May 9, 2009

How-To: Gum Wrappers, Mom, and Me

the big one!

When I was a little girl, my mother taught me how to make folded paper chains from gum wrappers. This humble paper craft introduced me to the concept of making something decorative from what would otherwise end up in the trash. It was like learning a magic trick. There was a lot of treasure-from-trash activity going on in the 70s -- my grandmother's crocheted kitchen mat made from plastic bread sacks, my mom's Christmas tree made from spray-painted tuna fish cans! But the gum wrapper chain was my first attempt at upcycling, and it's still my favorite.

We took gum wrapper chains seriously in our house. My mother was the Gumkeeper and Chain Maven that made it all possible. We had a drawer in the kitchen that she always kept stocked with gum and loose wrappers to work on when the mood struck. At the height of our wrapper-folding enterprise, the chain stretched from one end of our house to the other (and beyond!).

Sadly, the chain we made got lost in a move, but I have a chain of my own now, which I started making when I was 17 years old and living away from home for the first time. I was an exchange student living abroad, at times terribly homesick. I'm sure that repeating that same sequence of folds my mother had taught me years before must have helped a little at easing the sadness of being so far away from her and dad.

Here are the instructions for making your own Gum Wrapper Chain. I usually work in stages: tear a big batch of wrappers in half, then fold all the halves into links, then assemble the links at the end.


step 1 step 1b
1. Fold gum wrapper in half lengthwise. Give it a nice, firm crease, then tear wrapper along fold line. Each half-wrapper will eventually become a link in your chain!


step 2 step 3
2. With blank side facing up, fold each half-wrapper in half lengthwise and crease.

3. Open the fold, turn the edges in toward the center crease, and refold. You should be left with a nice thin strip.



step 4 step 5
4. Fold strip in half, forming a large "V."

5. Turn both ends inward toward the center fold. You will now have a link that resembles a small "v."



step 6 finito
6. Now it's time to assemble your little links! Grab two links and insert the tabs of one link through the slots of the other link. Repeat and repeat and repeat until you run out of links. And there you have a gum wrapper chain!

(NOTE: If you're not a gum chewer, you can use other types of paper to make a chain. Skip step 1 and instead cut paper into 1" x 2 5/8" ( 2.5 cm x 6.7cm) pieces, which is the same size as one-half of a wrapper. Also note that paper that is too thin or slick will make chains that are prone to getting twisted and tangled.)



Happy Mother's Day and happy folding!



Lisa H.
parallelbotany.etsy.com

20 comments:

CAPow said...

I used to LOVE making these chains, and actually this week was thinking about looking online for a tutorial on how to do it, because I had forgotten! Great post!

Sarah said...

Interesting! Thanks for the tutorial. Will have a go!

That is the chicken said...

What a great idea...I thought this was an art installation when I first saw the photo...you could do such cool things! Make it in blocks of colours like a rainbow,, or like one of those spiral lollipops! Perfect for long summer days.

Cindy Lietz, Polymer Clay Tutor said...

I made a lot of Big Red and Juicy Fruit chains in my day! (We used the foils too.) Brought back a lot of happy memories!

Hey Harriet said...

Hey that's really cool. I'll have to start saving my Big Red gum wrappers and give it a go :)

Becky said...

Wow, that brings back memories-- at my grandparents' house, there used to be a vintage chain from the 70s that they'd made. One of my aunts taught me the folding technique, and I used to have a rather largeish one that I made from Starburst wrappers.

Simone said...

I love the story, the picture, and the tutorial. Thank you so much.

Rachel@oneprettything.com said...

So fun and so addicting! I love that photo-wow! I'll be linking.

autumn said...

What a fun idea!
Any chance you happen to know how to link the last one to the first one to make a circle?

Mimi said...

I had forgot all about this. My GD will just love doing this. Thanks. I wonder if used Christmas paper would work. I may have to cut some and find out. Then it could go on the tree. I am thinking it will be hard to keep the grandkids in gum wrappers ;)

Anonymous said...

i keep hearing about people making chains, so i went ahead and did the impossible. i started making the alphabet. check it out www.myspace.com/Paper_Picasso. and now im at the point where im looking for new idea's, so if u have any let me know. email is paperpicasso369@yahoo.com

JenB. said...

I started my chain back in 1976 or thereabouts. I was striving to win the Guinness Book of World Records for my gum chain. 30+ years, and I'm still working on it... I received tons of gum wrappers when my mother quit smoking!

Amanda @ www.kiddio.org said...

I had totally forgotten about these! I wonder where my junior high-era chain ever went to. Thanks for the reminder of an old favorite

Linda said...

I saw a medallion ornament at the American Visionary Art Museum gift shop that I THINK was made of a gum wrapper chain made of old snack or ramen bags: too bad I didn't buy it, because I can't stop thinking about it. How did they make it?

Anyone have any ideas? I haven't been able to find any directions for it on the web anywhere.

Anonymous said...

You can also use DolLars, But dont tear them in half

Paul said...

For days I have been reading and looking for Gum Wrappers and wow I have no idea that in the web were so many blogs related to generic viagra, but anyways, thanks for sharing your inputs, they are really helpful.
Have a nice day

Kara said...

Hi! This is great.. do you mind if I link to my site? It's new.. just starting, but loved this. Could I also use your photo before I post the link? Just wanted to make sure. Great job!

Brannon said...

I am making one too, but it is almost impossible to find the wrappers any longer.

I would love to find a stash of them someone did not want any more!

celine said...

these are so fun to make! I make them out of starburst wrappers so you don't have to tear them in half. that is a really long chain that you made!

Rose Clark said...

I have been making the gum wrapper chains for years. Most of the time, I make picture frames out of them. The foil from a cigarette pack works well. You can cut each one into 4 pieces. I used to have a handbag made from paper and strips of garbage bags, in the chain pattern, many years ago. I've been searching the web to find it, to teach my daughter. If anyone knows how, contact me at dragonlady94@yahoo.com