Between Father’s Day, graduations, and weddings, the month of June can push our present-making abilities to the edge.  Hell, some people even have the nerve to have BIRTHDAYS in June!  Once in a while, even the craftiest among us does not have time to put together a handmade gift, but with this easy tutorial, you can still personalize your presents – with style!

Although I freely admit to being very excited at receiving a gift card, a check, or a brand new Benjamin, I feel guilt-ridden and a bit embarrassed when all I have  to offer at the gift-giving table is a flat little envelope.  To save my conscience, I devised three different ways to jazz up a gift card by upcycling a coffee sleeve.



I love coffee, but since I also love the skin on my hands, I always use the paper sleeve with which my barista lovingly supplies me.  Of course, once the coffee’s gone, I feel like a tree-killing jerk as I throw the sleeve away, so I started saving the sleeves – and now you should, too!

Start any or all of these projects by procuring a coffee sleeve.  The awesome part about this step is now you have an excuse to go order up your favorite grandisimo non-fat, triple shot  mocha  with extra whip!  Or you can snag a sleeve from a caffeinated co-worker.  Either way, you can soon be on your way to making one of these, which are super-fun to create and easy to personalize for your favorite coffee lover











To make a painted or collaged sleeve

You’ll need:

  • A coffee sleeve
  • A coffee cup
  • Scissors
  • Craft paint and/or collage images
  • Gesso (optional)
  • Glue
  • Embellishments (as desired)
  • Tissue paper or lid for cup

To get started:

  • Carefully open the sleeve up so you have a flat surface to work on.
  • Paint a base layer of craft paint or gesso over the outside surface of the sleeve. Let dry.
  • Use a pencil to sketch the image you wish to paint on to your sleeve. If you prefer to collage an image on then do your thing right now…you all know how, cut,glue,rinse,repeat.
  • Paint in . Let dry throughly and then either seal with a layer of acrylic medium or fixative spray.
  • Glue the edge back  together. You can fancy up the seam with a button, a brad, or any other embellishment you like, keeping in mind anything overly bulky may be awkward to hold on to while drinking a beverage that ” may be extremely hot.”
  • Once the sleeve is dry, slip it onto an empty cup and put some tissue paper in there, slide in that gift card, and now you can bear gifts in style. If you want to preserve the air of mystery  you can skip the tissue and drop in the gift card and replace the cup lid.
  • I’d love to see a set of day of the week sleeves, since my Mama would never buy me that set of day of the week undies I always wanted!
  • Or you Hot Soccer Moms could make a set of Team Sleeves and show some team spirt and make the other Moms jealous.


Fabric Covered Sleeves

You’ll need:

  • A coffee sleeve
  • A coffee cup
  • Scissors
  • Fabric
  • Needle & thread
  • WonderUnder or other fusible web
  • Iron
  • Glue
  • Tissue paper or lid for cup

These sleeves use up some little scrap bits of fabric you might have around. If you really want a certain type of fabric you can actually buy 4 inches of fabric at the fabric store.  (I checked at my local fabric store, and for four inches of a fabric that sells for $9.99 a yard, it is only $0.55 cents.)

  • Carefully open sleeve.
  • Because I wanted to stitch around the edges of these I used my needle to poke holes in the edges before I put the fabric on, just to make it easier on my fingers!



  • Cut a piece of Wonder Under just a little bigger than the the front of the cardboard sleeve, then iron it on to the cardboard (without removing paper layer)  following package directions for temperature settings




  • Peel paper backing off. Lay fabric, right side up on to coffee sleeve. Iron on to fuse the fabric to the cardboard.Trim fabric to edge of coffee sleeve.

  • Use embroidery floss or yarn to stitch  around edges. I did a simple whip stitch to bind the edges.
  • Glue edges back together.  I usually use a big paperclip to hold it in place while the glue sets.
  • Voila!  You’re done!


Book Style Card Holder

If you prefer to combine a greeting card and a gift card you can use a sleeve to make a little “book” in which to present your offering.

You will need:

  • Coffee sleeve
  • Two sheets of paper
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery thread and needle OR stapler and glue
  • Craft paint, collage images, or anything else you want to decorate the book

Here’s how to get started

  • Open only one side of the sleeve.


  • Flatten the sleeve and use it as a template to trace the shape on to  a sheet or two of paper. I used a speckled copy paper  I had from a different project. You can get two pages from one sheet of paper.


