Make a Perpetual Calendar for the New Year

A new year is nearly upon us! Why not start it off by creating a perpetual calendar you can use to track not only this coming year, but years to come? Designed by Nancy Ison, this mixed-media calendar incorporates laminate samples, ephemera and more. Follow Nancy’s tutorial, as featured in our November/December 2016 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, to make your own.

perpetual calendar
Nancy Ison’s perpetual calendar (Photographed by Sharon White Photography)

Perpetual Calendar Art by Nancy Ison

I like to make art that is not only fun to look at, but useful as well. While remodeling houses a few years ago, I ended up with a number of laminate samples and thought they’d be great to repurpose in an art project. They turned out to be perfect mini canvases.

What I love most about these calendars is that there can be so many variations, which makes them a great gift. I’ve made beach-, mountain-, and farm-themed calendars, as well as ones solely dictated by a favorite color palette. The materials and techniques I use are as varied as my interests.


  • Board base (I used a 16″ x 20″ x ¾” wooden board.)
  • Paints and mediums (I used acrylic paints.)
  • Laminate samples, wood shapes, or tags, 31 (Inquire at your local home improvement store for discontinued laminate samples. These can also be purchased in bulk online at Etsy and other websites.)
  • Papers: decorative, handmade, maps, book pages, etc.
  • Scraps, found objects, and ephemera: bits of fabric, lace and trims, buttons, corrugated cardboard, glass and tile bits, game pieces, tickets, labels, rub-ons, anything with numbers, beads, stamps, shells, stones, sport tickets, clothing labels, etc.
  • Glue (I used PVA.)
  • Scissors
  • Metal or other rigid rectangular pieces, 10 ½” x 2″, for the months (I cut six pieces of sheet metal to size and used both sides.)
  • Cord, ribbon, or similar for hanging the months
  • Label holders, metal, for days of the week (I used metal holders by K&Company.)
  • Nails, 42 (I used 1 ¼” nails with a large head.)
  • Metal punch (I used a Crop-A-Dile™ from We R Memory Keepers.)
  • Optional:
    • Die-cutting machine (I use mine a lot when making my perpetual calendars, but it is not necessary.)
    • Ranger Tim Holtz® Distress Marker
    • Bottle caps
    • Magnets, small

1. Prepare the base board by painting or decorating it. I often use a simple crackle paint technique for this. You’ll want an interesting background, but realize that most of it will be covered by the days of the month.

2. Decorate the tags for the days, adhering papers and/or fabrics with PVA, or paint them. Let the tags dry, and then trim any overhanging pieces with sharp scissors. Remember to cut out the hanging hole as well. (FIGURE 1)

FIGURE 1 (step-out photos by Jenn Guneratne)

TIP: To add variety, make the tags a mix of shiny and matte, wood and glitter, fabric and beads, cardboard and lace, etc.

3. Go through your stash (or a craft store) and find ways to represent the numbers for each day, then organize them in the order you want them. Keeping to your theme, embellish each tag as desired. I used a section of a tape measure, (FIGURE 1) metal numbers, words, and lots more. Think layers and texture.

NOTE: How many ways can you represent the numbers one through 31? Digits, words (English and foreign language), Roman numerals, a measuring tape, coins, and dominoes are just a few ideas. (FIGURE 2)


TIP: To add further dimension to the tags, run a marker around the edges, including the hanging hole. I used a Tim Holtz Distress Marker in Vintage Photo.

4. Glue the names of the months onto the individual metal bases. I used diecut letters for this. Punch 2 holes at the top of the metal, and insert a cord, ribbon, or similar for hanging. I used both sides of the metal bases, putting the months back-to-back, so I only needed 6 metal strips. (FIGURE 3)


TIP: To kick it up a notch, I rounded the corners of the metal pieces, embossed them, and colored them with alcohol inks before attaching the letters.

5. Create the labels for the days of the week, and insert them into the metal holders. I printed the days on vintage dictionary paper. (SEE OPENING IMAGE.)

6. Arrange the metal holders evenly across the top of the board, starting approximately ½” down from the top, and nail them in place.

7. Measure and mark where the rows of nails will be for the day and month tags. You will need 6 rows and 7 columns. I placed the nails approximately 1 ½” in from each side of the base, and approximately 2 ¼” apart. The spacing for the nails will be determined by the size of the tags you use. Make sure the nails line up, and pound them in so they tilt slightly upward.

8. Hang the month marker on the top row of nails and, after checking to see what day the month begins on, hang the tags.

9. Optional: Create special event markers from embellished bottle caps. (FIGURE 4) Glue a magnet to the bottoms of the caps and put them on top of a nail head to mark birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.

It’s really all about layers and texture, with a bit of whimsy thrown in. Before you know it, you’ll have more ideas than there are days of the month.


Nancy Ison and her husband built their dream house in the Great Smoky Mountains 10 years ago, making sure it had a quilt studio and yarn parlor. Soon after, she attended her first mixed-media retreat and it wasn’t long before the unfinished attic space filled with an even bigger stash. You can reach Nancy at

Click here to discover more ways you can alter everyday items into works of art!

Plus, check out these great products for more inspiration in the new year.

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to take stock of what you really want from your artistic life. But don’t start down that path alone – this special curated collection featuring artists who are eager to share their knowledge, processes, and expertise, is what you need to fulfill your creative goals.
This interactive coloring book—charged with positivity—includes daily and monthly calendars, shopping lists, cards to share with loved ones and, of course, meditative mantras and affirmations to uplift your spirits or start your day off on an upbeat note.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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