Have you seen this old-fashioned popcorn and cranberry garland floating around Instagram and Pinterest? (Honestly, where haven’t we seen it?)
The fruits and seeds hand craft is well-loved for good reason. It’s a really simple, versatile decoration that can be used inside or strung outdoors in a tree for the birds and squirrels. The imperfection of this craft only adds to the old-fashioned charm. We first came across this garland through our Advent curriculum, Slow + Sacred Advent. The seeds and fruits represent the hope of Christ.
The question is, how do you implement this nostalgic, but tedious-looking project with little ones?
The first year we did this craft my oldest was five. I did most of the, work and she surprised me by stringing a small length herself. Over the years I have come to the opinion that this is a great project to do with little ones. The symbolism is easy to understand and the implementation is actually not as hard is it might seem!
While I know there are plenty of tutorials out there, I wanted to provide one specifically for mamas of littles.
1.) First, get your head in the right place! You can do this. Crafts with kids are 90% prep and clean-up and about 10% actual crafting. (As is dinner time.) Attention spans will be short and clean-up will be long. There will be broken popcorn pieces and pricked fingers. That’s okay! You are still building a memory and helping your children develop valuable skills. The more you do this, the more your kids will get used to it.
2.) Prep ahead of time. I recommend splitting up a bag of cranberries and oranges with a friend. You will not need a ton of ingredients for this craft because most kids won’t have the patience to sit there and string many feet! Dry your oranges and pop your popcorn a day ahead of time. (I like this oven-dried orange tutorial from A Daily Something.)
Over the years I have learned that slow prep is everything! I do most of my crafts over a few days. It reduces stress and allows everyone to enjoy the process. Kids will enjoy popping popcorn (serve some for lunch with smoothies and oranges) and smelling the oranges as they dry. Plus, stale popcorn and fully cured oranges reduces breakages when stringing.
3.) We have found that real needles and sewing thread work best. The needle that you will want to get is a tapestry needle like this. These are large and not too sharp, but a good size for poking through popcorn without reducing everyone to tears. We have used fishing string before, but I do not recommend it. I like all-purpose sewing thread (Coats and Clark is my favorite), as it has more grab and reduces things sliding around. Next year I plan to try quilting thread, which is a bit thicker.
4.) You want to string your garland in short lengths and then tie it together. It is much easier to do a short bit than one long one! It’s also less awkward because the items don’t slide around as much. I recommend starting with a 12-18-inch length of thread. (By the time they are done with a small section, most kids will have their creativity and quality-time tanks filled and will be ready to move on.)
5.) Next, double-string your needle by putting your thread through the eye and then pulling the needle to the middle point of the thread. Tie the two ends of the thread together in a knot. Two threads are sturdy but still won’t break the popcorn like a thicker string.
5.) Kids will tend to want to string mostly oranges and cranberries because they are bigger and easier to pierce but the popcorn in between is essential! It keeps everything from sliding around and prevents breakage from things getting too heavy. I sometimes string the popcorn for a little one and let them string the fruits. You need to begin (and end) by stringing 4-5 pieces of popcorn because the knot on your thread will go right through an orange or cranberry. Choose the biggest pieces of popcorn and pierce it through the fattest part!
6.) Once finished, knot the end. (Also sweep up infinity popcorn kernels and try not to step on too many cranberries.)
7.) Once your have a few lengths completed, tie them together. Ours typically ends up being about three to four feet long! This is just enough length to lay across our mantle. This year things got extra-crispy after about a week curing above the fireplace, so the girls draped it in a tree outside for the birds and squirrels.
This year the threading of needles led us into a time of exploring sewing! The girls spent hours sewing doll clothes and Libby made a felt needle book with her name embroidered on the the outside.
I hope you enjoy this little tutorial! If you liked it, share it with a friend by tagging me on Instagram! May the HOPE of Christ be with you this season!