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.