I also wanted to make something festive and wintry without being obnoxiously red and green. I love the look of the dark, bare tree branches poking out of the snow in winter.
I found it easier to cut the longer strips ahead of time and sew them with a zigzag stitch, using the same color thread as my branch. Make sure to reverse stitch at either end of the branch segment so the thread doesn't loosen later on.
The smaller branches were easier to sew first and then cut. I sewed a rough line down the doubled fabric for each - I didn't want them to be perfectly straight or they wouldn't look as natural to me. I made some of them branch by sewing a connecting zigzag stitch heading off in a slightly different direction. I cut the small branch segments one at a time after each new line of stitches was sewn.
Once I had all the branch segments, I sewed the large pieces together, making sure to leave a little overhang so that the tapered end could branch away from the main strand. I wanted this to feel a little less 2D, so I opened up the fabric at the sides of the branch strips (since they were sewn down the middle), pressing them open so that my fingertips were pressing the seam, and sewed them together along that opened seam.
Step 2: Sew the Leaves
Whether you cut the main leaf shape before or after sewing, the rest of the process is the same. Use a straight stitch for this.
Sew a pointed oval (leaf) shape around the outside. Sew a straight line up the middle. Stitch back down along the middle line, then about 1/3 of the way down, sew a line out toward the edge. When you get to the edge, turn the fabric around and sew back toward the center along the line you just sewed, then make another line on the other side of the center vein. Turn around when you come to the outer edge, return to the center vein, then sew along the vein a little lower. Make two other branching veins just like the previous ones. Repeat this one more time. End the stitch at the bottom of the center vein, backstitching to make sure the thread stays secure.
I used two layers of felt for the gray leaves, and one layer for the white leaves. I wanted them to have a lighter, more ethereal quality.
I used black thread for the gray leaves and gray/silver thread for the white. I had the silver thread on the top of my sewing machine, and gray thread on the smaller bobbin underneath the sewing foot.
Step 3: Put It Together
Distribute the leaves evenly over the garland, using a straight stitch to attach them. You can either sew them along the middle vein using a similar thread color, or sew them along the base, using a thread that matches the leaf. Be sure to reverse stitch several times, securing the leaf to the branch.
I think this is the most rewarding part. The branches and leaves might take a fair amount of work, but I love to watch the whole thing finally come together.
Thanks for reading!