Whether you are a collector, thrifty or just sentimental it is hard to throw away old greeting cards. Rather than having them in boxes and drawers there are all kinds of interesting ways you can use the cards. It is a great way to save money, have fun, be creative and save resources all at the same time.
Most of these ideas are for Christmas cards but many are adaptable to other types of greeting cards. You can also use any paper of a similar weight as greeting cards. Some of the ideas are suited to scout troops, day care or home school groups, care homes, etc.
You will need are scissors, adhesives, ruler, etc. It is also nice to have a paper cutter, corner rounder, circle cutter, hole punches, decorative scissors and scraps of wrapping paper and yarn.
If you get so enthusiastic about these projects that you run out of cards just ask around and you will find people willing to give you theirs. Businesses tend to get a high quality, large size cards.
- The most obvious idea is to use the fronts of old cards for Christmas postcards to send next year. Remember that if you don't want to pay extra postage the minimum size is 3 1/2" x 5" and the maximum size is 4 1/4" by
6". (Make yourself some templates in those sizes so it will be quick and easy to see if a card will work). Many post cards look best with rounded corners.
- Many times there is a smaller picture inside the card and if you are careful it usually can be cut out for a gift tag.
- You can make collages or use parts of the cards to decorate scrapbooks (remember that many cards are not acid free so treat them as you would any other memorabilia).
- A great use for old magnetic page albums is to put in poems you have collected and use greeting card pictures that coordinate with the subjects of the poems. Use this to entertain visiting children.
- If you happen to have a collection of cards on a certain theme that you want to display adhere them to a wide ribbon. Hang it like a banner or a bell pull. One year I did two for both sides of a wide doorway using Little Drummer Boy cards on one and cards with angels on the other.
- Cut out pictures to illustrate "The Night Before Christmas".
(Or write your own poem or story to illustrate.)
- Cut out signatures of cards. Glue or decoupage to notebook cover. Or use these on the title page of a Christmas album or put the signature of a person under their photo.
- Make paper chains. (Just cut in strips and glue.) Use these to count down the days until Christmas or to decorate the Christmas tree.
- Package decorations:
Collect a large number of white or solid color boxes
(the kind that fold flat). Decorate them with greeting card cutouts (you can get fancy and make whole scenes if you want). You can reuse them every year.
- Tree ornaments - Glue cutouts to plastic lids. (Great way to use the circle cutter)
- Make a scene in an upside down jar. Glue background inside the jar curving around the back of the scene. Glue the foreground
(trees, people, etc.) upright in the lid.
- Use small cutouts to decorate notepaper and thank you cards.
- Finger puppets:
Silhouette cut around a snowman, deer, etc. on a card but at the base leave a narrow band going in both directions. Tape the band into a circle to fit around your finger.
- Woven mats:
Cut slits 1/2" apart from the fold of a card to within 1/2"
of the unfolded edge. Unfold the card. Cut strips from other cards that are the correct length and less than 1/2" wide. Weave them through the openings using tape on the ends to help them stay in place.
- Fire starters:
Open out long four fold cards (or use very large two-fold cards). Roll up diagonally into a fairly small tube shape. Tape the ends to hold. Put several together in a decorated can (perhaps a corrugated one mentioned above.)
- Pencil or Comb case for pocket or purse:
Cut two pieces of heavy weight card (about 3" x 6"). Punch small holes in the sides and one end. Lace together with yarn.
- Some of the rest of these may be a little hard to describe and in a few cases I may try to scan in a sketch later when I have time. In most cases even if the directions don't seem clear you will catch on if you just follow the them step by step.
- Cone Basket:
Cut a semicircle and roll into a cone shape. Tape or glue the edges. Use yarn or a pipe cleaner for the handle. You can also tie 3 cones together with yarn for a bigger basket. If you use a card with flowers it makes a good May Basket.
- Party Mixer - Cut cards in two pieces. People find their game partner by matching the pieces. To select teams, cut the cards in more pieces. You can also use this idea for designating where someone is to sit or for prize drawings.
- Puzzles - Cut card fronts into squares or puzzle-shaped pieces.
- Make interesting party invitations or thank you notes by writing on the back of the card before cutting it up.
- Mixed puzzles - Use several cards with very similar pictures. Cut each into the same number and size of strips. Mix them all together and try to sort and assemble. (This is much harder than it sounds!)
- Placemats - Glue cards to light cardboard. Make it like a collage or create a scene. It also looks good if you cut the shapes and arrange them like quilt blocks. Laminate, shellac or decoupage to make them last longer.
- Make coasters or place cards to match the placemats.
- Use cutouts from cards for flannel board characters.
- Glue cutouts to a paper or China plate or foil pie tin.
Decorate the edges of the plate with rickrack.
