Monday, May 10, 2010

DIY Gifting- Handmade Seed Cards

In honor of Mother's Day, albeit this post is going up a day late, I give you handmade seed cards. What better way to show mom you care than by giving her a ready to plant bouquet of her favorite flowers in a card that you've made just for her? These cards are also fantastic to use for any other occasion, birthdays, holidays, thinking of name it. The real beauty of this project is that it really can be done at any age. Little ones should have an adult help, but even they can make a card themselves.

My friend Lea had asked me if I knew how to make these, as she wanted to make some for her clients. Of course, I was more than happy to help her out- since I used to make papers in my fibers classes and always thought it was a lot of fun.

Required Hardware/Software:

Blender - I have one that is specifically for crafting in case I either break it or put something in it I wouldn't really want to come in contact with my food.
Large, flat-bottomed basin- I use an inexpensive cat litter box that you can pick up at the dollar store
Assorted paper- White printer paper from your recycle bin, paper towels, construction paper in various colors, scraps of cardstock, whatever you've got on hand. Newspaper will work, but the ink in it makes for a gray, rather unpretty final result. I suggest paper that's not printed.
Screen- I used the aluminum sort of window screen. You may be able to make the fiberglass stuff work, but I've always thought it tears awfully easy. I plan to re-use the frames, so I wanted to be sure they'd last. I find it easier to make some frames to hold the screen- instructions below
cheap wood slats to make frames
several packets of seeds- I used wildflowers as the "wildflower garden" seems to suit this project especially well in my mind. I also love the idea of an herb garden.
Food color, paintbrushes, rubber stamps, paper punches, etc. for decorating

Frames: The best way to make the frames is to find inexpensive slats of wood, and sandwich the screen between the slats. To do this, you'd make frames the same way we did, but make 2 sets of the wood for each finished screen. Then you would cut your screen to size, sandwich it between the 2 screen frames and use finishing nails to hold it all together. We opted to just use the 1 wood frame for each screen.

First, cut your wood slats into the appropriate lengths. We mitered the corners, which is pretty simple once you get down to it. Each wooden piece will have a short side and a long side, and each of the ends will be cut on a 45 degree angle. If you want a frame with finished inside dimensions of 4"x6" (about standard postcard size) you'll want to make sure you cut 2 slats with the short side measuring 4" and two with the short side measuring 6". As I said, cheap wood is good for these- we determined that a pine yard stick ($0.62 at the Home Depot), was the cheapest source of wood- they were about 1 1/2 inches wide, 1/4 inch thick and obviously 3 feet long. You can cut them with a miter saw, hack saw, any sort of handsaw, whatever you have.

Lay out your frames (I did this on my patio so I wouldn't tear up my table). Using a staplegun, tack the corners together. I used 2 staples per corner- one on the outside and one on the inside. This seemed to hold pretty well.

Cut your screen to about 1 1/2 inch longer and wider than the opening in your frame. Then carefully (screen WILL poke and cut you, and it stings like a splinter) fold each edge 1/2 inch. When you've done all 4 sides, fold each side 1/2 inch again (to completely fold in the rough edge). This should give you a rectangle of screen that is still 1/2 inch longer and wider in each direction than the opening of your frame. Using your handy staple gun again, and working from one end to the other, tack the screen in place on the opposite side of the frame from where you stapled the frame together. I found it easiest to secure 2 corners and the side between them, then gently pull the screen tight as you staple until you've stapled the whole thing down. It's not critical to get it all tight or even. We made 13 frames since it's easier to work with the paper (which has the consistency of wet toilet paper at first) if you let it dry overnight before trying to move it about. Having a lot of frames lets you make a number of cards at once, rather than having to stop and start a lot.

If you're making the frames by the sandwich method, skip the screen folding step. Just tack the screen in place to one frame with a few staples, then secure the 2 frames together.

Once your frames are done, you're ready to make paper. First, fill your basin about half way with warm/hot water and set it on your workspace. The basin is where you will "lay out" your paper, and makes the pulp tremendously easier to work with.

