Paper Bag Gratitude Garland

Some of my favorite movies growing up were the old classics, and White Christmas was high up on that list.  My sister and I must have performed our own rendition of the “Sisters, Sisters” song a thousand times, pretending our paper fans were voluminous blue feather ones just like the Haynes sisters had.  And who better to sweep the sisters of their feet than a crooner like Bing Crosby and a comedian like Danny Kaye?

Well, this past weekend, I found myself up late, anxious over my ever-growing “to do” list.  And out of nowhere, Bing’s lullaby popped into my mind:

When I’m worried, and I can’t sleep,

I count my blessings instead of sheep.

I fall asleep counting my blessings.

Part of my anxiety was over coming up with a project for this very blog hop!  {Yep!  This is a “Thankful” Blog Hop.  And at the end of this post, you’ll find five other posts worth a gander…so hang tight.}  Well, my initial idea for this hop had fallen through because of a shipping error, yet I took heart in the song’s message to not focus so much on my worries, but to count my blessings instead.

When my bankroll is getting small,

I think of when I had none at all,

And I fall asleep counting my blessings.

The gift of that song was two-fold: not only did it remind me of the wealth of blessings I have to be thankful for, but it gave me inspiration for a d.i.y. project to share with y’all today: a Gratitude Garland!  A project to put our hearts in the right place as we march toward Thanksgiving and then onward to Christmas.

Paper Bag Gratitude Garland | Tutorial and video by

And as an added bonus, I didn’t have to pay a penny for this project!  I was able to use items I already had on hand (holla!).  Plus, I got to cross another item off of my crafty bucket list in running a paper garland through my sewing machine.  I even have a quick video of that step!

So, in the event you want to create your own paper bag garland (which you undoubtedly will want to do when you see how easy it is), here’s the tutorial:


Step 1.  Cut out your stars.  I rescued some paper grocery bags from our recycle bin for my paper source because I just love their shabby, rustic charm.  (You could also use kraft paper.)  I decided to go with a star shape since I thought it would transition well into the Christmas season.  And while I considered using my Silhouette machine to cut them out, I decided to just to cut them out the old-fashioned way: with a pair of scissors!  There’s something really appealing to me about the handmade look; it’s very Charlie Brown Christmas, don’t you think?  So, I didn’t even trace.  Just snip-snip, all jiggity-jaggety.  Perfectly imperfect.

Oh, and I learned pretty quickly that you can easily stack three “sheets” of the paper bags atop each other and cut out three stars at a time, and you will dramatically improve your efficiency.

Cutting out paper stars for a Gratitude Garland via

Step 2.  Stick together your gold dot stickers.  So, when I initially envisioned this project, all I saw were the brown paper stars; but in my test run on the sewing machine, I had trouble getting my thread to knot up properly in the space between the stars.  I realized this garland could be assembled a whole lot easier if there were some “embellishments” between the stars instead of just a gap.

And then, eureka!  I remembered that I had a roll of gold dot stickers tucked away in a bin downstairs just waiting for such a time as this.  {Thanks again to Jessica from Sweet Athena for sending me that very roll of stickers this summer just because you knew how much I was swooning over your Dot Wallpaper & Dot Ceiling Fan!  What a pal.}

So, I simply stuck two gold dots together to create a double-sided gold dot; in fact, a whole lot of them!  I used up the whole roll, which didn’t take as long as you might think.  It’s one of those mindless tasks that is perfect to do when watching, say, SNL sketches.

Gold Dot Stickers prepped to sew into a Gratitude Garland!  via

Step 3.  Run your stars and gold dots through the sewing machine!  Now, I had a few snafus when trying to sew together my garland the first time around, so here are my tips and tricks for sewing on paper:

  • Start with a new needle.  Just like you have separate scissors for fabric and paper, so you should have a separate needle for sewing paper.  In fact, I wonder if I had started right off the bat with a new needle, if I would have run into the stitching problems I did.
  • Use a long stitch.  I used a straight stitch for simplicity’s sake and maxed out the length at 5.0.  (If your stitch length is too short, you risk the paper ripping.)
  • I wanted a bit of space in between my shapes, so I allowed for 2 – 3 stitches in between each shape.  (If you allow much more than that, your thread may not knot up properly.)
  • Keep your stacks of stars and dots right near your machine, so you can easily grab them and run them through without stopping.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly this step can go once you find your groove.
  • Don’t backstitch on the paper to knot your thread, but instead, manually tie your two threads together in a knot…or tape the two ends of your thread down.
  • This garland will tangle really easily; and not untangle easily.  So, keep it away from itself!

