Don't Overlook This Easy and Fun Gift Idea: The Mix CD

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Don't believe the streaming media hype: mix CDs are indeed still a thing. Create as many Spotify playlists as you like, but cutting and pasting a link cannot compare to the aesthetic pleasure of pressing a carefully crafted compilation disc into the hands of someone special. 

If you no longer have an optical drive built into your computer (there are some sacrifices to be made for relying on a Macbook Air or other Ultrabook PC as your main machine), you’re out of luck. But, if you’ve still got one of those relic trays on the side of your laptop you can create a spontaneous physical expression of musical affection, filled with retro charm.

All you really need is a spindle of blank discs. But awkwardness surfaces when you’ve got nothing with which to protect that easily-scratchable media. Most blank discs don’t come with a pack of “jewel cases,” and even if they did, you’ll still want to personalize your mix gift in some way. We’ve gathered up a few very simple papercraft CD sleeves and covers. You can draw and write on them if you like (don’t forget to include the track listing with artist names), but having a color printer around for some of these templates is even faster for when you’re running out the door to meet your mix recipient.

But first you need some blank burnable discs. Any will do, but I hoard these Verbatim Digital Vinyl CDs—they look almost exactly like 45 rpm records, and enjoy the look of surprise on people’s faces when they do a double-take.

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You can buy plain recycled cardboard CD sleeves to decorate, such as these on Etsy, or search for decorative CD packs made by graphic designers (such as these, inspired by a couple’s long-distance relationship) but origami-style folding patterns and printed templates for regular 8.5x11-inch printer paper are free and faster.

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The Origami Resource Center links to a couple dozen CD sleeve folding patterns. I have very little skill or experience with paper folding, but I was able to make the three sleeves in this picture in under five minutes. This hexagonal design creates a petal-like opening that can be re-closed with a bit of patience (here’s a pretty variation). Here’s one with a paper locking mechanism, and this version features a slit and flap closure. This one needs to be resealed with a bit of double-sided tape, but features the benefit of a free printable template that allows you to upload a custom photo design and track list, and then generates a JPEG. Scissors are required.

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(Images: Rachel Rosmarin, SomersetMarket Etsy Shop, Curbly use Lilybee)

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As a child, Rachel Rosmarin pretended to be Penny Gadget (niece of Inspector) and toted around an imaginary book-shaped computer and connected wristwatch. When she grew up, she became a technology journalist.

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