Valentines from Trash: A DIY Tutorial from Ecuador

If you’re like me, not making big bucks from blogging this winter and not wanting to spend a small fortune on store-bought greeting cards; if you have scrap paper, scissors, glue, maybe a bottle cap or two (and a bit of imagination), you can create a Valentine that expresses love for both your partner and the planet.

Or maybe, like me, you live in a country where there aren’t a lot of cards published in English, but you want to tell your English-speaking loved-one how much she means to you.  If you’re in this situation, then this project is for you, as well.

So today–I bring you another post in my upcycling series.

Specifically–a DIY tutorial on making a Valentine’s Day card from recycled trash, in this case, trash collected here in Ecuador, but the kind of thing available anywhere the garbage has yet to be collected.

I promise, if you can cut and paste, you can make the card below.


Supplies to start with:

  • recycled phone book, flyers, and/or junk mail
  • scrap paper
  • bottle caps
  • recycled ribbon
  • used buttons
  • white card stock

Tools you will need:


  • scissors and/or X-ACTO knife
  • glue: glue stick and glue gun or a bottle of white glue
  • ruler
  • needle nose pliers
  • pencil
  • black pen or the letters “I” and “U” pre-cut from a magazine
  • circle stencil or circle punches

Step 1

From a piece of 8.5 x 11 inch, white card stock, cut a piece of paper that is 5.5 x 8 inches.  Then fold that paper in half and cut an additional 3/8 inch from  the front flap.




Step 2

Cut a piece of ribbon that is approximately 5.5 inches long and 3/8 inch wide.  I used pink with white polka dots.  Recycle whatever you have.  Just be sure that the width of the ribbon corresponds to the width of paper you have cut from the card’s front in step 1.  You want the ribbon to be visible when the card is both closed and open.

I attached the ribbon to the card stock using a glue stick and then cut away the excess.  It’s easier to make the ribbon too long and cut any length you don’t need, than to end up with a piece that is too short.



Step 3

Cut and glue together the matte and circle that are the focal point of the card’s front.

For the matte, I used a pink and while polka dot paper that I had left over from another project.  Use whatever you have handy.  You can even cut the paper from a piece of junk mail, magazine, flyer, or phone book.  I cut my matte using a ruler and X-ACTO knife but scissors will work, as well.  The matte should be approximately 3 x 4 inches.


Next, cut a 3 inch circle from red paper.  I recycled the cover from last year’s, out-of-date phone book, which just happened to be the color I wanted.  I used a 3 inch paper punch, but a stencil or any three-inch circular object you can trace works also.  You can then cut out the circle with scissors.


Finally, glue the circle to the center of your 3 x 4 inch matte and attach that to the center of your card front.  I used a glue stick, but if you don’t have one, grab whatever adhesive you have.


Step 4

This step involves assembling the bottle-cap-button-heart ornament that will anchor the front of your card.

First, flatten a metal bottle can, using needle-nose pliers.   If you don’t have pliers, try a hammer or anything else that will allow you to “ruffle” the cap’s edges.


Next, find buttons (I chose pink and red) that are approximately 1 inch and a half-inch each.  Eventually, you will glue these to the top of the bottle cap, with the larger button beneath the smaller.  Again, use whatever buttons you have, in any colors or patterns that evoke Valentine’s Day for you.



Next, cut out a tiny heart, smaller than the smaller of your two buttons.  I used a paper punch, but it will work just as well to draw one and cut it out with scissors.  I recycled a discarded box that just happened to be pink, the color I wanted my heart to be.


Finally, assemble your ornament and glue it to the front of your card, in the center of the red circle you cut out in step 3.  I used a glue gun for this assemblage process, but a white glue like Elmer’s will work, as well, as long as you give it enough time to dry.



Step 5

Cut out two 3/8 inch white circles.  Again, I used a paper punch, but tracing the size circle you need and cutting it out with scissors works, too.  I cut my circles from a flyer that was distributed as part of the annual Christmas Eve parade here in Cuenca.  Again, use whatever white paper you have.


