How To Make Evergreen Garland Or Swags

So you want to make fresh, evergreen garland? I don’t blame you! It’s another one of my cheap and easy Christmas decorations that people go gaga over. Moreover, nothing smells like Christmas except the scent of fresh cut pine. Let’s get down to business and learn how to create evergreen garland, also known as swags.

The process is very similar to my evergreen wreath tutorial. You might want to give it a quick run through before going through this one. Wreaths are a tiny bit easier because you are working with a stable frame and on a smaller scale. However, I’m one for jumping head first into most crafts, so feel free to ignore my advice.

Feel like you need a little more help? Check out the new Evergreen Garland Video Tutorial.

Alrighty, here we go:

Necessary Materials

  • Evergreens: The above pictures show my collection of branches from white pine, cypress, ivy, fraser fir, and some other random pine. I just mooched off of family and neighbors because you don’t need more than a few limbs of each. Just promise them you will cut without gapping the tree/bush. Usually people are happy to let you tidy up their plants. The piles in the first picture made around 30 ft of garland for my house. The second photo shows the greens cut into various lengths 6″ to 1′ depending on how thick/wide I wanted the garland.
  • 24 Gauge Floral Wire*: I like a 24 gauge, just make sure it’s thick enough that you can pull it without it breaking but thin enough to wind easily. I like the green florist wire because If I’m not careful (which I’m not usually) it will blend better.
  • Rustic Wire 18 Gauge* or Rope: In the past I have used brown rope (big mistake), green rope, and this year green covered thick wire (in the floral section of craft stores). Make sure whatever you choose is green. The brown rope was a beotch because every single micrometer had to be covered in greenery or the brown showed through. I like the wire the best because it was strong enough to hold the garland together, thin enough to cover easily, and it held its shape better than the rope. Cut it into the lengths you want your finished garland to be.
  • Cheap/Old Clippers: Once you cut the wire and gummy pine trees they’re pretty much done. I always just use my old garden shears for this project.
  • Gloves & Old Blanket/Old Clothes: Yes, most of the pictures show my bare hands. Do as I say not as I do, because this will eat your hands alive. The old sheet is to sit on, because you are going to want to do this OUTSIDE or in a garage. You will be covered in rosin and needles when done.

Step 1

Secure your two wires together.

You can see I did some awesome girl scout knots here… Or I just kinda squished it together.

Step 2

Take a handful of greenery (all facing the same way) and stick the wire through the middle. It isn’t important that the wire be 100% covered because, let’s face it, your going to be putting layer after layer after layer of greenery on this puppy. As you overlap it will cover most gaps.

Then take the floral wire and wrap it a couple of times around the whole bundle near the ends of the greenery. Do NOT cut the wire. It needs to stay in one continuous strand to help hold the whole thing together.

Step 3

Take another bundle of greenery and bundle it around the first piece and the wire, BUT make sure the ends are maybe 1-3″ further down the wire. Then take the STILL ATTACHED floral wire and wrap it a couple of times to secure the second bundle. Now repeat this about 10 billion times for however long you want your garland to be.

Please note that the closer you bundle your evergreen together the thicker and less gaps your garland will have. However, the closer it is the less progress lengthwise you will make.

Basically you just going to keep going, bundle, wrap, bundle, wrap, bundle, wrap… Of course it will be the coldest day of the year when you choose to do this outside. So you might also want to bundle and wrap yourself.

Step 4

Now that you are almost at the end of your garland you may realize “How the Hell am I going to finish this?” Well it is pretty simple. When you’re one bundle away from finishing the garland take the last bundle and turn it the opposite direction and secure it end to end with the last piece. Now you may tie off your floral wire and cut it.

Step 5

Bend the piece going in the wrong direction back on itself and stick some random pieces of greenery in the few wires that show. Voila, your done! And probably cold and sticky, but DONE!

Really, cover the wire better than this with loose pieces of evergreen…
Here’s about 15 feet laying in my driveway. It waited while I made 4 more smaller garlands.

Notes

  • If you know where your garland is going then you can focus on one side or the other. For example I made a swag to go in the kitchen over the window. I knew only one side was going to show so I put all my pretty berries etc… on one side of my bundles. Beware! Staircases will be seen from both sides.
  • Incorporate other things in your garland: You can use ivy, vines, twigs, juniper, dried flowers, etc… Anything that is not going to wilt or rot in 3 or so weeks
  • You can decorate garland: While I tailor each garland for my rooms (i.e. bittersweet vines for the kitchen, ivy mix for the living room) I also decorate it after it is in place. It’s easy to take a little floral wire and stick on lights, ornaments, fruit, etc. Also, if you messed up an area or it has a gap just shove a few loose pieces in. Usually the will be held in place by the other limbs.
  • Remember that it is going to be MUCH heavier than fake garland: Secure accordingly. I just use doubled over floral wire on hooks and nails to secure it. If you put up a 15′ piece by yourself cuss accordingly. Also try draping it over your shoulders, poke yourself in the neck, and cuss more.
  • To prolong life mist with water: I mist mine ever morning when I water the tree. Okay, I mist mine every few days when I hear the cats drinking the water out of the Christmas tree and it reminds me.

