By Janet Payne
I walk the same beach in Cape May, New Jersey, every day looking for sea glass for my jewelry. Six years ago when I was on Maui for the birth of my grandson, I saw micro plastic on the wrack line of the beach—tiny pieces of plastic that are the result of larger pieces breaking down over time. I started to think about what the beach might look like by the time my grandson was old enough to walk the shoreline with me.
When I arrived home, I started picking up beach trash on my daily walks and have been doing so ever since. I am happy to say I have inspired other locals to start picking up trash as well. Working together, we can ensure that there is a beautiful shoreline for generations to explore.
Ghost nets are fishing nets, ropes, and lines that are lost at sea and end up washing onto our beaches. Marine life as well as shore birds and other animals that live among the dunes can be seriously injured or die when they become entangled in or ingest pieces of these ropes and nets. This goes for all plastic pollution that washes up on the beach.
By making wreaths, I hope to start conversations about beach cleaning and also encourage limiting single-use and other plastics. Once you start picking up beach plastic on your beach walks, I hope you will think twice before using a single-use disposable plastic straw, a plastic water bottle, or a plastic cup.
- Ghost nets, ropes, colorful or interesting beach trash
- Wire wreath frame. They come in a variety of sizes. I like to use a 14-inch form.
- Roll of 22-gauge floral wire
- Rope cutter, serrated knife, or large pair of scissors
Sort your materials
- Separate as much of the organic material you can from the ghost nets and ropes. Seaweed and other materials sometimes gather on the ropes. At this point make sure you have a color scheme going that you like. Blues, greens, and yellows are a popular color scheme, but work with what you find. I once found some beautiful purple ropes on a beach in Maine.
Clean and dry your materials
- Wash the nets and ropes in a bucket of water or a small kiddie pool. I use a dash of lavender castile soap to help with this process. If you are lucky, your ropes might be clean and not encrusted with sea debris, but if not, a scrub brush can really help at this point. Sometimes stretching out the nets helps dislodge caked-on debris. This is the longest part in the process of making the wreath. You can decide how clean you want your ropes—very clean if you plan on hanging your wreath inside your home or not so clean if you are hanging it outside.
- Let your nets and ropes dry. Cut them into manageable pieces—about 8 or 10 inches for netting and 3 feet for thick ropes. Thinner ropes can be left longer, but you may want to cut them if they are a unique color that you want to spread around the wreath.
Assemble the wreath
- Attach the wire to the outer ring of the wreath form. With the convex side of the wreath form up, gather a bunch of ghost net, lay it on top of the wreath form, and attach it by wrapping the wire around the net and the form a few times.
- Keep the wire attached to the paddle as you continue to add pieces and wrap around the wreath form with the wire. Pull the paddle tightly with each wrap to secure each piece that you attach.
- Mix up textures and colors as you add pieces around the wreath. Place the pieces close together to ensure a full wreath. When adding a piece of thick rope, coil it around your hand and attach it to the wreath by passing the paddle of wire through the coil.
- Once you have made your way all around the wreath form, cut off the wire from the paddle and secure it to the wreath form. Cut a few pieces of wire about a foot long and use these to attach other pieces of beach trash such as plastic shovel handles, sunglasses, goggles, toys, etc. You can easily hang your wreath from the outer wire on the wreath form, which will be exposed on the backside of the wreath.
- Hang your ghost net wreath proudly and let the conversations begin. Thank you for cleaning up the beach!
For more inspiration when designing and creating your wreath, check out #wrackwreath #2minutebeachclean on Instagram.
Enjoy your daily dose of vitamin sea!
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine May/June 2022 issue.
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