Crafty by Nature

Crafty by Nature

How to Make a Magazine Reed Box

comments (39) May 14th, 2016     

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Sister_Diane Diane Gilleland, contributor
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Tightly rolled magazine pages make gorgeous reeds, which you can use to cover all kinds of things.
You can use ad pages, article pages, or text pages to make your reeds. All those graphics will blend into lovely, subtle colors and patterns.
Heres a simpler magazine reed project: covered picture frames.
Tightly rolled magazine pages make gorgeous reeds, which you can use to cover all kinds of things.

Tightly rolled magazine pages make gorgeous reeds, which you can use to cover all kinds of things.

Photo: Diane Gilleland
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I'm getting fairly obsessed with magazine reeds these days. They're such a great way to make crafty use of those old magazines you have lying around. Once you've glued the reeds to a surface and sealed them, you have a project that's extremely sturdy, colorful, and beautifully recycled.

What you'll need:

  • Magazine pages
  • Two bamboo skewers (the narrowest ones you can find)
  • Glue stick (see note below)
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Aleene's Tacky Glue
  • Moist towel
  • Sharp, strong scissors
  • Small box
  • Mod Podge and brush
A note on glues: For this project, you'll want a glue stick that sticks strongly and isn't too wet. I'm a big fan of Aleene's Tacky Glue Sticks. Similarly, I love good, old Aleene's Tacky Glue for the gluing phase of this project-it sets up quickly, so the magazine reeds won't slide around on your project.

Incidentally, you'll end up with a lot of glue on your fingers during this project! Keep a moist towel nearby for clean-ups.

Tear out magazine pages. Fold them in half lengthwise.

Part 1: Make a Magazine Reed
First, tear out a pile of magazine pages. You don't have to worry about the torn edges being too clean-they'll be hidden when you roll up the reeds. If you have a particular color scheme in mind for your project, then make sure the pages you tear out contain large amounts of these colors. You can use ad pages, article pages-all that matters is the predominant colors.

Fold each page in half lengthwise, as shown. If you have a torn edge, just line it up with the straight edge as best you can.

Cut the page in half. Position a bamboo skewer as shown.


Cut the page in half along your foldline. Take the first half, and place it face down. By this I mean that the side of the page you want to have showing on the finished reed should be facing down. In the page pictured here, I want the blue side to show in the finished reed.

Place a bamboo skewer on the bottom right corner of the paper, as shown. It should be a little more than a 45-degree angle to the corner, as shown. No need to break out the protractor, though-this isn't an exact science!

Begin rolling the paper around the skewer.

Beginning at this corner, roll the paper snugly around the skewer. I like to begin rolling from the cut edge of the paper, not the torn edge.

Pull the end of the skewer out of the reed a little at a time as you roll.

As you roll, you'll want to pay attention to the left-hand end of the skewer. The magazine paper will roll up around it and quickly cover it. Don't let this happen! Take a moment every so often as you're rolling to pull the end of the skewer out of the reed a little so you can still see the end as you continue rolling. (Hold your roll-in-progress down with your right hand and pull the skewer out with your left.)

The reason you're doing this is so that you can still grab and remove the skewer once you've finished the reed.

When you reach this point, begin gluing the top edge of the paper.

Once you've rolled the paper to this point, spread some glue from the glue stick along the top edge of the paper, about halfway across from the right-hand corner. Then continue rolling the reed over this glue.

When you reach this point, apply glue to the top and left edges of the paper.

When you've rolled to this point, apply glue to the rest of that top edge of the paper and also to the left-hand edge. Finish rolling up the reed, making sure that the last tip of paper is securely glued down. Pull the skewer out of the reed and it's done. If you have trouble pulling that skewer out, you can take a second skewer and poke it through the center of the reed to help push it out.

Make a pile of reeds to get ready for the next part of the project. This box required about 50. Once you've rolled a few reeds, you'll find a rhythm and each one will only take a few seconds to make.

A Couple of Reed-Making Tips:
The reason we apply so much glue to the edges of the paper is so that you can cut your finished reeds into various lengths. If you only glue the end of the paper down, then when you cut the reed, it springs open and is difficult to reroll.

