How-to: Making a Sewn Collage Card

I remember, a few birthdays ago, that I received the same card from two different friends. Had they known each other, maybe the coincidence would have been a bit funnier but, alas, it just made me think that the greeting card aisle was just a lot smaller than I originally thought.
With over 800 greeting card companies in the United States alone, one would think that choosing the perfect card might be a little easier. I think that people are supposed to pick cards because they like them. Chances are, if a card makes me laugh, it’ll do the same for the lucky person who receives it.  It’s interesting to watch people choose greeting cards. I’ve seen folks grab blindly, mumble something like “that’ll do…” and walk to the register without any further thought. I’ve overheard heated discussions between people about what seems “more appropriate” for a certain situation. Aren’t greeting cards supposed to express emotions other than resentment and obligation?  Sometimes a non-traditional card at a traditional time is a good idea.
Elementary school aside, I’ve been making handmade cards for years. Yeah, I’ve got a container marked “Stationery” with carefully chosen, store-bought cards for when I’m in a rush.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against the big companies, but the best cards are made by hand.   Ask any mom…no one ever throws away a handmade card.
It’s a simple concept: fold paper, decorate, and put in envelope.  However, the level of difficulty increases as you get older (the glued pasta buck stops at kindergarten, my friends…). My handmade cards usually feature elaborate collage or watercolor.  How do I make a card?  Well, without further adieu:

How-to: Making a Sewn Collage Card

Step 1: Pick your collage focus. I try to find something very eye-catching, lately it’s been illustrations from the early 20th century. Ask yourself: Am I going to send this card via post? If so, the envelope must be flat. If not, gather any dimensional items that you’d also like to use, like buttons, fake gems, and tiny trinkets.

Step 2: Pick your collage background. This can be anything you find that is colorful and complimentary to your visual focus. Be smart about choosing papers. Tissue paper can be a great choice but can tear easily and even bleed with certain adhesives. I sometimes come across random paper that is gorgeous but too thick or heavy for the cardstock.  Tip:  Use scans of vintage items unless you know you can part with it.

Step 3: Start choppin’. There’s no exact science to this. I just go with what feels or looks right to me. Don’t be square, cut a diagonal line! Play around with where your pieces will ultimately end up. This can happen instantly or take hours to get just right! Also, it’s okay to not use something that you had your heart set on putting in the collage. Sometimes pieces don’t fit and can be used another time.

Step 4: Start stickin’. Use something that can bond things to paper (translation: paper is porous, people!). I don’t have a preferred adhesive brand but I make sure not to skimp on my supplies. I’ve been let down more than once by the lure of a cheap glue stick. Rubber cement requires a room with great ventilation and can be a total mess. However, some genius invented the rubber cement eraser and I completely swear by them. Tacky glues can get bubbly if you are not careful. With a keen eye, make sure every centimeter of your collage is stuck and, especially when using tacky glues, press under heavy books for about an hour.  Tip:  Steer very clear of super glue and repositionable adhesives unless you feel like gluing yourself together or spouting enough expletives to make a sailor on leave blush.

Step 5: Measure. I don’t decide the orientation (horizontal and vertical) of my card until the collage is complete. You can buy blank, pre-cut cards at a craft store or cut down your own card stock. Remember, if you’re not going to make your own envelope, follow the standard paper sizes. Measure your collage against your card, trim if necessary, and glue. Press under heavy books for yet another about an hour.

Step 6: Sew. Once your card is freed from the press (let’s hope it talked the second time around…), pick some thread in a contrasting color. It will stand out from your collage and add a touch that people rarely see on a card. Set up your sewing machine and have at it.  Jargon: You’re going to want the feeder under the foot to pull the paper. Make circles, use patterns, whatever you like. Sewing paper is kinda cool. Remember: sewing paper will also dull your needle and you’ll need a new one for when you go back to sewing fabric. Tip: Match your bobbin thread to the color of your cardstock.

Step 7: Finish! Pick an envelope, write what you want inside, and voila! You now have the most beautiful handmade card in the world and absolutely zero chance of that special someone getting the same exact card from another person.


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