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How To String Popcorn: A Christmas Tradition

In today’s post, I’m going to teach your the right way to string popcorn for an old fashioned Christmas decoration. 

People have been stringing popcorn to use as a decoration for their Christmas trees for many, many years.  It’s an extremely traditional Christmas decoration.  

And as more and more people want a farmhouse aesthetic in their homes, old fashioned Christmas decorations like strung popcorn fit right in. 

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How To String Popcorn pin image

Why We String Popcorn

We always get a live Christmas tree.  It’s one of my husband’s absolute favorite things to do to celebrate the holidays.  

When I was a kid we always had an artificial tree.  It was the 80s.  Everything was plastic.  

We were moved around a lot the first several years of our marriage, and didn’t decorate much for Christmas. 

So when we put down some roots in North Carolina and decided it was time for our own decorations, my husband absolutely insisted we get a live Christmas tree.  

That first year,  we didn’t have a ton of Christmas decorations, my husband had the idea to try to string popcorn to decorate our tree.  

We spent hours laughing together, figuring out the right way to string popcorn, and it’s been a tradition for our family ever since.  

Each year, we string popcorn together with the kids, usually while a Christmas movie is playing in the background and usually with the same amount of laughter and silliness as that first year we started doing it.  

It’s proven to be a really fun Christmas tradition that we look forward to doing together.  

What You’ll Need

It doesn’t require much to string popcorn.  It’s actually pretty self explanatory.  

You need popcorn, string and a needle.  

As for exactly what types of each of those things you need is a little more detailed.  

supplies to string popcorn

The Popcorn

To properly string popcorn, you don’t want to use any old stuff you have lying around your house.  

The butter soak leftovers from you trip to the movies aren’t going to cut it here.  Neither is that Butter Explosion Orville Redenbacher microwave bag you’ve had in your pantry for three years.  

For this project you need plain, untouched perfectly popped corn.  No butter, no salt, no seasonings on it at all.  You need the plainest popcorn you can imagine.  

The absolute BEST way to accomplish this is with an air popper.  We’ve had one for years, and it’s fantastic.  

It makes perfectly popped corn every time with very little wasted kernels and ZERO burned pieces.  It’s the absolute best tool for this project.  

You’ll want to buy plain, unpopped popcorn kernels, which are readily available just about anywhere, even on Amazon.  

If you don’t want to buy an air popper, you can make unbuttered, unseasoned popcorn in your microwave pretty easily.  But it does waste more kernels and have the tendency to burn.  

Other Supplies

In addition to the popcorn, you’ll need string of some sort.  

Sewing thread works best for this process.  I prefer to use white because it blends in with the popcorn, but it really doesn’t matter what color you use.  

You could use fishing line or even dental floss in a pinch.  As long as you have long lengths of it and it’s thin, you’ll be fine.  

You also want a good sharp sewing needle.  

If you’ve got vision like mine, it pays off to have one with a large eye on it, but whatever you have on hand will do.  

If you’re stringing popcorn with younger kids, you might want to invest in some plastic needles.  That should help keep them from stabbing themselves (which is sometime I manage to still do regularly).   Thimbles can also be helpful for this too.  

How To String Popcorn: Basic Instructions

Step One: Pop Your Corn

popping corn with an air popper

As we said before, you’ll want plain popcorn for this, and a lot of it.  We usually go through two to three large bowls of popcorn when making our popcorn garlands.  

We’ve found that stale popcorn works best.  If you can pop it a day or two before you plan to use it, it hardens up and gets easier to work with.  

Fresh popcorn is more breakable and delicate.  Letting sit around for a while really helps.  

If you don’t have time to do that it’s not a deal breaker. 

We’ve waited until the last minute to pop our corn on many occasions.  Just make sure it’s cool before you try to work with it.  

Step Two:  Prep Your Thread

While you’ll want a really long popcorn garland, it’s best to work in sections.  It also makes it easier to work as a group if everyone is working on their own strand.  

You’ll want to work in four or five foot lengths, and when they’re done you just tie them all together or lay them on the tree separately.  You’ll get the right look either way.  

For added strength, I usually cut about an eight foot length.  After I thread it through the eye of my needle, I double it up and tie the ends together.  

Not only does this give me a doubly strong length of thread, it makes it easier to tie a large knot in the end.  

To keep the popcorn from slipping off the end of the string, I usually have to make a triple or quadruple knot at the end.  

You’ll need to leave five or six inches at the ends if you plan to tie the strands together.  

Step Three:  Stringing Popcorn

a needle about to string popcorn

Now comes the fun!

You’ll want to choose your popcorn pieces carefully.  Not every one of them will work well for stringing.  

Look for pieces with a fat middle that give you plenty to push your needle through.  

Start by sticking the needle through the fattest part of the popcorn, and gently pulling it out the otherside.  

Slide the piece of popcorn gently to the end of your string taking care not to break it.  

The key to getting this right is to be gentle and take your time. 

The process can be a bit time consuming, but if you have several people working together, it goes quicker than you think it will.  

Once you’ve filled your string, tie off the end with a triple or quadruple knot, again leaving enough string so you can tie the garlands together if you want.  

Once you’ve finished your strands, place them on your tree and enjoy!  

I always love them because the white is such a great contrast with the green tree.  It really brightens up the whole thing and looks so classic.  

Helpful Tips For Stringing Popcorn

finished popcorn string hung on a christmas tree

Popcorn isn’t the only thing you can add to your garland!  Lots of people add dried fruit or beads to their strung popcorn.  

I have a whole tutorial on How To Dry Oranges and other citrus fruits.  They make great additions to a Christmas tree.  

Lots of people have asked me about storing your popcorn string between Christmases. 

We don’t usually do this because we love stringing popcorn again every year, but I have heard of people doing it.  

Some crafters recommend spraying a light coat of Polyacrylic spray or Polyurethane spray on it to seal it up.  I have not tried this myself, but I may give it a shot this year so I can advise y’all on how it works.  

If you’re not planning on saving your string of popcorn, and you haven’t added anything that would be harmful to it, you can set it outside and a makeshift bird feeder.  

A quick warning, if you have pets that might be tempted to eat your popcorn string, check with your vet to see if popcorn would be safe for your animal before completing this project.  

Looking for other Christmas decorations you can make yourself?  Check out these 25 Easy Christmas Decor Ideas!  


How To String Popcorn: Make Your Own Popcorn Garland


Thursday 29th of December 2022

We have been using the same string popcorn for 35 years. Put it in a plastic bag after we take the tree down