I have been ornie hoarding for a few years… and we have Georgia Peachez’ DIY instructions… so I invited my friend Danielle (with pink wreath three photos down) to my house so we could conquer wreath-making together. It was super fun! Our wreaths turned out gorgeous! I am now obsessed with these wreaths! Read on for our 30+ tips to make an ornament wreath of your very own.
Don’t want to use your precious vintage ornaments?
- See our separate story — Making ornament wreaths using vintage-look ornaments from Michael’s, Big Lots, Target and K-Mart.
Want to start slow?
- See our story on making Three-Step E-Z Wreaths.
Kate’s video shows how to make a Christmas ornament wreath:
How to make a vintage Christmas ornament wreath:
- Step One — Gather Supplies
- You need vintage ornaments and lots of them. My wreath included 75 ornaments. Danielle used 95 ornaments. I used fewer because the ornaments in my chosen colorways were larger, based on the supply I had available. Danielle used more, because a lot of the ornaments in pinks were smaller.
- You need vintage ornaments in a variety of sizes. You need big ones for the exterior ring. You need medium-sized for the center wing. You need all sizes for the top layers, although I did not feel that large ones worked so well on the top layer, as they tended to overwhelm. And also really key: Tiny ones to fill in little open spaces and add whimsy-doodle to the front of wreath.
- Different shapes are good, too — bells, lanterns, teardrops, the kind with concave thingies in them… different shapes, sizes, textures all add dimension and visual interest.
- You need vintage Christmas weebits — I had one knee-hugger elf, but beyond that, I was way short of little somethings to add.
Safety considerations: Hazards in old materials?
Please always remember, there can be safety and environmental hazards in the surfaces, layers, materials and products in our homes. For example, there have been reports that lead paint may have been used on old Christmas ornaments, old tinsel may have been made of lead, and old fake “snow” may contain asbestos. I am not the expert: Get with your own professionals — do your own research — on these topics so that you can make informed decisions how to handle. For more info and links see our Be Safe/Renovate Safe page.
- Wreath forms — We used 14″ foam wreath forms. I found the best selection at Michael’s. My JoAnn’s did not have the 14″, only 12″ and that looked too small. Michael’s also had a 16″, but golly we were worried about running out of ornaments as it was. JoAnn’s seemed a little cheaper, by $1 per wreath or so, but again, it did not have as many sizes. Update: As I made more, I found a place online and ordered bulk.
- Tinsel garland — The only place I could find the silver garland I wanted was Wal-Mart. It was 97 cents for 15′. The garland I wanted was not “supersized” (argh!), but rather the modest size that I remember as a child. We used about 20′ of garland per 14″ wreath — so buy extra. Note, eyeballing Georgia Peachez’ wreaths, I think she uses the supersized kind — so that’s okay too. Update: Look for original old tinsel at estate sales – hoard it.
- Get THICK chunky garland — BUT big tip on garland size: Georgia Peachez says I should not have used the dinky thin old school garland!!! See her comments below. The chunkier garland that she recommends seems to sell for about $3.50 a 15′ strand. To use next year, I am going to buy a bunch at big discount after the holidays.
- Other supplies — We used picture-frame looped eye rings — two per wreath, with a piece of picture wire hung between them. You will need a wire-cutter to trim the picture wire. BUT, note that Georgia Peachez uses a different method — see her tips below.
I’m a big gun now: Just bought this bigger glue gun, which has very good reviews on Amazon. Georgia Peachez will approve.
- High-heat hot glue gun and glue sticks — I used a standard high heat mini glue gun that I purchased at a local craft store, and it seems to have worked well. But now that I have the bug bite bad, I have purchased this Surebonder HE-750 Professional High Temp 2 Heater Glue Gun (affiliate link), which seems to have received a lot of good reviews including for its high heat (BE CAREFUL!). This came in the mail over the weekend — and it looks really substantial. I have planned an activity to make more wreaths with friends who are visiting for Thanksgiving — that’s why I ordered more glue guns. I will report back on how the Surebonder works then.
- Scissors to trim your garland and the strings from Christmas weebits.
- Snacks and music. Time to pull out the Christmas CDs. Be sure to include the Chipmunks — my personal #1.
- A nice big place to work — we used my dining room table, and a place to stage all your ornaments — an adjacent table or buffet or the link — nearby.
DISCLAIMER: This is the first time we made these. Georgia Peachez’ instructions said high temp hot glue guns, and that’s what we used. We also double-dabbed for added security. But, we used thin garland, oops. Will our ornaments stay attached? We sure hope so!
