Thursday, January 24, 2013

Christmas in January: Recycling Christmas Cards

This past Christmas, I was thinking about how there are so many projects that I want to try every year around the holidays, but I never seem to have time to get to them all.  By the time I have a moment to sit down and think about Christmas crafting, it's almost too late in December to bother!

So, I had this idea to try out different Christmas crafting ideas throughout the year, so that when December 2013 rolls around, I won't find myself in the same position:  looking at dozens of projects that I would like to do, but simply don't have the time for.  To that end, I am planning a "Christmas in [Insert Month Here]" series.  Each month, even in the high heat of the summertime, I am hoping to do a Christmas project that I have bookmarked and wanted to try.

For Christmas in January, I played around with a bunch of different ways to recycle the Christmas cards we received.  I had so much fun with this, and am really excited about the results.

Top 10 Ways to Use Your Old Christmas Cards

1.  Gift tags. 
This is, perhaps, the "no brainer" idea; I've been doing this for years.  All you have to do is cut out a cute part of any card.  Cutting it into the shape of a tag and punching a hole in it for ribbon are purely optional.  You write your To and From on the front if there is room, or on the back if there is not.  Simple, simple.
I mounted the card parts onto solid colored paper to cover up any messages that might have appeared on the back.  Also, all three of those small pictures--the wreath, the dog, and the candy canes--appeared on the very back of the cards, near the name of the company that printed them.  Don't forget to look at all parts of the card for potentially useful images and sentiments!

This is the first time I have tried this, and I am so happy with the results.  Bookmarks can come in any number of sizes, so cut any long, narrow portion of a card that looks nice.  Punch a hole in the top for a ribbon or some other kind of fiber.  (I've had these braided cords sitting in a drawer, unused, for years.)
The beautiful Santa card came from April Cole, and had a Santa image raised up on foam from another Santa image, so I got two-for-one! 
3.  Postcards
One of my mail art friends sent me a postcard made from the front cover of a Christmas card, and it was a total, "Why didn't I think of that?!" moment.
From the front, they look just like regular Christmas cards, but turn them over and you discover that they are actually...
How fun and easy is that?!

4.  New Cards
Sometimes it's fun to re-envision a card and make it into something new.  I took this beautiful photograph of a vintage Santa ornament from the front of a Christmas card, and cut it into several small squares, which I arranged on the back of another (hot pink) Christmas card we received.  By mounting it on a kraft paper card, I created a whole new card!  (The original photo, by the way, was taken by Lisa Leitch of Montana Trails Photo, which she co-owns with Randy Updegrove, my husband's cousin.)

5.  Garlands
Everyone is rather garland-crazy these days, and I've been wanting to see how it works to sew paper shapes together, leaving spaces in between.  (I couldn't really get my head around that until I tried it!)
I used a circle punch and two different Christmas cards, then sewed the circles together with red thread on my machine.
I decided to show it off at an angle that gives you a peek into my art room!  You could focus on the red parts of cards and punch hearts for a Valentine's Day garland, or focus on the green parts of cards and punch shamrocks for a St. Patrick's Day garland.  In addition to displaying these around mirrors or doorways, they make fun a fun gift-wrapping embellishment.

6.  Christmas Ornament
There are all kinds of papercraft ornaments that you can make from your old Christmas cards; the Internet abounds with them, and you can also look in various books that talk about projects you can do with old book pages.  Here is a very simple ornament design:  a Christmas ball.
To make this, all you have to do is cut your card into strips (you can cut stips from several different cards or all from one card).  Punch holes into the top and bottom of each strip.
Stack the strips on top of each other, and put brass fasteners through the holes on each end.
Then you have to fan out the strips to make the ball, as shown in the first picture.  It's a little tricky to get them spaced out nicely so that they look like a sphere that is symmetrically round and doesn't kind of lean to one side.  Let's just say, I don't see myself making a bunch of these, but it was fun to try once, and I can see doing it with my kids in a few years.
7.  Confetti
Here's another fun and simple use for your old cards:  confetti! 
You can make any shape confetti that you want...circles, stars, hearts, you name it.  I used a tiny little star punch and focused on gold and purple areas of two different cards.  Some people like to tuck confetti into birthday card or invitation envelopes.  I think it makes a fun "instant party" when you put it in a tiny envelope and include it with an art swap.
Or, you can let your five-year-old get her fingers all sticky, trying to glue it down to a big piece of paper at her art table!

8.  Matchboxes
Okay, there is a steep learning curve for this project, and I don't quite have it mastered yet.  For someone who loves to work with paper as much as I do, it's amazing what a clutz I am when it comes to folding it into any recognizable form.  (Origami Master, I am NOT!) 
I used a template by Rachel Johnson, which you can find on the Swapbot blog.  Take my advice:  don't try making the matchbox for the very first time using your "very favorite, absolutely perfect for this project" Christmas card!  I messed up my first attempt, folding in the wrong places, and got two unsightly folds on the adorable photo of the child catching snowflakes on her tongue (many thanks to Mary for that sweet card!)  I totally flubbed up the little box that slides inside, too, and wouldn't you know that I used up my most wonderfully simple, Christmas-y snowflake card in the process.  I made a slight error in attempt #2, the teddy bear matchbox, but you can't see it unless you turn it over.  I am definitely going to master this paper-folding challenge!  Just not today...

