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(AP) - My classroom days are decades behind me, but I still miss the nerdy pleasure of heading back to school each September with new notebooks and folders, color coded by subject of course.
Pretty stationery, however, feels like an acceptable substitute. A stack of blank notecards holds the same promise of a fresh start as school supplies do, especially a set that incorporates old-school elements like chalkboards, vintage maps, notebook paper and brown paper lunch sacks.
Chalkboard art has become a big trend in home decorating, from wall hangings that mimic vintage menu boards to entire walls covered with chalkboard paint. But I decided to seize upon that trend and shrink it down to notecard size. Turning a notecard into a mini-chalkboard is as easy as applying a few coats of spray paint to a piece of cardstock, and the resulting surface can be customized in countless ways.
Make yourself a pile of blank chalkboard cards, and you won't be limited to the clichéd greetings on store-bought cards _ you can personalize them for any occasion. Or make a set as a gift for someone else, and include a box of chalk.
Don't like your handwriting? Draw a cute cupcake on a birthday card or even a simple smiley face _ it's a chalkboard, not a fine art canvas. A chalk ink marker allows for bolder, smoother lines, but a regular piece of school chalk adds rustic appeal. In either case, if you mess up, you can always erase it and start over! A light spritz with aerosol hairspray will set the chalk enough that it won't get smudged going through the mail.
I made small cards in order to maximize the number I could get out of a single sheet of painted cardstock, but there's no reason they couldn't be bigger.
MATERIALS for six 4 1/4-by-3 5/8-inch cards:
_ 1 sheet of 8 1/2-by-11-inch cardstock, any color (this will be covered with paint)
_ 2 sheets of 8 1/2-by-11-inch cardstock for the card interior (I used kraft paper, but white or any light- to medium-color is fine)
_ chalkboard spray paint
_ craft knife and straight edge or paper trimmer
_ glue stick or double-sided tape
_ corner-rounding paper punch (optional)
_ chalk ink markers (optional)
_ 6 pieces of 8 1/2- by-11 inch lighter weight paper for envelopes (I used notebook paper, old maps and paper lunch bags)
_ 1 sheet of cardstock to make an envelope template
1. Working outside or in a well-ventilated area, spray one sheet of cardstock with chalkboard spray paint. Two or three light coats applied several minutes apart should be sufficient.
2. When the painted cardstock is thoroughly dry, cut it in half lengthwise and then cut each piece into three pieces, each measuring 4 1/4 by 3 5/8 inches. These will become your card fronts.
3. Cut each of the other two pieces of cardstock into three rectangles, each measuring 3 5/8 inches by 8 1/2 inches. Fold in half to form a card.
4. Glue a chalkboard card front to the front of each card. Or for variety, cut some of the chalkboard fronts into "speech bubble" shapes, or trim them with decorative edge scissors. Use a paper-punch to round the corners of the cards, if desired.
5. To "season" the chalkboards, rub a piece of chalk over the surface of the cards and erase it with a soft cloth. I found the surface fairly forgiving _ if you make a mistake or don't like your lettering, wipe it down with a barely-damp cloth and start over.
6. To make the envelopes, search online for free, A2 envelope templates. I used one from a blog called Artsy Bride ( http://bit.ly/1cXTgsO). Download and print the template on cardstock at 85 percent of its original size. Cut out the template and trace it onto notebook paper, a map or a lunch bag.
7. Cut out the envelope shape and fold the sides and flaps in, gluing where necessary to hold the envelope together.
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