Stringing Popcorn Garland, Again


I’m stringing popcorn garland today, so I’m revisiting this post. It’s timely, and nostalgic. This post was first published at Christmastime in 2010. Five years ago! My “teenagers” of the time were 19, 17, and 14. Now they are 24, 22, and 19! Hard to believe! If you haven’t made popcorn garland for your tree yet, it’s time to get started! I wish I had help this year, but the “kids” are all gone, back to the Navy, the Army, and WVU.

Stringing popcorn garland is easy, but if you haven’t done it since you were a kid, or if you just want to see how I make mine, here’s my tutorial with teenagers!

To string popcorn garland, you need a big pot of plain (no butter, salt, etc.) popped corn. Stale is best because it softens a little, but you can use fresh-popped, too.

I also use fresh cranberries….

….and dehydrated orange slices.

You can dry the orange slices in your dehyrdrator or in a low oven. Alternatively or in addition, you can use dried lime and/or lemon slices.

You’ll also need a needle, thread (any color), and (optional) ornament hooks.

I like to tie an ornament hook onto each end for attaching the garland to the tree, but it’s not necessary.

Start stringing! Create a pattern to repeat over the length of the garland–I do it differently every year. It doesn’t really matter–it all looks pretty.

I like to use about four feet of string at a time. If you try to do longer than that, the string tends to get tangled. I double it up then slowly pull it out as I go because that makes the early stringing go faster–less thread length to pull the popcorn, cranberries, and orange slices through.

Ross doubled his string but never pulled it out.

This resulted in him finishing twice as fast as anyone else.

His reward was a second string because he CHEATED. Those Navy boys, can’t trust ’em, they’re too clever. They also sew quickly. Ross used to sew in the dark in his bed at boot camp because often that was the only time he had to work on his uniform.

I usually string the orange slices by poking the needle in on one side, just inside the peel….

…..then poking it through again on the other side, which makes the orange slice hang straight along the garland.

Or you can just poke through the slice once, right in the middle. Morgan likes to do it this way, which has the result of taking up less space on the garland. Behold the comparison:

Morgan did all of her orange slices this way, so she finished her garland last.

She didn’t care. She was very studious at her task.

Making popcorn garland takes time, but it’s an easy craft and if you rope in some helpers, it goes pretty quickly.

How many lengths of garland you need will depend on the size of your tree, but I usually use about five or six of the four-foot lengths to cover the bottom, middle, and top portions of the tree. It takes about 20 minutes to string each garland.

If you’re doing it by yourself, turn on a favorite TV show or listen to the radio while you string. Once you get started, there’s a peaceful, rhythmic quality to it and you’ll feel so much satisfaction when you drape the beautiful garlands on your tree.

I had the kids each do one length while I did one, then I finished up with a couple more. Asking teenagers to string more than one four-foot length of garland is a bridge too far, especially if they are boys.

I don’t feel like my tree is “finished” until there is popcorn garland on it.

It’s quaint and old-fashioned. I decorate my tree with ornaments that are either sentimental or vintage or homemade–lots of gingerbread men and cookie stars, and always, always, always, my popcorn garland.

After Christmas, I pull the popcorn, cranberries, and orange slices off the threads–it all comes off pretty quickly. I pull it off over a big bowl or pan. The popcorn and cranberries go to the birds and chickens. The orange slices go into a potpourri bowl.

Or, you can always wear a popcorn garland as a necklace!

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Three More Soaps


I’ve been doing a lot of playing with soaps in the past couple of weeks. Here are three more. The first one is a cherry-scented soap. I took out a small portion of the soap mixture after it came to trace and mixed in red soap coloring.
Then I layered part of the plain soap mixture in the mold.
I wanted random streaks of red through the soap, so I drizzled in some of the red.
And more of the plain.
And more of the red.
And so on, until all the soap was in the mold.
And this is the result.
Then I made a soap with lemon pound cake fragrance, which was the base of my inspiration for how I wanted the soap to look–reminiscent of a pound cake. I divided the soap mixture in two parts. The bigger part of the soap mixture, I didn’t use any soap coloring (though it was colored some by the fragrance oil itself–some fragrance or essential oils will add color to soap, and some don’t) and I added about a teaspoon of dried lemon peel. I poured that part in the mold, then added some yellow soap coloring to the smaller part and poured that on top. I wanted to make an effect that was like how a loaf cake will rise in the center when it’s baked. Here, the soap is in the mold, tamped down, with a flat top.
I let the soap sit about five minutes, enough time to start setting and thickening some. Then I used a spoon to mound the soap up toward the middle, to recreate that “risen cake” center effect.
This is how it came out.
And then this one–my favorite, really. I think it’s so pretty. It’s a half and half milk soap–meaning, the bottom half of the mixture (to which I added ground oatmeal) is made with water, so that it will stay light and nearly white.
The top half is made with milk, and has pieces of oatmeal embedded in the top, which I pushed into the soap lightly, to make it stick, after putting it in the mold.
I’ve been making a lot of candles also, in matching scents.
I have four shelves full of product in the studio. I have workshops coming up the next three weekends in a row, then two more in a row after Thanksgiving, until I stop for the year in mid-December.

Winter is my season of (workshop) rest!

Note: I used the same recipe you can find here in my hot process tutorial, only I made these soaps with the cold process method.

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  1. IMG_6606

    October 30, 2015 - Apple Cider Soap

    Take a pot of cold process soap.

    Remove a small part of the prepared soap mixture to a small bowl.

    Add red and yellow liquid soap coloring.

    Decide that’s not enough and add some more.

    Mix it up.

    Pour the … Continued…

  1. IMG_6574

    October 28, 2015 - Peppermint Soap

    Just showing off my latest homemade soap.

    This is peppermint soap.

    Not that there are any actual peppermints in it… But it’s made with peppermint essential oil for the fragrance.

    I made this soap with the cold process method, but it’s the same basic recipe that you can find here in my … Continued…

  1. DSC_3111x

    August 5, 2015 - Cheese Days in Pictures

    In July, I had a five-day retreat here that included two full days of cheesemaking and a day of breadbaking. We were lucky enough to have an attendee who is a photographer, and he took photos all day every day! I was so happy about that, and he has given me permission to share some of his photos here.

    All photos in this post are the property of Rick Hutchinson. You can view … Continued…

  1. IMG_6064

    July 22, 2015 - Obituary

    Yellow Squash, Professional Vegetable, dies at age three months.

    Yellow Squash, who was grown from seed, and who became the first vegetable in the garden to flower though his career was cut horribly short, passed away on July 22 in the studio garden as a result of a lack of pollination and flooding rains.

    When he was only 2 months old, he began flowering wildly, competing against a field … Continued…

  1. IMG_6016

    July 21, 2015 - All the Pretty Soaps

    I’ve been playing around with soap lately, trying out different flowers, seeing what happens. Here’s the wild phlox soap.

    Yep, the pretty pinks and purples turned green in the soap. Not all flowers lose their color. Here’s marigold.

    And this is clover on the right, dandelion blossom on the left.

    Dandelion … Continued…

  1. IMG_5998

    July 16, 2015 - Flower Identification Test

    Pop quiz!

    Identify this flower!

    And this one!

    To be honest, I have no idea what they are. I want to dehydrate some of the petals to put in soaps, but I have no idea what to call the soap because I don’t know what the flowers are! Help!

    If you’re the first person to correctly identify both flowers, I’ll send … Continued…

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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