9.  Journal/Notebook
Perhaps my all-time favorite project:  turning an old Christmas card into a stitched notebook. 
This beautiful angel card came from one of my mail art partners.  All I did was fold paper in half (I used a notebook that has graph paper on one side and lined paper on the other), cut it to size, and stitched up the middle on my sewing machine.
I put a piece of decorative tape up the spine on the outside to cover up the other side of my stitching.  There are lots of different ways to handle the closure, too (including, I guess, not having one!).  I wrapped a ribbon around the book, and used a piece of decorative tape to hold it in place in the back even when I have it untied.
All of this from a simple Christmas card!  Wouldn't it be fun to designate this little notebook for all of my Christmas planning lists when November and December roll around?

10.  Placemat
And here is one final idea.  I haven't actually done it myself yet, but I'm including it because I have all the supplies out and ready to go, and I want a nice round 10 ideas to share with you!

I am going to take the family photo cards I received, and glue them down to a large, sturdy piece of paper.  Then I am going to put laminating paper on the front and back of it (you could use clear contact paper, as well).  This will create a placemat that we can use, enjoying the photos of our friends and family as we eat throughout the year!  So many people send photo cards now instead of more traditional Christmas cards, that I could probably get four placemats' worth of pictures.  At least I'll make two with photos on the front and back for my children to enjoy.

So, it looks like I spent a ton of time re-purposing all my old Christmas cards, doesn't it?  In reality, I made all of these things (#1-9) in a few hours over the course of two days.  They are so simple, straight-forward, and fun, and I feel like I got a little more life out of my cards.  It's so much nicer than tossing them in the recycling bin!
That's my taste of Christmas in January!  We'll see what Christmas project February will bring!


Victoria said...

Lots of great ideas, and an adorable 5 year old! said...

Lots of great ideas!

Unknown said...

Super interesting, and it occurs to me that I might as well prepare my Christmas cards and tags for next year! I get that I have so little time at Christmas, that sometimes I do not have time to send cards.And always stay bought them already half prepared.

Sharon said...

Oh my goodness, you are SO super talented. I love the up-cycling ideas! Cute little model you have there too. :). I hope some of your creativity rubs off on this blog visitor!

Unknown said...

Wow! You really have such wonderful ideas. I like the way you used old christmas cards and transforming them into something useful rather than be thrown away. Keep up the excellent job. You can even earn with it. :)

Sue Hare said...

I am in agreement. Too many ideas and not enough time around Christmas. I asked friends to save their cards for me and one did, Kris. I want to mount them on a sturdy something (thin board, for example) and then place holes in the right and left top and run wire between the two holes. They become Christmas tree decorations.

Janet said...

You have so many fun ideas! I'm going to be using some of my old cards today.

Jo Murray said...

I always recycle my cards...into new cards for next year. You've given me some great ideas, thanks.

Anne said...

I'm definitely going to get a head start for Christmas '13. Bookmarks for sure. Also the ornaments and the journal/notebook. You make it look so easy that I think I can do it.
Thanks for the great hints.

Karen Isaacson said...

you are so smart for working on all those Christmas ideas now. Every December I swear I'm going to start my Christmas preparations in August, but then I don't, and I end up with the impossibly long list of things I want to try to do for Christmas and never get to. Maybe this is the kick in the butt I need! These are wonderful ideas, thanks for sharing.

laurie said...

great ideas! and the best idea is starting in plenty of time before the next holiday season. i vow to begin my projects earlier this year, as well.

Parabolic Muse said...

Heavens to mergatroid! These are awesome! I love love love that stitched journal idea! I probably won't use holiday cards per se, but I get so many birthday, thank you, postcard, images and the card weight is so perfect.

Patty said...

I love your ideas. I made the tags. I would like to try the matchbox so cute! Thanks for visiting me Andria.

Elham said...

I love your ideas and will definitely use it because I think recycling is a common practice nowadays.

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Edeeanns said...

You have some fun simple ideas here. I saved my easier to reuse cards for years. I am know looking for some new ideas to make with them. I am retired & make craft kits for the residents at a nearby care center where my dad was. I look for "cheap" materials to work with. I have some plastic fill & glue closed clear ball ornaments. Would like to create some kind of scene in side with glitter snow like a dry snow globe for this year's Christmas cards could be used to make a circle platform to glue to the inside of the ball for the scene to anchor to. Pls share your ideas for creating holiday scenes with card designs that can be viewed from around the clear ball. Ex:small trees that could be glued together to make a 2 or 3 sided tree for center of the scene. The big problem is creating things to be small enough to work inside the plastic ornaments & still be manageable by the elder crafters who will do the assembly. I welcome ideas from such creative or send your ideas to me @ I will plan to post a finished project here. When I get it created. Thanks, Edee