Finally, write the letters “I” and “U”  on the circles and attach them to either side of the red circle, so your card front reads “I heart U.”  I experimented at this stage, stamping my letters, cutting them out of magazines, and, finally, using a pre-cut alphabet we happened to have.  I also dotted my “I” with a small red heart, drawn with a fine point marker.





Step 6

This final step helps your create a designated place on the inside of your card to write a personal message.  Note, you can leave the inside completely blank and eliminate this step.  You might also experiment with card interiors, trying variations of the ones shown at the end of this post.

However, I cut two pieces of paper that I glued together and then attached to the inside.  Note the sizes I selected in the photo below.  You can use any size you like, just be sure the smaller of the two is fairly simple, so you can tell your Valentine how much he or she means to you.  It will become your writing surface.




Step 7 (Optional)

To create a finished look, consider gluing your business card to the rear of your completed Valentine.


My completed card:




Additional Valentine Designs

Check out the cards below for other ideas, especially variations on card interiors.

Design 1







Design 2






Don’t forget to personalize the inside of the card with a note your loved-one will appreciate.  Tell her how much she means to you, or, perhaps, share your fondest memory of her.

So, which design is your favorite?



When’s the last time you created a home-made card, especially one from trash?  How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day this year?

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Love and hugs to each of you!

A version of this piece has now been published at the Huffington Post.  Please check it out here and leave me a comment.

107 thoughts on “Valentines from Trash: A DIY Tutorial from Ecuador

  1. I’m happy for you and Sara because love is in the air of Ecuador. Enjoy it. Here, it is ice, snow, and lack of propane OR if you happen to be a millionaire, you can have 100 gallons.


  2. Ohhh this card is so much better than a store bought card. So cute and clever! I love the design. And although I remain doubtful yours when you say, “I promise, if you can cut and paste, you can make the card below.” Your instructions inspired me, the person who once hot glued a large portion of her hair to her project (long story) to imagine myself making something like this although Cole will surely yell–step away from the needle nose pliers if he sees me approach it.
    I celebrate Valentines day by eating Chocolate and lots of it.
    Thanks this was a fun way to start my day.

    Smiles from Chicago!


    • Oh, no! Hot glue in your hair? Not exactly the gel you were looking for, was it? But, yes, even YOU could do this. AND a bit of hair will make it all the more special. Way to show someone you are LITERALLY head over heels for them, right? Stay warm and enjoy the chocolate. Hugs from here in Cuenca.


  3. WOW – This is so very cool. Thank you so much for sharing. Such an ideal way to make a personal Valentine’s Day card. I will definitely share this with the peeps here at the Hotel Thompson my friend. XOXO – Bacon


  4. Beautiful, as always! Your attention to detail elevates a good idea into a wonderful, professional finished product! I’ve always been big on handmade cards and gifts, though usually just in the cartoon drawing and elementary level poetry venue. Thanks, Kathy!


  5. Wow, Kathy, you’re so creative. This card would mean so much more than a store-bought card just because of the time and effort and love that goes into making it! Excellent idea and thanks for documenting the instructions for those of us who are much less creative. 🙂


  6. If I had to do this it would never get done! LOL At one time Mom would have loved to have made theses. She was very crafty when not travel every which way!

    Very cute!

    Happy Valentines you two !
    Hugs from the frigid North



  7. So creative as always, Kathy! They’re all fabulous.

    You said that if I can cut and paste, I can make the card below. You sorely overestimate my crafting abilities. I can’t even cut and paste. 😉

    Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!


    • Oh, no! NOT able to cut and paste. Sorry, Jackie! You have ruined your image. How will I ever think of you in the same way? Seriously, Happy Valentine’s Day to you, crafter that you AREN’T. Hope you are staying warm. Thanks for stopping by!


  8. Thank you so much for this darling idea!! I especially like to use bottle caps in my work. Earrings are very popular give those who drink a favorite soda or beer brand.

    And recently I too made a valentine card. I used three layers of card stock, all of varying colors. One to make the card, folded in half. The next one smaller to line the interior of the folded card.
    And the third was an even smaller piece, cut at the edges with scalloped scissors and used for the message. The lightest color of card stock was used for this interior layer.

    then decorated the exterior with ribbon, a small piece of card stock for more text, printed tissue paper, stickers flowers and dried flowers.


