Handcrafted Cards

This Christmas you might try a fun and creative approach to your Christmas cards. Make your cards with that special handcrafted touch that shows warmth and caring. You’ll find it can be a fun project for you or a group of your friends to work on together. Following are some suggestions for cards that you can make.

1. Fun cut-out patterns can be made by tracing cookie cutters, children’s shape toys (stars, triangles, hexagons, etc.), and aerosol spray can lids onto your paper and then cutting them out with scissors or a razor knife. To make these cards more interesting, try using heavy duplex (two-toned) paper. You can buy it at paper companies, large printing presses, or some art supply stores. You can create your own cards by lining the inside of your paper with another piece of colored paper, tissue paper, tin foil, etc. Let your imagination soar. You might even paste a colored photo on the inside of your card to show through your cut-out shape.

2. Another relatively simple card can be created by cutting a paper snowflake. Make a square, top-folding card. Open it up and fold it in half lengthwise, trying not to crease the bottom half of your card. Halve the upper portion of your card by folding down towards the left side of your card (see photos). Cut out your snowflake from the folded upper half of your card. Open it up, flatten it out and fold to your original square shape. For added color you can line the back of your snowflake with colored paper.

3. An easy method for making a series of cards is potato printing. You may have already done it. Simply carve a symbol (Christmas tree, star, heart, bells, etc.) on the flat section of a potato cut in half. Cut away the excess potato around your design. Dip in acrylic or tempera paints and print on your paper. You can create a wide variety of cards with one stencil. Try a repetitive series, or alternate printing colors, or print on the seal of your envelope, or print on colored paper. This is a quick way to produce a handsome store of holiday greetings.

4. Another idea for a card with a sophisticated look is fake embossing. This creates a subtle raised symbol or word on your paper. For this, a shiny (not too heavy) paper works great. (Cast coated paper can be bought at most art supply stores or printing presses.) You draw your word or symbol on a manila folder (or comparable heavy tag board). Then cut it out with a razor knife. If you have any pieces in the design that become detached from the tag board (like the hole in the “O”), tape them in place at the back of your board. Then touch the tape with your finger several times so it won’t stick to your paper later. It is best if you can choose very simple designs that are all intact in one piece on your first attempts to emboss. Once you have cut out your design, turn your tag board over so the design is backwards. Then lay the paper for your card over it with the shiny side down. To position the design on your paper, hold both up to the light, then you can easily see where the design will fall. Make a mark by the corner edges of your paper so you can position the rest of your paper easily. Now you can begin your embossing. It is made by rubbing with the cap tip of a ball-point pen over your paper. Be sure to rub the entire area of your design, especially against the cut edges. Then turn your paper over and see your first embossing. It’s fun and easy. Try it on colored sheets of plain stationery. You might even want to have a message printed on your stationery first at a quick copy center and then emboss a decoration on it afterwards. A poem or the words to a song, with a decoration to match, make a warm Christmas greeting.

5. For another handsome cutout pattern, try decorating the front of your card by hole punching. You can create all kinds of designs with little effort. For color, try painting the outside of your paper first or paint a band of color on the inside of your card to show through your hole-punched pattern.

6. If you like a simple graphic-styled card, try making a word card. You cut a long rectangle of heavy paper and fold it (accordion style) into several squares. You need a square for each letter in the word. Short words like joy, Noel, etc. work best. Then with a razor knife cut out a simple block letter from each square. Just cut out the negative spaces (like the hole in the “O”) so that the paper becomes the letter, and the letters run into each other to make a word.

7. One fun way to make your own stationery is to make your own recycled paper. Tear strips of paper from old magazines, colorful junk mail, old gift wrap, and newsprint. Use the colors you want your paper to be—for example, red to make pink. Pack it loosely into an electric blender until 1/3 full. Add enough water to make blender 2/3 full. Blend 3 to 5 seconds. Now add more strips of paper of the general color you want your stationery to be. The recycled paper will always be toned down somewhat (for example, lots of red will make a brilliant pink). Blend again. Now add anything you like for texture—colored snips of thread, parsley, crumpled leaves, etc.

Tack or staple some window screen onto a 5-by-7- or 8-by-10-inch picture frame. (You can use a round embroidery hood with a wide mesh material on it for round paper.) Next place three stacks of newspaper side by side. Put a large 13-by-9-by-2-inch roasting pan on the first and pour the blended mixture into it. Add water to the pan to make a one-inch depth. Mix well with a spoon. You’ll need two white desk-size blotters. Place one on the second stack of newspapers and set the other aside for a moment. Then hold the frame, screen side up, at a 45° angle over the paper and spoon the mixture on it. Spread it evenly over the screen with a wooden spoon. Let excess water drip off.

Then working quickly, turn the frame over pulp-side down onto the blotter on the newspapers. It’s easiest to lay a long side of your frame on the blotter and then flip it over. Blot up any excess moisture with paper towels, especially in the corners. Then carefully lift off the frame and replace with the second blotter. Move the “blotter sandwich” over to the third stack of newspapers and iron with an electric iron both sides at wool setting. Remove top blotter; peel off paper. If paper doesn’t easily peel off, iron paper itself until it is dry and comes off readily. It is really very easy, and you’ll be pleased at the handsome papers you can create.

So this holiday season, try a unique approach to your Christmas greetings and enjoy the feeling of sharing a bit of yourself and your talents with your favorite friends and relatives.

[photos] Photos by Jed Clark