2016 UPDATE: For the past three years, when the holidays are over, I have been storing some wreaths in my attic. I live in Massachusetts. In the winter my attic is super cold. And in the summer, it gets very hot. This year, I seem to be noticing more loose ornaments. So, before I take them out of their boxes, I carefully check for loose ornaments and then, after carefully lifting the wreath and putting it on a covered surface, I take the opportunity to reglue ornaments sturdily in place. I am a double-dabber, no question. Also, this is a good time to make changes if you want. That is, on one wreath I am working on this year, I was actually able to pull off some ornament groupings so that I would rework the areas. See this story for more.
The basic steps — illustrated — to make a vintage Shiny Brite ornament wreath:
Gather yee your ornies — all shapes, sizes, styles, colors. In this photo, I show you the SEVEN sizes of Shiny Brites that I have identified. I am finding the largest size hard to find for sale online…
I staged the ornaments on the built-in bar next to my dining room table. Before we started, we each decided the ornament color combinations we would focus on. Because we had “only” 260 ornaments to work with, we needed to be sure that we would have enough to complete our designs. We divvied up these ornaments and put them right down on the dining room table with us, so that we could each see what we were working with as we went.
Next, start wrapping the wreaths with tinsel. Wind the tinsel around the form… add dabs of glue as you go. I only put the glue on one side of the wreath form. It held really well. I don’t think you don’t need to go overboard with the glue.
Once you have the forms wrapped in garland, it’s time to “choose” the back side and add your hanging apparatus. We used eye hooks that screwed in — two of them — then added picture wire. One thing we learned with this method: Make the hole for the eye hook, then, before you put the eye hook in, dollop the hot glue but good down in the hole. Screw in eye-hook thingie. Add more glue. You do not want your wreath to fall! Let glue dry completely then turn wreath back to front side for next step. TIP: NEXT TIME I MAKE A WREATH I WILL INSTALL THE HANGING APPARATUS BEFORE I WRAP THE FOAM CORE IN TINSEL. I think that THIS WILL MAKE IT EASIER TO SEE WHAT I AM DOING — AND GIVE ME MORE CONTROL OVER ‘ENSURING’ THE HANGING APPARATUS IS SECURE. Also note: Georgia Peachez uses a different hanging method, described in her tips, below.
UPDATE re photo above: In subsequent attempts I did NOT use ornaments on the inside of the wreath. I greatly prefer wreaths without the inside wring of ornaments, for a variety of reasons including I just plain think they look better sans that extra inside ring. The proportion is better.
Start gluing. In general, we used two dabs of hot glue on each ornament: #1 to secure it to the wreath substrate. #2 to secure it to the ornament adjacent — this seemed to add extra stability. Fortunately: The glue gun glue is darn forgiving: If a bit spider-webs, it pulls off the ornaments easily.
2014: I (Pam) made this gold-green-touch of silver wreath, which is among my favorites. NOTE: No ornaments ringing the center — I much prefer NOT including the inside ring. Thanks to my friend Pat Henry of Fashion Doll Quarterly for the photo.
Woah, this one I made in 2014 has a big impact, what with the hanging bells! Also notice the artificial florists picks — I found these at Target. What can YOU think of to add to your wreath? Get creative!
Above: Other wreaths made by Pam, usually two per year.
More tips to making ornament wreaths:
- I thought the building of little groupings and then filling in between them worked well for me.
- Taking a break and stepping away would be good advice (wish I had done it more often–seeing those two little blue guys in the picture is bothering me–they stand out too much I think). And you can tell them I broke a couple but glued them back so they were hidden! 🙂
- Oh, and the bit about seriously gluing the wire on the back, maybe even before the tinsel.
- Super key is having a wide selection of ornaments and little trinkets to work with.
- If you are hunting vintage Christmas ornaments on ebay or etsy, here are the brands I was able to identify: Shiny Brite, Coby, Bradford, Paragon, Commodore. Of course, also use search words Vintage and Old. These things are expensive online — and it takes many ornaments to do a wreath! I can most definitely understand why buying a complete wreath from masters like Georgia Peachez now cost $250.
- Think carefully about your color selection. An easy rule, if you are nervous about this step: Use two closely-related col0rs (blue & green, pink & hot pink were our choices, based on our ornament supply) and then mix them with silver and gold. Warning: Every time you add one more color, you may be reducing the visual drama of the wreath (and vice versa). I have seen examples of wreaths that use “all colors” or “more color” and they can be gorgeous, too. I’m just saying that, in general, if you are nervous, editing your palette is a more assured way of getting great results.
- Identify your “big winner” ornaments for the front of the wreath — make sure you give them the most prominent position — build the other elements around them. Clear case in point: Knee-hugger elf should be a star of your wreath!
- Tilt or angle your knee-hugger elf or other trinkets. The arrangement of the ornaments is not linear.
- If you have three of something special, put them together. Notice: My three bells and Danielle’s three hot-pink teardrop thingies. Massing of smaller elements like this — in particular in threes — works very effectively.