We all think of garland over the mantel, but I use mine over windows and around light fixtures (be careful about potential fire hazards). Where will you use your garland?

Feel like it is too much to make your own garland?  Read my tutorial on how to Make Artificial Garland Look Real for tips to cheat the DIY process and come out with beautiful Evergreen Christmas Garland.

73 thoughts on “How To Make Evergreen Garland Or Swags

  1. Get to Columbus, think out loud, and put up decor at my house. Girl…I would pay for this show. You are too funny. We would totally be friends.

  2. Hi Brianna. I was looking for an alternative to cutting down one of our trees, since it is so late before Christmas (too much DIY construction in the way). I can’t wait to follow your tutorial with my daughter when she comes home, to make the place feel festive without a tree. Not sure where you live, but here in the Blue Mountains, Ontario (ski country), we are about to have our first Christmas ever with NO snow! Thanks for your inspiration! Andrea

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  4. I see this post is a couple of years old but I’m so glad to have found it. As I was preparing to do this my friends told me a secret to making garland. They said to soak all the trimmings in a tub of water overnight. Not only will it provide moisture but I was able to do this project without gloves! Anyhow, I loved doing this but with 3 small children I won’t be making another one until they are old enough to cut the pine and make their own!! Lol

  5. Hi. I really enjoyed your directions for make a rope of greens. Although it’s too late for me to tackle this for 2014 Christmas I want to try for 2015. But a question on care. How do you mist the greens when they are placed against wood, be it banister or door frame, with out damaging the wood. In our northern climate with furnaces pushing out drying heat they need a fare amout of misting. I can’t seem to find any direction on the internet on this subject. Will save your intructions for next year! Thanks

    • Honestly my house is so dry that the water dries instantly. If moisture is an issue then I would just skip it. It stays green even when dry and you do not risk any damage.

  6. I have a question. I just made about 10-feet of garland, except mine wants to flip over and show my rope I used. Is this because I’ve not surrounded the rope well enough, or is there something else I can do? Love your tutorial. I’ve always wanted to tackle this, but have always been afraid it would be too hard, until I read your instructions.

    • Depending on where you are hanging it it may flip. If you have some way to secure it in more places you can flip it back over. If it is swagged in a curve and showing you can just tuck some greenery over the garland to cover the rope. I ran into this issue the first year I made it, which is why I ended up recommending the green wire. Much easier to cover fully and does not show as much.

  7. My apartment is very small, so instead of a tree I’m going to hang strands of this garland mixed with a few of the metallic ones from a curtain rod on the wall.

    In my head it looks awesome. Wish me luck.

    • You’re probably done already, but i just returned from Munich (Land of the most amazing “Christmas Markets”) and while strolling down the street, I saw many garland decorated like a tree in small apartments-it looked amazing! merry Christmas!!

  8. I love how simple this sounds, and I’d love to wrap my back patio railing in a homemade garland, but I’m wondering about the tar or stickiness on my brand new patio (it is made of stained cedar).
    The directions for making the garland mention that your hands/clothes will be sticky after completing the project… What about everything else that comes in contact with the garland? Also, thinking about hanging one around interior door openings, will the stickiness get on the walls? I plan to use the following because it’s what we have growing around here: cedar, youpon, pine, and maybe a few fake berries for color.
    Thanks!!!!

    • I never had much problem with stickiness getting on walls. Usually the sap has dried from the fresh cuttings. However, if you have any concerns I would test it out in a non-important location and/or go with the fake garland.

  9. I very much enjoyed reading this informative piece. I especially enjoyed the humor! Great stuff – had me giggling often. Thank you!!

  10. You’re awesome Brianna. I appreciate your “(hock, spit) YOU kin do it TOO” attitude. Hahaha! AWEsome!
    I make wreaths, but never garlands; and someone order a BUNCH this year. Not only that, they want it made out of Noble-fir (we harvest boughs from our tree farm at Mt St Helens), so we’re talking a LOT of exposed florist wire to get creative with.
    In your pictures, there’s a green rope or cord at the end of your florist wire. I re-read your post and can’t find reference unless it’s from year’s past trial/trib, or it’s there to hang the garland once finished. If someone can explain…thank you.
    Here’s to seasonal ugly hands!

    • The green wire is actually what you mount everything to at the beginning. It runs through the whole garland to give it strength. You can find it in coils in the floral section of most craft stores. That is what I wrap the branches and smaller floral wire around.

    • It really depends on how high traffic of an area you keep it in. The greenery will stay green, but become fragile and drop lots of needles. Personally I have kept mine up to a month, but be very careful as I bet it would be SUPER flammable when dry and brittle like that.

  11. Thank you for these clear steps and helpful photos! I’m going to make one with my first graders! Kids today don’t know how to make traditional decorations and I think this will be a great hands on experience with a little measurement mixed in. :)

  12. I enjoyed your garland decorating instructions very much. Trying to find cedar sways for my coach lights and think I will attempt to make them. Your instructions should help me very much. Your sense of humor is great too. Thanks!

