Ultimate Guide to Recycled Wallpaper Crafts

Wallpaper isn’t just for your walls. With a little crafting know how, you can make book covers, greeting cards and decorative folders.
Wallpaper isn’t just for your walls. With a little crafting know how, you can make book covers, greeting cards and decorative folders.
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You just purchased a new home. You fell in love with the master bedroom because of the wallpaper. The pattern is the perfect style and color to match your personality. But upon inspection of the basement, you find something you weren't expecting -- a whole lot more of that fancy wallpaper. It's way too much to keep in storage, but you don't want to throw it away. Luckily, there are plenty of crafts to make from recycled wallpaper.

If you haven't lucked into a secret bounty of old wall paper, there are still ways to find your own stash. You can find beautiful colors and patterns for your paper crafts while doing your part to help the environment.

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Here are a few ways to obtain wallpaper:

  • Wallpaper sample books -- Go to a store that sells wallpaper and ask for extra or old sample books. Since wallpaper can become discontinued, you should be able to get free sample books or clearance wallpaper swatches.
  • Your neighborhood handy person - Locate a local person who paints houses and installs wallpaper and ask for any leftovers.
  • Online ads -- Look at "for sale" or "free" listings on Craigslist. Many people don't want to toss their old wallpaper scraps and are willing to give them away for free or sell them for a few dollars.
  • Friends and family -- Send out an e-mail to everyone you know. Ask if they have any extra wallpaper scraps, and offer to come and pick them up.

Now that you have material to work with, what should you make? In this article, we'll tell you how to make book covers, pocket folders, picture frames and greeting cards all from old wallpaper. Read on to get started with book covers.

Recycled Wallpaper Book Covers

There are many reasons to cover a book. Perhaps you're using the books for school and want to be able to resell them for a good price. Or you're embarrassed to be reading that saucy romance novel. It's OK -- you can cover it.

To make a wallpaper book cover, you'll need wallpaper, scissors, a butter knife or bone folder, and the book you want to cover.

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If you are covering a journal or something that does not need a removable cover, the process is relatively easy and any book covering directions can be adapted to make use of wallpaper [source: Moonstiches]. Measure the paper to match the book while it is closed, spray it with adhesive glue (this comes in a can), and press it onto the book.

For a removable cover, you don't need spray adhesive. Instead, follow these instructions:

  1. Open the book and place it on the wallpaper. Measure roughly 1 inch (2.54 cm) from the top and bottom of the book and cut.
  2. With the book still on the paper, fold the top and bottom and run the butter knife along the edge to "mark" where the edges are. Remove the book and fold the wallpaper top and bottom, pushing hard with your butter knife to get sharp creases.
  3. Close the book and pull the wallpaper over the entire cover. From the opening of the book cover edges, measure out roughly 2 inches (5.08 cm) of extra material. Cut the spare paper off. Mark the edges of the book with your knife, and make sharp creases. Remove the book and fold the edges in (think of a hardcover book jacket), and rub with the butter knife.
  4. Now that the cover is ready, you can place it on the book. This will involve a little work to get it on perfectly, so don't be discouraged. Start by sliding one side of the cover into the little sleeve you've created on one side. Then open the book and work the other side of the cover into the other side. Close the book, and make adjustments based on any bumps or misfolds. Then run along the edges with your knife to get the book in place.

Now that you have a feel for working with the wallpaper, let's get fancier. Read on to learn about recycled wallpaper pocket folders.

Recycled Wallpaper Pocket Folders

Pocket folders are handy items for school, work or household filing systems. But they can be so incredibly boring when they're all one color. Why not spice them up with some recycled wallpaper?

For this craft, you'll need:

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  • Wallpaper
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive glue
  • A butter knife or bone folder
  • Cardstock
  • Stapler
  • Existing pocket folders (optional)

You can decorate the folders you already have by gluing the wallpaper to the folder. You will need to remember to measure your folds and mark them while the folder is closed to ensure a proper fit. While gluing, start with one side of the folder and work your way to the other one to eliminate bubbles or creases.

To make a folder from scratch, you will want the pocket folder to be bigger than a standard sheet of printer paper, so cut a piece of cardstock (or extra sturdy wallpaper) that is 16 inches by 19 inches (40.6 cm by 48.3).

Fold the cardstock in half and make a sharp crease. Open the folder back up and fold the bottom 4 inches (10.16 cm) up to make the pockets. Then unfold the bottom and cut it along the center line. Starting from the cut on the bottom, fold the inner bottoms inward to make small triangles. Cut off this extra material, so that when you fold the pockets up, they won't bunch in the middle. Be careful not to cut off too much because you need the pocket to be able to hold paper and other items [source: Peachpit].

Now that you have the basic template, measure your wallpaper around the folder. Be sure to mark where to cut when it is folded together. Open up the entire folder, and glue the wallpaper to the cardstock. Then fold up the pockets and staple them in place along the very edges. If you are confident in your glue, you can try to glue the pockets in place.

Tired of boring wall art? Read on to learn about recycled wallpaper picture frame backings.

