Paper Lace Shelf Edgings

. . . Ma brought out two long strips of brown wrapping-paper that she had saved. She folded them, and she showed Mary and Laura how to cut tiny bits out of the folded paper with the scissors. When each unfolded her paper, there was a row of stars.

Ma spread the paper on the shelves behind the stove. The stars hung over the edges of the shelves, and the light shone through them.

from “On the Banks of Plum Creek”  by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I’m not sure why the above description made such an impression on me when I was a kid, but it did, along with the description of the little china shepherdess that Laura’s mother brought from the Big Woods all the way to Plum Creek, Minnesota. But it was in my mind this week as I chose a paper craft to work on. (You can see an example of the starry papers at a blog called Pioneer Girl, which is about all things Laura Ingalls Wilder.)

Newspaper shelf edgings.

To begin with, I consulted Scherenschnitte: Traditional Papercutting by Claudia Hopf. She mentioned that Pennsylvania Dutch housewives often used newspaper for shelf edgings. “The paper was folded in fan fashion, the edge was then cut in sometimes crude and sometimes lacy designs. When opened it produced a repeat pattern flowing along the border edge. These were changed and new cut when the papers became soiled or during seasonal housecleaning times.”

These newspaper shelf edgings are as pretty as anything, and so easy to make, though it’s occurred to me in these Internet days that not everyone has a subscription to a newspaper. But a little asking around of neighbors or co-workers will probably supply you with all the newspaper you could use.

Then I experimented with parchment paper and a hole punch. The width of the fold is 1-1/2″, and the depth of the edging is 3″. The parchment paper, the kind that is used for baking, is pretty, but tape doesn’t stick to it very well.

I cut out a heart-and-locket edging, also using the parchment paper. The pattern for this is below.

Then, using copy paper with a 2″ fold, I made little snips on the fold and then cut out little leaf shapes. This is pretty, but a little fragile.

Oak leaf shelf edging.

The most fun, however, was when I took a little dried oak leaf, and used it as a pattern. I made 2-1/4″ folds with some old brown wrapping paper, set the leaf on a graceful slant, and drew around it, and also allowed a 1/2″ border at top. If you have a mantel or hutch where you change the decor seasonally, this would be a beautiful edging for fall. You could try different dried leaves for this, but oak leaves have simple outlines, and are easy to draw around.

Heart-and-Locket edging pattern.

Here is the pattern for the heart-and-locket edging. Its dimensions should be about 1-1/2″ across and 2-5/8″ in depth.

These examples barely scratch the surface of all the possibilities. Recycled Christmas wrapping paper could be used for holiday shelf edgings. Lacy edgings could be decoupaged onto painted furniture as decoration. They could be cut out of tissue paper and wrapped around gifts, or used as page decorations on scrapbook pages.

It’s also occurred to me that these edgings could be used as patterns if you have a scroll saw, so that they could be translated into wood. This is an almost scary thought, because I do have a scroll saw, and I can get the wood at a local craft store. The possibilities are infinite!

By the way, the paper edging in the very first photograph above is made from a strip of paper 3″ wide. Use a tin can or bottle lid about 2-5/8″ across as a template and draw semi-circles along the strip. Cut around this line with pinking shears, and punch a hole in the middle of each semi-circle.

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