Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cut Paper Christmas

I'm not sure why, but I always have urges to do cut paper crafts at Christmas (which is why the floors are always covered in tiny scraps at the holidays).

The two paper cuts above were leftovers from a flurry I cut one year to decorate packages. They're basically just the snowflake idea. I precut thin paper (these were origami paper) into a circle, folded it in half (right sides together), in half again, and then into thirds and then cut patterns out freehand. There are a few simple tips that may help you make especially intricate ones: first, do the folding carefully and press the creases well (you can even iron them). Second, have a mixture of large cut away areas and others that are narrow and repeating. Be sure to use very sharp scissors; I use embroidery scissors. (Though check out these amazing Polish paper cuts that were traditionally made with sheep shears!) Finally, take care not to tear delicate areas when you unfold them. (Small tears can be repaired by gluing narrow support pieces to the back of the paper cut.) I always iron my finished piece flat.

The paper cut above was done by my oldest son when he was almost 10, and the similar one below was cut when he was not quite 5. You can see he gained a lot of skill in the years between. In both cases, I folded a piece of paper for him (right sides together) and drew one image onto the wrong side, making sure I had an area of join along the fold. By 10 he was able to cut the design out pretty accurately by himself. I showed him how to trim the excess paper close to the drawn lines and then to cut into tight areas, removing sections at a time, rather than trying to cut along the whole perimeter. When he was younger, I held the paper and rotated it for him as he snipped (mouth open - why do kids do that when they cut with scissors?). Even so, he accidentally snipped off the antlers, but they're cute fawns or does anyway.

Other tips to help young cutters: First, work moderately large and minimize the number of curves or delicate stand-alone areas. Also, use a moderately heavy paper, like old paper bags (below) or coated silhouette paper (above). Cardstock is usually too heavy for folded designs - takes a lot of hand strength - and thin papers flop too much, becoming frustrating.
The teddy bear below was by my daughter when she was going on 6. She had better fine motor skills than my son did around that age, and she was able to cut the bear on her own, though I recall cutting out and gluing in place the eyeballs and nose/mouth pieces.
Can't recall which kid did the penguins below, but they were accordian-folded, like the strings of paper dolls.
The tree below was our Christmas card one year. Last year I made up a page of smaller images to use as gift tags, and meant to post them as a printable pdf - but apparently I never did. I'll see if I can hunt it down and put it up tonight. I made the ornaments with handheld punches while the design was still folded in half.

Hm. I just thought of one thing that has probably prompted my Christmas paper cut connection: these Danish paper cuts. I bought these at a little shop at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware many years ago. (Sorry the photo is blurry.)
The top red one I hung the Christmas after I got it. Then I decided I could leave it up until Valentine's Day, because of the heart theme. Then I decided I could leave it up all year because of the kitchen/cooking theme. Then it faded to almost white...
I was about to throw it away when I realized I could just paint it red again, so I did! I think it's even brighter now than when it was new.
If all those paper cuts sound too complicated for you or your kid, you could make something like these trees instead, which are crafted entirely from recycled materials (from left: newspaper, greenish magazine and catalog pages, and someone's old physic's homework. The stars are from a Triscuits box and the papers are just taped to cones I made by twisting - and sometimes stacking - and taping together subscription cards from magazines. I stuffed extra recycled paper inside the cones to weight them and make them stand better).

To make these, cut long strips of paper, fold them in half, right sides together. Mark a line to cut to, and use your scissors to cut fringye-y "bites" up to the line. For younger kids, cut the strips over-wide, so there's less chance they'll cut all the way through, and stretch the paper taut by taping it between two chairs; you can trim the paper near the fringe afterward. Start attaching the strips of fringe near the bottom of your cone in a spiral, anchoring it frequently with small pieces of masking tape. You can make a little extra piece taped into a cone for a nice pointy top, and tape a star on to hide any lopsided parts.

I used these for a centerpiece at a party last year, and several people asked me where I bought them - they really come out looking nice.


crzylady said...

love the shaggy paper trees! the paper cutting is beautiful but looks a bit too intricate for me ;) Definitely storing away the tree idea, however, for next year's gifty ideas!

Julie Stiegemeyer - Copyright 2009 said...

Carol - these are beautiful! Love your kids' contributions too. :) Missing you loads...

Susan Chapek said...

Was browsing and lingered to read this lovely article because this year I have had the urge to cut paper for Christmas decorations, myself--only what I have been thinking about is making paper chains. Not quite as elaborate.(And I haven't yet found the time even to do that.)