This DIY tree garland project arose from several different moments of inspiration. I had a great idea for a Christmas tree stand cover that looked like a basket full of nuts in the shell, so I ordered bags and bags (and bags) of nuts in the shell. But reality didn’t work quite as smoothly as my imagination, and I had to toss the project entirely. The stand cover turned into this year’s Christmas tree collar (so not all was lost!), but I was still left with tons of bags of nuts. I didn’t want to just leave them, and I certainly wasn’t going to eat them all, so I started brainstorming.
Growing up, we occasionally made a cranberry and popcorn garland for our tree. I love giving a nod to Christmases past when everyone used to do that, but I’m not crazy about the look of popcorn on my tree and honestly, I think it’s a lot of work to do every year. But if you string nuts together to make a Christmas tree garland, you have a DIY garland that honors that tradition all while creating a new look and something that will last for more than just one Christmas.
I will tell you before we start: drilling holes through nutshells takes a lot longer than poking a needle through a piece of popcorn. I highly recommend that you make this project a group activity or an opportunity for catching up on your Christmas movie watching. Now: here's how to make a DIY tree garland!
Step 1: Drill Holes Through Nuts
The first step is to master drilling through the shell of a nut without breaking it. This takes some practice because nutshells are such a unique combination of durable and delicate—kind of like an egg. It all depends on where you put the pressure and how much pressure you apply.
When drilling holes, it's important to clamp the nuts down. A table vice works well, otherwise you can just use a bar clamp. Clamping keeps the nuts from rolling around—it's a far more stable and safer method than using your hand. One final note: It’s easiest to drill through the shells if you clamp the nut while it’s laying on the work surface, not suspended in the clamp.
Now for drilling. Use a 1/8” drill bit to drill holes big enough for your needle. Start the drill slowly until the bit settles into one spot on the shell, then speed up the drill, keeping the pressure light so as not to break the shell. Don’t drill through the seam of the shell or clamp on the seam of the shell—both will result in the shell breaking.
Each kind of nut has a different shell and therefore requires a slightly different technique, so we’re going to walk through each one individually.
For a walnut, clamp it on its side so the seam is just off-center. Lay it on top of a piece of scrap wood. Drill down right next to the seam, and aim to come out on the other side of the opposite seam. I found the walnut to be the easiest to get the hang of because it’s the biggest and its shell has a rough texture.