16 February 2013

5 Easy Crafts that Use Scrap Paper!

Have you ever looked at a craft project and thought you'd like to try it, only to discover you need a zillion special supplies (I know I have, and I've often given in and gone and bought them!)? It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and challenge of a new craft, the finished product always looks so pretty or useful or cute or just plain attractive. And trips to the craft store can be fun, I love nothing better than browsing in Spotlight or Lincraft or Theo's (our local crafters heaven) but they can also be time-consuming and expensive, especially if you decide after you've spent all that money on supplied that you really don't like that craft at all!

The best crafts are the ones that don't cost a fortune (obviously!), the ones where you use materials and tools you already have, just like these scrap paper crafts. Every home has scrap paper. It can't be avoided - it comes in the letterbox, it comes in the mail, it comes home from school - for a paperless society we sure do generate a lot of scrap paper.

Using those scraps for crafting is one way of making sure it is properly used up before going to landfill.

Here are five craft ideas using scrap paper and tools you'll have in the house, you won't need to buy a thing. They are all simple enough for little kids to do, yet sophisticated enough for you too. They can be simple and sweet or amazing enough to use as gifts. That's the beauty of crafting - the end result is up to you.


Sometimes called paper filigree, you can achieve an amazing and detailed look with scrap paper. The principle is simple: wind thin strips of paper (1/16 to 1/8-inch wide strips) tightly around a thin tool or toothpick. Remove and shape with the fingers into flowers, hearts, vines, etc.

I first heard about quilling at CWA over 20 years ago (thanks Anne) and I've loved it ever since. It is so easy, even if you're not crafty you can quill. I love that it uses tiny amounts of paper, it's perfect for using up those scrapbooking leftovers. Just cut your strips into different widths and lengths, wind and pinch. You can buy a quilling tool for just a couple of dollars, or make one if you're clever. You can also buy quilling strips, but they get pricey. Start with making your own, if you decide you love it and you're going to quill for years then you can move on to the more expensive paper strips.

I use quilling mostly on greeting cards (birthday, Christmas, new baby etc.) but it also adds a little "wow" to gift cards too.

Papier Mache

Who hasn't covered a balloon in wet newspaper dipped in flour and water paste to make a papier mache ball? I think it's standard craft fare in most primary schools. But you don't need to stop there (although it does make wonderful pinatas - there's a fun example in the April 2009 Journal).

Dip newspapers torn into strips into a thin flour and water paste (mix 1 cup plain flour with 1/2 cup water and 1/8th teaspoon of salt - the salt stops the glue going mouldy once it's dry). Layer them over a mould (a balloon or an upside down ice-cream container or take-away container etc.) and allow to dry. Then sand smooth (if you like), paint, and decorate!

Paper Chains

Colourful magazines and even junk mail make great "links" for a paper chain. Cut into strips, link as rings, and make the chain as long as you like.

Pre-schoolers love to make paper chains and the cutting, glueing and folding are good for their dexterity.

Go with a theme for a special party - just newspaper chains for a black and white party, or use just the red pages from magazines for a red theme, or use that saved Christmas wrapping to make next year's decorations, ditto birthday paper. If you are going to use wrapping papers you may as well make sure they are well used.

We use paper chains to decorate for birthday parties and Christmas, barbecues and well just about any celebration at all and they always look amazing. They may be a little on the old fashioned side when it comes to 21st century party décor but add in some colourful balloons and they just shout "celebration" without the cost of that 21st century party décor - true Cheapskates style decorating.


My mother-in-law Pat created some beautiful decoupage. All her grandchildren have a footstool that she made and personalized for them, with photos and images starting with the day they were born up until she gave them their stools. AJ, Tom and Hannah love their stools and all three of them still have them in their rooms. They also have bag tags she made for their school bags when they started in Prep, with their name and a picture of their favourite thing at the time on it. And they have (or will when the time comes) beautiful little wooden chests, decorated just for them, for their 21st birthdays.

Decoupage is basically just cutting out pictures and layering and glueing them into a design, then covering the whole lot with varnish. Traditionally there would be up to 20 layers of varnish, all sanded before the next layer was applied, to create a glass-like finish.

These days it is much easier, only one or two layers of the finish are applied and no sanding! It makes finishing the item much faster and the end result is just as beautiful.

Cut out pictures and designs from magazines, pamphlets, or even wrapping paper. Then turn the cut-out over, scrape the edges thin from underneath (you can use a craft knife for this) and coat the back of the picture with decoupage medium. Carefully glue the design to the object (lamps, boxes, picture frames, table tops, etc.). Use a paintbrush to smooth and cover with more decoupage medium.

Paper Beads

To make paper beads, follow the method for quilling - except coat the paper strip with decoupage medium before you wrap it (leaving about 1/4 inch decoupage-free at the beginning so you can slip it off the toothpick when finished) and wrap at a slight angle. Add a dab of glue or decoupage medium to secure the end. If you like, paint the paper before cutting it into strips.

There are some beautiful jewellery pieces made from paper beads, and they are very pricey. Use old magazines to get multi-coloured beads and different types of paper and card for texture.  For inspiration visit Pinterest, there are some beautiful ideas there to inspire you. 

If you try all of these crafts you'll at the very least get through your scrap paper stash, and hopefully in the process you'll find a craft you love and make some beautiful things for your home (or to give as gifts).

I'm off to work on some cards - talking about quilling has made my fingers itch to start rolling strips of paper!

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