Sunday, August 16, 2009

Making Use of Scraps

I'm an avid scrapbooker and paper crafter. If you are too, and you're anything like me, you have piles and piles of paper scraps laying around waiting for new life. Like many people, one of my favorite things to do with paper scraps is make cards. However, I'm more in the "keep it simple" camp when it comes to cards, simply because in general, I'd rather spend my time scrapping. So I like cards that are quick and easy to make, yet accomplish my goal of getting some of those scraps out of the scrap box.

One of my favorite types of cards to make is thank you cards. In addition to using them myself (yep, I'm one of those people that still sends a thank you card in the mail after I've received a gift or someone has done something crazy-nice for me), I've found that sets of thank you cards make really great and inexpensive gifts. They are superb gifts for teachers, because teachers use tons of thank you cards. They often get heartfelt gifts from students, such as at Christmas or at the end of the school year, and those gifts usually require acknowledgement. If you're in the habit of doing something a little more elaborate in the way of teacher gifts, consider tucking a ribbon-wrapped package of homemade thank you cards in the gift basket along with whatever other goodies you've decided on. Thank you cards also make good gifts for friends and family, and it goes without saying that a set would be wonderful and much-appreciated addition to a wedding or baby shower gift, or a graduation gift.

I usually make thank you cards and note cards using pre-made boxed cards that come with envelopes. While I know that many people like to make their own card bases with inexpensive cardstock, I just don't find this to be worth the time or money, since you then have to purchase envelopes separately. I like to buy the boxes of cards made by Die Cuts With a View that are sold at Michael's and JoAnn's stores. Usually there are 50 cards and envelopes in a box, and the cards come in a huge variety of themes. For general card-making, I tend to buy the solid color cards, but I've also purchased boxes of printed cards and Christmas-themed cards. The solid color cards are made with textured cardstock, which adds a nice tactile quality to the finished card. Anyway, a box of these cards retails for $9.99, but using a 50% off coupon, you can snag a box for under $5.00. The cards in the photo above were all made with the boxed DCWV cards.

Here are the super-simple instructions for the cards pictured in the photograph.

For the two cards on the left: Cut strips of patterned paper (from scraps) measuring 5-1/2" x 1-1/2" (obviously you can make the strips wider or narrower to suit your tastes). Position a strip of paper on a solid colored card base near the bottom of the card front. I like to have about half an inch of card showing at the bottom. Adhere the strip to the card using just one line of adhesive down the middle of the strip. Avoid getting adhesive along the sides of the strip. Using your sewing machine, zig-zag stich along both long edges of the strip. DO NOT use the backstitch feature on your machine! Simply start and stop your stitching, leaving longish tails of thread. Feel free to play with the zig-zag settings to make the stitches wider or narrower, closer together, etc. You can get a ton of different looks with just this one utility stitch. You can also match your thread color to the card and patterned paper, but if I'm doing a bunch of cards, I usually just use an off-white color that goes with most anything. If you don't have a sewing machine, you can adhere the strip onto the card in the usual way and then use rub-on or stamped stitches, or leave off the stitches and ink the edges of the strip instead. But I love the way real stitching looks on paper, as it adds an additional bit of texture and makes the card a little bit more special.

Turn the card over and pull both ends of the thread through to the back (a seam ripper is good for this task) and tape them down with a small piece of regular tape. Alternatively, you can simply cut the thread ends close to your stitching for a more shabby, homemade look. You can add a "thank you" sentiment using any number of resources. In the cards pictured, I used "thank you" stickers that I found in the card making section at Michael's. There were a billion different colors and fonts in the package, and I figured they'd match about anything. Using a Quickutz circle die or a punch, cut a circle just a little bigger than the sticker from scrap cardstock, ink the edges, and stick the sticker in the middle. Adhere it to the card, close to one of the edges, using a pop-dot. Instead of using stickers, you could run the strips of paper through your printer (you'd have to do this before you adhere them to the card fronts) using a cute font for the "thank you," or you could use stamps or rub-ons, either applied to a separate scrap of cardstock or not. Finish the card with a small embellishment, such as a Prima or other paper flower in a coordinating color with a mini-brad through the center. (Making cards for a teen girl or fashionista type? Use fake jewels as the flower centers.) Using different colors of cards, stickers, flowers and brads, you can get many different looks from the same supplies.

The card on the right is made the same way as the other cards, except that the strip was cut from plain cardstock and adhered onto a printed card front. If placed on the card front vertically, the strip should be cut 4-1/2" x 1-1/2" and sometimes a wider strip, say 2", looks even better. The only other difference is that instead of mounting the thank you sticker onto a circle of cardstock, I used a 7 Gypsies stamp and stamped onto the card front, then positioned the sticker inside the stamped image. On the pictured card, I added two flowers rather than one for a little extra oomph.

For gift-giving,
I usually make sets of 12 cards, with each one just slightly different than the others. Sometimes I'll use only two colors of card fronts, but lots of different patterned papers, and other times, I'll use all different colors of card fronts but use the same or coordinating patterned papers. And, of course, these don't have to be "thank you" cards. They could just as easily be "thinking of you" or "hi there" cards. Because the expectation with these kinds of cards is that the recipient will write inside the card when they actually use it, I don't stamp a sentiment on the inside, but you certainly could if you wanted to. I like to make sets of cards look finished by stacking them up and tying them together, envelopes in the back, with a length of pretty sheer ribbon tied into a bow.

So, the next time your scrap drawer threatens to get the better of you, take an hour and use some of those scraps to make a batch of "thank you" cards or note cards, either to use yourself or to give away as a gift.

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