Sometimes your favorite projects don’t cost any money.
As someone who is always looking for a budget-friendly DIY project for each season, I finally found a way to add a unique DIY garland to compliment all of the colors and the rustic style of our fireplace mantel, that didn’t cost me anything but time.
This easy DIY paper bag leaf garland is a perfect craft to enhance our rustic fireplace when it is dressed up in Fall decorations.
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Most years my Fall mantel décor is all about pumpkins.
Pumpkins in orange, white, green, navy, and many different colors. They vary in size from very small, to medium, and large and come in ceramic, glass, stuffed fabric, and foam.
I enjoy them all and find myself shopping for new ones every Fall season even though I have several boxes of them.
My fireplace and mantel are very large and rustic so adding other decorations like a seasonal garland around the pumpkins can sometimes be a challenge.
Finding a budget-friendly option for a decorative garland is a big part of the challenge.
Making this garland took just a few simple supplies.
- For this version of a color Fall garland, you will need:
- Brown paper bags from the grocery store or brown paper lunch bags
- A roll of thick jute twine
- Bags of faux maple leaves from Dollar Tree in Fall colors.
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks
At first, I considered cutting up an old book to make a Fall themed leaf shaped garland but then remembered that I had a large stash of brown paper bags from the grocery store stashed in my pantry.
With this project, I was also able to clean out and upcycle several of the brown paper bags for something new.
I don’t know why I keep such things as large paper bags, but then I always seem to find something to do with them or make with them.
They are great for loading up on small items and clothes to take to a donation center when you don’t have boxes. I have often used them to cover a box for shipping. And occasionally I find a great craft to make with them such as this brown bag leaf garland.
I can remember a time as a kid when I created my own wrapping paper designs for Christmas using crayons and markers on paper bags. I guess keeping a stack of brown paper bags is a habit I have yet to break.
Easy DIY Faux Leaf Garland Mantel
Making the garland was very easy, however, tracing and cutting out all of the leaves took several days and some patience as I cut out many many paper leaves.
Any creative ideas I had for an ordinary brown paper bag to be used for a garland only consisted of assembling leaves made from cutting up the paper bags. Once I started cutting out the leaves, I realized it was going to take a lot of paper leaves to make up 12 feet of garland.
And it was a bit boring!
This project was a great way to use up my stash of grocery bags but really lacked a much-needed pop of Fall colors.
On impulse, I purchased several bags of maple leaves at Dollar Tree the last time I went shopping there. I didn’t have a plan for them but you just never know when you might need a bag of faux fall leaves to compliment your seasonal decor!
These bags of faux maple leaves made such a difference in finishing this garland project.
My vision for this garland was that it needed something unexpected like mixing in colorful faux leaves between the layers of brown paper leaves that would give it some charm and visual pops of color.
If you don’t have any paper bags from the grocery store to use, brown paper lunch bags are also good to have on hand.
I usually keep a stash of brown paper lunch bags in my pantry to pack lunches of course, but have also used them for party favor bags. I mean, let’s be honest, there are endless possibilities and uses for a simple brown paper bag for decorative items.
To make each individual paper bag leaf, I first cut off the bottom of the bag where all the folds are glued down.
In my opinion, the bottom folds are just harder to work with for crafting.
Then I cut open the large paper bag at one corner seam to be able to fully open the bag and use all four sides of the inside of the paper bag.
Since the faux maple leaves were part of the inspiration for this project, I traced several sizes of the Dollar Tree faux maple leaves on the paper bag with a pencil.
Then I slowly cut out each individual leaf with a pair of scissors.
I would like to just mention that when originally worked on this garland project, I didn’t own my Cricut Joy™ cutting machine. If I were to create another version of a paper bag leaf garland, that post would include many different instructions.
Instead, I spent some time cutting out each individual traced leaf shape and watching a movie at the same time.
The next steps are to trace more leaves on another brown paper bag and continue the process again.
I wanted this garland to be thick and lush looking even though it was made with paper so I had to cut out lots of leaves to get that fullness and heavy look.
For the garland I made, I used 5 paper bags.
Since the cutouts are a bit flat in appearance, I tossed them together and purposefully bent and crinkled the edges.
They still needed something more though to make them look like leaves.
I then took a fine-tip black marker and drew veining lines on some of the cutouts to resemble maple leaves.
The lines were drawn by hand on each paper bag leaf since I knew I would be gluing them down in layers so the lines did not have to be perfect.
Gluing all of the leaves together took a bit of time but was not hard at all once I got started on it.
For this step, a roll of jute twine and a hot glue gun are needed to assemble the leaf garland.
First I started by applying a small drop of hot glue to the bottom edge of a paper leaf and attached the jute twine to the top of it. As pictured in the second photo below.
Then I hot glued the next leaf on top of that leaf with the twine sandwiched between them.
Several layers of leaves can then be glued to the top side of the twine over the bottom leaf. I tried a few different ways to attach the paper leaves but found that the hot glue stuck to the surface of my dining table if there wasn’t a base leaf underneath the twine to create a foundation for the other leaves to attach to.
Putting a leaf on the bottom side of the twine and then gluing the leaves one by one on top of that in layers, and then repeating the pattern every few leaves worked perfectly. It also helped to make the garland more stable and durable.
I alternated the paper bag leaf cutouts and the Dollar Tree maple leaves as I glued all of the leaves along the length of the twine. Even the green faux maple leaves added a vibrant pop of color along the length of the garland mixed in with the oranges and browns.
If I saw that I needed more of either one along the way, it is very easy to just apply a spot of hot glue to one and insert it between the other leaves.
As a way to make the time go by faster, I think I watched one or more Hallmark movies while I glued the leaves on. I just took my time and enjoyed the creative process.
Thick and lush-looking paper bag garland.
My rustic wood block mantel is very old and around 8 feet long so I made the paper bag faux leaf garland at least 12 feet long so I could drape it down the length of the mantel with dramatic loops.
As I had hoped, I had more than enough of this paper bag leaf garland to have four loops hanging over the edge of the mantel.
With my rustic wood block mantel, it is also easy to hang any type of garland by inserting thumbtacks in the wood of the mantel and looping the jute twine around the tacks.
Honestly, this project was so easy to make and fun too!
It has gotten me thinking of some other brown paper bag craft project ideas that would be easy to make.
Rustic and charming paper bag stars for Christmas ornaments are one such project that I am sure to find lots of inspiration on Pinterest. Paper bag crafts are such a creative way to stretch your crafting dollars too.
Either way, I will definitely be making more paper bag garlands or other brown paper bag crafts for other seasons in the future.
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Hugs and Happy Fall!
Galatians 6:7 “Don’t be misled – you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.”