all the time! So let's get started on how to make a beautiful wreath.

Fresh or living wreaths: I tend to use fresh evergreen wreaths only around the winter holidays. They are fragrant and add so much to the overall holiday feel of any house or business. However, they are the hardest with which to work. They come with the evergreens already affixed to a wire cage background or you can certainly get a wire wreath and wire the evergreens in yourself. This can be a little time-consuming and who has a lot of time during the holidays? If you choose to use a fresh wreath, do know that it has a much shorter life expectancy than faux wreaths (which we'll discuss in a minute), can be more costly both in purchase price and in reusability and, as I said before, can be more difficult with which work.

Faux wreaths: Faux (or fake) wreaths come in a variety of materials with evergreen and grapevine being the two most widely used. These are great for a variety of reasons. One, they are reusable which makes the expenditures on the wreath and its components more justifiable. Two, they are easier to work with because you can manipulate the branches of the evergreen and you have more surface to which to affix your components on the grapevine. I prefer these, not only because of the easiness factor, but also because of the life expectancy. I leave my wreaths up for several weeks. Using fresh wreaths for this length of time would not be possible in the deep South with the warm temperatures we have even in the winter.

How to make a wreath: Regardless of whether you decide to use a fresh or faux wreath, the steps you take to create a beautiful wreath are very much the same.

1) Where you will hang the wreath. This will determine the size and shape of the wreath. On "normal" sized doors, beginning with an 18 to 22 inch wreath is advisable. This allows some room on either side of the wreath base for components to come outside of the wreath form. The final location also determines the types of components you may want. If the wreath will be viewed close-up like over a mantel or on an interior wall, the components can be smaller. If the wreath will be viewed from a distance like from a front door, the components will need to be larger.

2) What type of wreath you want, fresh or faux. If faux, decide on an evergreen or on a grapevine variety. I recommend grapevine except during the winter holidays.

3) The theme and color scheme. Of course, the time of the year is going to help you make a decision on this. However, there are those of us who do not believe that Christmas must always involve just red and green! If you're one of those people, then use whatever theme and colors that you want. Just be sure that they are complimentary and united by some theme. If you love toys, then go with a toy theme. If you love florals, let them speak up on your wreath. If you love glitz in psychedelic colors, then use ornaments, sticks and other components in bright colors. Recently, for a Georgia Public Television special, I used Georgia products to create my wreath. I used things that symbolize Georgia - cotton, pine, pecans, magnolias - to make a composition on a grapevine wreath that turned out very well! If you're not sure of a theme or color, look at seasonal magazines, get on the internet or visit your local arts and crafts store for examples of what you like.

4) Purchase your components. I get lots of questions about knowing how much to buy to fill up a wreath and what variety. I like my wreaths very full and, since they are viewed for the most part from a good distance, I like larger components that really make a splash. When you go to the arts and crafts store, choose your wreath and then go shopping for the components. As you gather, try to envision where they will go on the wreath. In fact, once you've gathered what you like, go to a remote aisle with little traffic and lay every-thing out (as well as you can with it still in clumps or in the packaging) on the wreath. I always advocate buying more than you think you'll need. You'll be less frustrated and be less likely to have to return to the store. There really is no one set answer for this. I can tell you that you get better over time as you make more wreaths. Now, as to variety, again you will have to "eyeball" this. You want to make your wreath exciting and interesting. To do this, you don't want everything you put on the wreath to be the same. Look for a variety of shapes, sizes, textures. Be sure that the colors compliment one another and that they stick with your theme.

5) Making the wreath. This phrase strikes fear in some people's hearts! But it doesn't need to. Here's how to do it. First, find a work surface that is going to give you plenty of room. Lay out your wreath and all the components. I recommend taking off all the packaging from the various things you've purchased to go on the wreath. (If you think you've bought too much and may want to return something, leave it in its packaging until you make this decision.) Group like things together. Now that you have a good sense of your working materials, take time to "fluff" your wreath (if it's a faux evergreen) and components. Packaging and shipping will flatten out a wreath and the things that go on it. Take some time to make sure that the wreath's boughs are fully extended (fluffy) and that the flowers and other things you've bought are also naturally shaped (or in this case, naturally RE-shaped).

Start with the bow or bows. I use at least 2 to 3 different colors, patterns or sizes of ribbon on any wreath I make. It's just more interesting to me to do this. Whatever ribbon you've decided to use, make a bow and affix it to the wreath (wiring works on fresh, hot glue or wire on faux). This will be your focal point. I do not normally put the bow on at the very top or bottom. I like to go off-center a little but this is a matter of taste. When the bow is affixed, use more ribbon to weave through the remainder of the wreath. This helps to fill in the surface and give instant color.

It's time for the components. Choose the largest, splashiest components first. You might want to go opposite of where you affixed your bow to start another focal point. Of you may want to build the focal point around your bow. Use your intuition to know where to build the focal point. Then working from that focal point, add components, varying the size and texture as you work around the wreath. Don't make it look too "measured." I've seen wreaths where it looked like the wreath maker took their ruler and measured between the various components so that they would be perfectly placed. Don't do this. It's too predictable! Let the components land where they may and don't feel as though you have to stay within the border set by the wreath. Let some components burst past the wreath's circumference. It's a much more professional and appealing look than everything being so tightly controlled.

You can use wire or hot glue to affix the components. Many people don't use anything but I'm a little skeptical of this method. I don't want my neighbors to have to pick up pieces of my wreath that the wind has blown over into their yards! If you need to, place the components in their approximate locations without using wire or glue until you have everything just right. Then go back and affix them.

6) Enjoy the finished product. Congratulate yourself for creating a beautiful wreath! Now, all you have to do is to affix a hanger on the back. I usually use a pipe cleaner tied onto a secure location and then looped into a very secure hanger. With hanger in place, go the site where the wreath will hang and put it up for all the world to see and enjoy!


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