Stash Buster’s Tutorial: Pretty Paper Chains

Paper ChainsYay for Stash Busting Month! I am a flawed human being, so I will not lie and tell you that I’ve purchased no craft supplies this month (tally so far: four foam core mats to craft into picture frames; six fat quarters for an I Spy quilt; and some stickers for the kids, because I can’t resist those kids), but I have been putting special emphasis on crafting with the stuff that I already have.

I suggested to my girls that we make paper chains one chilly afternoon purely as a time-killer, but frankly, we’re now addicted. The trick to making beautiful paper chains that can function as a whimsical party decoration or a surprisingly sophisticated element of home decor, is the choice of paper. DON’T use your kids’ crap construction paper for these. DO drag out your stash scrapbook paper, or cut up some old books or catalogs, or use anything else you can find, as long as it is awesome. Here’s how:

You will need:

  • AWESOME paper. Try scrapbook paper, origami paper, wrapping paper, newspaper, catalogs, old books, kids’ artwork (with their permission), comic books, last year’s calendar, canceled checks, unneeded paperwork, etc.
  • Glue stick. Yeah, there are way better glues out there, but the glue stick is the easiest and most efficient. If you don’t buy glue sticks on principle (they are chock-FULL of plastic), then plain white glue is fine, but will dry more slowly, so alter your time frame for construction accordingly.
  • Something to cut your paper with. The most efficient choice is a paper slicer. Nearly as quick is a self-healing gridded cutting mat, clear plastic gridded ruler, and rotary cutter. Scissors will work, but they’re super slow, and it’s not as easy to be precise with them, and you WANT precision. Remember, we’re going for awesome here, not kindergarten.

Before you begin, spend some time thinking about design. Design and paper choice are really what brings this project to the next level. For instance, for my three-year-old’s upcoming rainbow-themed birthday party, she and I made a 40-foot length of paper chain in rainbow colors, in rainbow order. It’s gorgeous. In my living room, up near the ceiling on one wall, I swagged the entire distance with a paper chain done entirely in scrapbook papers in blue tones. And in my free time, while I watch old episodes of Supernatural on DVD, I’m currently working on paper chains made entirely of vintage dictionary pages, or old comic books, to stock in my Etsy shop.

To make your awesome paper chains:

1. Cut your paper into perfectly uniform strips. For thinner papers or for a pretty stiff chain done with thicker paper, cut your strips 2″ wide by 4″ long. For thicker papers, or a chain with looser links, cut them more like 1″ wide by 6″ long.

2. Put glue on one end of your first strip, and shape into a complete circle. This is the first link in your chain.

3. For every other link in your chain, put glue on one end of the strip, pass the strip through the last link in the chain, and then form it into a complete circle.

To make a long chain to cover a specific length, you can make, say, 18 inches of chain, then count the number of links that it took to make that chain, and multiply to figure out the number of strips you’ll need to cut for your entire chain. The overall length that you’ll need depends on how you want your finished chain to drape. A chain with small swags will need to be about double, or a little more, the length of the distance you want to cover. A chain with large swags will need to be at least triple that length.

The possibilities are endless and the results are fabulous. Where do you plan on using your paper chains?

5 thoughts on “Stash Buster’s Tutorial: Pretty Paper Chains”

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