Blog Deck The Halls

Making A Garland With Punch

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For the holidays, I thought I would take up that old reliable project, the paper garland from my elementary school days, but with a twist; bands of paper glued end-to-end, become rings of paper glued edge-to-edge. 

As a child, the official start of the holiday season began not with Thanksgiving (or, as today, Halloween), but with the annual rite of transforming piles of red and green construction paper cut into 1″ x 8″ strips (using old-fashioned, hinge-armed paper cutter with nary a safety rail or blade guard in view). Sometimes the cutting was done by a mindful teacher. More often than not, an arthritic wrist, or simple nonchalance left the cutting of such strips in the hands of one of us children. Watching as a pile of strips accumulated was also the first hint that Christmas was on its way.

My teacher would divvy up the strips of paper into brown paper bags. Each student would be given a bag of strips and dispatched home for the weekend to patiently glue each strip, end-to-end, into an interlocking chain. The resulting garlands were then to be brought back to class the following Monday, where a few favored students would have the pleasure of connecting all of the individual chains together into one, long, festive, red and green “super garland” that a much-put-upon teaching assistant would then be expected to hang-step stool at heel, yawning stapler in hand-across the ceiling of our classroom, from the bulletin board in front to its companion at the rear of the room and back again; criss-crossing above our desks until its length was exhausted.

It will likely surprise no one when I say that my garlands were always meticulously and uniformly glued (using one, carefully applied smudge of Elmer’s classroom paste per strip) and that my strips never veered from the strict red-followed-by-green-followed-by-red formula. Most of my classmates, in keeping with the late ’60s zeitgeist perhaps, seemed to prefer a more free-form (some might say, random) arrangement of colors (e.g., red, red, green, red, green, green, whatever), which meant I was usually able to pick out my alternating chain from amidst the jumble of holiday color that hung above our heads.

The pleasure of working with my classmates (albeit, classmates who “stubbornly refused” to see how alternating red and green was “clearly superior” to random arrangements of colors) to create something larger than any one of us had the skill or the will to create ourselves has, as an adult, found purchase in me still. I love collaborating with other creators and artists on projects. Each holiday season I like to do at least one craft project that requires the help and participation of my friends, family, nieces, and neighbors. It has to be easy, it has to be quick, and it has to yield something I can use as decoration.

This year I decided against attempting another popcorn and cranberry garland in favor of something utterly simply, a tiny bit tedious (sorry, but it’s true), and wonderfully pretty: a simple chain of paper ringlets made with the aid of a few hole punches and a little patience. I expect to have enough garland to swaddle the 8-foot fir tree that will be living in my front parlor. In the meantime, I’m happy to offer here for your review, evidence of one afternoon’s worth of cutting and gluing. Imagine, if you can, these few feet of interlocking chains many times longer and encircling an ornament-laden Tannenbaum. Happy tree trimming.

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1.) The materials needed are simple: a medium-weight paper (I used white but feel free to use a festive color), two hold punches (mine were 1 inch and 5/8 inch), white craft glue, and a scissors or a craft knife.

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2.) Begin by punching holes with the smaller paper punch. Allow some space between the punches to accommodate the second punch (see below).

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3.) Use the second, larger punch, and repeat as above, being careful to center the smaller hole in the middle of the larger punch.

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4.) Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have a large number of ringlets. A garland of any reasonable length will require many more disks than you might imagine. This is where the eager and helpful hands of a child (or in my case, a few nieces) comes in handy.

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5.) Use a scissor or a craft knife to cut a small incision in one half of all of your ringlets (leave the other half uncut).

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6.) Begin assembling the garland chain by alternating one cut ringlet with one uncut ringlet as illustrated above.

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7.) at regular intervals (every 10 to 12 ringlets or so in my case) I recommend you stop and apply a small dot of white craft glue over the incisions that occur in every other disk. Very little glue is needed. Set aside this segment of chain until the glue has dried and continue building another segment.

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8) Once you have assembled and glued a number of chain segments, begin combining two or three segments into longer chains; connecting them with a single cut ringlet as in step 5, above.

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9.) A detail of the finished garland. I strung mine on an antique wire topiary form (similar wire forms my be found at many craft or garden supply stores).

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