On the make // A Victorian kissing ball

Revive the wonderful Victorian tradition of a Christmas kissing ball this Yule for luck, love and a home fragrant with the scent of symbolic winter herbs and foliage such as rosemary, lavender, bay, box, holly and ivy. Add dried flowers, rose hips and berries for decoration. Plus a bunch of mistletoe on the bottom should also ensure lots of kisses, especially if you hang a few around the house


TOOLS & MATERIALS

Tools

  • Wire cutters
  • Scissors
  • Basket for collecting foliage
  • Large trays for laying out foliage
  • Secateurs
  • 20cm-diameter plate

Materials

  • At least 2m of 1mm thick steel wire
  • At least 5m of 1cm-thick green floristry tape
  • Green floristry wire
  • Red / white butchers string
  • 1m of 1cm-thick red ribbon
  • Foliage from the garden – including symbolic herbs and foliage such as rosemary, lavender, bay, box, holly and ivy
  • Dried flowers, rose hips and berries to decorate
  • Bunch mistletoe

INSTRUCTIONS

Step 1
Make a wire hoop to approximately 20cm diameter using a plate as a guide. You can make larger or smaller balls if you wish. Double up the hoop so that it has less chance of collapsing when you make your ball – this means you need 40cm wire for each hoop. Twist wire ends around to avoid any sharp edges.

Step 2
You need five hoops in total to make your ball – four to make a sphere and one around its middle to keep it together and create a band for inserting foliage at the end. Use your first hoop as a guide to make all the others so they are the same measurement.

Step 2
Wrap each wire hoop in self-sticking, green floristry tape. You will need about a 1m length for each hoop. You can always add more to any gaps as you won’t see the hoop when decorated.

Step 3
Place one hoop inside the other and turn to make a cross at the centre. Secure the cross at top and bottom with more floristry tape to make the start of a sphere.

Step 4
Add the next two hoops onto the sphere, so that four segments becomes eight. Secure at top and bottom again with more floristry tape. Reshape your ball if any of the hoops start to bend as you build it.

Step 5
Place the final hoop around the middle of your wire cage and secure with more floristry tape at each junction. Again, reshape your ball if any of the hoops start to bend as you build it.

Step 6
Tie a 1m-length piece of red ribbon in a bow at the bottom of the ball.

Step 7
Loop a double length of butchers string through the top of the ball. Cut enough to ensure that you can hang it at shoulder height from your chosen placement on the ceiling (hallway is great!) or in your workshop. This makes it easier to work on. You can shorten the string later.  Hang your ball.

Step 8
Collect foliage and decoration from the garden. You need quite a lot of foliage for the base. We used about 50 bushy 20-cm-long sprigs of box and 20 30-cm long sprigs of rosemary for the base, plus several lengths of ivy for the ‘belt’ of the ball, and 5 sprigs of holly, hydrangea flowers, rose hips, lavender, pyracantha berries and dried sedum for decoration.

Read up on the symbolic meaning of plants for your ball for a pagan Yuletide touch, plus choose herbs and flowers for their scent as well as beauty. Lavender and rosemary signify loyalty, mistletoe brings fertility and good fortune, thyme brings courage, while holly and ivy hark back to Medieval holy boughs hung in doorways to offer goodwill to visitors.

Step 9
Lay your foliage out in one tray and your decorative elements in another. You are now ready to begin constructing your kissing ball.

Step 10
With your ball at shoulder height, start winding foliage through the bottom of your cage to make a sort of nest. We used rosemary for this bit, which smelt so strong it kept our momentum going too!

Step 11
When the base is woven you can start adding foliage in as you wish to create a ball. We inserted bushy sprigs of box. Some into the rosemary nest and the rest into the top of the sphere, using it as a kind of vase to stand foliage in so sprigs stick out of the cage. With enough foliage the wire structure should start to disappear.

Step 12
It’s now time to decorate your ball. We added a belt of ivy and then used a five-stud arrangement of dried hydrangea flowers, dried sedum, pyracantha berries, rose hips, blue thistle and holly sprigs, arranging around the middle of the ball. This way we could ensure that the decorative elements could be seen when the ball was hung at its finishing height.

Step 13
When you are happy with your arrangement, tie a bunch of mistletoe into the bottom of your kissing ball. Fix with green floristry wire and ensure it is hidden.

Step 14
Time to raise your kissing call to the desired height, or hang in your chosen place. We made two balls and hung one in the hall for good will to visitors and one in the lounge for good fortune and love to our family. When the ball is placed in its ideal home, tie a knot in your hanging string and cut leftovers down. Save remnant string for hanging baubles.

Step 15
Stand on a chair or step ladder to make final adjustments to your arrangement to ensure all bits of wire are invisible from below and foliage is balanced around the sphere.

Step 16
Grab a loved one and kiss away!

TIPS

  • Some traditional kissing balls were made using cheese hoops while others used a central apple or potato to stick foliage in and keep it moist. If you want a longer lasting arrangement that doesn’t dry out you could try the potato or apple option or for a cleaner finish use an oasis sphere. You can also spritz regularly with a fine mist of water to keep fresh. We don’t mind ours drying out and we’ll just pack it away and get back out next year.
  • Make smaller balls to hang in a disused fire place or up a staircase.
  • Make a kissing ball the central feature of your Christmas party to ensure that love is in the air or hang in the hall to get a kiss from every visitor who comes through the door.