Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Spell It Out Garland Tutorial

As promised, I've put together a tutorial for the name garland I made a week or two ago.  This is a supremely long post with lots of photos, but I assure you that it's quite a simple project.  There are many steps that you can use glue for instead of sewing and I've included those in italics for those of us that love our craft glue. 

I also created a Google docs version of this tutorial.  If that's more your style, here you go:  Spell It Out Garland Tutorial Google doc style.  This is my first time using Google docs, so please let me know if you have any trouble accessing my tutorial.   If the link isn't working, if the pictures are funky, if it doesn't print right...you get the idea.

Sorry about the crazy spacing...there doesn't seem to be a darn thing I can do about it!

Materials You'll Need:
cardstock paper
felt (wool or eco-felt)
fabric for the front (each letter needs about a 5.5" x 5.5" piece)
fabric for the back (each letter needs about a 5.5" x 6.5" piece)
embroidery floss
craft glue/fabric glue (optional)
all purpose sewing thread
some sort of string (twine, ribbon, yarn) or...
...a strip of fabric (see step #6 for how to determine the dimensions)

Tools You'll Need:
Microsoft Word (or similar program) and a printer
scissors for cutting paper, fabric and thread
a marker that'll work on felt (fine tip Sharpie)
ruler or measuring tape
iron and ironing board
sewing machine (optional if you'd rather stitch by hand or use glue)
straight pins
embroidery needle
a pencil with an eraser
a thumbtack or pushpin

1. Printing and Cutting Your Letters

Open a Word document and type one of each letter you'll be needing using Bookman Old Style font at 300 pt. You can choose a different font - just make sure it looks fairly simple to cut out (not too many swirlies or narrow lines, etc.).

Your letters can be spaced fairly close together to conserve paper.

Print the letters out onto cardstock paper.

 Carefully cut out each letter.

Working with one letter at a time, flip the letter over so that it is "backwards" and pin it onto the wrong side of your felt. Eco-felt definitely has one side that is less fuzzy than the other, and I consider this to be the "wrong" side.  It's a personal choice, though.

A note about eco-felt:  when choosing your colors, keep in mind that pastels and white may allow the brightly-colored fabric onto which it is sewn to show through.

Carefully trace around the letter.  I used a fine tip Sharpie, but any pen that works on felt will do.

Once all the letters are traced onto the felt, cut them out.  It's best to cut inside the traced lines so the pen marks don't show up on the finished letter.

2. It's Hip to Cut Squares

Use a ruler to draw a 5.5" x 5.5" square on a piece of cardstock paper.  After you cut it out, this'll be the template for cutting your front fabric.  Now cut a 5.5" x 6.5" rectangle out of another piece of cardstock. This'll be the template for cutting your back fabric.  It's handy to label each template

Iron your front fabric with the wrong side up.  Use your template to trace a square onto the wrong side of the fabric.  Trace one square for each letter of your garland.  I used a water soluble fabric marker to do my tracing, but this is not necessary because the edges of the fabric won't be visible in the final product - so use whatever you have available.

Cut out each square and set them aside.

Follow the same steps for the back fabric, using the rectangular template.  Now you've got your fabric squares and rectangles ready to go!

3. Applique Your Letters
If you don't want to stitch your letters, whip out your craft glue and use that instead.  After your letters are completely dry and secure, skip down to step number 4.
You could also use Wonder Under fusible web to attach your letters - just be sure to cover the felt with a cloth when ironing.  Thanks for this tip, Mari!

Pin a letter in the center of each front fabric square.  Both the letter and the fabric should be right side up.
Cut a length of embroidery floss (about 15" or so) and separate it into three two-strand pieces.

Tie a knot at the end of one of the strands you just made.  Thread the other end through an embroidery needle.

Straight stitch around the entire letter and tie off the end to secure your stitching.

Complete these steps for each letter.

4. Iron the Rough Edges

Place one of the letter squares you just completed wrong side up on the ironing board.  Fold up the left edge .5" and iron it so it stays put.  Do the same for the right edge

Now do the same fold-and-iron-bit for the bottom and the top edges.

Snip each corner at a 45 degree angle (see the close-up photo for a better idea of what I'm talking about).

Follow these steps for each of your letter squares, then set them aside.

Place one of the back fabric rectangles wrong side up on the ironing board.  Just as you did with the letter squares, fold up the left edge .5" and iron it so it stays put.  Do the same for the right edge.

Do the same for the bottom edge - but not the top!

Fold the top edge up .25" and iron it so it stays put.

Snip all four corners at 45 degree angles.

Follow these steps for each of your back fabric rectangles.

5. Pinning and Sewing

Place one of the back fabric rectangles wrong side up on the ironing board and lay a letter square right side up on top of it, lining up the bottom and side edges of the two pieces.

The sides should match up.  Perhaps you're like me, though, and in spite of your measuring the dimensions never turn out exactly right.  If that's the case here, just adjust the back fabric rectangle by unfolding the side edges and then folding and ironing them again to match the letter square you're working with.

