10 Junk Altered Autumn Cards

Old lace, fabric scraps (including the seams that are of no use as dust cloths!), old buttons, belt buckles, bottle caps, corn husks, candy wrappers, old keys and broken jewelery pieces…

When most people do a cleaning purge such items go the trash.  With me they go on cards.

I recently took the opportunity to get a jump on my holiday (Thanksgiving/Christmas) cards.   Boy I  had fun!

I’m getting a lot more confident in my multi-material play at the same time.

And since the cards frequently include something more, I pulled out to include with my cousin’s card this antique autograph book that belonged to our  Grandma.



I enjoy the benefits of the internet as much as the next guy. But I swoon over hand-written cards  and letters.

I don’t receive a lot these days, but here’s a sample of what my family and friends can look for in their mailboxes over the next few weeks.













vintage charm button 2


DIY Junk Thanksgiving Cards

My American cousins have an extra month to get ready, but Thanksgiving is just around the corner for us Canadians (2nd Sunday in October for all of you who are planning to share with me YOUR handmade Thanksgiving cards.

But most importantly, make them to share with your family and real life friends. I promise you, homemade cards are transformative.  You’ll be (pleasantly) embarrassed by the fuss you will receive.

Especially if you do what I do and make each card especially for the person you are giving it to.

Here are some examples:

The card above is for Mrs. Choi. Until she retired, she ran a coffee shop where my Uncle (often) and I (occasionally) had breakfast.

Currently, a couple of times a month, she hangs on my Uncle’s apartment door a grocery bag containing a home cooked meal. I am very thankful for her many acts of kindness and caring.

These dried berries were picked from the bush in front of her former restaurant.

The blue and white checked fabric is from a tea towel she gave me in her restaurant to wrap my hand. My dog had just died and I was distracted and cut myself. She gave me the towel (told me to keep it) and held me while I cried.  I’m embarrassed it has taken me so long to return this scrap of gratitude.

A month or so ago a local antique picker and dear friend sold my Uncle a couple of antique apothecary bottles.  My Uncle is almost 80 and should have retired some time ago, but he can’t give up the people. He’s not making much money as an auctioneer, and John gives him great deals.

One of the apothecary bottles was cracked (which was reflected in the price, of course) and as we were unpacking the van, my Uncle started to tell me to throw it out… then, to just take it (watch for it – it’s going to be a Christmas project). He’s also the friend who gave me some antique tins. But I took the label off and saved it for this card, to let John know how much I appreciate his sweetness.

I don’t buy corn husks unless hell freezes over – or I forgot to dry my own.  This patch is from fabulous Chilliwack Corn (Jubilee!) consumed 2 weeks ago.

This card is for my baby brother (who keeps telling me “52 is not a baby”). We lost touch for too many years and I take every opportunity to tell him how grateful I am to have him back in my life.

There is nothing about the makings of the card related to him – except me. And the fact that we grew up in what was a rural village.

The centre is (blush) candy wrappers. My embarrassment stems not only from how  bad the sugar is for me, but the wrappers are not recyclable in the area where I live. Pure landfill fill… so I’m on a mission to find things to do that keep them from the dump and hopefully burn off a couple of calories. Also the bottom ruffle on John’s card.

MANY more cards to come — because I have so much to be grateful for.

Although I’ll never top last year’s Thanksgiving post – my most popular post to date


vintage charm button 2




Altered Card Tutorial

When I posted my Adventures in Altered Cards and Books I was asked to provide some “how to”.  So here we go.

You know those drug commercials on tv that say “people with addictions may be at risk for abusing this drug”?

I think it is only responsible of me to offer a similar warning: if you have ever looked around your studio (which tends to become your entire home) and thought you were one pallet shy of being a full-fledged hoarder approach the making of altered cards and journals with caution.

They are wildly addictive. They are soooo fun to make, and because there is no template they provide a great opportunity to explore the depth of your creativity.

The best part is the reaction you will get from loved ones. In these days of email, texting and facebook messaging, receiving a card in the mail is special. Receiving a handmade work of art blows people away.

These cards don’t get thrown away once they’ve served their purpose. And that is a good place to start.

I use old cards – of every shape and size. Because I do a lot of these, I need a lot of cards so I ask close friends and family members to give me their cards that would otherwise get chucked. I’ll explain in a minute how to deal with the written messages in used cards.

I keep an old cookie tin on top of my filing cabinet and throw old cards in there until I’m ready to use them. It’s ideal to have a variety of sizes (you may have a piece of fabric or scrapbook paper that you know a particular friend would love and it’s great if you have a card that will fit it. But of course you can also use any cardstock or lightweight cardboard like cereal boxes to make a base card.

I begin by gathering together a bundle of materials I plan to use. Fabric, ribbon, buttons, vintage paper, bits of jewellery & other embellishments.

The last card I made included a fabulous piece of rust that I had been saving for months. Inspiration for a card can come from anywhere. Answer that knocking.


I lay the card out on its back (several cards in a row for large-scale card-giving occasions like Christmas and Valentines).

Then I paint the interior with homemade white or cream chalk paint (2/3 paint, 1/3 plaster of paris). It covers any writing and gives a sumptuous texture to the interior. Allow it to dry completely.

Next I apply a generous coat of modge podge (fabric glue works great, too) to the entire outside of the card, being sure to apply right to the edges and corners.



While the modge podge is still wet lay it onto the fabric you want to use as base. You can see here how I worked with 2 cards – if you have a lot of cards to make, it is most efficient to do them in small batches.

NOTE: lay the card on the backside (i.e. lighter) of the fabric so the best side will be the visible base of your card)

almacardtutorial5  Let it dry thoroughly.

Then I use scissors (the sharper the better) and cut to the edge of each card.


I feel like a hypocrite saying that: I own about 10 pairs of scissors and not one of them is sharp. Inexcusable. I live 2  blocks from a professional blade sharpener.  I tell myself I love the ragged edge, but you can see the result of using dull scissors.


Then the real fun begins. I start playing with layers.


I’ve made lovely cards with only 2 layers and those with as many as 9 or 10 layers.

Again, I use a range of adhesives: hot glue, modge podge (commercial and homemade) and fabric glue.  They all work pretty much equally on fabric, but you may need something stronger (like E6000) for heavier embellishments.



On this card I have 8 levels including the dried roses (real – from my garden – not silk)


I hope my cousin Alma likes it.

A final caution: if you find you love making altered cards like I do, try to resist the urge to prolong greeting hugs so you can rub your friend’s shirt fabric between your fingers.  And most of all, try to resist checking out buttons on your friends’ clothing.  You may have to explain if a person you are talking to crosses their arms and gives you a dirty look.



Altered Card Canada’s Parliament Building


I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use this gold maple leaf lapel pin that I got at an estate sale.

An old friend I lost touch with – crazily because it is someone who was precious to me – just got a major career promotion within the Canadian government.

As AiJ readers may know, I love making altered cards. But I’m nervous about sending this one. Not everyone shares the same artistic taste.

My favorite feature is the piece of rust I used as a harvest moon behind the corrugated cardboard hand torn silhouette of the center block of Canada’s Parliament Buildings.

Would you feel really special if someone sent you a hunk of rust and fabric fragments?

Fingers crossed!


For the first time I also altered the envelope. The base of the card was fabric from a pillow sham that came with a Movie blanket (one I bought specifically for the sofa) and never had use for the pillow sham. I cut a piece of the edging and attached it to the envelope with a vintage button.

It can’t go in the mail like this: Canada Post sorting machines rip embellished envelopes. But I will be sending this expedited mail, so Canada Post will put it into one of their expedited mail cardboard envelopes.