Five thrifty uses for old maps

Miss Thrifty16 August 15, 2012

Map Storage Boxes I don’t know about you, but I love old maps. Ordnance survey ones are my favourites but really, any will do. Thanks to our penchant for thrifty road trip holidays, we have a fair few maps kicking around. Maps, like books, don’t really lend themselves to being thrown away.

It’s silly, really: the older maps are out of date, and some of them cover places that we are unlikely to visit again. But I can’t bin them. So about two dozen maps are sitting in my filing cabinet, a couple of small stacks in elastic bands, covering patches of land from southern California to the Highlands.

With a little help from Pinterest, I’ve realised that far from being an inveterate hoarder (perish the thought), I’ve actually been stockpiling valuable raw materials for craft projects and thrifty presents. Result!

Five thrifty uses for old maps

1. Map Storage Boxes 

If you can wrap a present neatly, you can do this (above). And look: they’re just old shoe boxes. I have wrapped a number of boxes like this at Christmas time, and my tip is to use good old Pritt-Stick, which won’t soak through the paper. Apply the glue liberally to the shoebox lid, then press it into the paper (rather than the other way round). Keep your fingers washed and clean while you are doing this, or there’s a good chance the paper will end up with nasty, sticky smears across it.  (DesignSponge)

Map Picture Mounts 2. Map Picture Mounts

They call these mats in the USA: the thick card or pretty paper mounts for framed photographs. If you have a treasured holiday photograph or childhood memory, why not frame it with the appropriate map as backing?

I would recommend that you mount the map onto card first – the thicker, the better. (

Map Lampshade 3. Map Lampshade

Use a one-sided map, otherwise both sides will show up when you turn the lamp on. I think it’s a nice effect though: the lamp in the picture is covered with a two-sided map. Cut the map to size and use spray adhesive to glue it to your shade. The cheapest, most basic lampshades are best: their ribbon edges ensure a neat finish.

With regard to safety, the maker of this shade notes that the lamp in the picture “has been lit daily (nightly) since April without any problems what so ever. I use low watt bulbs and using a proper lamp shade underneath made out of lamp shade material makes me feel safe. If you have any concerns whatsoever though, stick to store bought shades.” (Chez Larsson)

Map Coasters 4. Map Coasters

Upcycle old coasters! Glue the map to the top of the coaster; again, you may wish to mount it on card first, if you don’t want the old coaster pattern showing through. These coasters are glued and “varnished” with something called Mod Podge, which is popular with American crafters. It’s a glue with a glossy finish. You can buy it over here in the UK, from stockists including Amazon, but it is expensive.

I have a recipe for homemade Mod Podge, which works just as well, and which I’m planning to share on here in the not-too-distant future. (

Embroidered map in frame 5. And my favourite of all… Map Artwork!

Had an unforgettable journey or roadtrip? Embroider your route onto the map, and frame it. Such a simple and thrifty idea, and I think it looks terrific. My h*sb*nd is known to vanity search on this blog, to see what I have been writing about him (pah!) – which is why he’s in asterisks here, because I’m planning to do this one with a map of America for his Christmas present.

To avoid tearing the paper, mark out your route with an empty needle first. Prick the holes through which you are going to pull the thread. You can also mark your destination with an ‘X’. (


What else can you do with an old map?

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16 Responses to “Five thrifty uses for old maps

Al Carlton says:

A friend of mine decorated their downstairs bathroom totally with maps, must admit I can’t decide if it looks cool a bit tacky (I’ll get you a pic next time I’m there)

August 15, 2012 at 11:33 am

Miss Thrifty says:

Oh cool, definitely cool! Beats taking a book in to read. 😉

August 15, 2012 at 11:36 am

HappyMum says:

I LOVE THIS! I am a map nerd and think the sewn route idea absolutely fantastic! What about other maps? – geological maps are beautiful. x

August 15, 2012 at 4:17 pm

I’ve seen lots of posts about using maps in box frames as a set of 3 to display, where you met, where you live and where you got married, engaged etc. Such a cute idea!

August 15, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Johnny Debt says:

Yet another good article that I have now posted on Pinterest!!

August 16, 2012 at 9:28 am

Angie Wootten says:

Absolutely love this idea, especially the sewn route. I love maps too so shall definitely take on board some of these ideas. Thanks Miss Thrifty.

August 16, 2012 at 9:45 am

Helena Petre says:

Fabulous ideas! Thanks for sharing

August 16, 2012 at 10:01 am

Christie says:

What great ideas! I love you blog:)

August 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Working Girl says:

Some very cool ideas there – I love the boxes and coasters! 🙂 Rather annoyed I’ve just had a clear out of old maps, darn it!! Shall remember these for next time.

August 20, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Great idea! I love old maps, and particularly like the storage boxes you made!

August 23, 2012 at 11:30 am

Savvy Scot says:

The Map Picture mounts are fantastic!

August 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Gary says:

Some really good ideas here. I particularly liked the map coasters, thought they looked really good. What did you do underneath, just glue it down or did you cut to the edges?

August 29, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Montana says:

I only recently found this blog and I think that you have come up with some really interesting ways to not only save money but find new uses for things like these old world maps 🙂 I think the overall look and feel of your blog is really cool and funky and love how many different aspects of being thrifty you cover!
I’m really enjoying reading your other posts! Thanks for sharing your ideas! 🙂

October 3, 2012 at 1:44 pm

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