    • How wonderful to hear from you today. Your card sounds stunning. I would love to see it. And I have seen earrings made from bottle caps–pretty cool. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment.


  9. I LOVE your DIY posts Kathy! This is yet another great one! You should add it to Pinterest! Not sure if you use it but I bet your DIY posts would be really well received in that community.


  10. Yikes – crafts make me anxious. All I see is lost time and a sorry result. But not to say I don’t appreciate your artistry. Very inspiring and beautiful – happiest of Valentine’s Days to you!


    • Oh, well, crafts aren’t for everyone. That’s pretty much how I feel about sports, so I can imagine your perspective. Glad you think they are beautiful, however. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your family, as well!


  11. Nothing says Valentine’s Day like an upcycled sanitary napkins box! You and your trash hoarding crack me up! BEAUTIFUL valentines, though. Truly!


    • I love you, too, Sista! Someone was bound to notice. What can I say. It was the only pink thing I had available. LOL I can’t stop laughing. Seriously, I can’t. You are too funny, my dear. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and Jim and the boys!


  12. That glue gun shows a lot of love! 🙂

    And the effort you put in to creating these little master pieces far outshines the purchase of a card at the local Walgreen’s. Your colors and love go so well together Kathy. 🙂



    • Yes, you are SO right about the glue gun. It’s seen better days, hasn’t it? It cracks me up what folks notice in these photos. Surprised you didn’t mention the Stay Free box, as my friend Miranda, another Ohioan, did.

      Glad you enjoyed the cards. Hope you and David have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. And, please, stay warm! Love and hugs to both of you!


  13. Ahh…Valentine’s Day is coming? Thanks for the warning! Husband usually remembers and I usually forget. I am VERY tempted to get him some Needle Nose Pliers though…they sound nasty but so much cheaper than a Remington’s Trimmer.
    You know, here in Qatar Valentine’s Day is really sweet and not just for couples. They have loads of ‘Ladies Only’ events and I’ve been wished Happy Valentine’s Day by everyone from the school bus driver to the coffee shop guy. Really makes me smile.


    • Me again! I love the one with the Spanish writing best of course. Tempted as I am to attend one of the Ladies Only events here, husband and I are actually off to see a Japanese film. Our first night out in ages as we were waiting until the Little Guy’s neck healed. I hope you have a good one in Ecuador. x


      • Hope you enjoyed the film. Thanks for pointing out your favorite. I think it might be mine, as well–though I’m working on one for Sara that I, actually, like better. Enjoy your Ladies Only event, as well! Happy Valentine’s Day!


    • How sweet that Valentine’s Day is special in Qatar and that you are receiving so many lovely and loving wishes. Yeah, I think needle nose pliers are the way to go–maybe even a photo of them would be fun. I imagine you could come up with hilarious stunts to pull on Husband. Hope we get to meet one of these days. You crack me up!


      • Kathryn, I know we will. I do wonder where it will be though? I have another life planned which begins the moment the Little Gingers are packed off to university. In it Mr WG and a llama are surfing down Chimborazo, while we hunt for your lost shoe! x


    • How funny. Can’t tell you how many folks have made comments about the pliers. Somehow, I don’t think they are a must-have item for most households these days. I suppose most folks hire the guy with the needle nose and the butt crack to go with it. LOL Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend. Hope you all have a great day!


  14. Lovely cards, I can’t pick one! They’re all beautiful, and such pretty colours and designs! You’re amazing Kathy ❤ So inspiring! And you have a knack for making everything look so neat and simple!


    • Oh, Mun, thank you! It’s great to hear from you today. I’m a firm believer that anyone can do these kinds of things as long as the steps are broken down for them. Glad you enjoyed the cards. Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend!


    • Yes, YOU speak from experience, don’t you, dear Sandy. LOVE buttons. Glad you like the cards. I am SOOOO enjoying yours–especially the one about the guy who says he’s French or speaks French. That one was a hoot! Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend!


  15. If your cards were food, Kathy, they would be gourmet meals. My cards, on the other hand, are the equal of frozen TV dinners.

    Sorry I’m late to this one, but Coco had a milestone birthday yesterday. We went out of what was left of our minds celebrating.