Watch out for white margins on your magazine pages. If rolled incorrectly, they can cover up all the colors in your reeds.

If your magazine page has a wide, white margin along the long edge, be careful! Make sure that this is the edge of the paper where you begin rolling, as shown here. This will hide that white margin in the center of the reed so the colors can show.

If you roll this reed from the other side, that white margin will cover up all the colors, as in the plain, white reed you see above. Not that this has happened to me a hundred times or anything.



For this design, mark some guidelines on the lid of the box.

Part 2: Cover a Box
I'm using a ready-made chipboard box here, but you can cover any box you have on hand-raid your recycle bin for something you can repurpose. Little bits of the box may show through your reeds here and there, so you may want to paint your box before adding the reeds.

For this design, I used a ruler to draw guidelines on the lid of the box. You can place your reeds in any configuration you like, and the possibilities are endless.

Apply glue to the box, and press the reeds into the glue.

Choose four reeds to begin the design. Fold each one in half-I fold them against the tip of my thumbnail to give them a nice, sharp crease.

Apply a generous line of tacky glue over your pencil line. Place these reeds into the glue, carefully pressing them together and adjusting their position. Let them sit for about five minutes while the glue sets.

You can fill gaps with tiny sections of reed.

The reeds should sit as close together as possible. If your design has any spaces, such as in the center of my four reeds here, you can tuck in a small slice of a reed to fill the space. I clipped this piece with scissors.

Continue gluing reeds, pressing them together as you work.

Work in sections from this point. Apply a generous amount of glue to the box, and then place the folded reeds into the glue, adjusting their position with your fingers. Press the reeds together as your work. If glue oozes out between then, just wipe it away with your fingers.

Work a section at a time. Allow the glue to dry for an hour before proceeding to the next step.

When you've covered a section, leave it to dry for an hour before proceeding to the next step.

This is a good time to mention that you can also cut the reeds to size before you glue them in place. In fact, when I'm working with straight reeds, I always precut them with scissors. However, for this design, I find it easier to glue first and trim later.

Trim the ends of the reeds flush with the edge of the box.

Once the glue is dry, use a pair of sharp, long-bladed scissors to trim away the ends of the reeds so they're flush with the edge of the box. I like using scissors to cut the reeds rather than a utility knife-the knife tends to damage the reeds.

Repeat this process to cover the remaining sections of the box with reeds.

Cover the cut edges of the reeds by gluing another reed over them.

If you like, you can finish the cut edges of the reeds by gluing contrasting reeds over them, as shown. You'll need to hold these reeds in place for a few minutes while the glue sets. I like to then use a bit of low-tack painter's tape to hold the corners down until the glue is fully dry-this keeps them from warping.

Apply two coats of Mod Podge over the finished box, allowing it to dry between coats.



You can cover so many objects with magazine reeds!

Imagine these reeds covering an orange juice can to make a pencil holder. Or you could cover an old lunchbox. Or a straight-sided lamp. Or a shelf. You could even glue them in a mosaic-style pattern to create a piece of wall art.

See? Now you're getting obsessed with them, too!


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posted in: recycled, recycled magazines, magazine

Comments (39)

LadyJaneAnne writes: This a great project. It caught my eye and I couldn't wait to get started. I took it in a different direction by covering the top, drawer front and bottom shelf of a bedside table. I applied about five coats of mod podge and it's almost indestructible! Thanks so much.

Posted: 5:39 pm on February 7th
1129design writes: thank your for your tutorial! here what I made out of it:
Posted: 10:04 am on October 5th
KimsIdleHands writes: THis is a fabulous idea! Since we are all crafters, instead of using a piece of reed to cover the center of the box, how about a pony bead? It could also add a bit of color.

