How to Craft with Grapevines
By Cherie Dawn Haas – One of the beauties of homesteading is learning how to use everything that’s available to us in some way, and if you grow grapes for wine or jelly, that resourcefulness includes making grapevine crafts. I discovered this firsthand a few years ago after pruning hundreds of our vines one season. During our usual practice of burning the cuttings, I had an epiphany — I could craft the cut vines into shapes and turn them into pieces of art instead of piles of ashes.
My vision, because my pieces were relatively short (we keep our vines pruned from spring through fall), was to take the two to four-foot sticks of vines and create one of my favorite shapes — a star. In addition to stars, I realized there’s a wonderful variety of grapevine crafts you can make as a fun piece of primitive art or even as a supplement to your income. And if you’re a full-time homesteader, this is a great way to turn your extra vine cuttings into a small craft business.
Aside from selling the grapevine crafts, I have also made them as thank-you gifts to those who help us manage our vineyard throughout the year. At harvest time, for example, our family and friends can take home a jar of homemade concord jelly, a batch of fresh eggs, or a grapevine star — all of which come from the very land they appreciate as much as we who live here do.
How to Make Grapevine Crafts
You only need a few supplies, some you may already have on hand if you grow grapes — pruners, scissors, twine, crafting wire, and wire cutters. A photo reference of a star with complete lines will be helpful the first time you make a star-shaped wreath, so you can see the angles and the way the lines (sticks) cross each other.
Option One: To make a star wreath, gather 15 vines that are similar in thickness and cut to the same length (anywhere from two-to four-feet long works well). You can keep the curls of tendrils to add character, but snip off-shoots for a nice, straight(ish) piece of wood.
Each line of the star will be made from three of the sticks. Line up two sets of three in a V-shape and tie the intersection with a one-foot piece of twine you’ve cut with the scissors. Continue to wrap the twine around the intersection. I have found that the outside corners do well if you wrap the twine around the outside of the sticks only. This makes it easier to adjust the angles of the star corners as you add more pieces.
Take the next set of three sticks and tie them to one of the untied ends of the V so that the new set of sticks points toward the inside of the V. Note that you’ll want to tie off the twine on the same side each time you add to the star, creating a front side and a back side of the wreath.
Continue adding the remaining sets of vines and securing the corners with twine until you’re happy with the shape. Don’t worry if it turns out lopsided at first; as you gain practice and a better understanding of exactly how to place the sticks (which varies depending on the sizes), your stars will become more uniform.
Last, use the wire to more permanently secure the corners; you can even tie some wire around the interior intersections to make it good and tight.
Option Two: To make a circle wreath with grapevines, start with as long a vine as you can cut. If the vine has extra pieces growing off of it, keep them because these will add substance to the wreath. While you can work with the star wreath pieces when they are completely dry, a secret technique to making wood pliable for a circle shape is to soak it in water first. This will make it more flexible and it won’t break as easily.
Holding the thicker end of the vine, begin folding it into a circle, similar to how you would wind up a hose. As you turn the wreath, begin tucking the vine into itself, around the outside and then inside of the circle as you go. The vine itself will dictate how big it will be as a wreath; you will see quickly how it will take the perfect size circular shape when you first begin to work with it — especially do not try to force it to be smaller; when it comes to nature, in most cases it is much easier to go with the flow.
You can add more lengths of the vine to the circle until you get it as thick and full as you like. Simply continue to weave the vines and tuck them into the open spaces. Use wire to secure the vines here and there as you go.
Once your circle or star wreath is complete, you have the option of giving it a coat of Polyurethane spray to seal the wood and give it a pretty sheen. Note, however, that even if you spray it, the wreath will last much longer if it is hung under a porch awning or indoors. Another option is to spray paint it if you want it to be a special color to match your décor or an occasion.
Ways to Sell Grapevine Crafts
You might already make the rounds as a patron at local craft shows, but once you have created an inventory of grapevine crafts you could think about renting a booth space. Consider decorating some of the wreaths with silk flowers, burlap, lights, or ribbons, but remember that many people love the primitive look of the bare wood, and others will choose to decorate it themselves to match their décor.
Research what other people in your area are selling their wreaths for; you do not want to overcharge customers or undercut your neighbors.
We have seen a growing trend in events at which friends can meet at a winery, taste the various wines, and take a painting class together for a light-hearted evening out. Why not organize a gathering to make wreaths together? Hosting a party like this for a fee and using the materials you have already growing on your farm is a great way to add some extra holiday spending money to your budget, and to get new people to visit your homestead and see what else you have to offer if you sell homemade soaps or if you sell eggs as a business, for example. Consider treating your guests to grape-themed drinks and snacks; you could even send them home with a complimentary jar of jelly or a stuffed grape leaves recipe just for fun.
The key is to make it special — this will have your guests coming back and bringing more and more friends, helping to support your homestead and creating lasting memories.