    • Wow. A milestone birthday is a big deal. Glad you had some mind left to go out of. There’s something to be said for that at our age. Glad you enjoyed the cards. Tell Coco I said happy birthday! Hope you are staying warm. Looks like you all are getting an insane amount of snow all over again!


  16. I love, love LOVE your creativity. Stupendous! You take stuff most of us don’t think twice about discarding and make it beautiful. To me, that’s amazing. Thanks, Kathy, for breaking it down and making it looks so easy.


    • Thanks so much, Monica. But it IS easy–most folks just need to be shown how. Must be the teacher in me, eternally present, even though I’ve been out of the classroom for a few years. Happy Valentine’s Day, my friend! Great to hear from you!


  17. These are great, your creativity is fun and perfect for the day. Of course, given my name I have always hated this day it was the source of bullying when I was growing up and teasing even as an adult. These days I ‘own’ the name, it is mine and I love it, it is a family name. You cannot imagine how many people mispronounce it simply because they cannot believe anyone would actually have that name.

    Oh well, again wonderfully done and thank you for sharing some of your creativity with us lowly non-creative types.

    Much love from frozen Dallas


    • I’m so pleased you appreciate the cards, Val. I had forgotten your given name was Valentine. You are SO seasonal. I, personally, think it’s a beautiful name. And, actually, it sounds very contemporary. Hope you are staying warm. Love and hugs from here in Ecuador. And Happy Valentine’s Day!


  18. Those are cute as buttons (Get it…buttons…LOL). Really those are crafty, and I may try to talk my kids into making one with me when they get home. If we do, I will send you our picture. Hey….you didnt show us what you wrote on the inside…I may need good ideas.:) Happy Valentines day to you and Sara!

    Sending hearts from Indiana,


    • Glad you enjoyed the card, Tia. And I hope you and the kids will try the cards. And, yes, send me a picture, as I’m sure they will be cute as BUTTONS! LOL Actually, I didn’t share the photo of the card I’ve made for Sara–though it’s my favorite. Gotta keep a few things for her alone, I suppose. Hope you and Renee have a wonderful day tomorrow. Are you going to do something special? Hugs from me and Sara to the both of you!


  19. Happy Valentines Day to you, Kathy! (Even though this isn’t a physical paper card as cute as yours up above, the well wishes are still as strong.) You know, I was thinking how much time & effort you put into your blog posts. It’s astounding. As for the recycled cards, I love ’em. I make my own, too, but usually out of simple things like cut-up old calendars or dried autumn leaves. Have a great weekend down there in Ecuador.


    • OH, you may not remember but I was the proud recipient of one of your cards during our last Christmas in the US. I still have it, by the way. Yeah, it made the trip to Ecuador. Not many other people have ever sent me handmade card. I REALLY appreciated it. Thanks, also, for noticing the effort I put into my posts, Kathy. You’re a sweetie. Hope you and Barry have a lovely Valentine’s Day. Thanks for stopping by!!!!!


  20. Honestly I cannot remember the last time I created a homemade card – the only thing homemade around here is some of the food… These cards are so cheerful! Because of you, Kathy, I’m starting to look at my trash twice before tossing it out. 🙂


    • Thanks so much, Dana. Yeah, it’s been fun to do some of the same kinds of projects I did in the US, but only with trash I’ve collected here. Glad you enjoyed the post. Hope you and Marty have had a great weekend.


  21. You do such beautiful work, Kathy — beautiful cards. You are so creative, give clear, easy-to-follow instructions, and have such patience. It would be my luck to wind up with the card glued to the table.

    But I do make photo note cards from my photos. I print them out now, but in the old days used to glue the photos to card stock. Although I haven’t made many lately to sell in box sets like I used to — nobody sends note cards these days, it seems — I do enjoy making them.

    Thanks for these delightful cards and simple instructions.

    Hugs from Delaware. I trust you and Sara enjoyed a lovely Valentine’s Day.


    • So glad you enjoyed the cards and found the instructions easy to follow. Thank you. Sara sometimes prints cards from her photos, as well.

      We did have a lovely Valentine’s Day, but stayed home and did nothing special but spend time with one another, which was, in fact, pretty damn special. Hugs to you, my dear!


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