And as promised, here’s a quick lil Instagram video I made that gives you a glimpse at this part of the process:

And here’s a photo to give you a sense of the spacing between the stars and dots:

Paper Bag & Metallic Gold Gratitude Garland

Step 4.  Turn your garland into a gratitude garland.  I thought it could be neat to “count our blessings” on the various stars in the garland.  So, I wrote down a list of 10 or so items, and Mark made a list as well.  Then, I used a black felt tip pen to record those things we are grateful for on the first 20 stars in the garland.  I added the year to the beginning of our list.  And my hope is that each November going forward, we can build on this list.  A new family tradition!

Count your blessings on a Gratitude Garland!  Quick n' easy Thanksgiving decor!  via

Here were some of the items on our list of things we are thankful for this year:

  • Mangy the cat
  • bike rides
  • sunsets
  • Honeyrock Camp
  • family
  • work to do.  work we love.

Gratitude Garland ~ Transitions from Thanksgiving into Christmas decor.  via

Gratitude Garland ~ Transitions from Thanksgiving into Christmas decor.  via

You guys made the gratitude list, too!  {Of course.}

I'm grateful for my readers!

And here’s our gratitude garland, draping over the doors leading to our back deck.

Paper Bag Gratitude Garland by

Gratitude Garland ~ Transitions from Thanksgiving into Christmas decor.  via And of course, this gratitude garland is going to double as Christmas decor…a string of blessings to encircle our tree.  In fact, here’s a second string I made for our mini Christmas tree.

Gratitude Garland transitions from Thanksgiving into Christmas decor in a snap!  via

Gratitude Garland transitions from Thanksgiving into Christmas decor in a snap!  via

And remember…

If you have heaviness in your heart today, dear reader, remember what Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney sang:

If you’re worried, and you can’t sleep,

Just count your blessings instead of sheep,

And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.

And here’s the lullaby itself to break your heart a million times over with its beauty.  It does mine.  Without fail.  Every time.

The “Thankful” Posts Continue!

This post is part of a “Thankful” Blog Hop I’m participating in with some pretty fabulous women.

Thankful Blog Hop

Click any image below to visit their blogs and see what they are thankful for this holiday season…

Two Purple Couches Vintage News Junkie The Turquoise Home
Rain on a Tin Roof The Thinking Closet Southern State of Mind

Be blessed!

{Linking up at these parties.}


Lovely comments so far...

  1. Precious, Lauren! I love every jiggity-jaggety star and shiny gold circle! You are such a creative soul, friend! And please tell me why I have never thought to use brown paper bags instead of all that kraft paper I send $$ on?!?! Genius, I tell ya! Pure genius!! I will be borrowing this idea for sure! Pinning now, for my project later!

  2. LOVE!!!

  3. I love the simple elegance of this project Lauren! It is wonderful. I too, am thankful for many things, with my on-line friends being right at the top! Be blessed, hugs, Patty

  4. White Christmas is my very favorite Christmas movie of all time. And you know my sister and I did danced around with our imaginary feather fans plenty of times too. AND I have seriously been singing Count Your Blessings for the past week. I made a Count Your Blessings printable and haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. Also I really love your garland. I LOVE that you made it for free. Plus it just happens to be so pretty! Very nicely done.

  5. What a lovely garland and a lovely idea! OK – I’m making one too! :)

  6. LOVE LOVE LOVE! Now I just need a sewing machine ;)

  7. I love this and it is just perfect as a tree garland too! :)

  8. So lovely and festive. Great idea, Lauren!

  9. What a great post. I had forgotten about that beautiful old song. It is so true. I think the American custom of having a thanksgiving day is just wonderful. I have many, many things to be thankful for too. I loved the stars and especially the one with your webpage readers on it. I feel like our spirits will be involved in the celebrations. Gratitude and love are the answer to all problems. :)

  10. Lauren, this is so cute! I love the shiny gold with the rustic paper. And White Christmas is a MUST SEE every Christmas at our house. I crack-up every time Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye start giggling while they sing Sisters, Sisters. You just know they are having a hard time keeping it together. Happy Holidays!

