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Monday, November 26, 2012

magnolia & cedar: handmade christmas garlands.

i'm not exactly sure why i'm going batshit crazy for christmas this year, but it's happening wether i know the reason why or not. maybe part of me is preparing myself that this could be the last christmas we spend in this house. then again, we've been saying that to ourselves and out loud for the last few good years, so why should this year be any different? maybe i'm trying to learn how to make everything as best i can, so my dreams of one day owning a house worthy of being on a 'holiday house tour' can come true. or maybe it's just that i'm sick in the head. what i do know, is that i'm falling more & more in love with the way the house feels & smells, as each day creeps closer and closer to the 25th.

since pretty well the day we moved in, i have wanted to make a fresh greens garland for the banister on our staircase. but not just any staircase, the holy shit packages of all staircases -- the number one reason we i wanted the house in the first place, the prettiest feature of it and how it just begs to be draped and flanked in lush, lacy cedar and waxy, leathery magnolia. it's stately and detailed and deserves to be showcased as such. so this year, i finally had the energy and drive to make it happen, and pulled together the garland i have been dreaming about for the past four christmases. why in the fuck did i wait so long!?!

how we do: cedar & magnolia christmas garland
··· depending on the desired length of your garland ···

4 boughs of cedar
4 boughs of magnolia leaves
green floral wire
wire cutters
jute or twine
start by preparing your greens, removing elastics, tags and any damaged leaves. i wanted it to look natural, rustic and homey, so i choose to use cedar for it's delicateness and scent, and the magnolia because it's multifaceted with a shiny, polished, deep green top, and brown soft velvet underside, and because i love any excuse to have as much magnolia around me as often and humanly possible. once you have your greens ready to go, you can clip the branches into 6"-8" lengths. don't be too particular about how they look and that they are all uniform, it's the variation of each piece that will make the garland less formal and more interesting. using a piece of twine or a measuring tape, determine how long you need your garland beauty to be. don't be scurred, although a wee bit time consuming, this is no sweat.
once all your greens are ready to work with, you can begin assembling your garland. start by making a small poesy of greens, a few pieces of cedar and a branch or two of magnolia; the width and fullness of these bunches will determine how wide your finished garland will be. i wanted mine lush and full to compliment the staircase, so i was generous with the size of bundles i made, but if you want a thinner garland, make your bundles smaller, and try to be as consistent as you can. wire the branches of your bundle together, using a good amount of tension, but not so much that you cut through your branches. as your garland dries up over time, it shrinks and risks the chance of pieces slipping out, be sure you take the time to make everything as secure as possible. build your next bundle and lay it on top of the previous, almost like you are rolling it on to ensure they are even around, and wire together. this will form a chain with a definite top and bottom, easy to lay flat on a mantle, railing of a staircase or around your front door. continue until the garland is as long as you require.
once my garland was long enough, i flipped it over and fed 2' pieces of jute through the greens intermittently along the entire length, to be used to attach the garland to the staircase. be sure to leave long enough tails to go around the railings or handrail, and be tied off well. the garland will be heavier than you would think, and you want to make sure it is secured tightly to the staircase or wherever you are displaying it. trim off any excess twine and adjust your garland until it sits the way that makes you happiest -- i found that by tweaking it a little bit here and there, i could hide how it was attached, which cleaned everything up.
in the end it cost me $80 in materials and took a little over two hours to make, which would have been more than double the price had i paid someone to make it for me. you can reduce costs if you happen to have a healthy cedar bush on your property, (or on your neighbours and have no shame) and can cut it yourself, also making it less girthy (such a good word) would help. i have already decided that at our next home, i am paul is planting an evergreen forest somewhere on the property -- a nice mix of pine, cedar, boxwood, fir, hemlock, spruce and juniper. maybe even throw some holly bushes and birch trees in there for good measure; you never know what you might need if you finally get that fire lit under your ass to get up and make shit happen.


  1. MAGICAL! Sweet Santa, you've got a wonderland happening right there.

  2. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous ... I LOVE making garlands, but have never done fresh! Inspiring .... ;)

    And you're right, that godman staircase if brilliant! Everytime I see your house photo's I am instantly drawn to it! I love that you state that's one of the primary reasons you wanted the house ... I have been known by my husband and family to make a house decision or two on a detail of the same propensities lol ... the rest of the house could be a shit show but the porch with the barn red door that would look great with a wreath for every season is reason enough for me to love it.

  3. Damn. That is one christmassy staircase/nook. Colour me jealous. This time of year gives this (albeit atheist) daughter of 2 jews some serious Christmas envy. Ugh it's like living in a fairy tale! I hope you're going to the christmas homes tour this weekend! Sadly I have to head to Toronto and will miss it, but it promises to be a pretty affair!


  4. You are so amazing at explaining things. You make this sound like such a piece of cake.
    It looks gorgeous. I absolutely can not wait until we have a house and I can go crazy with Christmas decorations, because I definitely will. Your house is gorgeous and I am jealous. Your Christmas tree is beautiful too.


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