When you're sure that the widths of both pieces match up, pin them together - making sure that the left, right, and bottom edges are lined up.

If you don't want to pin and sew your pieces together, whip out your glue again.  Squeeze a line of glue under each fold and press down.  Do the side edges first and make sure they're dry before you do the top and bottom edges.  Do this with both pieces and then skip the next step.

Beginning with the top right corner, sew about .25" from the edge around three sides (right, bottom, and left).  I used my sewing machine for this step, but you could also hand stitch it with some embroidery floss.

With the letter facing up, fold the top edge of the back fabric down until it overlaps the front fabric.  Iron the fold and pin it in place.

Sew along the bottom edge of the "pocket" you've just created.  Make sure your stitches go through both the front fabric and the back fabric.  You can choose to glue this part down, too, if you're not into sewing.

Repeat these steps, one letter square (or are they technically rectangles by now? Doesn't matter, I'm referring to them as squares) at a time.  Use the pocket of the first letter square you finished as a guide for each consecutive letter square.  For example, lay the letter square you're working on next to the completed letter and match up the pocket fold so that the pockets will align nicely on the string.
6. String 'Em Up!

Once all your letter squares are completed, line them up and measure their length (roughly).

This length measurement, plus 20 (an extra 10" on each side) is a good place to start when determining your string length.

My letter squares measured 18" so I decided that my string measurement should be 38" to start with.  Keep in mind that it's okay if your string is too long because you can easily chop off some of the length during the second-to-last step.

Now you need to decide what you'll be using to string these babies up with.  You can choose anything with stringing capabilities, really - yarn, twine, ribbon, etc.  You can also use some fabric to make your own string (which is what I did).

If you're going to use something already in a string format, cut it to your desired length and skip down to the threading it through step (it's got a picture of pencil and tack, you can't miss it).  

Measure the opening of your pocket so you know how wide to make your string.  My pocket opening was about .75" so I decided that the finished width of my string should be roughly .5".

Whatever the finished width is, double it to determine the width of the piece of fabric you're about to cut.

Now you need to trace and cut out a strip of fabric using the dimensions we've been discussing.  My dimensions were 1" x 38".  Luckily, the width of a standard ruler is 1" so I used one to do my tracing.

With the wrong side of your fabric facing up, fold the top and bottom edges of your strip up to the center and iron them so they stay put.

Zig zag stitch right down the center of your strip, catching both edges of the folds.

Now you have a long strip of fabric (which we'll be referring to as a "string" from here on out).

This is the part where those of you who chose not to make your own string out of fabric should re-join us...welcome back.

Use a pushpin to secure one end of your string to a pencil eraser.  You can also use a chopstick (or a similar implement) and some tape for this part.

Lay out the letter square that you want to come first in your finished garland and thread the string through its pocket, right to left.  If your string has a back and a front, thread it through slowly and carefully so it doesn't get twisted around.

After all of your letters are strung on, space them out on the string as you want them to appear in the finished garland.

Adjust the string so that equal lengths of it are on each end of the garland.

Play around with the garland to help you decide how you want it to hang and where you want the hanging loops to be.

If your string it too long, now is the time to chop some of it off to get your desired length. 

If you chose to make your own fabric string, you'll need to finish the ends by folding the raw edge over .25" and then again another .25" or .5".  Sew along the ends.

Now make a little loop at each end of the string by crossing the string over itself (take a look at the photo and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about).  The loops can be any size you desire.

Pin the string together where it crosses and sew a line or an X shape to secure it.  This step can be glued if you're the gluing type.

7. You're Not Done Yet!

Congratulations are in order because you've finished your garland!

Before you give it away or move on to your next craft project, please photograph it and share your creation with me at fowlsinglefile[at]yahoo[dot]com.

I love seeing what other people can create from my tutorial attempts and I'll feature your photos on my blog if you give me permission!

I'd also appreciate any constructive criticism.  Did any of the steps leave you bewildered and wondering what the heck I was trying to convey?  Did you come up with a better/easier/more effective way to complete one of the steps?  Would you be so kind as to point out any typos?  Please do share!

Pin It


  1. Just Lovely Megan!
    And I thinks it is very clear and easy to follow. We have yet to get eco felt over here...however I wanted to say that if you have intermediate followers they may be tempted to jump ahead of themselves and use wonder-under for the appliques...you might want to point that out and to use a cloth over it to avoid melting the felt, something my disfunctioning brain thought was a good idea one day!!! OOPS!
    Otherwise it's great...I soooo want to start posting tutorials, thx for the inspiration!
    good luck in the giveaway!

  2. Awesome! I can't wait to try this, great tute!


  3. Hi Megan! I've linked this tutorial to my blog. Thanks for sharing!


Comments. I like 'em. If you have a question please email me (my email is on the sidebar) and I promise I'll reply in a timely fashion.