Recycling Christmas cards and wrapping paper

Here at Cosy Home, we hate to waste anything, and we’ve been busy thinking up ideas to re-use all that lovely Christmassy gift wrap, and all those cards. Here’s what we’ve come up with.

Christmas cards

Start by sorting through your cards, and dividing them into piles (this will also help remind you if there’s anyone you’ve been meaning to write to after Christmas!) Separate them into flimsy, thick, and ‘can’t use’. (Well, no-one has time to recycle everything, and many supermarkets offer a card recycling box for anything you really can’t use).

Thick, luxury cards, particularly those with a small central image on a plain background, can often be made into gift tags. Just cut out a rectangle or other suitable shape with the image centred, and punch a hole in one corner with a hole punch. Thread it with re-claimed parcel ribbon, and put on one side ready for next year.

Flimsier cards are great for decoupage. This is a decorative technique which involves layering paper onto…well, anything really, such as a piece of furniture or box. Use old Christmas cards to cover boxes, and you’ll have a set of gift boxes ready for next year’s presents.

Cut out the images you like from the cards, and paste each one onto the box, overlapping slightly so that none of the box can be seen underneath. Spread the glue right to the edges of the image to get a tight seal. When you’ve finished, paint the whole box with clear varnish and leave to dry. This technique also works well with thick wrapping paper.

Gift wrap

Old wrapping paper can be made into papier mâché, then fashioned into bowls, gift pots or even sculptures. You’ll need ordinary paper, rather than metallic foil gift wrap, and you’ll also need to cut off any old sticky tape.

The first time you make something with papier mâché, it’s easiest to start with the layering technique and use a mould. For example, to make a papier mache bowl suitable for holding chocolates or other small gifts, you’ll need a smaller ceramic or glass bowl to mould onto the back of.

Cut the paper into strips, each about four inches by one inch (10cm by 2.5cm). In a large Tupperware container, mix up some wallpaper paste according to the packet instructions. Cover the back of your mould with a very thin layer of washing up liquid; this is so you can release it from the papier mâché once it’s dry.

Paint the strips of paper on both sides with paste. Lay them over the mould, smoothing down with your fingers to remove any air bubbles. Overlap each strip slightly with its neighbour, and build up until you’ve done three layers. Leave it in a warm place to dry, and don’t forget to put the lid on the paste box until you need it again. When the papier mâché  completely dry, add another three layers and let it dry again. Continue to build it up in this way until you reach the required thickness. Gently ease away the mould, and, if required, paint the papier mâché bowl. If you like it as it is, just apply a coat of clear varnish.

To use, fill with sweets or chocolates, cover with clingfilm and tie with re-cycled ribbon. To carry on the handmade theme, you could also use homemade fudge, coconut ice, miniature chocolate brownies or biscuits.

Papier mache mask

Once you’re feeling more confident, you can also use papier mâché pulp to make sculptures, masks or ornaments. Soak the paper in water for 24 hours, then bring the mixture to the boil and let it simmer for 30 minutes, until the structure of the paper disintegrates. Drain the mixture through a sieve, and mix it with PVA glue to give a modelling consistency.

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