Real Estate

Weaving wreaths for fun -- and profit

Dried flowers, a little technique, and voila! A charming decoration or gift

Dru Rivers never thought making a wreath was easy, until she learned how to make one herself.

Owner and co-founder of Full Belly Farm in Capay Valley, Rivers will pass on what she learned at a holiday wreath-making class at Common Ground in Palo Alto on Saturday, Nov. 7 to help students master the craft.

Though it might seem a daunting task, making a wreath is actually not difficult and it requires neither innate talent nor skill, Rivers said.

"Anybody can come and make a wreath," Rivers said. "People are always surprised at how simple the process is, and they're always surprised that they made such a pretty wreath.

"The flowers are so pretty that you can't really go wrong."

Each of her wreaths is made with a mixture of eight to 10 varieties of dried flowers woven into a wire base. The flowers add fragrance to the wreaths, which differ significantly from more traditional evergreen or pine-cone wreaths.

Rivers grows 30 different varieties of flowers on her 200-acre organic farm, which allows for numerous possible combinations. Every wreath is unique because each has flowers not commonly seen in other wreaths, she said.

After graduating from UC Davis with a degree in agriculture and plant science, Rivers started an organic farm with her husband in 1984. Full Belly Farm sells its produce at the Palo Alto Farmers Market every Saturday morning.

In 1985, a friend told her about a wreath-making class at Camp Joy Gardens, an organic family farm located near Boulder Creek. She had never made a wreath before and it sounded like fun, Rivers said.

Rivers thoroughly enjoyed the class, and her mother still keeps that very first wreath she made in their home.

She hasn't stopped making wreaths since.

Upon returning to her own farm, Rivers decided to grow flowers as materials for wreaths and she read extensively to find flowers suited for growing in the Capay Valley and for drying.

Her flowerbeds now span five to six acres on the farm, with about 30 types of flowers including species such as larkspur, sweet Annie, marigold and strawflower. The large volume of flowers grown for wreath-making prompted Rivers to set aside a barn to dry them.

Making wreaths provided her a creative outlet to break away from the drudgery of farm chores and allowed her to do something else on cold, rainy winter days when she could not work in the fields, Rivers said.

She soon realized her flowers and wreaths had a lot of potential as income for the farm, and promptly roped in five other helpers on the farm to help her weave wreaths for commercial sale.

All of Rivers' wreaths are painstakingly woven by hand inside the same barn she uses to dry her flowers. Whole Foods and several stores in San Francisco agreed to sell her wreaths, and continue to do so today.

Rivers' attention then turned towards teaching.

After receiving praise from friends and customers about her wreaths, she decided to start a wreath-making class about 13 years ago. She teaches one class every year at her farm.

Rivers also returned to her alma mater UC Davis, where she teaches twice a year at the crafts center.

"People like to learn a new skill and they use them for decoration," Rivers said. She mostly teaches wreath-making in the fall, after her flowers have dried over summer.

"Somehow wreaths are more fall and winter," she said. People usually want to make wreaths for the holidays in fall such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Other seasons aren't as popular, she said.

In America, wreaths are a traditional welcoming decoration for Christmas, with much of the original religious symbolism lost over the years.

This fall, Rivers is bringing her wreath-making class to Palo Alto for the first time.

The process of making a wreath, as Rivers describes it, sounds simple enough.

Every wreath consists of a wire base and flowers wrapped around it. Flowers are attached to the wire in a certain pattern. After the first layer of stems is wrapped round the base, the process is continually repeated till the wreath is complete.

Would-be weavers will be taught how to wrap the wire base around the flower stems so that the flowers stay on.

"We just attach the stems to the wire, and you basically go around once only," Rivers said. "You then keep wrapping and wrapping all the stems on till you get it back around to the beginning."

The seemingly tricky procedure of making sure the flowers stay attached to the wire is actually not tricky at all, Rivers said.

Students attending Rivers' class will be able to choose what types of flowers they want to include. All materials will be laid out for their selection, Rivers said.

According to Rivers, it takes between one and two hours to make a wreath, depending on one's familiarity.

"The wreaths are great, because they will last for 10 years. All the flowers will keep their color and last for a really long time," Rivers said. "They make great gifts."

What: Harvest and Holiday Wreath Making

When: Saturday, Nov. 7, 2 to 4 p.m.

Where: Common Ground Educational Center, 559 College Ave., Palo Alto

Cost: $30 plus $20 materials

Info: Call 650-493-6072 or visit Common Ground.

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