Upcycle the Blue Hymnal: Five Easy Advent Crafts

Like many Presbyterian churches, Tiny Church recently purchased a set of the new hymnal, Glory to God. (I love it.) Now, of course, we have stacks and stacks of blue (1990) hymnals we are no longer using.

We’ll keep a set of them, but we’re starting to talk about what to do with the extras. Are there fledgling church communities or nursing homes that could use them? Undoubtedly… though I suspect many of these organizations will be inundated with offers of old hymnals since there’s a lot of us suddenly trying to unload these things.

If and when we find a new home for the hymnals, there will be some random extras that are in such poor condition that they can’t be passed along. I myself have 2 or 3 hymnals floating around my house and study, and they are not fit to donate.

So… how about upcycling the copies that have lived a good life and are ready for some transformation? Old sheet music is beautiful and historic and a lovely material to work with. It’s good stewardship to give these old books new life.

Presenting: five easy Advent crafts using the blue hymnal!

I enjoy doing things with my hands, but I’m not skilled. So my suggestions are meant to be simple enough even for the craft-challenged. Got an Advent ministry event coming up? Sunday School lessons to plan? Potluck dinner in need of an activity? Here are my five best suggestions for EASY crafts with the blue hymnal… or any other sheet music or pretty paper. (Of course, I recommend you use hymns 1-60 for these crafts: Advent and Christmas.)

Stamped Music Ornaments

Upcycled Vintage Book Paper Holiday Ornament Tutorial

My girls and I are in the middle of making these right now and they are pretty and simple to make. The circles of music are so pretty, and the snatches of lyrics are festive. I got a set of Christmas-themed stamps and some burlap ribbon and we’re good to go. We’re putting sheet music on each side so there’s no “wrong” side.


Clear Globe Ornaments


This picture is done with a wedding invitation but it would be easy to create strips of hymns and coil them inside the ornaments. Add a decorative ribbon and you’re done. Here’s one set of plastic ornaments I found.

For this project and the one above, it would be nice to have a small tag explaining the source of the music… especially if these are gifts.


Advent Poems


This is a craft and a contemplative activity rolled into one—great for a Quiet Day or prayer gathering. Take a favorite Advent/Christmas hymn (or maybe a non-favorite) and read through it for words or phrases you might string together to make a new poem. Circle those words and doodle the rest of the page as shown.


Paper Chain


Oldie but goodie! Use strips of hymnal pages to make a garland for the tree or a Christmas “countdown” chain. I can report that vertical strips of the hymnal are a good length for stringing together.


Paper Trees

CONFESSIONS OF A PLATE ADDCIT Easy Vintage Paper Trees_thumb[5]

Scroll to the bottom of this page for instructions. This is the most complicated of the five options here, but still not all that challenging.  


I’ve started a Pinterest board with these and other ideas for upcycling the old hymnals. With each liturgical season—Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost—I will choose my favorites and create a post just like this one. In the meantime you can follow my “upcycling-the-hymnal” board (or all of my boards).

Speaking of ways to connect, starting later this month I’ll be writing weekly email articles including tips and inspiration to have a “Sabbathy” Advent. Sign up for those here.

27 thoughts on “Upcycle the Blue Hymnal: Five Easy Advent Crafts

  1. Teri

    Love all these ideas!

    Here are some I offered when asked this question recently… (I used to use scrap paper and gold spray paint to make these when I was a kid–I think they would be super cool with music pages!)


    and here was another one offered on the same thread:

    LOVE the ornaments!!

  2. Constance

    sent you some of the Hymnal things we made last year– the Lutherans seem to have a lot alot of hymnals to up cycle also– we made them in my home last year at Creative Haven neighborhood events

  3. Stephanie @ Hugs, Kisses and Snot

    I love these ideas! I’m the interim youth director at church until we hire someone new (please let someone awesome come along…like yesterday!). I’ve been thinking about what to do w/ the kids for advent. They will love this! I especially love the Advent Poem. Thanks!

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  5. Charlotte Kroeker

    My blue 1990 Presbyterian Hymnal with my name imprinted is on the shelf behind my desk next to my Bible, a gift for singing in our choir for 5 years. I refer to it often and will continue to reference it even when Glory to God replaces the blue books in our hymnal racks. Though many of the hymns are in both books, the precious hours and years spent singing and playing from the blue book cannot be replaced. The blue book is forever part of my life. Just as hymnals belonging to my parents and grandparents retain a place of honor on my bookshelves.

