Five Fun Things to Do With Old Holiday Cards

Wait —  don’t toss those greeting cards! You can do your part to recycle and be cleverly creative at the same time with these simple and yet effective tips and tricks for turning holiday mail into something useful and decorative again for next year — and who knows, perhaps even inspiring more creativity from your family in the process.

What you will need:
Hole punch, scissors, pinking shears, glue stick, tape or stapler, and raffia or ribbon

Place Cards
Rather than a fold-over design, these cards are designed to be supported by a cross-beam at the bottom, like stand-up paper dolls. Obviously, these place cards will not all have the same design — but that is part of their charm. The best way to start is to determine how big you want the place cards to be — that way you’ll know what size image you need as you look through your cards. It’s better and more interesting to have place cards with different images and different sizes. You may even want to consider a common color theme if you want a more cohesive look.

How to:
1. Create your size template. Measure and cut out the size you want your place cards to be on a plain piece of paper; I suggest cutting it from the center of an old card back so you have a “window” you can use to view potential card images. Lightly mark the 4 corners of the image with a pencil.
2. Use the pinking shears to cut out the images from the cards; the shears give a more decorative border, but you can use scissors if you don’t have the shears.
3. Cut a small rectangle of blank card from the card back to use as the base; I suggest no larger than 1/2inch by 1 inch.
4. Determine the center of the long side of this base, then cut a straight line halfway across. On the middle of the bottom of the place card, cut a straight line the same size as on the base.
5. Connect the cut marks of the stand to the place card, so that the intersection forms an “X”.
6. When it is time for your party, use a Sharpie to write each guests’ name on a place card.

Post Cards
Good news: the Post Office will mail anything as a postcard as long as it has a stamp on it, so why not have fun and create your own postcards to use to announce the holiday season next year (or as thank you cards this year)? You’ll need a card that still has a blank space on the back of the image. To make each look more special than just a re-purposed card, use your pinking shears to trim the borders. You can create as many as you wish, using them to write thank you cards for gifts received, a simple winter note, party invitations or as holiday card alternatives.

Gift Tags
Perhaps the most straightforward use — you may have tried this yourself — but always a good way to re-use cards. The key to making the tags look extra special is to also use odds and ends of holiday ribbon — know you the ones: too short to go on a gift, or don’t seem to match your holiday wrap?

Cut the gift tag out using the most appropriate part of the card image. Look carefully at your card images: remember that gift tags are usually not the size of a greeting card, so each card can often be separated into 2 or more gift tags. You can use plain scissors or pinking shears for this. Punch a hole in your new tag, then string them with your odds and ends ribbons. Personally, I also love using raffia for this, as it gives a more casual feel.

Recycle into Another Card
Although this is a creative and environmentally conscious project for grown-ups, not all of you will feel that sending recycled cards is quite your thing. I recommend this as a great project for kids as a rainy-day (or snowy-day!) craft project; many of the kids I know enjoy getting into the spirit and need to have cards on hand for relatives, their friends, teachers, and neighbors.

This project is a little more tricky because you need to carefully check your inventory of cards for the best candidates. The best types to look for: Cards that have a paper insert upon which is printed the greeting (versus on the card itself); when this insert is removed you have a fresh card remaining. And cards that have a repeating image or graphic design on the front; these card fronts can be folded in half to create a new card — the image simply continues onto the back.

Use 8 å_ X 11-inch paper stock to make envelopes. (This size paper is common, and although it is fine to use the type from your home printer you can also buy it by the sheet in various colors at your office supply store.) Place the card in the center of the paper so that you have two large borders of blank paper and two smaller borders extending out from the four sides of the card. Fold the two smaller borders of paper over the card and crease them in place. Repeat with the larger sides, then secure the ends with tape or fun festive stickers.

Make Decorations: tree ornaments and chain garlands
This is a great way to use the bits and pieces left over from the projects listed above — it’s also perfect for the cards that don’t have a lot of useable images because there is writing on the back.

For the tree ornaments, follow the same instructions as for the gift tags, above, however, this time you want to follow the shape of the image itself — say of a tree or Santa or wreath or toy — so look for complete images of objects. I also like finding celebratory words, like “Joy” and “Peace”. Punch a hole at the top and string with ribbon or raffia. My friend Charlotte has done this with all the cards sent from her mom, who lives in the UK; as years have passed these have become her sentimental favorite ornaments.

For the garland, use any cards that just haven’t really been appropriate for other projects. Use your scissors or pinking shears to cut each card lengthwise into strips less than an inch wide — there is no need for making each strip the same width, and don’t worry if there is writing on them, so you can use the whole card, front and back. Once you have a batch of strips, start creating your chain by joining one end to the other to make a loop, securing with a staple. Now make the next loop — be sure to join it through the first loop — and secure its ends as well. Continue as long as you wish — best results come from mixing the patterns.

And those are my five fun ways to reuse holiday cards. Hopefully, these ideas have inspired you to not only re-think how you can recycle after the holidays but to create new family traditions that are fun for everyone. Best yet: these tips and projects shouldn’t be limited to Christmas or holiday cards, so start keeping and collecting all your cards: birthday, anniversary, graduation, etc.

When I was a little boy in second grade my grandmother was ready to discipline me when she noticed I have used her pinking shears with construction paper. When I showed her what I was creating — a Christmas garland — she gave me a big hug and let me have them for my craft box. Today, I still have them and proudly use them in new ways, expanding my childhood ideas. Thank you, Grandma, for supporting my childhood imagination and for opening the doors to creativity.

And there you have it.