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.

nuts for DIY garland


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.

walnut in clamp
drilling a walnut


Clamp the pecan on its side. The seam is harder to see on this nut—look for hairline fractures in the shell and don’t clamp in those places. Drill through the shell lengthwise, starting at the stem (where it connected to the tree). I find it’s easiest to get it started while the pecan is laying on the work surface and then, once I have the hole started, either hold the clamp and drill at an easier angle or unclamp the pecan, set it on-end on a scrap piece of wood, and drill straight down.

drilling a pecan
pecan with drill hole


Clamp the hazelnut on its side at an angle. Hazelnut seams are also hard to see, so look for tiny fractures near the point of the shell. Drill down. Be very careful—because the hazelnuts are very small and their shells are very smooth, it’s easy to have the drill slip.

hazelnut for diy project


This is the one kind of nut that seems to be easiest to just ditch the clamp on, and use your hands (be safe though: work gloves add a layer of protection). Hold the nut in place with your fingers on top of a scrap piece of wood. Drill from the top through the center of the nut. If one side of the almond is starting to fall apart, keep this side facing up—it’s less likely to break. I used a tiny bit of gel super glue on this type of nut when too many of the shells broke from drilling.

almond with hole in center
drilling hole in almond

Step 2: Measure and Cut String

Use your Christmas tree as a guide and wrap string around it to determine how long your garland should be. You can use yarn, jute—whatever you like. Just be sure it'll fit through the holes you just drilled. 

measuring string for christmas tree garland

Step 3: String Garland Together

Thread a large blunt needle onto the end of your string and decide the sequence of nuts you'll thread onto your garland. Keep in mind which types of nuts you have the most of. We ordered the nuts in this pattern:




threading needle through garland nuts
yarn and nuts for christmas garland
stringing nuts for garland

Step 4: Decorate Your Christmas Tree Garland

Now it’s time to decorate your tree!

This garland was definitely a labor of love, but I absolutely love the way it turned out! What a fun way to do something different that still feels classic and traditional. Next I want to try stealing the wooden beads we used in the baby gym project and turn those into a colorful Christmas tree garland. 

christmas tree garland with nuts
how to make a christmas tree garland with nuts

Interested in more DIY holiday projects? Check these ones out: How to Make a Wooden Advent CalendarHow to Make a DIY Wooden Toy TruckHow to Make a DIY Tree Collar, and How to Make a Gingerbread House