July 4th DIY: Make a Vintage Heart Box

July 4th Vintage Heart Box Tutorial

I have a small confession to make: I don’t have any patriotic decorations – except for some outdoor American flags in my planters – for the July 4th holiday. I never really thought about it until recently, when I saw many of my craft blogger friends sharing tips and tutorials filled with patriotic style. I needed to do something, but what?

How about a paper maché heart box?

Well, there’s this vintage image that has always cracked me up: a little boy holding a giant firecracker with the words, “Will you go off with me on the 4th?” No, it isn’t meant to be a risqué image or question, but just the thought that perhaps in Victorian times this image did have a hidden meaning, well… I decided I just had to use this image in my first-ever July 4th DIY: a patriotic vintage heart box!

The supplies…

Paper maché heart box
Krylon acrylic sealer
Mini glue dots
Mod Podge – matte finish
Stickles Glitter Glue in “Diamond”
Tim Holtz Distress Ink Pad in “Frayed Burlap”
Acrylic paints in brown, ivory, and red shades
Blue sequins
Plastic peanut butter jar lid to hold the paint and glue (see my awesome tip here)
Foam brush
Paper towels
Scissors – large and detailed sizes
White netting tulle
Vintage book text

Note: the vintage book text that I chose comes from a book in my own collection from 1915 called GingerSnaps by Col. William C. Hunter. The tiny book is filled with short essays by the author, and I couldn’t resist using the first page of the “Made in U.S.A.” essay for this project!

paper mache heart box craft
Paper maché heart-shaped box from the craft store…
Box and lid how-to:
  1. Paint the heart box and lid in an ivory shade. I needed to do 3 coats to get solid coverage. Let dry in between each coat.
  2. Paint red squares, somewhat loosely, around the lid. Let dry.
  3. Distress the box and lid with a watered-down brown paint wash. Brush it on with a foam brush, and then wipe and blot off with a paper towel. Do this until you like the amount of distress that you see. Let dry.
  4. Spray entire box with the Krylon sealer and let dry.
  5. Distress the box and lid further using the Distress Ink Pad. Lightly dab the pad onto the surface of the box just in certain places to add more dimension. On the lid, dab the ink pad onto the ivory squares on the side, avoiding the red ones, and also distress the top of the lid.
  6. Using the Distress Ink Pad, rub the pad along the creases and seams of the box and lid.
  7. Let everything dry. Then spray once more with a light coat of sealer and let dry.
paper mache heart box craft
Step 1:  The paper maché surface really soaked up the first coat of paint.
painting paper mache heart box
Step 2:  Paint red squares around the lid.
distress a painted paper mache box
Step 3:  Paint the box and lid with a watered-down brown
paint “wash” and then wipe off with paper towels.
distress a painted paper mache box
Close-up detail after Step 5.
Main image of Firecracker Boy for the top of the box:
  1. Print out the image onto 65 lb white cardstock. Wait a few minutes (to dry), and then print an enlarged vintage book text onto the backside of the cardstock. Let dry for a few minutes.
  2. If using an inkjet printer, spray your image – front and back – with the acrylic sealer and let dry before the next steps.
  3. Cut out your image carefully. Make sure to include a “base” at the bottom of the image that can be folded to help the image “stand up” on the box lid. (I digitally collaged a wood floor image onto the vintage boy image, and left enough to use to stand him up later.)
  4. Ink the edges of your image – both front and back – with the Distress Ink Pad to make the image look a bit more aged, as well as to give it some definition. Let dry.
  5. Apply glitter glue onto the quotation marks and words on the firecracker in the image. Let dry.
  6. Spray both sides with a light coat of sealer and let dry.
  7. Fold part of the very bottom of the image at a 90-degree angle from the rest of the image. You will adhere the bottom of this to the box lid later.
decoupage a paper mache box
These are the images used in this project. The Firecracker Boy is mine.
The “embroidered” vintage alphabet and the airmail stamp are from The Graphics Fairy.
Flat images for box and lid:
  1. Print out your images.
  2. If using an inkjet printer, spray your images with the acrylic sealer (and let dry) before decoupaging them to the heart box and lid.
  3. Cut out your images carefully.
  4. Ink the edges of your alphabet images with the Distress Ink Pad, and also “scuff up” the front of your images a bit with the ink pad too. Let dry.
  5. Cut out a heart from some old book text (or a scan of some old text). Ink the edges of the heart with the Distress Ink Pad. Let dry.
  6. For the images being decoupaged directly to the box and lid, lay out your images to map out the placement.
  7. Apply Mod Podge to the back of each image as well as to the part of the box (and lid) where the image will go. Place the image onto the box and smooth down to make sure it fully sticks to the surface.
  8. Repeat step 5 for each additional image to be adhered to the box and lid.
  9. Let everything dry.
  10. Apply Mod Podge over each image to seal it and let dry.
  11. Spray a light coat of sealer over the entire box and lid. Let dry.
patriotic paper mache box craft
The embroidered alphabet letters A through D on the “front” of the box.
patriotic paper mache box craft
The letters E through H on one side of the box.
patriotic paper mache box craft
The letters W through Z on the other side of the box.
patriotic paper mache box craft
The “back” of the box.
Putting everything together:
  1. Attach blue sequins to a few spots on the box using mini glue dots.
  2. Take your Firecracker Boy’s wood floor base that you previously folded. Attach mini glue dots to the part that will “face” the top of the lid. Press this folded part to the lid to attach the boy.
  3. Take the final piece of the alphabet images, cut length-wise in half, and make one fold at one end. Attach a mini glue dot to that fold and adhere to the back of the boy image attached to the lid. Use a mini glue dot to attach the top of the alphabet image to the back of the Firecracker Boy at a slight angle. This will help the boy stay standing up.
  4. Cut some squares of white tulle netting into 3 different – but similar – sizes. Fold each piece in half, cut out a semi-circle in the center, and open up.
  5. Slip each piece of tulle, one at a time, over the Firecracker Boy and arrange until you’re satisfied with how it looks.
July 4th paper mache box craft
I like having the “Made in U.S.A.” text on the box lid.
July 4th paper mache box craft
Here you can see the back of the Firecracker Boy, and how he is propped up.
Printing the backside of the boy image with book text, plus distressing the edges,
provides a more finished look when viewed from the back.
July 4th paper mache box craft
July 4th paper mache box craft
And that’s all there is to it! 
I really like how it turned out! I also like that it fits in with my own sense of humor – wondering if the Victorian artist meant for there to be a double meaning when he drew the Firecracker Boy…
Happy Fourth of July!



  1. says

    SUPER little box!!!!! I just LOVE boxes like this!!!!!!!!! 🙂 Come on over to my blog on the 4th & I’ll have something made with a Vintage image too! 🙂 Don’t you just LOVE Vintage!?! 🙂 SUPER POST! AND SUPER PROJECT TOO!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

  2. says

    This is adorable, Laura! I’m usually not a huge “vintage” fan (since it’s mostly stuff from my childhood, ha ha) but this is just lovely.

    Have a great weekend!