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DIY Projects Winter Holidays

How To Make Popcorn Garland

Learn how to make DIY popcorn garland step-by-step to give your tree a crafty traditional look on a budget.

For years, my son has always wanted to make popcorn garland for our Christmas tree. And for years, popcorn has been my dog Kenai’s favorite snack. So the answer was always “no son, sorry.”

This is our second Christmas since my sweet Kenai has passed, so I decided it’s time to let my kiddo have his dream tree. We turned on a movie, had some delicious Baskin Robbins ice cream, and strung popcorn for hours.

I’d love to say it was perfect from the start, but it took a little trial and error to perfect the process. So just in case your little ones want to deck the halls with traditional popcorn garland, today I’m sharing my first-hand tips on what to (and not to) do during the process.

Here’s What You’ll Need

Unsalted, Unbuttered Popcorn

Quilting Needle

Clear Fishing Wire

Clear Tape

diy popcorn garland

Start With Unbuttered, Unsalted, Stale Popcorn

Sounds appetizing, right? Um, no.

No butter and no salt means no thanks for me.

But your tree is not a fan. Butter and salt cause the popcorn to get nasty, and it makes your tree gross, too. You could pop your own popcorn, but I was super lazy so I just bought a couple of big bags of it. 

I put the popcorn in large pots and let them sit in a closet for a few days to get stale.

Be careful where you store it, because that room and everything in it will smell like popcorn for weeks. Definitely don’t put it in your clothing closet unless you want dogs chasing you down the street.

If you’ve got a pantry with doors that close, I’d recommend putting the pots in there. The popcorn needs to be at least three days stale, otherwise it will just crumble when you start stringing it.

diy popcorn garland

Get Yourself A Large Workspace

You’ll need a lot of room to work, since these garlands get tangled up easily.

The fishing wire likes to curl up and tie itself in knots, so after a few frustrating messes, we figured out that it’s best to tie one end of the line to something (ours was a coaster caddy) to keep it from curling up.

We also lined the table with craft paper to keep the oil from getting all over the table. No matter how stale your popcorn is, it’s going to get a little slippery during the process.

Once your workspace is prepped and you’ve got some sort of anchor to tie the ends of your lines to, gather up the pots of popcorn, get your needle, round up some helpers, and turn on a movie or some fun holiday music.

diy popcorn garland

String Popcorn In Manageable Sections

Noah and I decided to do 5 foot long sections, but you can do more or less.

Thread the fishing wire through your needle and tie it on pretty tightly. Fishing wire doesn’t tie in knots easily, so you may need to triple knot it.

{Funny how it wouldn’t knot when we wanted it to, but it seemed to happen perfectly if we didn’t want it to.}

how to make diy popcorn garland

When you’re stringing the popcorn, we learned two important tricks.

1- Push the needle through the thickest part of the popcorn. If you go through a thin part, it falls apart when other pieces rub up against it and your stringing process takes a lot more time.

2. Hold the popcorn between your thumb and pointer finger with your hand down low and the popcorn up high. (I have no idea how to describe this effectively, so just look at the picture above and quietly laugh at my sad attempt of verbal explanation…) This keeps you from stabbing yourself with the need 99 times.

Noah was much better at this than I was. I bled, he didn’t.

easy diy popcorn garland


cheap popcorn garland

Tape The Ends

At first, we thought we could just tie the ends in knots and the popcorn would just stay on there. Wrong.

No matter how many knots we tied, the popcorn just slid right off the ends.

In a stroke of genius, my little man came up with the idea of putting clear tape around the ends. It totally worked! And since it’s clear, you can’t even tell it’s there when it’s on the tree.

diy popcorn garland Lela Burris In The New House

Start Trimming The Tree From The Top

Start with your first strand at the very tip top of the tree and work your way down. We laid ours very loosely and organically around the tree because we wanted a natural vibe, but it you’re into perfection you can always space them out evenly.

We learned very quickly that four hands are better than two, so Noah put the garland around the tree and I positioned it. By having both of us holding the strand, it minimized the handling of the strands and we had very little breakage.

Christmas Tree with popcorn garland

DIY popcorn garland

Popcorn Garland Q&A

While we made the garland, Noah did video tutorials on my Instagram Stories.

We got so many questions and comments on those videos! I’m assuming you may have some of those same q’s, so I wanted to address them ahead of time.

How much popcorn did you use?

I used one and a half large bags of popcorn for our 7 foot ‘slim’ tree. Two bags (or 4 microwave popped bags) is a good place to start, but if you’ve got a big tree, you may want to double that. If you end up with leftover popcorn, you can always give the birds in your yard a nice treat.

Can you store it and reuse another year?

I haven’t tried it, but I’m going to say no. The garland is very fragile, and I assume it will only get more fragile over time. My son and I had a great time doing this project together, so I’m perfectly happy making this a yearly tradition. It really didn’t take too long, and it’s a very cheap project, so it’s not a big deal to remake.

Is there any way to preserve it?

You could always spray the garland with a clear poly spray paint, and I’m guessing it would last over the years. I haven’t tried this but I’ve read online that some people do this. I don’t think I’ll test it though, because it seems like an extra step I don’t really have time for, especially since it’s possible it may not hold up in my storage building.

What will you do with it after Christmas if you’re not saving it?

Since I’m not spraying it with anything, I plan on carefully removing it from my tree and draping the strands on trees outside. The birds will really enjoy the popcorn, and my cats will really enjoy watching the “show” through the windows.

diy popcorn garland

Start A New Tradition

My son and I had such a good time making these popcorn garlands, and we love the traditional and natural vibe it creates on our tree, so we’ve decided we’ll make this a holiday tradition. We hope you give it a try, too, and if you do, share a photo on Instagram and tag me @lelaburris so I can see it!


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