Posted: 8:58 am on May 20th
aitken writes: wonderful! and what an excellent idea of recycling!
Posted: 10:22 am on May 17th
Toffy writes: EXCELLENT....I am going to go out to my trash can and pull out the 18" stack of junk magazines and do this craft. I am at least going to add it to my stack of to do's. I know it has been around a long long time but is also one of the forgotten crafts. Thanks for putting it back into circulation and taking the time to give wonderful detailed instructions. Great way to recycle. I think I will roll and roll the reeds one day and set aside the stacks. Then grab almost anything I can to do the designing on. Shoot they have glue that sticks to metal now so God help me...I wonder what the hallway would look like with paper reeds on it....?? Or the bathroom trashcan, or the fireplace ash bucket. Sure would look better than it does now.
Well written my Dear. Kudos
Posted: 1:06 pm on December 26th
JohnWLennon writes: I am a paper addict. I'm in my 50's and still collect paper dolls. Now I will have a big box to keep them in decorated with paper! Just think of how extra special gift giving will be at Christmas time when red and green and golds will be used! Top off with some glitter, maybe some artificial holly. Or scrapbook materials to make a special box for a birthday boy or girl. The possibilities are endless, I could just go on and on......
Posted: 1:31 pm on June 8th
preciousLove writes: i really admire this craft...
i wanna try this at home...^_^
Posted: 8:46 pm on May 19th
mizruth writes: Picture this: two pieces of same-size cardboard, with a square cut out for a picture, leave one end open to slide it in, a ribbon hanger, and viola, a perfect Father's Day present for the kids to make. Thanks for the inspiration!
Posted: 1:23 pm on May 18th
beaderonboard writes: What a great idea, and a good way to recycle old magazines and junk mail.
You have inspired me to do more recyling.
You can be sure I will be looking through the house to see what I can recycle and make new by covering it with paper reeds.
Thank you for sharing.
Posted: 1:28 pm on April 28th
mushtodo writes: This is a great idea. I think I will share this at Open Doors.
This is a program for youth and adults with disabilities and FASD. Myself included.
Better yet, I'll teach it to them. Then we'll send you pictures. Keep looking tho. This may take a few months to arrange.
Posted: 4:34 am on April 28th
applewench writes: You can cover the entire box. While the box is still blank, put the lid on and draw a line around the bottome of the lid. This will serve as a guideline to stop the design on the bottom so that the lid will still fit. I like to be creative with the bottoms for example adding a large bead or small marble to all four corners so the box sits off the table. I too have made the jewelry and like this added concept. As for the grandmother and woodworking, I don't have any of the publications you mention but all the homestores in our are: Home Depot, Lowes, even local ones Spenard Builders Supply offer free childrens classes and even provide the supplies. Also I have almost completely stopped buying crochet patterns. If I see something I like, then I search on the internet in the free patterns and almost always find something very close or similar. Perhaps the same is true of the kind of projects you are wanting.
I really love all the recycle and reuse ideas of late.
Posted: 4:08 pm on April 27th
lizander writes: I love the way the magazine reeds look and have admired such items in stores. Would like to cover boxes.....please correct me if I'm wrong, but it would seem that only the lids can be covered since it would no longer be a fit if the bottom were covered as well. Do you suggest painting the bottom part? Covering it with fabric? Other ideas? Thanks.
Posted: 1:21 pm on April 27th
WiggySister writes: Love, love, love this! I also make paper beads out of the pages.
Posted: 9:00 am on April 27th
aege8th writes: I made large beads this way and am make "beaded curtains" from them. I think they'd be fun and funky to add a visual block to my laundry room.
Posted: 12:12 am on April 27th
eveh writes: I lvoe working with paper. I think I will try this using my old garden catalogues.
Posted: 12:31 am on April 26th
Earthwood writes: Will someone please recycle their woodworking books and plans and craft books to me? I am raising my grandson and have to cut all the corners I can, but I want to have fun with it. Woodworking books and or patterns would be greatly appreciated as I have a small woodworking shop that I am trying to support us with. THANK YOU!!!!! write me at [email protected] I appreciate any help :)
Posted: 5:28 pm on April 25th
BluePlum writes: I make beads out of magazines, but this is a new concept that I will want to try.Very cool!
Posted: 3:18 pm on April 25th
AKUA writes: You say REEDS I say BEADS! This is akin making paper beads and these Reed/
Beads can be used for jewelry, curtains, room dividers and more!
Posted: 2:27 pm on April 25th
gingermama writes: I do a lot of reducing (Lost 100 pounds!) recyling almost everything, remake what I can and I also compost and garden. This book sounds like just the book for me.I really need some style in my life. Thanks for considering me.
Posted: 11:32 am on April 25th
grits222 writes: I do crafts with Seniors with various levels of dementia.
They love working with magazines. I think they would enjoy making simple projects with these reeds. Thanks
Posted: 10:12 am on April 25th
imapicklepinpal writes: Wow, thanks for the tutorial. I know what i'm using my magazines for now.
Posted: 9:11 am on April 25th
pauleena writes: How wonderful this is. I am a magazine enthusiast and this is a great way to recycle. It opens a whole new world for me. It is all I am going to be thinking of for days, I know it.
This is the best craft I have seen in a while.
Posted: 3:32 am on April 25th
deladybex writes: i saw this and said this is Nice! I have not done paper crafts for a while now and have planty of magazines with lots color in them. I will have fun with the grandaughters with this one!1 thanks!! deLadybex
Posted: 3:08 am on April 25th
BusyHands writes: Neat-o! I used to make beads from magazine pages using a similar technique but starting with a long isosceles triangle and rolling from the bottom of the triangle using a toothpick. In fact, I did this in the '70s when I was a small child. Just goes to show you that good craft ideas come around again and again.

