February 23, 2016

Belated Christmas Crafts Part II: DIY Vintage Reflector Wreath

For Christmas, I finally got around to making a wreath out of vintage reflectors. These decorative shapes cut out of metal (I believe either aluminum or tin) were manufactured to fit big old-style Christmas bulbs and reflect the light outwards. The ones I found on Ebay and Etsy came in pink, blue, silver, gold, green, and red.

Some came attached as doubles, and some were singles that I had to mix and match myself. They tend to be in star, flower, or starburst shapes.

Since I didn't take pics along the way (crafting with a kid who might wake up from his nap any second is more about speed than anything else and winter light is awful anyways!), here's a rough guide to how I did it:

*First, buy some vintage reflectors. I sourced mine on Etsy and Ebay. They aren't cheap as they're currently very popular, but you only need 9 double or 18 single shapes. (I had enough leftover from the large batches I bought to make a wreath for my mom as well. Lucky her!)

*.Buy a cardboard wreath frame that's fairly sturdy. I got mine at Papersource. (Dangerous store to walk into - you've been warned!) Pick a paint color you like, and paint your frame. I went with white. You'll probably need a couple of coats. Let dry between coats.

*Buy a short strand of LED lights. I think my strand only had 12 lights. Since we're working with paper and glues, go the safe route and use LEDs. They don't heat up so the fire risk is very low. Obviously, don't leave lights on when you leave your house/apt. I found ones with a battery pack from Home Depot for less than $10. (However, they turned out to be TERRIBLE and I'm currently trying to find a better replacement. I'll talk about this more later.) I went with a battery pack so I wouldn't need to hang it near an outlet, allowing me to display it on a door. Just hide any extra length on the back of the frame or loop it around, and then attach your battery pack to the back with glue or strong tape.

*If you have any singles you need to match up, use very strong glue to attach together. I want to say I tried hot glue at first but found it popped off over time. So I switched to a very small amount of Gorilla Glue. This stuff expands a LOT so try to put it on the underside of your inner shapes a bit away from the inner edge and not close to the outer edge so it won't show once it's dry. Follow safety directions on the glue.

*Lay out your doubles on your wreath frame until you find an order that you like. You want a good variation in both background/outer color and liner/inner color for your double reflectors. Make sure they're evenly spaced. You might have to spin them around so they fit together better (especially for the starburst shapes). I tried to do a sequence of three background colors, and then form triangles across the wreath of inner colors while also varying the shape. Buying extra reflectors can make this easier.

*Mark the inside opening of each with a pencil dot. Set aside reflectors.

*Be super-scientific/safe (sarcasm) and start each hole with a nail that you whack in with whatever heavy object is nearby. I might've used a stapler (don't be me: find a safer way).

*Once the nail is through to the other side, take your pencil and start working it into the hole. Get the tip in, then start spinning it around back and forth til the hole enlarges. I don't know why this works to enlarge the hole, but it does. (See: super scientific/safe process.) Have a firm grip on your frame so it doesn't buckle as you do this.

*Using a bulb from your LED strand to check the width of the hole as you go, enlarge until your bulb fits tightly into the space from the underside of the frame. You might have to pop off the top and just use the socket to get it into the hole from below, then you can replace the light from the top once it's in.

*Do this for every hole.

*Remove any lights, and glue on your reflectors around each hole in the order that you chose. I went with Gorilla Glue for this.

*Once it's dry, use an x-acto knife or other tool to remove any expanded glue you don't want to see. Paint any remaining bits/bits that won't come off your wreath color (so I used white).

*Replace lights, add batteries or plug-in, and hang! You could add a ribbon loop for hanging. I just banged in a nail and then rested the top of the inner circle of the wreath on it. Up to you!

*A note on the lights I used: a downside to LED lights is that they aren't as bright as regular lights. (You can barely see mine in daylight.) Mine also only lit up in certain areas, I think because of the way they hung when I put it up on the wall. So maybe buy a couple different strands and see what works best.

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