    I could not help but wonder what children are learning by tearing pages out of hymnals to make crafts. Will they tear pages out of Bibles too– so much Scripture is found in the texts of those hymns. Will they tear pages out of new hymnals if they need craft paper? Will they reduce the wisdom of hundreds of years of Christians contained in those hymns to bits of paper on a Christmas tree without knowing the journeys they represent? Will they learn Christianity is disposable? Will they understand how random musical notes are meaningless until they are organized and transformed into beautiful sounds by musicians to offer praise to God? Rather, might it be an option to use the the books to teach the children to sing: commit words to memory, learn to read the notes, and to discover the treasures within the blue books, hymns they will grow into but not out of, a worn but loved blue book of their own from their parent to pass on to their children who will share the mysteries of an eternal faith?

    1. MaryAnn McKibben Dana Post author

      Oh, I don’t know. God gives Isaiah a scroll to eat… if that’s not defacing a book, I don’t know what is 😉

      On a more serious note. I tried to be clear in my post that these ideas are for the falling-apart books, the books left over after they have gone home with those who want them, and after the ones in good condition have found new worshiping communities to edify. Your critique, while obviously heartfelt, seems rather binary to me… as if we cannot teach the old hymns and the theology therein, while also giving falling-apart books a new artistic life.

      Our administrative assistant spent much of yesterday going through our blue hymnals, setting aside and tagging those books that have dedications in them. On Sunday after church, we will set them out and people will be delighted to take some of those home. But even after we do this, there will be many left behind, many of which are in sad shape after being lovingly and boisterously used for more than two decades. It does not show reverence for that music, nor is it good stewardship, to keep books whose covers are falling off and whose spines are cracking, just for the sake of keeping them.

      There’s also a difference between handing a book to a child and saying “RIP AWAY!” and preparing an activity in which the pages have already been carefully removed.

      1. Charlotte Kroeker

        Granted, books wear out. Clothes get old. I recently read an article that said most of us have an old shirt we don’t wear anymore but we don’t throw it away either because of the memories it holds. Not all the books in your church fell into that category. But they were used a lot to be that worn. They had a sacred purpose but can fulfill that purpose no longer. How can the sacred purpose of a hymnal [in general] be retained in the de-purposing of a particular hymnal that is worn?

        Perhaps there is a recycling bin at Presbyterian Publishing where these hymnals can go to be re-born as Glory to God – I do not know. The issue is one of respect for the sacred, and teaching our children the value of hymnody that can sustain their faith through their lives. What we do with worn Bibles, hymnals, pews, churches and other of the sacred in our lives may seem unimportant, or could we, if we thought about it, make the process an outward expression of an inner faith?

        1. MaryAnn McKibben Dana Post author

          I did find myself wishing that some Presbyterian entity had set up a clearing house to process donations, or at least a list of suggested destinations for the blue hymnal. Maybe they did, I can never find anything on the PCUSA website. But I suspect that some organizations will be inundated with offers, and other, lower profile organizations will not receive any. Which is a shame, and not good stewardship either.

          There is something so beautiful about well-worn pages and softened covers. There is also something beautiful about giving materials that are no longer serving a utilitarian purpose a new life. Upcycling is a growing artistic (and environmental) movement. We may disagree on that, or we may agree on the principle but disagree on whether an old hymnal is a bridge too far. Either way, I thank you for your comments!

          1. Constance

            When our church got new hymnals, they worked to find a mission start that could use then- nobody wanted old worn hymnals, We tried to locate other venues to take them for free.. We put them out on tables and told members to take as many as they wanted- (they did take some), and then the boxes sat outside to be loaded into the recycle bins. I could not stand it and pulled as many boxes as I could into the back of my car. I brought them home and then gave them away to crafters who have made them into New creations. It blesses me to see them lovingly compiled into art that sings a melody, rather than processed into less sacred recycling. Not the best of all possible answers, but you do what you can do at the time.

          2. Charlotte Kroeker

            I like the sensitivity to preserving the integrity and sacredness of the hymnals that Connie reflects. I would enjoy hearing from a visual artist, a poet, a hymn writer, a philosopher talk about elements of a hymnal being re-purposed as art. As a musician, for the music to be re-purposed, the musical elements retaining their integrity as a whole is important. The music functions as a whole with the text, the text is a poem as a whole, and the two together make up the art form in the hymnal. To respect these elements in a new art form would be important if they are lifted from the hymnal itself. Thanks for spurring an interesting discussion!

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