  • Fold those in half to make book pages.
  • On a center page make a little pocket to hold your gift card. You can make the pocket by cutting a rectangle of paper and taping or  gluing the bottom and sides down, leaving the top edge open so you can slip the card in there.


  • Write your message. Decorate any other pages you want with a note, more art, fun quotes or photos or leave them blank and your bud can use it to collect autographs from ____________________(your favorite barista, visiting dignitaries,Wonderstrange Artists you happen upon)
  • Use embroidery thread to sew the  pages in to the  book. If you prefer not to bust out the needle then simply staple the pages together on the fold and use double faced tape or glue the last page to the inside of the back and the first page to the inside of the front.
  • You can leave the edges of the floss hanging out and tie some beads on or trim these closely.
  • Slide that card in there and present it gleefully. (If that means with a full show choir to you, then go for it; otherwise just grin broadly ,’ cause you are awesome.)


We can’t wait to see what you have up YOUR sleeves so send a picture of the results to  for your chance  to win ! Are you so  fully caffeinated that you want to make LOTS of cool stuff?  You can see more tutorials here. After that, kick back and enjoy looking at your entry and all the other wonders from the contest online here.

Looking for a present that you don’t need till next week?  Wonderstrange totally can hook you up when you shop here.











Cindy Jo

Cindy Jo teaches art and enjoys passing her love of the pretty ,the weird, and the pretty weird on to another generation of artists.Check out CIndy Jo's shop


Crystal Meaux · June 3, 2011 at 9:03 am

Ms CindyJo, I LOVE this project. I want to ditch work right now and go home and make a hundred of them!

AnnDAngelo · June 3, 2011 at 9:36 am

Crystal, I had EXACTLY the same reaction when I read this! It is such a clever freaking idea! GO CINDERS!

Terry · June 3, 2011 at 9:59 am

Oh Cindy —- THANK YOU!!!! I have been saving coffee sleeves for years, and I occasionally use them in my artwork. But this tutorial gives me some wonderful ideas on how to use them for creative gifts! And I already have the supplies needed to alter the sleeves too.

    Crystal Meaux · June 3, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Isn't that the best part? I love it when I find projects that don't require me to buy anything. 😀

sarah · June 3, 2011 at 10:28 am

I really love that you're using the cup as the gift bag. As if the fancy sleeves weren't awesome enough! You rule, cinderpants!

Crystal Meaux · June 3, 2011 at 10:58 am

Just wanted to note that as an English major I appreciate your masterful avoidance of ending this sentence with a preposition: "I always use the paper sleeve with which my barista lovingly supplies me."

Beth Kingery · June 3, 2011 at 11:50 am

Cindy…..this is a great tutorial!! I as you know am a Starbucks junkie…..and I have lots of sleeves. I have made a few custom sleeves before for family and friends!! They are fun!! I also have a Chunky Album of sorts using all Starbucks sleeves as the chunky pages!!! Thanks for sharing this with me…….You so rock my dear!!! 🙂

nangalambos · June 3, 2011 at 12:01 pm

So many guilt-riddled sleeve trashings come to mind. Lovely Cinders, I'm hugging you and the trees at the same time. LOVE this project. Will celebrate with a Starbucks today to get my supply built up! EXCELLENT idea!

cindyjob · June 3, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Thanks everyone! I like cheap and easy too…in my art as well as my friends! I can't wait to see everyone's take on this tutorial. Go forth and upcycle!

Laurie Meynig · June 4, 2011 at 12:15 am

Oh my word, what an awesome idea! I really can't wait to give this a go!

cindyjob · June 8, 2011 at 7:52 am

Laurie and Maggie, I would love to see what you come up with.

Heather Lynne Thompson · June 8, 2011 at 11:18 pm

Great idea! I once tried to stitch a bunch of sleeves from 7-11 to make a booklet but they must have been perforated or something because it just fell apart. I might try this, though.

Carol B.C. Honkanen · June 19, 2011 at 11:36 am

I'm digging through the trash, getting my husband's cups out, so I can start my art project. Gheez, I read further in the instructions that the person may DRINK out of this cup?! I better use scalding water to clean it out . . . 😉

Carol B.C. Honkanen · June 19, 2011 at 11:39 am

Ooops, I've never been good at reading. I re-read the instructions. This is all about the SLEEVES!!! LoL Well, hopefully, they throw away the used coffee cup. 🙂

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