Banners for celebrations have been around for a long time. Done slightly differently (but with the same concept) word garlands can be lovely room decor. Any favorite phrase can be used to make a word garland. And, with the huge selection of art and scrapbooking paper available there are so many creative directions you can go.
Paper – scrapbooking paper, art paper, or travel maps
Paste glue (Mod Podge, Yes Paste, etc)
Paint Brush for spreading the glue
Straight Edge Blade (X-acto knife, box cutter)
Optional: Wax Paper (to protect your work surface)
Step 1) Work Your Words
First, determine the phrase you want to make and how large you want your letters to be. I chose the word ‘Wanderlust’ and based on the scale of the map I was using and where I wanted to hang the finished garland, I decided to make the letters about 4” (10cm) tall.
I worked out my letters with a computer drawing program but you could also hand draw the letters.
I printed my letters right onto cardstock paper. Cardstock paper (or a heavy duty paper or light board) gives each letter good stability on the string and should also be used if you hand draw your letters.
Step 2) Cut Out Your Letters
Care should be used when you cut out your letters. The cleaner they are cut the more polished the end result will be. For every straight line, place a ruler along the line and use a straight edge blade to cut the line (on top of a suitable work surface like a cutting mat).
It is possible to cut curves with a straight edge blade. I, however, find it much easier to cut the curves with sharp scissors. And that’s what I did.
Save a bit of your scrap cardstock to use for attaching the letters to the string.
Step 3) Gluing the Letters to the Paper
Figure out the best layout for your letters on whatever paper you are using. I’m using a map and I looked for places with good color for positioning the letters. The letters will be glued to the back of the paper so things may vary but at least you have a sense of how things should be arranged. Leave a bit of a gap between each letter.
I trimmed the edge of the map for an indicator of where to place the letters on the back side.
Paste glues work well for projects like this as they tend to be thicker and therefore are less likely to warp the paper. Prep your work surface with wax paper if desired.
Put a light coat of glue on the front side of the first letter. Try to cover the entire front of the letter putting glue at all the corners and points of the letter.
Immediately place the letter on the wrong side of the decorative paper. Rub the back of the letter to ensure the glue adheres to the paper uniformly.
Continue gluing the front of each letter and placing them on the back of the decorative paper. Again, there should be a margin of extra paper around each letter.
Cut around each letter leaving a margin.
The margin around each letter might be bigger than you need.
Trim the margin down. The margin will wrap to the back of the cardstock letter. Leave enough paper to glue and fold to the back but not so much paper that the decorative paper will overlap on the back side of the letter.
Trim extra paper away from the the outside corners and notch the paper into the interior corners. Fold the paper to the back side of the letter and crease the paper.
Place some glue on the back side of the decorative paper. Work one tab at a time for best results!
Fold the decorative paper to the back side of the letter and hold the paper down until the glue sets.
Work your way around the letter gluing all the tabs to the back.
For letters with curves you will want to carefully cut the margin so the paper sits smoothly through the curves. For inside curves, simply cutting into the margin and ending the cut at the cardstock will yield good results. For the outside curves, you will want to remove little triangles of paper so the tabs don’t overlap when folded to the back of the letter.
Glue each tab to the back. Be aware of the edge of the curves when gluing. You can move the glued tabs to ensure the paper that wraps around the edges of the letters is smooth while the glue is still wet.
For letters like W that have pointy ends, you will need to trim more margin away at the points. Fold the margin to the back to check the points before adding glue. You don’t want the margin to stick out and show on the front side.
Glue all the tabs in place.
Some of the letters with lots of curves require lots of careful notching.
Step 4) Gluing the Letters to a String
Cut a thin piece of cardstock to make paper hooks that will hold the letters to the string. I cut this piece of cardstock from the scraps left after cutting out the letters.
Wrap the thin piece of paper around the string you will use to hold your garland to determine how long each paper hook needs to be.
Cut paper hooks for each letter. For the W I cut 3 hooks, for the A there is only room for 1 hook, for letters like D and E cut 2 hooks that will be spaced out along the top of each letter for better support.
Use rulers to evenly space out each letter on the string. I spaced my letters to be about 2″/5cm apart. With letters like A where the top is much narrower than the bottom, the top is about 3″/7.5cm from the N and the bottom is about 1″/2.5cm from the N. If your garland has more than one word, make the gap between words twice as wide (or more) than the letter spacing.
Don’t forget – you are working with the back of your letters and you should lay out your letters in reverse from how you would read them!
Fold each paper hook in half. Glue one side of the hook to each letter. Try to align the fold of each paper hook with the other letters so the string hangs from the same height on each letter.
Determine how much string you want at either end of the garland for hanging. I left 18″/45cm of string at either end of the garland. Add a dot of glue to the fold of the paper hook on the first letter.
Making sure you leave your tails for hanging the garland, place the string in the dots of glue and wrap the paper hooks around the string. Hold the hooks down until the glue sets.
Move on to your next letter, add a dot of glue inside the paper hooks. Make sure the letter spacing is correct with your rulers and glue the string into the paper hook. The string should not have any slack between the letters when you are gluing each letter in place.
Continue working in this way until all of the letters are attached to the string. Let the glue really set up before you hang the garland.
There are so many different things you can do with this technique!