- Print your Christmas newsletter on plain paper and use cutouts from old cards to decorate it (leave space at the top or bottom).
- There are many craft items people make out of felt (book marks, door knob hanger decorations). Cutouts from greeting cards work well to decorate those items.
- Cracker Tray:
Trim down a long slim card so that it is 2" from the fold to each long edge. About 1/2" from each end cut a slit about 1 1/2" long (this cut will start at the folded edge). To make the ends of the tray cut two 2"
squares. One each square you will need to cut off one of the points part way to form the base for it to sit on. How much you cut off is up to you. I would make a scrap piece and experiment to see what works best. Insert the squares into the slits.
Cut strips of lightweight cards 6 - 10" long. They should taper to a point and be 1/4" to 1/2" at the base (wider for young children).
Starting with the wide end roll tightly around a toothpick or similar object.
Glue the last inch. Hold a minute or two and then remove the toothpick. String on yarn or dental floss.
I made some of these out of a solid gold color card back and some others from a card front that was mostly navy blue with a little gold.
They look really neat.
- Cone Beads:
Cut 3" or smaller circles in half. Roll into cones and glue edges to hold (be sure the point is not open). Knot a short piece of yarn or thread and use a needle to pull it through the cone from the inside (the knot should be big enough to keep the yarn from pulling through). Leave enough thread at the top of the cone so you can tie it on a string. It looks good to mix the cone beads with the beads mentioned above.
- Hanging messages:
Use cards that have the fold at the top. Using a stencil trace letters on the cards being sure to have some of the top edge that is not cut out. Hang a piece of yarn or string in a doorway or window and hang your message on it. (I think it looks better if you put a small piece of tape at the bottom so the letters don't sprawl out so much.)
- Index Card File:
This will make a nice card file for you to keep your Christmas Card list in. Or you can make it out of all occasion cards for a regular address book type file or recipes.
Cut cards as follows - base 3" x 6"; back 4" x 6"; front 2 1/2" x 6"; two side pieces each 3" x 4". Taper the side pieces from 4" at the back to 2 1/2" at the front. Lace or sew together with yarn.
- Some cards have fronts that are worthy of being framed
for display. If you like to have your house decorated floor to ceiling for the holidays here is an idea. Cut mats to fit existing small frames you have on display the year around and mat some of your nicer card fronts. At Christmas remove the usual contents of the frame and insert the pre-cut mat and card. Or you can just mat and frame them to put up at Christmas.
- Quick cards for kids to make:
Using Printshop or other card making program print out cards on thin card stock or regular printer paper doing only the inside verse. Fold the cards and have the kids decorate using cutouts from old cards along with marking pens and crayons.
For older kids they could also handwrite the verse or message.
- String puppets:
Take a large shoebox and set it on its side to make a theater. Decorate the (former) bottom of the box to form you backdrop (if you want to change scenes make several backdrops on card stock the size of the box bottom). Cut a slit all across the side of the box that is now at the top. Make the slit about an inch or so wide.
Cut people, animals, etc. from old cards. Put yarn or string at the top to control the puppets.
- Quiet book (this is quick and easy - but not for babies in the chewing stage)
Cut some greeting cards that will just fit inside sandwich size zip lock pages (not the ones with pleated sides). You can use all related pictures, misc, some verses, etc. Using yarn and a yarn needle lace the book together on the part that extends out from the closing strip. You can also fold the excess flap under and use a small hole punch to go through the cards and the bag at the back edges. Make three evenly spaced holes and tie with yarn.
- Card Games:
Cut out a deck of cards consisting of pairs (2 each with bells, holly, Santa, etc.) Cut out an extra card that says "Merry Christmas" (with no match).
To play, deal the entire deck. First player picks a card from the player on his right. If it matches one in his hand, he lays down the pair; otherwise, he adds it to his hand. The next person draws and so on around the table. Continue until one person is left with the "Merry Christmas" card.
Use the same deck of cards (without the
"Merry Christmas" one) to play Concentration.
For this you will want to use large, stiff cards. Cut the front and back the same size. Then cut two "V" shape pieces for the sides of the basket. The length of the V should match the depth of the basket (the shorter sides of the cards). Starting at the bottom use yarn to lace the sides to the front and back. On the two front corners tie the yarn in a bow when you get to the top. At the back tie the two pieces of yarn together so you have a hanger to hang to basket on the wall. Depending on the size you can use the basket to hold cards, flower arrangements, etc. Or make very small ones to hold postage stamps, etc.
- Building cards:
Cut several rectangles 3" x 4". Make straight slits from the outside edges toward the center as follows -
On all the 3" sides make one cut in the center that is 1" long. On the 4" sides make two slits 1" from each end. The slits will be ¾" long.
