Ok, ok, so I probably can’t REALLY classify this as a “Cinco de Mayo” specific craft project. It’s just that I’m hosting a little Cinco de Mayo party this coming weekend (Duh! I mean, it ranks up there among Christmas and Thanksgiving as one of our family’s favorite occasions!), and in the spirit of making the dinner feel special, I decided to make some place cards for our guests. Really though, the gold leafing part of this project is applicable to any type of dinner or event you’re hosting. You can use this exact same technique on any size card stock to create bar signage, menus, etc. When I was originally brainstorming what I’d do with these cards, I had thought I’d just create them to hold flowers, but after rooting around in my craft boxes for something to jazz them up, I realized I had a bunch of gold leaf left over from this project, and boom, an idea was born.
For most occasions, I really like to create decor that doesn’t feel too cheesy and theme-y, so for Cinco, the bits of of gold mixed with the silver mercury glass votives and the citrus themed foliage I plan on using on the table seemed like a great way to go. Festive, but not literal. As far as flowers go, carnations seemed like the perfect bud to use here. Growing up in Texas, Mexican holidays actually permeated much of our culture (and education, too), and the full, round heads of carnations are so reminiscent of many of the flowers used in Mexican celebrations — especially the huge, paper flowers that are traditional on Cinco de Mayo. I could only find smaller carnations that still need a few days to open, but I think bigger, fuller blooms would look even better.
So let’s get started! Here’s what you’ll need:
- A6 notecards (1 card will make 2 place cards)
- Gold leaf sheets and adhesive “size” (I used about 2 sheets for 8 cards; I love this gold leaf set — it’s really easy to use!)
- A handful of Q-tips
- Scissors or a paper cutter
- Sharp paring knife and clean, dry cutting board
- Thin stemmed flower of your choice
- Pen or marker, to write names
And, here’s what you do (click through for more how-to photos!):
I created these place cards using materials I had lying around, with the exception of the flowers. Feel free to use what you have on hand to make something unique to your get together! To start, I took some plain A6 white cards from Paper Source and cut them in half. I happen to have a paper cutter at home, but obviously you can do this with scissors.
Once the cards were cut, I took a Q-tip and dipped it into the liquid adhesive that came with my gold leaf kit. Then, I gently brushed it along the top border of the place card. You don’t need the card to be soaking wet with glue, and you definitely do NOT want the adhesive to pool. Just swipe a little on — you’ll be surprised by how little adhesive the gold leaf needs to stick. I recommend tearing off a piece of gold leaf, then gently patting it on using the dry end of another Q-tip. With the first card I made (above), I didn’t tear the gold leaf first, and afterwards, I realized that would make it easier. Once you’ve pat the gold leaf down onto the adhesive, set the card aside and let it dry.
By the time you’ve finished adhering the gold leaf to all your cards, the first one should be pretty much dry. Use your fingers and the dry end of a Q-tip to gently tear and brush away the excess gold leaf. It doesn’t have to look perfect — in fact, I love when the leafing tears a little or gets veined or a few layers pressed on top of one another. I think it makes the final product look more distressed and earthy. I found that using the dry Q-tip end really helped to press excess pieces of foil into empty spots, and gently rubbing the Q-tip on the gold leaf could also help smooth out any wrinkles. Note: if you start rubbing the gold leaf with the Q-tip and notice liquid moving underneath it, let it dry longer — it probably just means you used a little too much adhesive. If you try to rub out the gold leaf while the adhesive is still wet, it’ll tear and get all over your Q-tip.
Another note: you’ll probably end up with gold leaf on your fingers. That’s ok!
Here are the gold leafed cards. Up to this point, this technique could be used on any type of thick paper, and for any purpose!
Next, I cut a pocket for the flowers. Using a super sharp paring knife, I set the cards on a clean, dry cutting board and sliced two 3/4″ slits. They don’t have to be perfectly straight lines, just make sure they’re approximately in line with one another. Use your fingers to gently pry the cuts open, to make room for the flower stem.
If you’re using a carnation like I did, cut each flower to an appropriate length, then pull away any leaves around the knobby parts of the stem — these will just get caught when you try to thread the flower stem through. Once the stem is thinned out, gently thread it through the two cuts you’ve made in the card. And that’s it! You’ve got a pretty, shiny, textural place card for your next occasion!
DO IT AHEAD: You obviously won’t want to thread the flowers through the cards more than half an hour or so before your event, otherwise they’ll wilt and look sad. I recommend cutting the flowers ahead of time, keeping them in water, and then thoroughly drying them before threading them into your cards. You can also pen your guests’ names on the cards before you thread the flowers, which may make it a bit easier for you (especially with any long names). Enjoy!
Images by Victoria McGinley for vmac+cheese