Not long ago I found myself in a stationary store, looking for a last minute birthday card before I made my way to the party. There was no shortage of beautiful, humorous, and creative cards to choose from, but the prices on the back of these lovely cards made me wince! If I'd been more organized, I would have had a homemade card of my own ready to go. But on this occasion, I was caught unprepared. At the end of the day my local retailer was a few dollars richer and I was a few dollars poorer.
Now a few dollars isn't much in itself, but if you multiply a few dollars by the number of friends and family members you give cards to every year, it can really start to add up. If you plan ahead and use a little creativity, you can save a lot of money by giving homemade cards instead of commercial ones. Now before you move on to the next article because a) you're not artistic, b) you think homemade cards are cheap or somehow second-rate, or c) you just don't have the time, let me say a few important things. First of all, you don't have to be artistic to make attractive greeting cards. Really. Just check out some of the simple ideas below. Secondly, your homemade cards are going to be handcrafted works of art that say you really care, not that you're cheap. Finally, while some designs can be quite time-consuming, there are also many simple, quick ideas you can use to make lovely cards. But don't be like me and leave it to the last minute. It pays to plan ahead, making your cards in advance when you have a little free time and you're in the mood to do something creative anyway.
Homemade Cards: Materials
Now, if you're trying to save money by making your own cards, spending a lot on materials is obviously self-defeating. I collect and keep the following cheap or free materials for my card-making sessions:
Discontinued wallpaper books requested from paint and home decorating stores (to be honest I bought mine for a dollar a piece at a thrift store).
Off-cuts and sample papers from a local printer.
Bits of attractive paper culled from my junk mail.
Pictures from magazines, calendars and greeting cards.
Family photographs - free doubles and the ones which didn't quite work out.
Little bits of ribbon, fabric, cotton balls, brass fasteners etc.
I also have a bulk package of good quality paper, which has lasted me for years. You can also buy poster board (poster size card stock) for just a dollar or two that you can cut up to make a number of cards.
Homemade Cards: Ideas
If you're not sure how to start, paper craft books available through the library are an excellent source of ideas. You can also borrow ideas from commercial or handcrafted cards, customizing them for your own purposes. The following list includes some things I've done or plan to do:
Potato prints of Christmas trees and stars - but any simple shape will do. Think hearts, ladybugs, sailboats, or simple flowers.
Stencils (the ones you used to decorate your kitchen) or ink stamps.
Small paper collages, attractive or humorous- I'm planning on making a birthday card for my young niece with a cutout photo of her head attached to a princess's body cut out from a recycled card. You could cut out a photo of your Aunt Eunice and paste her onto a mermaid, into a sunset scene, or among a flock of penguins.
Simple fabric or paper shapes cut out and machine sewed to the card with thread of a contrasting color - I've sewn very simple hearts for Valentine's Day and more elaborate (and time-consuming!) for Christmas.
Carefully torn shapes 'artistically' pasted to your card - I made an attractive starfish card by taking a pretty textured paper, drawing a star outline on the back, and carefully tearing it out and pasting it to the front of my card.
Simple designs punched out with a nail and then 'embroidered' with metallic thread, yarn, or ribbon. I've seen beautiful star and snowflake cards at craft shows.
A photo of the person you're sending the card to cut out and pasted on the inside, with a 'window' cut out on the front so the person's face is visible.
A nice picture or personal photo pasted to the front of the card - when I do this I layer my picture on top of a piece of contrasting paper slightly bigger than the picture and slightly smaller than the card to give the picture a frame.
Use cotton from a cotton ball to make a slightly three-dimensional snowman or sheep.
Glue on dried flowers or leaves. One year I made Christmas cards by gluing on small, flat cedar tips that looked like miniature trees. I added a gold star at the top of each tree, and glued on a few sequins for decorations.
Glue on a simple square or rectangle shape (cut out from a scrap of pretty wrapping paper) and top it with a small real ribbon bow. For a baby shower, cut out a simple outline of a rattle and glue on a ribbon of the appropriate color.
Homemade Cards: Envelopes
You can make envelopes to hold your creations using an existing envelope as a template or following the directions in a paper craft book, or you can use commercial envelopes. In the past most of my envelopes were recycled from cards that were given to our family. Many of them were left blank and were easy to use again, but I also occasionally pasted something over a name, especially if I was giving the card to a close family member who I knew wouldn't mind receiving a recycled envelope. Now most of my envelopes come from my sister-in-law. She approaches a few obliging retailers right before a holiday like Mother's Day or Easter, and asks if they'd mind saving her some of the envelopes from the cards they don't sell and plan to send back or destroy. She's received piles of free envelopes this way, in different sizes, shapes and colors. Remember that it never hurts to ask!Before you seal your creation and send it away, don't forget to add your signature or personal logo to the back of your one-of-a-kind card. Happy crafting!
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