Friday, December 5, 2008

newspaper snowflake garland: a tutorial

These aren't exactly garlands, more like delicate mobiles. They gently spin and twirl at the slightest breeze. It seems to add to their magic... as if they are spiraling to the ground like real snowflakes.


newspaper squares ( I used a 9 inch square)
sharp scissors
sewing machine and thread


1. Cut out several squares from newspaper. I made a template out of card stock and cut a bunch at once.
2. Fold paper in half to make a triangle.
3. Repeat step and fold again.
4. Fold paper into thirds, being careful to have each side match up on top and within the fold.

5. Snip off excess paper, by following along the straight edge.
6. Start snipping.

Tips for lovely snowflakes:
-there are two long sides to your folded and ready to snip triangle: the folded edge and the open edge. Cutting away at one of them ( I prefer the open side, but it's fun to experiment) gives a more defined six points and not such a rounded flake.
- The more you cut away... the more "air" you put into your snowflake. This makes them lacy and delicate.
-Try drawing a design before you start cutting
Here are some examples of snowflake designs- cut and then unfolded:

back to the tutorial...

7. Unfold your design and iron out the wrinkles and folds.
8. Lay out your snow flakes in the order you want them to hang.

9. Stack them in that order (with your bottom hanging snowflake on the top) and carry them to your sewing machine.
(I'm sorry my sewing machine pictures are so challenged... a dark day and one-handed sewing make for tricky photo shoots)
10. set your machine to a basting stitch (large stitch)
11. Place a point of your snowflake under the foot. Make sure to line up the center. Begin sewing.

There will be "air" in the lacy parts with nothing for your needle to grab onto. Be ready and take your thread (coming out from behind the foot and gently pull as you sew through nothing.

Simultaneously, push your snowflake toward the needle. Let go once you've reach paper again. Does this sound tricky? A little bit, but after one or two tries, you'll be a pro!

12. Use "the gentle pulling of your thread" technique to create space of about 2 inches between each snowflake.
13. Once you reach your final flake, keep the machine running and you pulling ( be ever so gentle with your machine), until you have enough thread for hanging... several inches.

14. Because these are so light, all they need is a bit of transparent tape to adhere to a ceiling.
Give each strand some space so they don't get tangled. I'd also keep them out of high traffic areas... they're quite fragile.
So, there you have it! Please don't hesitate to ask for any clarifications. For photos of a series of strands together (a snow flurry!), please see my post about the winter window installation, here. If you give it a try, don't forget to upload your photos to the maya*made designs flickr group. It's so fun seeing everyone's beautiful work!
I'm off to finish sewing... lots of fun stuff going into the holiday shop update on Monday. Did somebody say MONDAY?!! Hoping to have those sneak peeks at buckets, etc. some time this weekend. Do I ever sleep? Nope... but it might need to be a resolution for the new year! Pin It


  1. Holy Cow, those are so special. That is wonderful that you have some of the last ones to hold onto. How great that you have continued the tradition with your family.

  2. What a fantastic tutorial (I love your snowflake background)! I have to admit that I have always been intimidated by snowflake cutting (and that darn snowflake fold), but your lovely examples of cuts and the results have emboldened me to just snip away. And I tried your sewing technique on my origami stars to make a garland, and it worked like a charm! Thanks for the inspiration!

    "Diga me" is my verification word!

  3. Wow! I can't wait to try those!

  4. Maya I love this! Of course, me not being a sewer means that I'll have to come up with another idea on how to connect them...but i love it nonetheless. And the one of your freaking special.

    I just adore how you infuse so much of your children's life with art and creativity...thank you for your continued inspirations!

    Lillithmother (Lil)

  5. Sounds impossible and yet so simple and doable... I want to do it! Thanks for the tutorial.
    You seem to have answered every question we might have, like... when do you sleep?! Ha ha..!
    Love it.

  6. Now I know the real secret to the reason there are so many empty burlap coffee bags in your area!

  7. Cheers...a post for you and tomorrow I sew!

  8. These remind me of what my daughter did in her dorm room last year. She cut snowflakes from dryer sheets, attached them to thread, and taped the thread to the ceiling. It was a white Christmas at Arizona State!

  9. Sew simple tutorial, thanks again Maya. Just added to your Flickr pool.

    and yes lots of real snow last night and today too!

  10. thats such a cool idea to iron and sow them together.

    i have made snowflakes for my house and just blutaked them to the wall.. this does look nice.. maybe i can try sow some too..

    thanks maya

  11. Oh I love these!
    No snow here at this time of year - just lots of hot hot sun, but I am saving these from when winter comes back. We usually only get snow maybe once or twice a year and it never stays on the ground but I detest winter so much these might make it a bit more beautiful!

  12. Thank you for your tutorial!
    We've snipped quite a bit this weekend and used some of our snowflakes to decorate a gift box ( Thanks!

  13. Thanks for this. Such a simple idea but very elegant in the execution. I love them and I think I will be spending most of the evening making snowflake garlands!

  14. these are truly beautiful, can't believe they are from newspaper! What a gift to get form your grandfather. thank you for sharing.

  15. thank you so much for the little pictures showing 'where to cut to get this snowflake'. i am just about to try out all 3 of the designs you pictured. i love making snowflakes but they never turned out half as lovely as yours have. what a beautiful legacy your grandfather has left you, and you are now sharing it all over the world (i am in thailand but grew up in canada, and i want to make snowflakes for my 2y/o daughter who has yet to experience snow or cold...)
    thank you from a longtime lurker -this was the post that delurked me!

