How to Make a Magical Christmas Wreath of Village Miniatures
Create a charming scene with tiny cardboard houses and bottlebrush trees—they're a cinch to spruce up for the season.
Every winter, former Living crafts executive director Hannah Milman takes a trip to Christmasworld. That may sound like a fantastical place, but it's very real indeed: The holiday-theme trade show in Frankfurt, Germany, features exhibitors with all manner of yuletide trimmings. On a recent trip, Milman was particularly charmed by a wreath she saw; it was decorated with miniature porcelain buildings by Luville Collectables. The inspiring image stayed with her, so she decided to create her own wreath using vintage cardboard buildings known as putz houses. She paired them with bottlebrush trees, mini deer and skiers from a model shop, and drifts of cotton snow. Home(s) for the holidays, indeed.
Glitter the Trees
We soaked some trees in a bleach solution (one part bleach to three parts water, in a glass bowl large enough to submerge trees), creating a mix of greens closer to what you would find in nature. The bleach doesn't just lighten the trees; it gives them a lovely blue-green cast.
To start, soak some green trees (measuring one to six inches each) in bleach solution until the desired shade is reached, five to 30 seconds. Rinse well and let dry. Mix equal parts craft glue and white craft paint. Mix a little silver glitter into crystal glitter. Brush glue mixture onto tips of white and green trees. Sprinkle with mixed glitter, shake off excess, and let dry. (Milman's tip: Inexpensive hairspray can seal a glittered item: Spray it lightly over the trees and it will help the glitter stay on longer.)
Renovate the Houses
Putz houses were popular throughout much of the 20th century and remain easy to find today—they often need a little fixing up, however. Look for them online and from dealers who specialize in holiday collectibles. You can also find new versions or even make your own.
The houses have holes in the back for lights; reach in with tweezers and remove the windows. Cut parchment to size for new windows, and make "panes" with glue pen and gold glitter. Put dabs of glue on corners of windows and insert into houses, glitter-side out. Paint houses in desired colors (we used shades of white, pink, red, and turquoise). Mix equal parts craft glue and white craft paint; brush mixture on anywhere you want "snow," including house bases. Sprinkle with crystal glitter. Remove bases from trees and glue them around the houses.
Assemble the Wreath
Start by gathering the embellishments. When gluing them to the wreath, make sure they are all pointing up, not outward. For the wreath on our cover, we added "snow" to some branches: Dab a mix of white paint and craft glue on branches with a paintbrush and sprinkle the glue with coarse crystal glitter. Let dry, then shake off excess.
If necessary, remove any decorations from wreath (ours had pinecones). Secure trees to wreath with hot glue, beginning with a cluster at top, then spacing others all around wreath. Next, hot-glue houses around wreath, inserting a bulb into back of each. With your fingers, tease out cotton balls and pieces of surgical cotton to use as small and large snowdrifts. Spray with diluted glue (one teaspoon glue in 1/2 cup water), then sprinkle with glitter; let dry. Hot-glue cotton pieces to wreath at bases of houses, as desired, for a realistic look. Use craft glue to attach other decorations, such as dyed reindeer moss and animal and skier figurines. (Festively named reindeer moss in red and green adds to the woodsy feeling of Milman's wreath.)
Shop Now: Home Accents Holiday Alaskan Spruce Artificial Wreath with Pinecones, 30", $50, homedepot.com. Martha Stewart Crafts Multi-Surface Satin Craft Paint, in Habanero, Pink Dahlia, Wedding Cake, Pool, and Diving Board, $2 for 2 oz., michaels.com. Martha Stewart Super Fine Glitter, in Sterling Silver and Florentine Gold, $7, michaels.com. AerWo White and Green Bottlebrush Trees, $14.49 for 24, amazon.com. Woodland Scenics Scene-A-Rama Evergreen Trees, 2" to 3 1/2", $11.49 for 5, michaels.com. Natural Norwegian Reindeer Moss, in Dark Green, $13 for 11 oz., save-on-crafts.com. Preiser HO-Scale Model Skiers, $20 for 6, amazon.com.