Make a Tinsel Tassel Garland

tinsel-tassel-garlandLast year my Christmas goals went bust. (Abdominal surgery will do that to even the best of us.) But it may have been a blessing in disguise. Last year I had all these ideas for ornaments, but they weren’t really fitting together in one perfect themed tree. Now that I’ve had some time to ponder everything I’m taking what I started last year, I’m switching everything around, repurposing a few things, adding a whole lot more, and I’m launching into this Christmas raring to go with projects for two trees! That’s right. Two new Christmas trees with all the fixings. I’ve got garlands and ornaments spilling out of me in every direction. Instead of the mish mash tree I was headed for last year, I’ve got two gorgeous vintage 60’s inspired trees. One will be as traditional as can be, and the other will embrace all the mod kitch I can get my hands on. One will be something my parents may have grown up with, the other will be something at home in the offices of Sterling Draper Cooper Price. First up: Vintage Home for the Holidays. And as always, the first thing that goes on any tree I make is the garland.

Since I had a whole year to dwell on the mistakes I made with the start of this tree, I did a lot of research. I wore out my google fingers searching for images on how a home Christmas tree would have been decorated in the early sixties and I found some vintage crafts, lots of big lights, and tinsel. SO MUCH TINSEL. Postwar everything was about aluminum and if you didn’t have an actual aluminum tree, then you took a fresh tree and you smothered it in tinsel. I mean just wallpapered it with the stuff.

These days you can still find tinsel online easily enough, but it’s not exactly in vogue. It makes a huge mess, you’d never get it off to put it away, and if you have pets? The nightmare would never end. But it does look so beautiful on the tree! When it catches the light and just shimmers and drips? It’s magical. So I was determined to take tinsel out of the dustbin of design past and find a way to use it that solved the problems it brings.


step-1I’ll tell you right up front that the tinsel can be difficult to manage. Lots of little strands that slip and slide against each other when they’re not tangling up together. So you’re going to have to take a couple deep breaths until you get the hang of this. But you will get the hang of this and the results will be worth it!

You need a base that you’ll be tying the tinsel onto for your garland. Something thick enough to be strong and avoid snapping or tangling, but not so thick that its bulk gets in the way of admiring the tinsel. I go to my old standby of cotton crochet thread. I tied a knot in the end just to be extra sure my tassels wouldn’t slide off the end, but it’s probably unnecessary.

Now it’s time to break out the tinsel. I bought mine online and it came in 18″ lengths (or about that. I don’t remember exactly. You know how I am with measurements.) I cut the length in half, and sectioned out enough strands that when I folded it in half again, the tassel was as full as I wanted it to be. You can make the tassels as full or as thin as you want, it’s all just personal taste, you just want to make the size consistent, whatever you choose.


step-2The knot will be tying is called a whole bunch of different things. A cow hitch or a larks head knot seem to be the most common but it’s extremely simple. The only hard thing about this project is getting the tinsel to be still. So to that end I’m going to get specific about how to hold it. Comb your tinsel as neat as you can and wrap it around your first and second fingers. Use your thumb and pinky to pinch the tassel together. Do your best to match the ends up so both sides are the same length, but don’t make yourself crazy over it. You can always just give it a trim up later.


step-3Take the thread or rope you’re using as the base of your garland and lay it across your hand below the loop you’ve made. Use your middle and ring fingers to pinch it and hold it in place.


step-4Lift the tail up over the garland base and grab it with your first and middle fingers. Slide the loop over the tail and off your fingers. You’re just pulling that tail through the loop you’ve made, wrapping it around the garland base in the process.


step-5Pull the tail until the loop becomes tight around the garland base.


step-6Depending on how you happen to pull, the top of the knot can get messy because the tinsel is unruly. Some of these tassels I went through every strand and pulled until I found the one that was out of place, some I got tired of doing that with and left messy, and others, after I practiced for a while, I got right on the first try.


step-7Since the tinsel is so slick, there’s no way you’ll be able to make your knot tight enough that it won’t slide back and forth on your base. So I added a dollop of hot glue to the top, making sure the glue touched both the base and the tinsel, to keep everything where I put it.


tinsel-garlandOnce you see this on the tree, any frustration you may have felt from the unruly tinsel will be forgotten. It is so beautiful shimmering during the day, and straight up magical during the night, that I can understand why all those trees I googled were so covered with the stuff. It almost doesn’t need ornaments! Almost. But even tinsel can’t stop me! I have a lot more up my sleeve for this tree.