  16. These are so beautiful! Thank you for sharing :)

  17. Oh gosh, these are beautiful! Thanks so much for the tutorial. I came here via WhipUp, and am now off to investigate the rest of your intriguing-looking blog...

  18. Thank you so much for this - We're going to do these (minus the sewing) as a craft at my son's class winter party next week. :)

  19. Those are both beautiful and clever - thank you!

  20. thank you for this wonderful idea! you've made newspaper look so pretty!

  21. hi maya -

    thanks for the snowflake tutorial. my oldest daughter and i made them today and loved it. it must feel nice to share your grandfather's talent and creative spirit with others. isn't that what it is all about?

    i have been reading your blog for awhile now and really love all of your musings and crafty ideas. we live in massachusetts, and i have a wee craft business of my own - i sew and applique onto bags and kids' tees. i was first drawn to your blog by your barn photos - gorgeous and inspiring! when i found out you are near ithaca, i was sold! my uncle lives in newfield, ny, and i have traveled and visited there my whole life.

    anyway, i wanted to let you know that my update on facebook today was about how i was cutting snowflakes with leah and then i added the link to your tutorial.

    happy crafting and much peace.

    red bird crafts

  22. This is great! We successfully tried the snowflakes (the "drawing a design before cutting" part was too challenging ...), and took turns working the sewing machine. What fun! Thank you! Francesca

  23. Very pretty! I've made them before using either vellum and/or paper. I love yours! Very Pretty!

  24. Um, so guess what I'm doing right now? Making snowflakes :) Thank you so much for this tutorial!! I don't know if I'll make a garland (no sewing machine!) but the surprise of opening each one is more than worth the effort.

  25. These are so beautiful and I love cutting snowflakes but it's been so long I had forgotten where to cut. Thank you so much for this awesome tutorial! Now I can cut snowflakes and one day teach my grandbaby!!! I love the snow. God bless you and yours and have a blessed day every single day!
    Blessings, Linda

  26. These are fantastic! And, I might add, affordable for absolutely anyone!! My granddaughter and I will definately be making some of these!

  27. I love the idea to sew them together!! Can I ask, do they go limp and curl in damp weather?? We are having a fairly wet summer again, and I can just imagine soggy snowflakes drooping from the ceiling, lol!

  28. Do you know how exciting it is to see so many people making something you love sooo much?!! I'm THRILLED! Such wonderful comments you've all left. I'm so lucky to have such wonderful friends and to meet so many new ones! If you haven't done so already, please go check out the designsmayamade flickr pool (in the sidebar). There are some incredible snowflakes being made out there. Please don't hesitate to add your own, too.
    muralimanohar: I can't tell you what they'll do in damp weather... it's soooo cold and dry here this time of year. Go ahead and give it a try. The process is just as fun as the results, so you can't lose. Let me know if they go limp on you.
    Thanks again everyone!!

  29. You inspired me! Check it out:

  30. I made it!!! It turned out perfect. The machine part gave me no problems, though I thought I would have to try it several times. But the first one... bingo! I will show you later.
    Thank you for this.

  31. I starred this a long time ago, and finally had a chance to check your tutorial out.
    I *LOVE* what you've done!!
    Your one-handed, dark day sewing machine pictures turned out perfect.
    Thanks for sharing!

  32. Hi,
    I hopped over from Loving Mom 2 Boys to see your snowflake creations...they're beautiful! :o)I have a question, though. If I don't own a sewing machine, can I just attach the snowflakes by hand? I don't all...not one stitch. Pitiful, I know. I glue. And tape. lol

  33. Beth E. and all those of you non-sewers. Until this year I was very happy cutting out flakes and adhering them to my window panes with double sided tape. I still do this in many parts of my house. I think if I wanted to make a garland without a machine I would think about using fishing line and tape. I'm curious to hear if anyone tries this. Warm wishes to you all!

  34. great idea! tried and linked your tutorial on my blog

  35. wow this is a fab tutorial - I love it :o) Found it vie domesticali's blog. Will defo be trying this out. Thanks for sharing M x

  36. We just spent the last hour or so creating a veritable snowstorm.. ! We have done this before, but your designs are so pretty (so much more so than my attempts; am finding it hard enough to remember how to do the triangle bit, let alone come up with innovative ways of shaping the flakes.:-)) - thank you!!

  37. i found you looking for paper garland/chains to make out of sheet music. thank you for sharing, and i put this on my list for this year!

  38. Thank you so much for this great tutorial. I hung mine today and they look so magical! Pics are on my blog:

  39. Lovely! Thank you for explaining how to use the sewing machine. What a neat project to do with the kids!

  40. My sewing machine is on the fritz but I think maybe I"ll just make some and tape them on the front window.. Thanks for reminding me about these.. I learned to make them in the third grade from my favorite teacher ever.

  41. Super schöne Schneeflocke - endlich kommt die Nähmaschine mal wieder zum Einsatz ;)
    Wer eine weitere Art kennenlernen möchte, findet eine ausführliche Anleitung unter:

  42. I just love these. I am going to put these garlands up in my Sunday School classroom. Too cute!!!

  43. Love these snow flakes what a great job! I will be making these for my ugly sweater party.