Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy Do Day! A Personalized Birthday Banner Tutorial

I LOVE anything personalized, which may seem a bit odd since I am very protective of my cuties identities (hence the photoshoped out name on "Evie's" bunting). I also love items that can be used over and over and over. The fabric birthday banners that have become so popular fit both these requirements! AND bonus it doesn't take very much material woo hoo! It does take some patience (are we seeing a pattern here in No Mans Land lately? Ha!) If you have a boy you can totally do it in fun fabric for him. You can see Sawyers in the background of this pic from his pirate birthday party. My friend Elizabeth made it for him and I believe she makes them to order in her Lil' Abner Etsy shop.
(coolest party EVER I am dying to share the details)
What you will need:
Freezer Paper
X-acto knife
Fabric Paint (I had none and used toll paint and it worked great!)
Paint Brush
Coordinating fabric pieces of your choice
Sewing Machine
Pinking Shears
Several Paper Clips
I had the ABC song stuck in my head the entire time I did this :)

First thing is first. Print out the birthday banner template found HERE or in my list of downloadable patterns. Now you are going to have to decide which font you want your banner to be in. Mine is "Tell the Story" from the digital section on the scrap booking site Two Peas in a Bucket. Once you have settled on a font you are going to need to print out all the letters in "Happy Birthday" and your child's name. They will need to be large enough to fit in the center of the banner template you just printed out without looking to big or two small. I can't really give you an exact font size since, each one varies so much, but just play around with it. I personally was able to print 2 letters per page. Once you have all your letters go ahead and cut each one into a square. Now grab your freezer paper and cut squares to match. Take a few paper clips and secure the freezer paper ON TOP of your cut out letter with the shiney side down
Using your exacto knife trace around your letter all the way around eventually cutting out the letter from the freezer paper.
(It helps to keep the exacto knife more upright and pull as smoothly as possible) I of course chose a super hard cursivey font so I had to keep the little sections inside the letters. When I was done with each letter I would take one of the paper clips and secure all the little bits together and set them to the side. Once you have all your letters cut out and ready to go, gather your template, the fabric you have picked out and your regular scissors. I went with a smattering of Heather Baileys Sugar Mallow. I did not, however, want to use this on front and back (who really looks at the back right?) so, I also gathered 3 coordinating colors. You will need less then a half a yard of fabric of the priject, excepting the fabric you select to run across the top. Depending on the length of your child's name you may need more then a half a yard of this (half a yard was perfect for Evie who's real name has 7 letters) Once you have those gathered you are going to do a bit of math. Count up how many letters you will be using total, mine was 20. Now count up the number of various fabrics you have, I used 4. I knew I would then need to cut out 5 templates of each of the fabrics to have a nice even pattern. If you would like to have blank ones either at the ends or inbetween words take this into consideration. Once you have organized this cut out your templates.
(my template was bright purple, I guess I won't loose it ha!)
Repeat this process for the fabric you have decided to use for the back. By the end you should have a nice little stack of u shaped pieces. Now make your way to the kitchen table or some where with space. You are now going to lay out the pieces in the pattern you would like, this is totally up to you. I mean you could easily do the whole thing solid and have no pattern to deal with :) Once you have done this begin with HAPPY and match up the letters to the U's. Move on to BIRTHDAY and then your child's name. Now fire up the old iron and either take the pieces one at a time or grab the whole stack, which ever is easiest. You are going to place the freezer paper you cut out shiney side down centered in the middle of your U shape, and iron it down. If you have letters with cut out inside pieces like mine, do the MAIN outter wrapper first:
Then go back and place your inside pieces in the correct position (consulting your printed out letter if you need to) and iron them down.
Repeat this process until all your letters have been attached. When everything is good to go grab your fabric paint and paint brush. I do not own any fabric paint and the thought of it being anywhere on the island makes me giggle. I do however have a few toll paint bottles and luckily there was a pink that I thought would be passable. If I were doing this on a shirt or other item to be worn or washed there is no way I would do this but for this particular project it worked great! Since I am BIG on conserving my crafty products I thought I would share this little trick. Instead of pouring the paint out onto a plate and waisting some, or shoving your paint brush down in and getting it all over the handle, gently squeeze the bottle so the paint comes to the top and dip your brush in. I know totally common sense right? But why hold anything back :)
Oh and I have a picture for that step because it is totally a tricky one ha!
I laid my pieces out on cardboard since I new the paint would leak through and went to town.
They dried super quickly but I was a chicken and let them sit for about an hour before I tried to pull the paper off. When you are ready grab a corner and gently pull it away from the U, leaving you with this:
Now repeat for all your letters :) After they have all dried take the pieces you have set aside for the back, line them up with the front and sew from one edge down and around and up to the other edge (do not worry about across the top). Don't worry if they don't match perfectly we will take care of it in a moment. Once you have a stack of sewn U's, using your pinking sheers cute a long the outside edge all the way around. This finishes it off cutely and keeps it from fraying. Now it is time to create the bias tape that runs along the top. There are much more advanced and correct ways to create your own bias tape. You can find a good one HERE. This is a great technique to know but tedious and takes a lot of fabric (two things I don't like). So I did the easy way out. I cute as many 3 inch wide stripes as I could out of my 1/2 yard fabric. Once I was done and had a pile of stripes, I connected them all (sewing right sides together, opening and attaching another to the end so on and so forth) until I had a REALLY long strip. I took my pile over to my trusty iron and ironed over the edges (all the way down) and the ends:
Then I folded the entire thing in half lengthwise to make a nice clean edge and end:
(Sorry the discoloration is from the heat of the iron, funky huh?)
Sorry for the lack of pictures for this last part I cannot for the life of me find them. It has been driving me nuts all day. Luckily it is sooo simply you will totally be fine I am sure :) Once you have your LONG "bias tape" ready to go head back over to your work table and spread it out. I like to separate it into two separate banners, one for Happy Birthday and one with their name. That way I could use it for my birthday or a friends birthday etc. and if I wanted I could keep Evie's name up in her room year round!. Always thinking I tell yah J/K. To find where you needed to cut you can lay out all the U pieces in order with the amount of spacing in between that you like and then snip with how ever much extra you want on each end. This is all very vague I know but it is pretty arbitrary. Now that you have your two seperate pieces we are going to pin your U's into place. They should slide nicely up into the ironed fold we created and you can pin them either on both sides or in the middle which ever is easiest for you. Once it is all pinned head to your sewing machine and you are going to topstitch all the way down making sure to fold under you edges to get nice clean ends AND that the letters stay nice and tucked up in that fold. Thats it! You are ready to party!
(Poor Evie's head makes me so sad but she doesn't seem to mind at all!)
Now I know this is a ton of work and you have to decide if it is worth it or not. If you think it is a little much I thought I would send you to an AMAZING printable on the Ruffled blog. It can be found HERE. They are THE cutest printable bunting letters I have ever seen. We printed one out for when Daddy came home from Singapore and then were so excited we forgot to put it up grrrr! It is perfect for any occasion and takes all of two minutes to print and cut. AND if you have some of that Twinery Twine it looks stellar attached to it! So take your pick, reusable or recycable both are great!
PS. Every time I go to an orphanage there is one child in particular I have a tough time leaving. Today it was this sweetie
Don't you just ache to take her home?
PPS I am hoping to have the dress tutorial up over the weekend. The pattern will certainly be up before Monday.


  1. What fun banners. Thanks for the tutorial.
    The pirate one is just perfect for boys

  2. Ooh I love it! Thanks so much for the great project. I'll be spreading the word!


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