Recycled Wall Paper and Picture Frame Backings

Fine art can be extremely expensive. But a plain, bare wall in your living room will not earn you any admirers. One easy way to decorate the room is to frame recycled wallpaper. Begin by looking for various textures and colors that will complement each other -- along with complementing the color scheme of your room. Once you have a variety of designs, you can get started on this easy project.

For this project, you'll need wallpaper, scissors, picture frames, adhesive glue, a pencil, a measuring tape, a yardstick, some picture hangers or small nails and a hammer. Once you've gathered your materials, it's now time to channel your inner Martha Stewart. If you just want to make one or two frames, you can skip this part of the project. But if you really want to take up a decent amount of space, it's important to prepare. Lay the wallpaper and frames out on the floor. Try turning the frames so that some are vertical and some are horizontal. Play around with the shapes until you find a combination that suits the wall space. Then lay the paper over the frames to see which colors and patterns look best in the design.

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Then, one-by-one, and maintaining your layout, open each picture frame and remove any backing. Usually, picture frames come with a piece of paper that already has a fake photo on it. Keep this paper. If there is cardboard that takes up the whole frame, use the cardboard instead.

Measure your wallpaper to fit the fake photo or cardboard and cut. Then you can either place the wallpaper into the frame and close it or glue the wallpaper to the fake photo or cardboard before closing.

Now, paying attention to your layout, use the pencil, measuring tape and yardstick to mark off where you need to hang each frame on the wall to achieve your design. Grab the picture hangers or nails and the hammer and hang the frames on the wall. Stand back and admire your lovely new wall decoration.

The crafts discussed so far involve slightly larger wallpaper swatches. But if you don't have much to work with, there's still one final craft for you. Read on to learn about recycled wallpaper greeting cards.

Recycled Wallpaper Greeting Cards

When did greeting cards become so expensive? These days, you can spend up to $10 buying a card with plenty of bells, whistles and decorations involved. In the United States, we're exchanging 7 billion greeting cards each year [source: Greeting Card Association]. Think of the cost -- not only on your wallet, but on the environment, for so many cards get thrown away at the end of a party or event.

Instead of purchasing new greeting cards, why not make your own using old wallpaper swatches? There are two good ways to make recycled wallpaper greeting cards.

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Gather these materials first:

  • Wallpaper
  • Cardstock
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive Glue
  • Utility knife (optional)

For a basic card, measure the card stock for the size and shape you want for the final product. The post office may charge extra postage for unusual shapes, but you can check the postal service online to see if your size falls into the standard measurements [source: USPS] Then fold the card in half. Fold the wallpaper over the card to measure and cut, then glue the wallpaper to the card. You can also glue wallpaper to the inside of the card. If the paper is design-heavy, you can glue a small square of plain cardstock over the inner design for your message.

For a more intricate, window bearing card, measure your cardstock so that it has two folds and unfolds into thirds. Cut a small window in the center portion with your utility knife. Then, cut a square of wallpaper that is slightly larger than the hole and glue the wallpaper to the edges of the square. Fold the first third of the card back over, so it's covering the inside of the wallpaper on the center portion. Glue in place. Now you have a finished card with pretty wallpaper in the front window [source: Martha Stewart].

These crafts give you solid examples of what you can do with recycled wallpaper, but there are endless opportunities to use it in other ways. Now that you have a feel for the projects, you are sure to see hidden wallpaper craft possibilities everywhere you look.

To learn more, visit the links on the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Links

Sources

  • Carter, Maureen. "Make your own book covers." DIY Life. July 31, 2007. (Accessed 04/10/2009). http://www.diylife.com/2007/07/31/make-your-own-book-covers/
  • Greeting Card Association. "About Greeting Cards." (Accessed 04/10/09)http://www.greetingcard.org/about.php
  • Lundeen, Nan. "EPA tightens requirements for Energy Star computer monitors, picture frames." 04/09/09. (Accessed 04/10/09)http://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20090409/NEWS01/90409014/1004/NEWS01
  • Martha Stewart. "Peekaboo Gift Card." (Accessed 04/10/09)http://www.marthastewart.com/good-things/peekaboo-gift-card?backto=true
  • Moonstiches. "Book Cover Tutorial." (Accessed 04/10/2009). http://moonstitches.typepad.com/photos/book_cover/index.html
  • MSNBC. "Cash for trash: Reuse stores make use of refuse." 03/13/09. (Accessed 04/10/09)http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29664783/
  • Peachpit. "Moving Beyond Two Dimensions." 11/13/06. (Accessed 04/10/09)http://www.peachpit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=674202&seqNum=5
  • The Economist. "Trading Licks: Will newspapers grab consumers by the tongue?" 04/08/09. (Accessed 04/10/09)http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13446612
  • The Future of Things. "Light-Emitting Wallpaper." 11/13/07. (Accessed 04/10/09)http://thefutureofthings.com/pod/1046/light-emitting-wallpaper.html
  • USPS. "Postage Rate Calculator: Domestic and International Postage Prices." (Accessed 04/10/09)http://postcalc.usps.gov/