How To: Make Modern Paper Holiday Garland (on the Cheap!)

How To: Make Modern Paper Holiday Garland (on the Cheap!)

When I first saw David Stark's holiday line for West Elm this year, it immediately put me into the holiday spirit. It's got a papercraft-y look that jives with my absolute love of Christmas and all things handmade. I even made the trip across town to the awful outdoor yuppie shopping center to check it out in person, resulting in my first visit to an actual West Elm retail store. (It's actually pretty cool; glad to know about it). I was especially jazzed by the circle garlands, which is made to look like it was created by cutting rounds from old books and stringing them up. But at $18.00 for a ten foot length, and a lack of color that just won't work in my white-walled home, I decided that instead of purchasing a modern paper garland that was made to look like it was created from recycled books and handsewn, I should just hand sew a modern paper garland made from actual recycled books.

Total cost was under $5.00 for at least sixty feet of garland, and I whipped everything up in under an hour.  I also created a series of mod paper ornaments to match; have a peek at that how-to here.

Materials and tools

  • Secondhand books with relatively thick pages (I went to the half-priced bookstore and raided the $1.00 section)
  • Cardstock in colors of your choice
  • Circle punch, 1-2" diameter 
  • Sewing machine, or needle and thread

created at: 11/30/2010

1. Use the circle punch to create a whole bunch of paper circles. I used a 2" punch, which actually creates a circle of 1 3/4". Weird...

created at: 11/30/2010

2. Fire up your sewing machine, choose a straight stitch with the longest length possible, and make sure your feed dogs are up. (I realized later that you don't actually need the bobbin thread here, but it aids in durability, I think). I used some painter's tape to make guides to line up the circles so the stitch is in the center. Leave a bit of thread at the head of the garland, and sew into the first circle. Backstitch, then slowly continue to feed the circles into the needle. After a few seconds, you'll totally get the hang of it.

This is also totally possible with a needle and thread: just use nice long running stitch, and be sure to use thimbles. The only drawback here is that you might crease the paper as you press the needle through. 

created at: 11/30/2010

3. Keep on sewing until you've reached the desired length, and backstitch into the last circle. Leave a long tail of thread at the end to help with hanging.

Now, crank them out by the dozens! I found that using a single color, gray, and the book pages looked the best. Too many colors (I tried the blue, red, and chocolate brown all together) made it look a bit too...much. But choose whatever colors work for your space, and create yards of the stuff in one sitting.

created at: 11/30/2010

Looking for more seasonal DIY projects and ideas?

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JaneBerlin on Dec 09, 2012:

This idea still great in 2012! So glad it popped up with a google search "mod christmas decorations" and a little scrolling. Punch out old holiday cards...pick out parts you like...sparkles, snowman face...or just abstract curves. Recycling!

lore on Oct 25, 2012:

This is very helpful! I am sewing paper leaves for my classroom. Circles would be fun for the kids to hand sew together! Fun! Thank you!

Leslie on Sep 10, 2012:

Love, love, love this Corinna. Thanks for sharing! I don't think you mentioned, but this would be great as a Christmas tree garland, too, using shiny old wrapping paper, coffee packets, or other festive ephemera!

Nicole on Jan 20, 2012:

Thank you! I've been looking for reusable party decorations to make. This and the mod ornaments will be perfect! 

Alison@isharecrafts on Dec 20, 2010:

Super Cute!  I will be linking...thank you!

Jasmine In Oz! on Dec 06, 2010:

Cute, very cute!!! You will need the bobbin thread when yu sew with your machine, otherwise the top thread has nothing to loop around and it wont work!

Use up your old needles for this - the paper will blunt them and you wont be able to use them for 'real' sewing after.

You can glue two thin circles together (phone books are one source) - use a smear of glue stick. Any string, yarn, tinsel, etc.

Molly on Dec 06, 2010:

These are wonderful! I'm getting my sewing machine tuned up tomorrow. I've been meaning to bring it in, but this is my motivation to do it!

I get used paperback books of stories with pictures I like...such as Little House On the Prairie series or Charlotte's Web. I have cut out the pictures and famed them. I hate not using the rest of the book pages. This is a great way to use more of the book.

Chris Gardner on Dec 02, 2010:

Rih - Instead of gluing, I'd recommend punching a hole in either side and thread the string through. 

Here's a video where I demonstrate that idea: http://curbly.com/chrisjob/posts/7635-curbly-video-podcast-how-to-make-a-mod-paper-snowflake-garland

Good luck!

Rih on Dec 01, 2010:

so I don't have a sewing machine, and honestly I'm really not that crafty, but feeling inspired and on a budget... think I could glue two circles over a piece of string to make the garland? best string or glue to use? other ideas?

Chris Gardner on Nov 30, 2010:

I didn't...I thought it might be a problem, but it cruised along just fine right between 3 and 4. Maybe loosening up would work? It doesn't really matter how tight the stitch is, as its not holding anything together, right?

alicia on Nov 30, 2010:

These look great - did you have to adjust the tension? I tried this once but my thread kept breaking...

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