Then fill your blender about 1/3 to 1/2 way full of HOT water. Hot water from your tap is fine. Tear up several sheets of paper into pieces about 1 inch square, and toss them into the hot water in your blender. It's best to let them soak for a couple of minutes to loosen up the fibers in the paper. Starting on low and working up to high, blend the paper and water into a pulp. It should be watery, but there should be plenty of paper pulp to work with. If you don't have much, add more.

This is your base. From here, the sky is the limit- let your creativity go wild. You can add some shredded construction paper to color the whole mass, or if you want a lighter tint you can add a couple of drops of food color. One of my favorite "details" is to shred a couple of different colors of construction paper into tiny bits or use a paper punch to get circles, stars, flowers, whathaveyou, and toss those into the white or tinted pulp and just stir. Then you get a sort of confetti or stained glass pattern in your final paper. You can add dried flower petals or herbs, Play around with this and have fun.

Once you've got your pulp looking the way you want it to, stir (don't blend) in some seeds. You'll have to sort of guess at the amount, but a bit of trial and error will get you where you want to be. A teaspoon or two should do the trick to start out.

Next, place a frame in your basin. Since I used pine, my frames conveniently float, which will keep your seeds from floating away. (If you have trouble with the seeds floating anyway, just lift the frame out of the basin a bit while you're pouring the pulp.) Gently pour some of your pulp into the frame, trying to get a thin, even layer. If you plan on doing single layer cards, keep adding pulp until its about 1/8" thick. For 2 tone marbled cards, pour the pulp in a little unevenly, then go back over the thinner spots with your second type of pulp.

After you've got your pulp poured, drain the frames a bit on the side of the basin. You will want to do pretty much everything in your power to get rid of excess water to speed drying time. After the excess has drained out (you can hold the frames vertically to drain a bit more as well), you can very gently press your hands together on each side of the paper to squeeze out some more water. Just be careful when you peel back your hand from the wet paper though, as it is very susceptible to tearing. If you want a sort of tye dye effect, you can paint on some food color or water color at this point. The colors will likely bleed all over, so be sure you don't let this frame touch any other for a while.

After as much water has been removed as possible, lay your frames out to dry. You can put them on towels, or paper towels or whatever you've got that will work. I put my frames on some old refrigerator and tomato racks I had to allow for better air circulation. Baking racks would work just dandy too. Having racks available is especially nice once you've taken the papers out of the frames for the final drying. At this point, you can use food color or water color to paint a design that will run a bit, but not all over. Put them near a fan or heat vent to dry. Allow them to sit for at least 8-12 hours (or overnight) before taking the next step.

Next, I put paper towels (or napkins) on each side of the paper and squeezed to get more water out. The less moisture that remains in the cards when you try to handle them, the less likely they are to tear. Then, turn the frames upside down (so the paper will fall to your workstation) and gently tap them. If you're really lucky, the whole card will fall out in one neat piece. More likely, one end will come free and you'll have to gently coax the rest out. If you get any tears, just gently press them back together with your finger. Lay the paper on your racks to finish drying.

Once the cards are dry, you can finish decorating them. You can punch holes and add a ribbon, use markers to write a message, or use your stamp pad to stamp a garden theme (or valentine's Day or Christmas, whatever holiday you're going for) on the card. I will note that some markers will tend to bleed a bit on the loose fiber of these cards, so you might want to write your greeting on a piece of cardstock and attach that to the seed card- or at least test the markers first. Make sure you include instructions for planting the card! (Instructions will be to plant it at the depth the seed packet indicates. If the packet gives a certain spacing, you could indicate that the card needs to be torn up before planting.


  1. I'm pretty sure that at Girl Scout Camp, we used sponges to remove some of the water before removing them from the screens. press, then squeeze the excess water out, then repeat.

  2. I never even heard of seed cards. This is an awesome idea for gardners. I will have to try it. Jen you are awesome.