If you made the oiled-paper lanterns from this post, then you’ve probably got some scraps of jewel-coloured translucent paper left over. That puts you in the perfect position to try this easy paper garland DIY.
Even if you haven’t made the lanterns, I think it’s worth clicking over to learn how to make the oiled watercolour art, just so that you can make the garlands.
I’m going to share two easy methods for making these pretty garlands with your children. I’ll leave you to decide which approach to take, based on the age and ability of your children (and how willing you are to brave the sewing machine with a preschooler in charge of the pedal!)
Paper Garland DIY – Simple Threading Method.
Scraps of oiled watercolour art.
Shaped hole punches. (These are my favourite for little hands).
String or yarn for threading. Baker’s twine is pretty.
A standard single-hole punch – optional, but it makes the threading part easier.
A large-eyed blunt needle. I always use real metal tapestry needles rather than the plastic ones that tend to come with children’s craft kits.
You can probably see where this is going, but there are a couple of little tricks I use to help make these easy paper garlands even easier, especially for smaller children.
Be prepared to spread this out over a few sessions. It’s definitely easy, but it’s also repetitive, and the hole-punching part is hard work for small people.
- Use the shaped hole punches to punch lots of shapes from the oiled paper. This is a great activity to do while listening to an audiobook. (It might also be a great activity for letting your child punch three shapes, and then secretly punching the rest of them yourself while he’s asleep.)
- (Optional). Use the single-hole punch to make a hole in each of the punched shapes. This just makes the threading part easier.
- Cut a piece of string. Don’t try to work with too long a piece of string. A good rule of thumb is to cut the string as long as your child’s outstretched arms. If you want to make a longer garland, just knot the lengths together when they’re finished.
- Thread the needle. Knotting the string onto the needle will reduce frustration.
- Tie the first shape onto the end of the string to act as a stopper, before you hand the threading over to your child.
- Older children may be able to knot the shapes onto the string, allowing them to space things out more. Younger children will probably just prefer to thread the shapes into a big pile on the end of the string. If that’s the case, you can sneak in with a hot glue gun later on, and put a dab of glue over the string on the back of each shape to help keep the spacing.
- That’s it! You can tie multiple lengths together if you’d like a longer garland. I love these strung across windows so that you can see the light filtering through.
Paper Garland DIY – Sewing Machine Method.
Scraps of oiled-watercolour art.
Shaped hole punches like these.
A sewing machine (you’ll probably want to use the needle only for paper, so have a spare on hand for when you want to switch back to other projects).
Sewing thread (using different colours in the bobbin and top thread will give a pretty twisted effect).
Punch lots of shapes out of the art scraps.
Sew straight down the middle of one shape, then leave the machine running for a short distance before sliding the next shape under the presser foot.
The gaps between shapes will be just tightly twisted thread, so you can get a baker’s twine kind of effect if you use white thread on the top and a coloured thread for the bobbin.
I like to play finger roulette. This is where it’s my hands guiding the shapes under the needle, and my son’s hands controlling the foot pedal. I still have all my fingers so far.
If you’re not that brave, then maybe just involve your children in creating the art and in punching out the shapes, and then you string them together later.
Top Tip: It’s useful to have a piece of card on hand to wrap the garland around as you go, particularly if you’re making a longer paper garland, and/or you have cats!
If you don’t want to spend out on the punches just for this one project, then simple squares or triangles can be really effective as well. Honestly, though, these squeeze punches have lasted me years, and we’ve found so many uses for them.
For a less tangle-prone garland, you could try stringing beads between the paper shapes. It’s also worth keeping in mind that although stars and snowflakes are irresistibly pretty, all those pointy bits will get tangled easily.
Large circle punches are another way to reduce the tangle problem.
Instead of making one long garland, do several shorter lengths and suspend them from a piece of dowelling, or driftwood, to make a wall hanging. I’ve also sometimes taped shorter lengths directly to my windows to let the light shine through.
Other Things To Try.
These kinds of paper garland will work with any kind of artwork.
I think they’re especially beautiful with the translucent, glowing colours of the oiled watercolour paintings, but it works for all kinds of artwork.
If you’re experimenting with process art, chances are you’ve got a pile of precious artwork that you’re not quite sure what to do with. This is the perfect way to reduce that pile a little.
If you’re feeling fancy, try cutting letters out of the paintings to spell out your child’s name, or a Happy Birthday message.
Hang them over mirrors, make a colourful ‘beaded curtain’ effect over a window (I tried this once, but my cats liked it rather too much!).
Drape them over pot plants to give them a bit of festive flair.
Use them to decorate wrapped gifts – I love the look of a vividly-coloured garland against a simply-wrapped brown paper parcel.
Make sure you pin this post so you can find it next time you’re scratching your head over what to do with a big pile of artwork scraps.