- Don’t worry about having the metal parts of the ornaments showing on the front of the wreath. Sometimes I’d have them hidden or tucked under, sometimes I would have them show. I like the patina of the old metal…
- Don’t worry about having the tinsel underneath show. You don’t want large gaps, though — play with your ornament configurations before committing, and be sure to have a big stash of the tiny orbs before you get going!
- Invite a friend — double the fun!
Tips from Suzy of Georgia Peachez herself!
So then, I asked the Queen — Suzy of Georgia Peachez — to read this entire tutorial, and if she had time, to provide any pearls. And oh so generously, she did! Here is what she wrote:
Oh my, that was quite an undertaking, writing that tutorial. Bravo, well done, and the wreaths too. OK, so here are my “pearls” of wisdom, all from hard earned experience (and sometimes pain induced too). No particular order here:
I do a very simple wire hook on my wreaths. I cut floral wire about 14″ long, bend in half to make a loop, put behind wreath, bring legs around and thru to front and over again to the back, wrap each around loop. Done. This is after tinsel wrapping. Virtually disappears when hung on wall because you are so stunned by the magnificence of the wreath :->
Big Lots is another good source for tinsel.
I always use thick, shaggy tinsel. Ornies grip it better. Thin, pitiful tinsel is a bad move.
I see you have used one of those weenie little glue guns. You can get a decent full size gun for high temp gluing at Joann’s for $20, less the coupon they constantly have, so it is very reasonable at $10-12. No one should ever use those wussy guns for anything. Man up and get a full size gun. I use a commercial grade gun and glue for obvious reasons.
High temp glue is absolutely CRITICAL.
I don’t put ornies around the middle of the ring. Doesn’t work for me, makes it harder to design on top. Many times what I’m placing on top needs to hang a bit into that center space. I don’t recommend it.
Yes, sometimes ornies pop off. The glue just pulls the paint right off of certain ornies. Just reglue it. No biggie. I have wreaths in my collection from years ago and they are just fine. I store them in the attic too.
Don’t recommend displaying wreaths outside or even on a porch. I think the cold would shrink the glue too much and then you might get more pop offs. I don’t do it, so I don’t speak from experience here.
I make mostly multi color wreaths, but composition is everything. The colors must balance, everything must balance. Lop-sided wreaths make my OCD tendencies flare up real bad. Your instructions on that were spot on.
Advise readers: Don’t glue vintage ornaments to an evergreen wreath form. DON’T DO IT. They do not hold up over time.
I’ve worked hard to build my brand and wreath business. I work like a dog making as many wreaths as I can because the demand is overwhelming. A very good dilemma to have! The demand is so great that I purchase vintage ornies in bulk and often pay a premium. I will pay up to $4 each for exceptional ones and each wreath has 80-100 ornaments. Elves have gotten crazy expensive too. I use every size from 1/4″ and up to fill in all the gaps. Wreath forms are expensive! I buy in bulk, but they still aren’t cheap.
Look forward to the post on Monday.
Want to preserve your vintage ornaments?
For the outside and inside rings (if you do an inside rings), only use plain ornaments. These plain shinys tend to be much more widely available — including from the 1980s from stores like Bradlees and W.T. Grant. I was not a stickler for “Shiny Brites” per se. I was happy to find and use any vintage ornaments from any maker. Key to me was that they were old — and that they had patina. I am soooo into patina.
That said, if you are not an absolutely stickler for vintage, you can further extend your use of vintage ornaments by using new ornaments for the outside and/or inside rings. Save your decorative vintage ornaments for the highly-visible top part of the wreath.
This week I also plan on testing some techniques to faux-age inexpensive, brand new-ornaments to use on the outer rings. Stay tuned.
Buy a wreath from the Queen o’ Wreath Making, Georgia Peachez:
Suzy of Georgia Peachez does not claim to have invented vintage ornament wreaths. But she is the first person I spotted several years ago among those instrumental in repopularizing them. If you don’t have the crafty gene, take a look at hers for sale — they go fast! I assure you — these take a lot of work and are stunning!Thanks, Suzy, for all your generosity!!!
We hear from readers, who made wreaths using our tips:
We did it! Our wreaths turned out great. We are so pleased with the results, and we could not have completed this without your detailed directions. I can’t thank you enough for the blog post preview.
I’ve attached pictures of me (Erin), my sister (Andrea), and her weebit (Lenny)…and of course, our wreaths.
We had such a fun day working on this project together.
Thank you for doing what you do!
You’re welcome, Erin! And weebit Lenny: Cute overload! xoxo
Tips to view slide show: Click on first image… it will enlarge and you can also read my captions… move forward or back via arrows below the photo… you can start or stop at any image: