Step by Step: Making a holiday swag


Now that December is officially here, it's beginning to look a bit more like Christmas around here. I made two swags yesterday: one for our mailbox post and the other for our wood shed door. Just for fun, and just because I have the materials on hand anyway.

If you've never made a swag before, I thought you'd appreciate a quick how-to. They are incredibly easy and quick to make, and can be as simple or elaborate as you want. Here's how:

1. (photo at right) The supplies you'll need are a pair of gloves, heavy-duty pruners, a roll of floral wire, wire cutters or heavy-duty scissors to cut the wire, ribbon and sharp scissors for cutting the ribbon. You can locate floral wire at craft shops like Michael's, JoAnn's or Hobby Lobby; it's pretty inexpensive at under $2.00. You can find the ribbon at these stores as well and try to get ribbon that can handle being outside in the elements. Also, the easiest type of ribbon to work with is one that has wire edges. Trust me on this one. It's so much easier to make a professional-looking bow.

2. (photo at left) And, of course, you'll need several boughs from trees like pine, spruce, fir, juniper or cedar that are 3 to 4 feet long. You might also want some small branches from a holly bush or a plant that has berries on it. Don't worry about pruning a few branches from your conifers or other shrubs this time of year; they can handle it. I take this opportunity to prune off low-hanging branches or others that are growing out into a garden path.

3. While wearing gloves, pick up a nice combination of different types of boughs -- holding the cut end of each -- until you have the size swag you will want (see photo below). Don't worry if some of the boughs are longer than you want because you can tidy things up once you've wired the branches together or even after you hang the swag.

4. Cut about an 18" length of floral wire and tightly wind it around the branches a few inches below the cut ends. Twist the ends of the wire around a few times to make sure it won't come loose.


5. Make a bow. This is the part that some folks can be apprehensive about (I know because I used to be one of them) but it's quite easy. Since it's simpler to see someone demonstrating it than if I were to just write out the directions, I found a bow-making tutorial on YouTube that might be more helpful: Holiday  Bow Making.

6. When you're at the last step of making the bow, be sure to use a long piece of floral wire to hold it together so you can easily tie it to your swag. Go ahead and tie it on, just a few inches down from the top and arrange the ribbon so it looks its best.

7. Hang your swag in the desired location: maybe it will be on a door, or the main pillars on your front porch, a garden gate, or perhaps on your mailbox post. I usually hammer in a nail that has a large head to it to hang swags from but you can also use your floral wire to attach it to whatever you're hanging it on. Do any necessary last-minute primping of the bow and use your pruners to trim off any parts of the branches that aren't hanging to your liking.

There! Wasn't that easy? I hope you'll enjoy it throughout the holiday season and certainly all visitors will be impressed with your decorating prowess!