It is quicker if you cut a stencil for yourself out of heavy cardboard. If the cards you use are very heavy you may need to cut a sliver out of each of the slits to make it easier to use them for building. It is also good to make a few cards that are twice as long or twice as wide as the regular ones.
These are too tedious for very small children to play with but older ones can have a lot of fun.
Paste cutout pictures on red construction paper. Trim with doilies, rickrack, stickers, etc. Add appropriate verses.
Deer - You are "dear" to me.
Bell - You ring a bell with me, Valentine.
Candle - You are my flame! (or No one can hold a candle to you)
Pine tree - I pine for you, Valentine
Star - You are the star in my life
- Wreath ornaments:
There are a lot of Christmas cards that have wreaths on them. They make really nice tree decorations. First make a rough cut around the outside of the wreath. Carefully cut out the center. Find a photo that will fit the center of the wreath (those very small portraits you usually don't have any use for work well). Adhere the photo to a piece of solid color cards stock and adhere the wreath to the card stock centering the photo in the opening. Cut out around the wreath through the both layers. Use yarn or narrow ribbon to make the hanger.
- Scrubber greeting card:
Cut eight to ten pieces of nylon net about 4" x 11". Sew them together about 1/4" from the outside edges. Then sew in the center (the short way) so it will fold easily.
On the front staple a cut out from a greeting card. Print the following verse on a piece of paper to staple to the inside of the card. (Use as few staples as possible since they will have to be removed to use the scrubber).
This Christmas card of nylon net
Will help you most when it is wet.
It's extra good for pots and pans,
Eliminates most dishpan hands.
So for my year long Christmas wishes
Use it when you do the dishes.
- Picture folder:
If you have a lot of card fronts that are similar in size and subject here is a way to display them. Take a long strip of poster board that is a couple of inches wider than the cards are tall. Accordion-fold the poster board so that each section is a couple of inches wider than the width of the cards (you can add another piece of poster board if you have a lot of cards). Put the cards on the poster board - one per section. This will stand on its own if you keep it folded enough. You can put it on a table where you can see both sides or use contrasting cards on each side so you can change it for different occasions (for example Santa cards for when the grandchildren are there and more serious ones for when your book club meets at your house in December).
- Corrugated Cans:
These can be any size and have many uses (pencil holder, etc.)
Cut rectangles about 3 1/2" wide (the wider they are the easier they are to work with but I like the looks of the narrower ones better--just experiment a little to see what you like). The length of the rectangle will be the height of the can you are using.
Fold each rectangle in half lengthwise.
Unfold and refold each long edge to the centerfold line.
Overlap the outer folds and glue or tape (you will end up with long triangle shaped tubes.
Glue these around the can (on the last one you might have to trim it a little to fit or not quite overlap it all the way). You may have to use rubber bands to hold this together while it dries.
- Can Card Holder:
(This is not a way to use old cards but is a good way to display a lot of cards in a small space.)
Cut the bottom out a Pringle potato chip size can so it is open on both ends. Wrap yarn around the sides of the can (going through the middle from the inside to the outside so the yarn strands are vertical when the can is set on end). This takes a lot more yarn than you would think so you will most likely have to tie it a few times. The yarn needs to be pulled pretty tight so it is best not to use cotton or wool yarn. I take the yarn and wrap it into a ball that will fit through the can fairly easily. I put the end through and make a secure knot. I pull the knot around to the inside of the can and start wrapping. When I come to the end I make another ball and tie it to the end of the first one in such a way that the ends are on the inside of the can. At the end it works best to thread the yarn on a needle and tie it around several strands on the inside as best you can.
To display the cards just slip them under one or two strands of yarn. This makes a good centerpiece.
- Link belt:
(Any one old enough to have made gum wrapper chains in the 60's will be familiar with this technique).
Cut lightweight cards into pieces about 4"X9" (They can be smaller but are harder to work with - especially for children).
Fold the pieces in fourths lengthwise with the edges to the inside. In other words fold the rectangles in half lengthwise, unfold and fold both long edges in to the centerfold. Fold again on the first fold. You will have a long strip with no edges showing - they will be enclosed in the last fold you make. Crease well so it will stay folded.
Now do the same thing with the resulting strip (fold it in fourths - this time crosswise - with the edges to the inside). You will end up with a small rectangular bundle that is about 2" by about 1". Join the links together by pushing the folded ends of one link through the loops of another and pulling the links tight against each other at one end. Add other links to make a zigzag strip. When it is large enough to be a belt (or whatever you had in mind) connect the two ends with a ribbon or shoelace. You can coat the whole think with lacquer to make it sturdier if you want.
