Monday, 1 May 2017

Puzzles from the Past: An Upcycle Tutorial

This past holiday break, I reinvigorated my love of puzzles, and to my delight, my three year old son caught the bug too. We’re now ploughing our way through puzzles of all shapes and sizes and I’ll certainly go broke feeding this hobby. Did you know The Reuse Centre has puzzles for every ability level? Not only that, but the Centre offers many materials to get crafty and personalize some puzzles for a special event or person!
The Reuse Centre's typical stock of calendars. Availability may change but it's a safe bet that you'll have lots of calendars and old puzzles to take home after a visit to the Reuse Centre. Image Source: Ellen
With this in mind, I’ll show you how to transform an outdated calendar into several puzzles. I’ll be using a Cricut cutting machine (similar to a Silhouette) but will give you steps to complete the puzzle with scissors and some determination (See Scissors Approach section at the end). Let’s begin.

Puzzles from the Past: An Upcycle Tutorial


  • Cricut and accessories
  • .svg file of puzzle outlines (try this free option from Bird’s Cards
  • Old calendar images 
  • Large, thin cardboard similar to cereal box (not too thick!)
  • Craft glue or glue stick 
  • Mod Podge (optional) 

  1. Download an .svg file of the puzzle cuts, upload it into your Cricut Design Space, and prepare the image to be cut. 
    I chose 8" x 8" as dictated by my largest piece of cardboard. If you need help with your Cricut or Silhouette, visit the many online resources available. Image Source: Ellen
  2. Separate the calendar pages and select an image you’d like to use. Don't neglect the back cover of your calendar where you'll often find thumbnail sized photos of all 12 images. These tiny versions of your photos are helpful while assembling your puzzle. 
    These tiny photos of each month provide a nice sneak peak of the final puzzle once completed! Image Source: Ellen
  3. Place the desired puzzle image on the cutting mat and let your machine do the work. 
    Cricut Machine cutting the calendar image. Image Source: Ellen
  4. Cut a thin piece of cardboard to your puzzle’s size. A regular cereal box worked well for this puzzle. Anything thicker might not cut properly by your machine.  
  5. Place the cardboard on the mat and cut the same puzzle pieces using your cutting machine.  
  6. Match the cardboard puzzle pieces to the image pieces and glue together. 
    I simply used a homemade Mod Podge mixture to glue the calendar image to the cardboard, then coated the final piece with the mixture. If you're skipping step #7, you can use craft glue with a paint brush, or your finger or a glue stick to fix the pieces together.
  7. (Optional) Use Mod Podge to cover each piece for rigidity and longevity. I used a homemade mix of white craft glue and water (1/3 cup water to 1 cup glue). Cover the pieces with the mixture on both sides then set to dry. I used a wire basket placed upside down and let my space heater help the process! 
    Glued and Mod Podged puzzle pieces drying on a wire rack. Image Source: Ellen
  8. After the drying process, the pieces may bow slightly. I put my puzzle together loosely, covered with a large book, then weighted the book with soup cans. Make sure your pieces are completely dry before this flattening process! 

Scissors Approach without Cricut Cutting Machine:

If you do not have a cutting machine, first glue your cardboard and calendar image together, then simply print your blank puzzle outline at your desired size and loosely tape it to your glued calendar image. It’s best to use large puzzle pieces when cutting by hand as the curves and edges are tedious to manage. Use your sharpest scissors or X-acto knife to cut along the lines of the blank puzzle image. As you cut, the blank puzzle sheet should fall away. Optional: Mod Podge for strength and durability.

I accidentally cut my cardboard piece backwards so that the cereal box image was facing outward and the blank, brown side was glued to my calendar image. This turned out to be a very happy accident since the cereal box was coincidentally cut to display a race car making my puzzle reversible—not to mention highly desirable to a car-loving three year old! Two-for-one! 
Backside of my puzzle: Accidentally awesome! Image Source: Ellen
The puzzle doesn't click into place the way a commercially-built puzzle does, but the customization possibilities make this upcycle craft well worth the effort! When you're done making all 12 of your calendar images, look around your house for other puzzle upcycle possibilities!

- Ellen (Volunteer)

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