  11. Thanks for the tips. I’ve seen the stitched garland before but wasn’t quite sure how to accomplish it.

  12. How clever you are! a thankful garland that does double duty – adds festivity and sets the mood for Thanksgiving AND immediately switches gears to blend in with Christmas decor!
    White Christmas is may all time top Christmas movie – I drive my kids nuts (who also love that movie) because I sing along with all the songs out loud. I’ll be singing ‘sisters’ today, and Counting My Blessings thanks to you, Lauren!

  13. The garland is perfect, Lauren! The gold dots and brown paper stars look so nice together. Thanks for sharing!

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Thanks for checking it out, Cindy! Not sure my sewing machine will forgive me for running so much paper through it…but gosh darn it, it was fun! (And easier than sewing fabric, once I got in the swing of things.)

  14. This is so lovely, Lauren! And made even better with the personal touches of adding your blessings. What a great way to share your blessings with all of your friends, family, and holiday guests! I adore White Christmas, too, and I can never make it through the last scene without teary eyes!

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Another White Christmas fan! Harrah! Yeah, I’ll definitely be doing some Christmas crafting to White Christmas this year. And probably wiping away my tears at that closing scene, too! Such a classic.

  15. Pauline @valentines says:


    I like this one
    This is something even I can do!
    I like how it looks and the two colors really match.

    I’m going to do one with pumpkins and turkeys for thanksgiving.


    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Oh yes, you can totally do it, Pauline! And I’m with ya – - who knew that paper bag brown and shiny gold could compliment one another so well? It’s like beauty and the beast!

      And if you do tackle a festive Thanksgiving banner, I’d love for you to send me a pic so I can feature you in my next Reader Showcase! K? K!

  16. So super cute! I love those gold stickers.

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Thanks, Valerie! I’m so glad I thought to use them. And now that I worked my way through that roll, I’m tempted to get me some more. :-) They’re just so festive!

  17. Are you freaking kidding me? This is my favourite Thinking Closet project EVERRRRR!!!!!! (Have I said that before? Probably!) Oh my gosh. Like tears in my eyes, replaying that song in my head over and over and over. Maybe because when I can’t sleep that’s exactly what I do – give thanks. I find that I don’t get very far because just thinking of a handful of things to thank God for puts me at ease in a way that no sleeping pill, no amount of sheep to count and no lullaby ever could. It’s the best sleeping medicine.

    K, back to the garland… it’s beautiful! I love the imperfect stars because they are just perfect. I love that the beautiful gold dots are just stickers. I love that you wrote otters as something to be thankful for. BIG BIG BIG love for this project because it’s so you, it’s so sweet, and it’s so wonderful.

    P.S. your readers are mega thankful for you. Yep, I’m speaking for them all because I know they’d agree with me.

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Your favourite EVER?! Whoa, girl. That is high praise!

      I love that you are a “Count Your Blessings” girl…and in many ways, it doesn’t surprise me at all. You just exude gratitude in everything you do. And you’re so right, giving thanks to God is “the best sleeping medicine” there is. In fact, I’m going to be sure to take some more of that medicine tonight!

      Ha ha. I wondered what people would think about the otters mention. That one was totally Mark’s. He’s really excited that the otters are back after taking a brief hiatus from our lake over the summer. He could watch otters playing in the lake all day. They are one of his favorite animals. And clearly, he is thankful for them! :-)

      Thanks for making my night with all the enthusiasm packed in this here comment. You’re quite a friend. Yes, yes, you are.

  18. Ok, this was SO WORTH THE WAIT! I love it. I love the forward thinking tradition. Awesome!

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Ha ha. Thanks, Heather! I’m glad to hear that…because I was such a slow-poke with this post. Not sure what was wrong with me! Blogger’s block, I suppose. I’m glad inspiration finally struck, thanks to good ole Bing!

