A grave blanket is a decoration that is created out of pine boughs formed into an oval shape that is placed on the grave of a loved one. Grave blankets come in many sizes, shapes and can be decorated with just about anything. Artificial decorations such as flowers, bows, baubles, decorative picks and pine cones are just a few things.
Grave blankets usually are placed at the beginning of November and are removed in the spring time by the grounds keeper of the cemetery. You can remove the decorations and save them for the following season. Usually the bow will have to be replaced and a few decorations touched up by new tape or coloring. Our blankets depending on the decoration chosen are almost 99% bio degradable. We do not use Styrofoam in our blankets. Weather conditions and winds cause extensive damage. When I was little my dad and I were delivering blankets and I asked him what happened to a lot of them throughout the grounds on that particular day. It looked as if someone knelt down and ripped them apart. He told me “when the winds are high the foam loosens up causing things to just fall out.” We have had opportunities to change how we make our blankets due to the economy and labor but they are awful and I would never want a customer to see what I did that day. It’s devastating to loose someone you love, let alone see you hard earned money go to waste.
Our business has been building grave blankets for over 50 years. Lloyd Daniel, the former owner, taught me at a young age how to cut and trim greens to create the shape and size that’s most desirable. He also taught me how to make wreaths, topiary balls and garland. I still use his wreath table to this day.
For a grave blanket, we start with a 2×4 base and cover it with poultry wire and fill the “tube” with straw. We staple the ends closed and begin to fill in the openings of the wire with frasier fur and a balsam mixture. We trim over 3 tons of greens a season. Bails of boughs come into us from the northern part of Michigan. We have been approached by vendors who use Canadian greens and I refuse. I want as much local and Michigan product used to continue our economy as possible. The greens are dropped to us weekly and we keep them cold and moist so the needles don’t drop. If temps are high like they have been this week I hold off production and spray a moisture block on finished product. We can’t guarantee Mother Nature’s plan and always give our best advice on the timing of pick up or delivery.
Grave blankets are a time honored tradition that is fading as with most things these days. Families make decisions about finances and some don’t carry on the traditions of “covering” their loved ones for the winter. It’s my goal to continue supporting traditions, especially those of lost loved ones. There’s not much a person can do to ease their heart and if placing a blanket decorated with a family members favorite color or a traditional red helps them I will build it.