What’s a more charming answer to the crepe paper streamer? A beautiful and unique garland! While researching the top wedding trends, one of the items that came up again and again was the use of garlands as a decorating component. We saw them as hanging elements, as table decorations, even as accessories on wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses. Our garland is what we’d call a “Low-Sew” project. There’s just a little bit of hand sewing involved.
We created a cut flower on a string treatment, using a fabric die-cutting machine. There are many cutters out there on the market; we chose the Sizzix Big Shot for our sample. Originally developed for the card-making and scrapbooking industry, die cutters made their way into the world of fabric over the last several years. The Sizzix brand is very popular as is the Slice Digital Die Cutter and the AccuQuilt GO.
The right fabric is the key to success with all the die-cutters. Look for a fabric that is stable and crisp. The option we originally chose was Penmanship by Premier Prints in Oatmeal/Rosa, a medium weight cotton/rayon. We didn’t want a super stiff appearance, but instead were going for a slightly wispy or wilted look, as if our garlands had been brought right in from nature and hung.
There are other options to consider, such as starching for crispness or – rather than using just one layer as we did, doubling up two fabric shapes back-to-back for increased stability. Again, it’s all about the look you want. We wanted a very free-form, rustic look and so kept things as clean and simple as possible.
We did test burlap, which we thought would be a wonderful texture. However, the weave is so coarse it simply didn’t hold up well under the die-cutting process, especially in the smaller sizes.
Using a die cutter is all about practice. Make sure you have scraps of a similar fabric to practice with to get the hang of the equipment. Then, get enough extra of your final fabric to allow for a few mistakes here and there. Go slow and test-test-test. Before you know it, you’ll get into an assembly line process to create your garden or garlands.
- Die cutting machine that cuts fabric; we originally used the Sizzix 655268 Big Shot Cutting-and-Embossing Roller-Style Machine
- Die that cuts fabric; we originally used the Sizzix BigzBIGkick/Big Shot Die by Tim Holtz, Tattered Florals
- Fabric – see notes above about type of fabric and whether or not to pre-starch; we originally used Premier Prints Penmanship in Oatmeal/Rosa
- Hemp cord 1 to 2mm; we originally used Hemptique Cord Spool in Earthy
- Embroidery floss; we originally used Anchor Six Strand Embroidery Floss in China Rose
- Embroidery needle
NOTE: Pre-pressing your hemp cord with a steam iron will loosen any coil memory from being rolled on a spool.
If used on a banquet table, cut your hemp longer than the table measurement so you can curve the garland in a natural looking path. To determine the best length, either use an actual banquet table or one of similar size for planning. Consider how much, if any, you’d like it to drape over the edge of the table. To be safe, make one garland and see how you like it. Once you’re satisfied, cut the rest of your hemp for however many garlands you want to make.
Determine flower spacing
Our samples are spaced 5″ on center. You can make them closer together for a denser, more prominent look or spaced as shown for an airy look.
Here’s the math (insert your own numbers): Divide the length in inches by your desired spacing to determine the number of flowers to cut. For example, if you are cutting 20 feet of garland, you will need to divide 240 inches (20 feet) by 5 inches to get the number of flowers you need for each garland – in this example 240 ÷ 5 = 48.
Since our die contained 4 flowers per cut, you only need to make one fourth of the number of cuts, or 12 cuts to get 48 flowers.
Cut your fabric
Once you know the number of cuts (in our example we use 12 cuts to get 48 flowers for 20 feet of garland), cut the proper number of pieces of fabric to fit the size of the die (following manufacturer’s instructions).
At Your Die Cutting Machine
Follow manufacturer’s instructions for your specific machine.
For the Sizzix Big Shot using a Bigz die
- Place die onto a cutting pad with foam side up.
- Place the fabric over the die.
- Place a second cutting pad over the fabric to create a sandwich.
- Slide the sandwich into the opening of the Big Shot until the handle just begins to rotate.
- Continue to rotate the handle in the same direction until the sandwich has completely passed through the opening.
- Remove the sandwich.
NOTE: When when opening the sandwich and removing the cut flowers, go slowly and gently peel the flowers from the die so you don’t rip the flower petals.
Assembling Your Garland
Thread your embroidery needle with your 6-strand embroidery floss. Use all 6 strands and leave ends unknotted.
Group your flowers into like stacks. We found it easier to make four groups of like flowers, then add one from each group and repeat. This actually offers a fairly random look and assures you don’t end up with a bunch of the same flower style at the end of your garland.
- To attach your first flower, begin 5 inches from the end of your hemp cord.
- Using your fingers, hold the front side of your flower to the hemp cord with the hemp on the back side as shown in the photo below.
- Take one stitch from the front side of the flower through the hemp cord and back out the front as shown below.
- Leave a tail of floss of about three inches long.
- Clip the the end about three inches from the fabric.
- Tie a knot. Trim both ends to about a ⅓ to ½”.
- To attach subsequent flowers. Use your ruler to measure five inches from the center of your first flower to the center of the next flower. Hold that point with your thumb and forefinger and place your flower in that spot (this is accurate enough). Sew the flower in place.
- If desired when finished, press your garland, using a pressing cloth.
- Once you have the hang of it, it’s faster to take your single stitch through your flower and clip the floss. Then, without tying the knot and trimming the ends, move to the next flower. When you’re done, go back and tie all the knots and trim all of the ends.
Project Design and Sample Creation: Alicia Thommas