  19. Gees, this is so stinkin awesome! I just ADORE it! I am a huge garland fan as it is. But a gratitude garland? Umm, infinity times better!!!! duh. This. Is. Happening. The end.

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Wow! Thanks for the enthusiastic response, Ms. Dusty! Infinity times better is all the assurance I need, um, EVER! Will be riding off the high of this comment for quite a while.

  20. Lauren, everything about this garland is simply beautiful. I love it around the door, I love it on the tree. I’ve always been intrigued by sewing paper, but haven’t tried it and I need a garland for my tree this year. You, my friend, as always, have inspired me!

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Grinning now from ear to ear. You know how to get me, girl. (And you are never allowed to bash yourself as a commenter again, k? K. Because this comment gave me the warm fuzzies all over.)

  21. Thanks for sharing such a cute idea. The garland looks so pretty across your door. Thanks for sharing where you got the gold dots. It looks like a lot comes in one package. Rhonda (

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Thanks so much, Rhonda! Yeah, it was quite a thick roll of gold dot stickers; I’m actually amazed I worked my way through it all! I did end up creating two long garlands that will hopefully wrap around our entire Christmas tree. Guess we’ll find out for sure this Sunday when we make our annual trip to the Home Depot tree tent!

  22. Gorgeous Lauren! I love that it doubles as Christmas decor. I have yet to try sewing on paper but plan on making a Christmas garland and I might give this a try instead!

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Thanks, Tori! Ya know, I was really intimidated by the sewing on paper thang…but once I changed out my old needle for a fresh one, it was smooth stitchin’! And a whole lot easier than sewing on fabric. In fact, I could get used to this type of sewing…. ;-) I’ll be curious to see what you come up with for a Christmas garland. Whatever it is, I know it will be creative!

  23. If I had ever had any doubt that we were kindred spirits (which, clearly, I haven’t. It’s totally obvious. ;) they were totally banished when you mentioned the words “White Christmas.” LOVE that movie! We watched it every year over Thanksgiving break growing up and always yelled at my dad for saying all the lines with the characters. I probably have most of them memorized now myself. But ANYWAY, on to your gorgeous and oh-so-creative garland! I love it! Who knew some paper bags and stickers could be so beautiful?! And bonus points for the dual Christmas usage! Thank you so much for sharing, friend! Hope you’re having a wonderful week!

    ~Abby =)

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Hey, soul sister, of course we’re kindred “White Christmas” spirits! That doesn’t surprise me in the LEAST!

      Thanks for the kind words about the garland, too! At first I doubted myself because it just seemed…so…simple! And then I thought, “No, no, Lauren. Simple is good. We need more simple in this life.” And I’m so glad I listened to that inner voice because it was right. I tend to overcomplicate things, so simple is verrry verrry good for me!

      Happy FRIDAY, friend!

  24. I’m doing a last minute Thanksgiving craft round up..can I include this with a link back?

  25. Oh, what a wonderful idea to use it as a gratitude garland…
    That’s awesome. And it’s always good to remember how awesome and good and just “right” life is. Love that!

    And paper garland? Like I said on instagram: Great idea. I know someone who had the same ;) And this someone hopefully has a few free days ahead next week. Woohoo! \o/

    Love, Midsommarflicka

  26. That is genius and so simple! Love it!

  27. I love your pretty paper garland. I made one for my daughter’s birthday party last year. It was so simple and I have used it to decorate her room since then. Nothing like using something as simple as paper and thread to make some pretty decor. Oh and can’t forget the gold stars. I think they make the garland!!

  28. Lauren, this amazing! I love how simple and rustic it is! Pinning!!

  29. I LOVE this garland, Lauren! I gave it a shout out so hopefully more people will stop by and see it!


  30. it’s beautiful Lauren! :-) I LOVE it! :-) & I love the movie White Christmas very much too, it’s a must here! :-)

  31. I love the stars and circles idea! I did something similar with hearts for Valentine’s Day. Great idea for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Just pinned!

  32. I love White Christmas!! One more reason we were supposed to be friends :)
    Such a creative garland, Lauren. so pretty!

