Recycled Map Crafts

Reader Contribution by Sarah Hart Boone
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Do you have trouble throwing out old maps? We do! We keep maps from vacations, old atlases, and road maps. So over the years we have accumulated lots of maps and I have come up with several uses for old maps.

Map Window Shade

We found an old instructional map in the alley behind a church.  It is titled, “Palestine during the Time of the Judges” and shows a map of the Middle East. This large roller map was in a bit of disrepair but it is still really beautiful and interesting. Roller maps do not hang well on walls unless they are framed or glued down because the edges curl. Mounting them into roller shade hardware is just as easy as hanging a regular window shade.  The edges don’t curl too much because the map spends much of its time rolled up.

Your challenge is finding a map that is the right size. If you use an exterior mount you have a little bit of leeway.  You can measure your window and purchase vintage roller maps on Ebay or at Atafa. 

Window shade made from a map
Photo by Sarah Hart Boone

Wallpapering with Maps

You can wallpaper a wall with whole maps or pieces of maps. For small areas I use Mod Podge, a nontoxic glue, sealer and finish available at craft or hardware stores. You also can use regular wallpaper paste or other products like water based acrylic varnish or even make your own wallpaper paste  

On our living room wall, I picked the area between the molding and the ceiling and covered that with map scraps. In my crafting room I chose one wall and am covering that with map pieces. Maps adhere pretty well without crinkling up but you still need to carefully put them on and smooth out the wrinkles with each piece. You can cover the finished wall with another coat of sealer or leave it as it is. You can cover more of a wall by using larger pieces or even entire maps but then you will need to be even more careful about getting the map affixed to the wall without lots of air bubbles.

Using maps as recycled wallpaper
Photo by Sarah Hart Boone

Decoupage with Maps

Decoupage used to be known as the poor man’s art. Originating in the 18th century in Europe, it was a way for clever artists to copy the elaborately painted furniture that was stylish in wealthy homes by affixing carefully cut out pictures to tables and chairs and chests and applying multiple layers of varnish. The National Guild of Decoupagers has a gallery showing absolutely amazing and complicated decoupage.

So, when I use the term “decoupage” please know that I am using it a little bit loosely. Instead of applying up to 50 layers of varnish to the paper and sanding between layers, I tend to apply 2 or 3 coats and call it a day. For decoupage I use Mod Podge. You also can use gel medium or other brands of decoupage glue. You do not want to use regular white glue because the map pieces will wrinkle up. You can use the Mod Podge or whatever product you choose to affix the paper pieces, then paint over the top with it. It will look like thick white goop but dry clear. I made a scrap book with my children using an old baby board book and cut the letters out of maps. They added photographs, pieces cut out of brochures, and their own artwork.

Decoupaged switchplate with maps
Photo by Sarah Hart Boone

I also have made a map mirror, a map switch plate cover and other cool map projects.  For the switch plate cover I wrapped it like a present and glued the edges down securely, trying not to have it be bulky on the underside so it would mount well. I painted Mod Podge over the top a few times (letting it dry between coats) then used a razor blade to cut slits in the rectangle where the switch needs to protrude, folding the paper back and gluing it. I left the screw holes covered and used the screws to poke holes when I mounted it.

Think about commemorating a vacation by making a map tray or picture frame, covering a cigar box with map pieces, or using maps to decorate the drawers on a bureau. After you get the hang of basic decoupage, you can really have fun and use up some of those maps you’ve been saving.

Sarah Hart Boone is a soap-making homesteader who utilizes her garden to make plant-based perfumes, body scrubs, candles and more. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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