Making a Burlap Banner

I’m crazy about banners. Always have been. My adult children fondly remember that for every childhood birthday, I hauled out THE birthday banner- precut, multi-color, foil letters purchased and assembled from the local party store. Each year, it was displayed behind the birthday boy or girl for the candle blowing, birthday song singing, and cake cutting photos.  Mind you, this was 1992, way before Pinterest.

Cameron, age 2Cameron

So, just imagine my delight when banners became THE THING. They are everywhere. And I couldn’t be happier.

This past weekend, in an attempt to begin the turn toward Spring and the season of preparation for Easter, I wanted to make a new message banner for my front porch. It’s made of burlap with simple, straight-line stitching on the sewing machine. Come on. You can do it.

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[Plus, I used up a little more of that bolt of burlap I purchased on sale at JoAnn Fabrics this winter. Yikes, that’s a lot of burlap.]

Start with the burlap. I used scraps from the pillow projects I’ve been madly sewing the past few weeks. I always iron my burlap so there’s no wrinkles and the grain is straight. Ironing burlap is stinky, but you’ll end up with a nice, flat piece. And your family will eventually get used to the smell.

I made a pattern that starts as a 3 x 6 inch rectangle with an inverted V notch cut into one of the short ends. Cut the little “flags” keeping the edges of the pattern straight with the grain, or weave, of the burlap. Cut one flag for each letter of your banner.

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Next, finger press a hem on the top edge of each flag that’s about an inch wide. The twine, or whatever cord or string you use to hang the banner, will run through this pocket/tube. Cut a length of string, cord, or twine the length that you need. For a seven letter banner, I started with a piece of twine that measured 20 inches. Fold the hem of each flag over the twine and stitch each hem in place using straight stitching on the sewing machine, 1/2 inch from the pocket edge. I double stitched the hem across each flag to make it sturdy and to give it more of a homespun look (I love the homespun look, hereafter known as HSL, because it hides a multitude of crafting sins).  Note: I use the smiley face sticker as a guide when teaching 5/8 inch seam allowances to budding seamstresses, and it makes me happy.

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This process can be a little tangled and clunky but hang in there, you’ll get them stitched in no time.  Be careful to keep from stitching into or across the twine as you sew.  You’ll want the twine to move freely through the pocket.

Here’s the stringy mess.image

[If you don’t sew, don’t like to sew, or don’t have a sewing maching, you can hand stitch the hem into place, or it’s even okay to glue the hem. I’ve found that with burlap, hot gluing is great but PLEASE, be super wary of your fingertips and PLEASE, use only a thin line of glue and remove the stringy glue wisps when you’re finished. I hate those.]

As you work, don’t worry if your burlap unravels a bit because that adds to the texture of the piece and that’s one of the things I love most about burlap. There’s a time and place for edge-finishing burlap, but this isn’t one of them. HSL. And a time saver. Just trim off any bits that get too long or out of control.

There you have it. Burlap banner base ready for action.  I see a stringy piece that needs to be trimmed.

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Imagine this as {a thought strung across your kitchen cabinets}. Or {a welcome on the back door}. So many possibilities.

Here’s what I did with mine…

I printed out letters (Font: Deming LP, 90 points) onto cream card stock.

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Using my handy, dandy plastic circle template, which I bought from a Scott School fundraiser years ago, I traced a circle onto the BACK SIDE of the page around each letter. If you don’t have a template, cut a circle pattern from a spice lid jar or other appropriately sized item. Hold the paper and template/pattern up to a window so that you can see the circle and center the letter while tracing the circle on the BACK OF THE PAPER. That way, your pencil marks will not show on the finished banner. Love that. Hate sloppy messes.  I could rant on and on about that and I probably will one day.

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I almost always cut my letters and shapes using pinking shears because again, HSL!!!, but most of all, imperfect circles won’t show. You can also use paper edgers to cut the circles, but if you do, use a design that is small in scale for the best effect, particularly for smaller circles. Old fashioned pinking shears are my favorite. (And one note for the sewing aficionados out there….I use my OLD pinking shears for paper cutting, not my good fabric pinking shears. That would be a crime.  And I’d hear about it.  From my own mother.)

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Next, I gathered several possible papers from my stash to layer with the letters. This batch was leftover from a banner I made last November for my daughter-in-love’s birthday celebration in a cabin at Lookout Mountain. I love the tone of this collection that I picked up at Hobby Lobby.

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And this is one of the things I love most about the creative process and crafting: often, what I think I will use ends up back in the drawer and I find something totally unexpected that works better. I thought for sure I’d love the dots, but when I held up those patterns against the burlap and chalkboard, I liked the bolder designs so much better. So there you have it. Don’t be afraid to play.

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Yep, that’s it.image

I traced slightly larger circles onto the printed papers (again tracing the pattern on the BACK SIDE of the paper) and cut them out with my pinking shears. I love to use good ol’ fashioned Elmer’s Glue to layer the paper circles because the moisture in the glue makes the papers bend and warp, giving further texture and HSL goodness. (The first time I used Elmer’s Glue for this process, I panicked when the paper started to dry but I quickly discovered that I loved the look it produced.)  Dab on a circle of glue, and just like you did in grade school, smooth out the circle with your fingertip.  Then wash your hands.   When the Elmer’s has dried,  hot glue each layered paper medallion onto each burlap flag. Finished.

[NOTE TO THE NON-SEWING CRAFTERS, ALSO KNOWN AS THE GLUERS:  You can easily hide the line of glue by skooching up the circles on the burlap to camoflague that area.  Poof.  No ugly glue line.  I hope you know what skooching is.]

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As you can see in the picture above, there’s a grapevine wreath on my countertop that I originally thought might receive this banner, but alas, it will have to wait for another day and another inspiration.  “Rejoice” ultimately found a home on my front porch blackboard with a thought about Lent gleaned from Ann Voskamp’s beautiful post about the season. A daily reminder to REALLY live the grace that is so lavishly showered upon us.

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4 comments

  1. Debi, I really want to try to make this. So glad you added the instructions for those of us who haven’t sewed since 7th grade Home Ec class. I will hand stich or glue. Love this!

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