  33. So simple…so perfect…my family must make a gratitude garland. Great project!

  34. I could even sing the melody reading the words, I’m from a different era that grew up with that movie. Loved it. Last year our daughter/family were over when that movie came on, she’d never seen it so we all watched it. Still love it. Hard to think that George Clooney is Rosemary Clooney’s nephew.
    Love your gratitude garland, it’s great for any time but especially winter holidays. You did a great job on the tutorial also. Had to pin it. I’m only pinning posts I think I’ll really try to make. Love the gold stickers between the stars. I’ll be using 12×12 sheets of kraft paper, little sturdier. I’ll have to have hubs sit by me to keep the garland from tangling up in itself. Thanks for sharing a great project. Love your fantastic blog. Wishing you and yours Happy Thanksgiving.

  35. WOW!!! This whole post is just beautiful! Right down to the lullaby! I have never watched this movie, it’s on my list now! The garland, amazing!!! Off to stalk you proper now! ;)

  36. What a great new tradition to start! I can’t get over how you’re using paper grocery bags for such a creative project. And sewing through paper is *always* a ton of fun!

  37. This is so wonderful and thoughtful… just like you. Love it.

  38. Lauren,
    I adore this project! I’m a big fan of stars and more importantly, the precious messages of gratitude. A gratitude garland might be in our family’s future!

  39. Marmie/Lauren's mom says:

    I utterly love this project! so sparkly and festive….and paired with the Count Your Blessings song, well you had me in tears!! That song always calms me right down if I’m even the wee bit stressed, and your garland design is genius! The brown paper stars with the gold circles are perfect together. Thanks for sharing this lovely way to record gratitude. I am going to try to figure out how to use this for Thanksgiving…somehow! Love you!

  40. Hi Lauren, I wanted to let you know that your DIY Paper Bag Gratitude Garland is being featured this week by one of the three co-hosts of the Link It or Lump It Link Party! Come on over and grab a ‘I was featured’ button and link up again this week!

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Such a treat! Already thanked Allison, and now I’m thanking YOU for taking the time to leave such a sweet comment letting me know. Already linked up 3 new projects, too, and did some hopping. Thanks for co-hosting!

  41. Just stumbled across your blog when looking for a burlap tree skirt pattern. I love this gratitude garland project, the song & the movie! So clever. I’ll be asking for paper next shopping trip and look forward to making this a family craft to adorn our tree. Thanks for sharing this!

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Yay! We already have ours up on our tree, and it is looking mighty fine, I must say. In fact, it has inspired me to go “retro glam” for all our Christmas decor this year, so we’ll have rustic elements like burlap and twine and paper bags and pine cones mixed in with glam-tastic elements like gold dot stickers and gold paint and glitter mod podge…I’m excited! And if and when you do tackle a garland of your own, I’d love for you to send me a pic so I can feature you in my next Reader Showcase! K? K!

  42. LOVE this! It looks so great & the message it sends is even better. :)

  43. Hello Miss Super Creative! I commented on your awesome garland idea back in November and I still love it! Just stopping by to let you know I featured it this week! Our 16 week challenge is over, but were excited to be continuing with a monthly party. January’s theme is organization! I hope you’ll continue to join us each week with your fabulous projects! Happy New Year! XO

    • thethinkingcloset says:

      Hello Miss Super Sweet! Thank you so much for all the love and support you have shown me in 2013! It seriously means more than you know. I’m so honored for this feature and also looking forward to containing to party with you lovely ladies in the new year. Thanks for being hostess of the mostess! {hugs}

  44. Thank you so much for the idea. I’m brand new to Silhouette. Can I use the kraft paper on the machine to cut the stars? Do I just put it on the mat? Thanks for your help:)


  1. […] The Thinking Closet, Lauren came up with a fun craft for Thanksgiving that used materials that she already had on hand. […]

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  3. […] I love that as we enter into this season of advent, building our anticipation of celebrating Jesus’ birth, we’ll simultaneously be remembering the sweet times from 2013 through the photos we’ll reveal each day.  (We have so much to be thankful for.) […]

  4. […] creation from this year was our Gratitude Garland, which was a great transitional piece from Thanksgiving into Christmas.  The two garlands I sewed […]

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