December 13, 2021

Craft a Decorative Nutcracker Out of Recycled Packaging

Craft a Decorative Nutcracker Out of Recycled Packaging

By Jess Galvan, Local Artist, Creator & Goodwill Treasure Hunter

Last year I took on the task of making a six-foot nutcracker. “Frederick” is probably one of my favorite projects ever. But, as fun as it was and as cool as he looks, I know that not everyone wants to get that deep into it or has a place to store a 6-foot tall, slightly intimidating toy soldier.


After getting yet another threat from my storage unit (my garage) manager (my husband). This led to me trying to figure out what I could do with the coffee cans I’ve been saving. That led to this year’s nutcracker “Vladimir” being a more manageable size and easier to make. Speaking of size, you can truly use any size coffee can as your base for this project.

Gather your basic supplies:

  • Coffee can
  • Empty paper towel, toilet paper, or wrapping paper rolls. You’ll need 5 of these equal in size for two arms, two legs, and one cut in half for feet.
  • Your choice of materials for clothes. Construction paper, felt, material or paint.
  • Embellishments (i.e. string beads, ribbon, fur)
  • Newspaper
  • Hot glue gun

For base material, I used a wood round I got at a craft store, but you can use cardboard cut to size. This will keep your nutcracker stable and standing level.

Cover the coffee can ¾ of the way with jacket material or paint, leaving space in the front for his face, mouth, and beard. Stuff four of the tubes with newspaper; this makes them stronger and more stable. Decide which two cardboard rolls are legs and arms, and cover them with your material or paint them to match.

Glue the lid to the can to secure and cut two Xs into the center of the lid. Insert two of your cardboard tubes into the X cuts and hot glue to secure. Flip upside down and glue the bottom of the tubes to your base. On the front of the legs, attach the “feet” to the front of the legs and to the base with hot glue.


On each side of the coffee can attach one cardboard arm roll about halfway down. Paint or cut felt to the shape of face and glue on, and then add your eyes and beard. To make his nose more 3D, I cut out three small triangles of cardboard identical in size, glued them together, and wrapped them in felt before gluing them to the face.

Using a scrap of cardboard, I wrapped the top of the coffee can, giving it more height, and then glued fur and a snowflake trim to it for his hat.


As always, you can make these guys as basic or over the top as you want. This is also a perfect project for using all those small pieces of ribbon and trim you’ve been saving for a snowy day!

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