Collecting Paper for Projects Can Pay Off

October 9, 2015 7 min read

Do you have a collection of recycled paper bags or empty juice cartons alongside your wine collection? Jodi Levine considers it a valuable addition. The "lifelong crafter," who spent 19 years on Martha Stewart's staff as craft editor at Martha Stewart Living magazine, editorial director at Martha Stewart Kids magazine and product designer for Stewart's popular line of crafts, notes in her book "Paper Goods Projects" that "collecting paper goods, like bags, plates, and doilies, and searching the aisles of supermarkets and hardware and variety stores for supplies to use for craft projects have been lifelong passions of mine."

Levine shows both kids and adults how to create masterpieces out of coffee filters, doilies, cupcake wrappers, bags and other paper products. Exotic masks are fashioned, for instance, out of paper plates, cone-shaped hand-painted party hats out of supermarket paper bags and fancy gift wrap toppers cut and pasted from doilies.

If "cut and paste" is a term you know based only on your experiences with computer software programs from the last few decades, like Levine, you just may revel in this more old-fashioned hands-on hobby.

Whenever I look up from my own giftwrap and ribbon scrap collection, which has been hidden in my kitchen pantry and has creatively saved such expenses for years, I've since noticed other signs of the recycled paper craft retro revolution. I dare you not to choke up at two recent television commercials.

The first has a neighbor narrating, showing a small boy throwing paper airplanes in his backyard with notes to his soldier father shown to be stationed in battle. The neighbor then through paper magic (and contacting the father) makes it appear to the son that paper airplanes with notes from the father are coming back to him over the fence. Undoubtedly sensing that recycled paper needed a push in these computerized antiseptic times, the tearjerker was courtesy of a trade group for paper goods and wrapping.

Next in a series of commercials, Georgia-Pacific's Dixie paper goods brand, which interestingly now has a link on the website to their "sustainability" site as well, introduced their slogan, shown in the middle of a paper plate: "Dixie: Be More Here." A memorable one features a family eating what appears to be a hearty Italian meal from paper plates, bowls and cups, possibly around a Sunday dinner table, laughing and talking while the text on screen notes, "Focus on what matters, not the dishes. Dixie. Be More Here."

In addition, perhaps as an aid to families who have been busy texting during dinnertime, the 90-year-old Dixie brand, which notes that it gained prominence with the emergence of the Baby Boom generation, even has meal "conversation starters" below the sample video of its commercial on its website. There are even sweet seasonal starters: "Would you rather get lost at an apple orchard or a pumpkin patch?"

Kids, on the other hand, may find themselves lost in preparing a few of the old-fashioned paper crafts also features, like the colorful multiple jellyfish streamer mobile one below. Its instructive introduction reveals that jellyfish can vary from sizes "smaller than a pinhead to larger than a human being."


—Multiple colors of paper streamers

—Paper soup bowls

—Adhesive, such as white glue, stapler or tape

—Construction paper

—Wire or string

—Use adult supervision for each step.

To create the jellyfish's head, scrunch paper streamers and wind around the outside of a paper soup bowl. Attach with adhesive such as glue, a stapler or tape. Create "googly" eyes out of construction paper and attach to streamer-wrapped bowl with adhesive.

To create the jellyfish's tentacles, cut strips of streamers of varying lengths. Adhere the tentacle strips to the inside of the bowl, being sure to distribute evenly. Scrunch and crumble the tentacle strips to create a rippling texture. Gently shake the tentacle streamers free from one another so that they hang loosely (if you pull too hard it will rip.)

Using a pushpin, carefully poke a hole through the center of the bowl. Cut wire or string. Tie a knot at one end, and thread unknotted side through the hole.

If creating multiple jellyfish, hang at varying lengths to create an under the ocean feeling.


—1 cardboard or cardstock card (plus 1 more for baking, optional)

—Twine or thin string

—Waxed or scrap paper

—White glue

—Scraps of cardboard packaging cut into heart shapes (see Note)

—Markers or sticker letters for message in card

—Cut a short slit in the top two corners of one of the cards.

Cut a piece of string to your desired garland length, plus 2 inches extra. Lay your string down on top of the waxed paper, and glue the cut heart shapes onto the string, leaving 1 inch on each side of the string uncovered. Let dry.

Thread each end of the string into each slit. Glue or knot the ends of the string behind the card.

Glue the second card onto the back to cover the strings, if desired, using a very thin layer of white glue.

Add a handwritten or sticker-letter greeting.

Note: Choose colorful cardboard packaging, like from empty, washed milk or juice cartons.

-"Paper Goods Projects" by Jodi Levine


In "Citrus: Sweet & Savory Sun-Kissed Recipes," Valerie Aikman-Smith and Victoria Pearson share a not-often noted thirst-quenching tip. "You can freeze the juice [of fresh citrus fruit] for up to six months," they write. They also advise that when juicing, "first, roll the citrus fruit firmly on a work surface or squeeze it between your palms. This will bruise the interior cells that hold the juice so that it will release more easily."

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 Paper bowls help create a colorful jellyfish craft project.
Paper bowls help create a colorful jellyfish craft project.

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." To find out more about Lisa Messinger and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Paper bowls help create a colorful jellyfish craft project.

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