Posted: 9:12 pm on April 22nd
paperrain writes: this is beyond cool. I have SO many magazines. And what a great gift!!

Posted: 7:26 pm on April 22nd
Sister_Diane writes: NancyWard, sure thing - thank you for linking to the tutorial on your blog!
Posted: 5:42 pm on April 22nd
NancyWard writes: Hi!

Today I posted an entry on my blog with a link to this tutorial.

Would you let me knw if that's OK?


Nancy Ward
Posted: 10:22 am on April 21st
lej619 writes: this is sooo awesome!
thanks for sharing!
Posted: 1:15 pm on April 20th
Ruth939 writes: What a great way to recycle.
Posted: 2:52 pm on April 19th
Paws2 writes: I wish there where more hours in the day so I could do every single idea that I see on this site!...but since there isn't I will have to be selective and this will definitly be one of those projects!! Thanks so much for the ideas and great instructions!
Posted: 8:02 am on April 19th
Sister_Diane writes: annquill, you're so right - I use old Martha Stewarts all the time for reeds - they make such beautiful ones!

Thank you, everyone, for the nice comments! Hope you have fun reed-making!
Posted: 10:08 am on April 18th
VINTAGE2GLAM writes: This is a great project and simple easy to follow instructions. I am a middle school art teacher and I am always looking for new projects to challenge my students. They will love this. Thanks so much. Can't wait to try it myself.
Posted: 9:55 am on April 18th
VINTAGE2GLAM writes: This is a great project and simple easy to follow instructions. I am a middle school art teacher and I am always looking for new projects to challenge my students. They will love this. Thanks so much. Can't to try it myself.
Posted: 9:55 am on April 18th
annquill writes: So neat - thanks! Great instructions too. I'm happy I've saved stacks and stacks of Martha Stewart Living - the heavy, glossy paper will be perfect for this sort of project.
Posted: 9:29 am on April 18th
ElleCsews writes: Fantastic! Can't wait to try it. I'm thinking of using chinese newspaper?
Posted: 9:14 am on April 18th
croqzine writes: I saw this and said "Diane does it again!!"
Posted: 12:14 am on April 18th
garnetnm writes: As soon as I saw this I thought "wall art." I've been looking for some way to use the colorful pages of magazines. Thanks.
Posted: 10:16 pm on April 17th
Jeff_Rudell writes: Gorgeous! Easy to do! And too clever by half! I love it.
Posted: 5:57 pm on April 17th
LindaPermann writes: whoa, this is amazing Diane! especially when you keep color in mind as you place them!
Posted: 12:18 pm on April 17th
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