A Modern Day Fairy Tale

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A Frugal Homemade Christmas Tree: DIY Popcorn Garland

Every year in about August or September, I start thinking ahead to Christmas. Yes, I'm that person. But here's the thing... I love Christmas! I love the celebrations, I love the meaning behind the season, and I love decorating.

When it comes to decorating- particularly the tree- I like to keep things interesting. Each year I try to come up with a new theme or color scheme so that it never looks quite the same. You might recall last year my tree theme was 'Shine Your Light' with silver and gold. In years past, I'd had red and aqua, a Frozen inspired tree, and even just a simple classic Christmas with red and green and lots of sparkles. I love coming up with these new ideas. I love mixing and matching what I have and buying just a few extras each year to complete the desired look.

But this year my Christmas budget was even tighter than usual. I did not have any extra money at all to put towards decorations, so I had to get a little more creative. I decided to go with a very traditional homemade look.... all in all, I spend between $5-10 on my entire tree! Throughout the next few weeks, I will be sharing what I did so that you too can experience a good ol' fashioned frugal Christmas tree. First up, the inspiration for it all--- popcorn garland!

Popcorn garland is such a traditional Christmas look, but shockingly something that I had never done. While I did not start out with the intention of this homemade tree look, I DID know that I wanted popcorn one way or another, and I am SO thrilled with how it turned out! Check it out:

DIY Popcorn Garland

  • popcorn
  • thread
  • needle
  • clear spray (optional)
  1. First and foremost, you'll want to pop your popcorn. They say one cup covers about 3-4 feet of string. To be honest, I just eyeballed it though and ended up with entirely too much, but you do want to have a little extra anyway to make up for any broken pieces, etc.
    I highly recommend using just simple stove top popcorn. This takes a little longer, but you're going to get a lot more for the money. At our local store we can get a bag for about $2, and we used less than half a bag for the garland. In a pinch though, you can use microwave, just look for the non-salted, non-buttered variety. 
  2. Once it's popped, let it sit for a few days. Everything I read said about 2 days or so, I waited about 4. This allows the popcorn to stale a bit, and makes it less likely to break as you're stringing it. 
  3. After it has sat out, it's time to get started, but first you'll need to choose your thread. Some use embroidery floss or even fishing line, but I used a classic thread--- easy to find and very inexpensive- you might even have it on hand already. You can also mix it up with a colored thread too, keep it festive in case any gaps show through.
  4. Thread your needles just as you would for any sewing project, tying a knot at the end. It is much easier to work with shorter strands, so I suggest keeping them manageable, and leaving enough of a tail at the end that they can be easily tied together. 
  5. Start stringing! Pick the best pieces from your popped popcorn. Some suggest sorting before you start, but I found it easier and faster to do so as I went. You'll want to look for nice thick pieces that you can string easily. Push the needle through the thickest part of the popcorn, avoiding any kernels that are tough to break though. Be sure to keep your thread nice and even as you go. Once you get to the end of that strand, knot it and move on to the next.
  6. At the end, tie them together to make one or several longer strands.
  7. If desired, spray your finished garland with a clear spray carefully to help protect it. This *may* help your garland to last through another year, or even give it a nice little shine. Personally, I decided to keep mine as it was, and will be feeding it to the birds after the holidays. 
  8. Finally, add it to the tree! You'll want it on after the lights, but before any decorations. 
That's it. It takes a little bit of time, but is really very easy and VERY inexpensive. Overall, it should cost around $4 or so--- assuming you don't already have the needle and thread on hand. Not only does it look great, but I really love the tradition of this. My daughter is a little too young to string, but she helped hand us the popcorn while my son and I sat, watching Christmas movies and stringing popcorn. It's such a great family activity that we all really enjoyed! While it may not always go on my tree, I think this will become a regular in our family Christmases from now on.

The popcorn garland was my inspiration, but the homemade frugal Christmas doesn't end here! Stay tuned for more great ideas including: cinnamon dough ornaments, cardboard/wrapping paper ornaments and prepping pinecones for Christmas decor.

Have you tried a popcorn garland before? How did it turn out? What other frugal tree ideas do YOU have? 


  1. Oooh I haven't!! I do love how it looks though!! Its so classic!! I doubt Id be able to do it because my son loves popcorn so much that he would eat it lol!!

  2. We always had popcorn garland growing up, we add some cranberries to it, too. It looks nice.

  3. I'm going to make this with my grandkids for the outdoor trees this year. The birds are going to love it.


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