    Carolyn from Colorado

    • If you can find some Leland Cypress (lots of people use them as giant hedgerows) they make excellent swags, garland filler, and look great bundled under lights.

  13. Very informative (and humorous)! I’m surprised you don’t drink wine (or beer) while creating your garland, this would tend to lessen the effects of poking needles, etc., not to mention, keeping you warm!

    Thank you!

  14. If I BUY a white pine garland and wish to cut it to a smaller length, say from 75′ to 40′, what must I do to the end of the garland?

    • Well it will depend on how it is constructed. Some commercial ones wrap like my tutorial. Some have a kinda metal core that grabs the pine. It would be hard to tell you without seeing it.

  15. This was hands down the most user friendly directions for someone who CAN NOT understand most written directions. EVER. Wonderful descriptions- loved the pics, too, because I generally need them due to my lack of comprehension of written text! The wittiness didn’t hurt either! I’d rather learn from someone just like me (gives me a slight bit of hope that a normal person could actually do this)- Not Martha Stewart! Thanks a million!

  16. can you make garlands with holly bush too? mine is really big ,the branches are long & full,will they stay fresh ,not wilt….i love your pine garlands !!!

    • My mother made some great garland out of holly and ivy last Christmas. The holly lasts, but the leaves start to curl under. I wondered if trying glycerin might make them stay fuller longer. But yes, holly works just fine. Wear thick gloves because it is not fun to work with.

  17. Great tutorial. I’d like to try this with some euonymous, ivy, etc. for wedding decorations. Could even add a flower or two every to some of the bundles. Can’t wait to try it!

  18. Just a friendly tip…hand sanitizer removes pine sap like a dream. I suppose it’s probably the alcohol in it but all I know is it takes sap off of nearly everything.

    Love your stuff!

      • On that topic, there is some orange soap with pumice. That stuff is AH-mazing at removing basically anything. Mechanic shops, construction, etc use it to remove all kinds of substances. Gojo is the brand I have used before but there are others.

  19. I owned a florist for over 20 years and never saw a better set of instructions for garlands!!! AND I laughed all the way. I learned a few things too, so you can teach an old dog new tricks. Thanks so much. Look forward to using your advice all during the year!

  20. Hi, merry Christmas! Thank u so much for the tutorial. It’s the 3rd of December and I was wondering, as I hav my garland made and ready to hang outside over the doorway, if it will last or stay alive until Christmas. I woe hate to have dead foliage u know what I mean. Also, I don’t plan on it as of now, however I will make my decision upon your suggestion; but I plan on using fake garland prelit with it, so not putting the lights directly on the fresh garland. Should I? Would it make a difference? I’m just thinking about the warnings with dry trees and lights and house fires. As much as the dead foliage would embarrass me, I believe a burned down house would do me over if u know what I mean. Is it safe? I know u said u mist yours every am, Im hoping and thinking that it’s ok, as the garland should retain the moisture. Should. Did I say the word should? Lol. Burned down house, remember: I can’t really go on a should. I can easily say that I will be out misting mine each am. However saying it and doing it are 2 different things. It’s a lot, I know and I apologize. I guess what I’m asking too is that will I be safe using it if I am in fact inconsistent in watering it. Thank you so much. Happy holidays!

  21. I just read and loved your instructions. I’ve never made an evergreen wreath or garland but I’m going to try to make two garlands this year for both doors. One question about materials needed. Why did you use 24 gauge florist wire AND wire/rope? Why not just 24 gauge florist?

  22. thank you for teaching me how to make my very own garland. i am on a role this year to make as much of my Christmas as possible without buying into everything that will cost a fortune. I have never decorated my front door and i am so excited now that i can and not spend any money… i have great pines in my yard to pick from so its a go.. Happy Holidays again thanks and i am certain to cuss

  23. This is exactly what I was looking for — real info from someone who has actually made garland. Thanks for the clear (and funny) instructions!

  24. Thanks so much for this absolutely hysterical “how-to!” I have made my own wreaths for years and this year I decided I would try to do garlands…not surprisely they are very similar in all aspectings including the cussing and being covered in sap! Fun times.

    • Well from personal experience I would say no. Bringing it in and hanging it will scatter a lot of needles, but the sap really only gets on you as you are wrestling it around. As long as you aren’t rubbing it up and down the wood only a minimal amount of sap would wear off. Even then a little goo-gone would take care of any issues. Also if you really want to be sure to cut down on sap then refrain from using white pine. It seems to be the stickiest of the bunch.

      I would be wary of dragging it across fresh carpet or a rug. Consider putting a drop cloth down before you hang it if you have these as flooring.

      Unless you have two people hanging the garland remember it is heavy! I just rested my ends on the wooden floor when hanging and vacuumed up the needles when done, but if this is a concern get a helper to keep it off objects.

    • So glad you enjoyed. One note make sure everyone wears old clothing as sap is going to get everywhere. Especially with kids.

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