Unexpected Uses for Retail Catalogs

Photo: Patricia ZapataShopping remotely has become a modern-day tale of Pandora's box. It's so temptingly convenient, but once you make a purchase you've exposed yourself to an irreversible influx of printed catalogs. You call to have your name removed from the mailing list only to discover in the coming weeks that your personal information has been reproduced and broadcast like a spider hatch among the original vendor's "retail partners," each of whom now sends you junk mail. In Pandora's box, when all the evil was out, the only thing left inside was hope. Perhaps your only hope is to do something constructive with all those unwanted glossy catalogs. Here are a few ideas to get you started.


The colorful, glossy pages of high-end catalogs make nice custom-size envelopes for cards and personal notes. You can find loads of ideas and patterns online for creating your own pieces.

Puppet show puppets

Cut out people, animals or an entire dollhouse-full of furnishings. Glue the images to cardboard and/or a Popsicle stick to complete the puppets.

Homemade cards

Handmade cards for birthdays and the like are always keepers. But if your drawing skills fall short of your imagination, a cut-and-paste creation does the trick. For best results, stick with kitsch rather than trying to make your card look like Hallmark.


Catalog pages can be cut, rolled up and glued into colorful beads and other decorative pieces for making jewelry. I found an excellent tutorial for a kids' bracelet on Family Fun Magazine's Web site.


Glue catalog pictures to a wood panel or other rigid material, using diluted wood glue. Let dry, then coat artwork with Mod Podge or clear polyurethane or lacquer.


Shred the pages, then chop the strips into bits with scissors. Very colorful, and the lightweight paper floats nicely.

Dress-up dolls

Make cardboard people sized to fit into a catalog's flat photos of clothing. Cut out the clothes and dress the dolls.

Materialistic wallpaper

Ensconce yourself in retail offerings. Using glue stick, cover the wall with full pages as a wry comment on bourgeois society, or stick up cutouts of individual pictures to create an eye-popping pop art montage.

Decorative pop-up bowl

Artist Patricia Zapata shows you how to make a surprisingly attractive pop-up bowl using only catalog or magazine pages and a hot glue gun on her blog, A Little Hut.

Gift wrap

Since many of us no longer get the funny pages (our favorite free gift wrap), catalog pages fit the bill nicely.

Packing material

Shredded catalogs make great packing material for shipping fragile items.

Christmas tree ornaments

Glue rough-cut pictures to thin cardboard, then trim both cleanly with an X-Acto knife or scissors. Hang ornaments with string or wire ornament hooks. Your tree will look hip with miniature modern furniture, outdoorsy with tiny mountain bikes and tents, or super swank with holiday crystal. 


For a colorful twist on the time-honored technique, substitute strips of catalog pages for the traditional strips of newspaper.

Gift bags

Turn an attractive catalog page into a handsome bag for small gifts. The website junkmailgems.com has a good tutorial and pattern for making bags.

Kid's hula skirt and lei

Cut narrow strips into catalog pages to create fringe, leaving a 2-inch-wide band of paper intact at the top. Glue multiple pages together along the bands to create the skirt. For the lei, tightly crumple smallish catalog pages in a variety of appealing colors. Thread the paper into a necklace with a needle and strong thread, just like popcorn on a string. Tie off the ends to complete the lei.

Philip Schmidt is a Hometalk - http://www.hometalk.com - writer.  Read more articles like this one - https://www.networx.com/article/unexpected-uses-for-retail-catalogs - or get help with your home project on Hometalk.com.

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