OXFORD – Wreath-making techniques have changed, but not in Cindy McKenney’s family.

For four generations, the women in the family have hand-crafted the popular Christmas decorations in an effort to make money for the holidays.

McKenney learned from her mom, Debbie Koehling of Phippsburg. Koehling learned from her mom, Dorothy Morey.

Now McKenney is teaching her children. Her 18-year-old daughter, Ashley, has made some kissing balls and is starting to move on to wreaths.

“My mother started it to make some extra money for Christmas,” Koehling said.

This is why Koehling continued to make wreaths, and why McKenney also continues the tradition.

McKenney said she gathers brush from her boyfriend’s uncle’s woodlot. Inside her house is a laundry bag full of balsam fir brushes.

“We just walk through the woods and gather our own,” McKenney said.

They start making the wreath with a crimped wire ring. McKenney will bunch up three or four brushes and bind them to the ring with green wire.

It takes about an hour to make one wreath, depending on the size. The binding continues until the wreath is full, and then they trim it to even it out.

Though technology has made machine-made wreaths a reality, McKenney said she prefers to make them by hand.

“When you make them by hand they’re a lot fuller,” McKenney said.

McKenney and Koehling let the customer pick the decorations. Popular trimmings change from year to year, McKenney said. This year burgundy ribbon has been a hit.

One year, blue ribbon with blueberries on it was popular.

“It’s kind of fun, people will bring their little kid to help,” McKenney said.

Koehling said one customer collects snowmen, so they get a custom-made wreath decorated with the popular Christmas icon.

The smallest wreath size is 12 inches. The family also makes wreaths in the shape of hearts, bells and candy canes. Garlands are also available on special request.

They sell the wreaths at craft fairs. McKenney was at the annual DECA craft fair held recently at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, and they have two upcoming shows in Phippsburg. They are not doing any more shows in Oxford County.

They also have steady customer base outside the shows.

Wreaths by McKenney and Koehling run about $12 to $26, McKenney said. They normally produce about 200 to 300 a year.

McKenney said she would like to make more, “but we’re afraid we won’t be able to keep up,” she said.

They would hire someone else to help, but they’re very specific about their product.

“We’re very quality conscious,” Koehling said. “We don’t like things that aren’t up to par.”

Anyone interested in purchasing a wreath, they may contact McKenney at 539-9677 or Koehling at 389-2789.


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