- House of cards:
For this you will use sturdy cards in layers to make it hold up well. For each section you will use either three folded cards or two card fronts with four card backs in between (that way you will not have to waste the card fronts where they don't show). For the bottom, front and back use cards that are about 6" x 4". Size doesn't really matter as long as they are all the same. For the ends you will use cards that are about 4 x 6 1/2". Starting 4" up from the bottom on each of the long sides you will taper it to a point in the center (to make a gable for the roof to sit on). Punch or poke holes along the edges and at the corners. Lace or tie the house together through the holes using yarn or cord.
Cut two sections for the roof allowing for a slight overhang (not too much or it will be hard to tie on correctly). Lace the roof pieces together at the center top of the roof. Then attach the back section of the roof to the house. Put small gifts or something like candy or snack mix (in a plastic bag) in the house. Poke two holes in the roof and top of the house front at the center and fairly close together. Put cord or yarn through the holes and tie in a bow to hold closed.
- 3D picture:
The ideal thing to use for this is a shallow box with a see through lid. However one without a lid will work okay. You will need several pieces of acetate like plastic that just fit in the box. What I use is those plastic page protectors that come with the black paper inside of them. Just cut them to size.
What you are doing is building a scene that has a 3D look by putting parts of the scene on each layer. You can use three or four layers or many depending on how you want it to look. Start by adhering some background stuff on the bottom of the box (like sky, clouds, trees, mountains, etc.) On the first piece of plastic put other background items like more mountains, trees, etc as well as houses and things. On the next one or two layers put people, animals, etc. On the top layers put flowers, snow, etc.
You can make it look even more dimensional by putting a thin, narrow strip of cardboard around the outside edges between the pieces of plastic to make them farther apart.
- Gift tags:
These are made using three layers. Each layer is slightly larger than the one above it. You can cut some or all of the layers with decorate scissors
Top layer - cut a shape from a greeting card (any size from 1" x 2" to 3" x 4"). The small scenes that are on the inside of some cards work well. Also shapes from the front like candles.
Middle layer - cut a piece of solid dark color card stock or foil wrapping paper a little bigger than the top layer.
Bottom layer - Cut a piece of light color card stock.
Line the layers up so they are centered on top of each other. Make two small holes close together through all three layers. The holes have to be near the edge either on the end or at the center of one of the long sides. Use yarn or narrow ribbon to hold the pieces together. My favorite way is really simple but a little hard to explain without showing someone. Take a piece of narrow ribbon and put the ends through the two small holes from the top. In other words you end up with the two ends at the back and a small strip of ribbon showing between the two holes at the front. Turn the gift tag over. Push the two ends of ribbon back to the top through the opposite hole they came through in. Turn the tag back over and angle cut the ends so they are about ¾" long.
To use the tags adhere them to the package with the tape runner (or other double sided tape). Lift up the top two layers and write the "to and from" info on the light colored bottom layer.
By far the most popular item I teach in the class are folded boxes. These are not really hard to make but kind of hard to explain on paper. It would help to first practice on a piece of thin paper in a large size (about 8 X 8).
Click here for diagram
You can use old greeting cards, light card stock, etc. The bigger the box the heavier the paper should be.
Cut two squares. It works best if the box bottom is slightly (about 1/4") smaller than the box top.
You will have a better box if you measure, cut and fold neatly and accurately.
1. Draw diagonal lines from corner to corner on the wrong side of you paper (do not fold on these lines, they are just guidelines for making the other folds.
2. Number and letter the corners, center and edges as shown (after you make a few boxes you probably won't have to do all of this)
3. Make all folds using the letters as guides.
After EACH fold you have to unfold it before making the next fold.
Dashed lines on the diagram are fold lines
point A to point E; point B to point E; point C to point E; point D to point E
point A to line ad/ab; point B to line ab/bc; point C to line bc/dc; point D to line dc/ad;
line ad/ab to line DB; line ab/bc to line AC; line bc/dc to line BD; line ad/dc to line AC
4. Cut along folds as indicated by wavy lines on diagram (the four small shaded pieces will be removed).
5. To form box start with point 1 - fold it over twice and then fold it again so it is standing up. Fold the end flaps in at right angles. Do the same with point 2. You should have a box shape with points 3 and 4 sticking out at the sides. For those two (3 and 4) you will make the end fold and then tuck them inside the box as you make the next fold. This can sound a little confusing until you actually try it. It is best to practice on a large, thin scrap of paper first as I mentioned above.
I just got an email with another idea so I decided to make a section in the file for any other ideas people send me.
A local church makes these up to sell as a fund raiser. They take inexpensive magnetic albums and make a Christmas ABC book. A is for angels; B is for Bells, etc. I know you have some Christmas ABC lists on your site that would give people inspiration for the album. They really looked nice when they were done. (From Mary W.)