Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mermaids and Pirates Party - How to Antique Paper

The clever girl's birthday party is this weekend!  For the past few years, we have had a joint party with some friends of ours with a son born 1 1/2 weeks after the clever girl.  We have such fun at our joint parties that we both fear the day when our kids want their own!  Our friends have a pool, so each year we plan the party around swimming.  In Houston, summer birthdays must involve water.  It is too hot for anything else!  So we have had a luau party, an ocean party, and now a mermaids and pirates party!  I tend to get sort of carried away in party planning, so you can expect to see several posts about the party!

We came to the idea for a Mermaid/Pirate theme from our desire to do a treasure hunt.  I am responsible for creating the clues for the hunt and wanted to make them look old... like for a real buried treasure.  So I Googled "antiquing paper" and came up with a great tutorial!  A-ha!

First I had to brainstorm the clues....  That was quite a task.  I made the mistake of starting when it was already late in the evening and I was exhausted from the day.  This does not tend to be the time when my creative juices are flowing very well.  So it took some work.  Also since our kids are turning 4, I needed to make the clues fairly simple.  Once I came up with the clues, I designed the pages using Microsoft Publisher.  You can use whatever publishing software you like, even Microsoft Word would probably work!  I found a graphic for a compass and a fun font and went to work!

So anyway, get whatever project you want antiqued, and use a LASER printer to print whatever you want on the paper.  Inkjet paper is water soluble, so that won't work.

Make some hot coffee.  This will sound outrageous to some, but neither my husband nor I are actually coffee drinkers.  Yes, it is true.  We are weird like that.  Nothing against coffee, we just don't have that particular craving.  So I used some instant coffee I keep on hand for random needs (mostly for making chocolate cake, but that is fodder for another post!)  Anyway, make up about a cup or so of hot coffee, depending on how many pages you intend to antique.

Take your beautifully printed paper and crumple it into a ball.  Now carefully un-crumple it and smooth it out.  Place it in a baking sheet bigger than your piece of paper.

Pour some coffee all over the paper.  You don't have to use a lot, but you do want all of the paper to get coffee on it.  I spread it around with my fingers, but you could also use a sponge brush or something, depending on how hot your coffee happens to be!

  Now sprinkle some instant coffee on top of the coffee mess (left photo).  Let this sit for a few moments, letting the coffee sprinkles start to dissolve a little bit. Take a paper towel and dab up the pooled coffee  and remaining coffee granules (right photo).

Put the baking sheet into the oven at 200F.  Bake your paper until you see that the paper is dry.  You can see that it is drying when the edges of the paper start to curl up.  The time on this will depend on the thickness of your paper, how much coffee you poured and how well you dabbed it all up.  It took each of my pages about 12 minutes.

Ta-da!  "Antique" paper!

Cool, huh?  My plan is to roll up my clues and stick them out of clean (as in washed out and no label) brown or green beer bottles and place them in the appropriate places at my friend's house.  My husband has had the job of drinking the beer this week to provide the bottles.  He was glad to help!

Here are the clues in the bottles ready for the treasure hunt!  I rolled up the pages on the diagonal starting from the bottom left corner, and rolled them fairly tightly to get into the neck of the bottles. 

In some of the bottles the clues were harder to remove, almost like a suction was created, and the kids had to turn the paper the direction of the roll to get them out.  I am not sure why that happened but it certainly didn't diminish the excitement of the treasure hunt!  It was a BLAST.    The kids loved it and were ALMOST sad to find the treasure, as that meant the hunt was over.  Our treasure was a little treasure chest filled with beads and chocolate coins.  Once the excitement of the treasure hunt was over, we divided up the treasures and sent a bag home with each guest.


  1. This was really useful... and easy. Thanks

  2. Brilliant, I was looking for a way to do this without burning the edges, thank you.

  3. Thank you, this has worked a treat for some homemade treasure maps for our school fete's Pirate Showbags!

  4. I loved the antiquing tutorial. I was looking for a list of the cute clues you made too, but I couldn't find them. Do you have a list?

    1. I looked back in my files and I actually do!! I am happy to email them to you if you want to send me your email address. I made them up, so feel free to change them up but these should give you a start anyway! My email is

  5. I love this! We are moving, to a new house a few miles away and my 5 year old *thinks* he is supposed to be anxious (thank you , Inside Out). I plan on doing some sort of treasure hunt where he finds a hidden key at the current house and the cluse will lead him to the new house. I hope it makes him feel a little better!

  6. how did you keep from your ink spreadin?


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