Make an Upcycled Cardboard Leaf Garland for Autumn

upcycled cardboard leaf garland

One of my favorite recycling activities is to scrounge around the house looking for cardboard and cardstock to upcycle into holiday decorations. Heavy paper waiting to be recycled is ubiquitous around here, whether it comes from magazine covers, cereal boxes, toy packaging, junk mail, flat rate envelopes, door hangers, or any of the other thousand sources of unwanted paper in our lives.

As long as a source of cardstock or cardboard fits my color scheme (and painting counts!), I like to use it to make temporary holiday garlands to decorate those last bits of uncluttered surface in my house. Read on to see that my red Valentine heart garlands (made from Target photo processing envelopes) and my yellow and green autumn leaf garlands (made from Crayola boxes) are easy to make, and would look pretty great in your house, too:

cut shapes out of cardboard packaging

Although I do have dedicated storage space (limited, and with no overflowing allowed) for three-dimensional cardboard packaging and miscellaneous books, magazines, and pretty junk mail, all to be used for various crafting and homeschool projects, I’m also not above stealing the box from around an only half-eaten package of granola. That’s what that plastic inner bag is for!

It’s easy to find simple templates for any shape that you’d want to create by searching on the internet, using any number of die cutting machines, or just by hand-drawing something and then cutting it out.

When I lay the templates on top of my recycled cardboard, I like to keep the cardboard face-up so that I can fussy cut my shapes exactly the way that I want them, without including any distracting elements from the box.
tape the twine strand to the back of each cardboard leaf

There are several ways that you could make cardboard leaves into an autumn garland. You could punch holes in the cardboard leaves, feed twine through the holes, and knot the twine behind each hole to keep the leaves from shifting. You could put a sturdy denim or leather needle into your sewing machine and stitch the leaves to ribbon. Since the leaves are only made of cardboard, you could just make judicious use of your stapler.

I want to return these cardboard leaves to the recycling bin after the holidays are over, however, and I want to keep the twine that I’ll be using for another project, so I’m simply using masking tape to attach my twine to the back side of each cardboard leaf. This also has the advantage of positioning each leaf exactly the way that I want it in relation to the twine, so that it will hang just right.
attach adhesive Velcro to the ends of the garlandI don’t want to mark the wall where I’ll be hanging this garland, so I’m just using adhesive Velcro that I can then pull off of both surfaces later. In other places in my home, I make use of nails or hooks that may already be on the walls.

upcycled cardboard leaf garland

Each garland makes a fun little temporary installation in an otherwise bare spot in our home. The day after Thanksgiving, I’m going to start scrounging for cardboard to upcycle into a Christmas tree garland!

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