Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Names Challenge Tutorial : Padded Paper Mache Letters

I will not gloat, I will not gloat, BUT since I won the challenge, I figured that you liked my name project! And, I thought it'd be fun to put together a tutorial in case you want to make your own! Have fun with this project ... just think of all the cute fabric you can buy, and all the wonderful scraps you'll have left over ...


• 8" Paper Mache Letters
• Quilt Batting
• 1/4 Yard Of Fabric Per Letter (you will have some nice scraps leftover)
• Fabritac - amazing fabric glue! Works like a charm, but heed the bottle warning - it'll dry fast. And you'll get carded at Joann's for buying this. I just think it's comical that you'd be carded for anything at Joann's.
• Disappearing Ink Fabric Marker
• Flexible Tape Measurer
• Q-tips; yes Q-tips. I'll explain below.
• If you want to hang the letters, you’ll also need scrap yarn & scrap felt & more Fabritac.


1. If your fabric is wrinkly, iron it! You don't want crinkles on your pretty letter - if you ignore the wrinkles, you'll see them later on display and it'll drive you crazy. (Or, maybe that is just me!)

2. Trace letters for Batting. You can put the letter right side up for this step. I use a sharpie for this step and marked right onto the batting.

If you are making lots of them, do it all at once!

 3. Cut Batting Letters. Cut just INSIDE the line because you want the batting to fit on top of the letter and not overlap it.

 4. Glue Batting onto Letter. Get our the Fabritac and start gluing the batting onto the front of the paper mache letters. If the batting overlaps the sides of the letter, you will want to trim that down.

5. Trace letters for Fabric. For both, place the fabric wrong side up - so you'll be marking on the wrong side with your marker. Use the disappearing fabric marker for this step!

          For the front of your letter, turn the quilted side down so that it's touching the wrong side of the fabric. Trace the letter.

          For the back of your letter, turn the quilted side UP. Trace the letter.

(For symmetrical letters like "a" it does not matter, but I've messed up an "L" before and it came out backwards.)

6. Cut Letter Fabric. Cut approximately 1/2" around the letter tracing. The extra fabric is how you wrap the letter; these little “flaps” will actually be glued down all around the side of the letter.

7. “Notch” the Letter Fabric. That extra 1/2" you cut ... now you want to make little cut notches from that exterior JUST TO but not touching the tracing of your letter. This is how the fabric will curve and lay flat to the shape of your letter. For the straight parts, you can notch every 1-2", for the curves and corners, notch every inch or as needed.

See the little slits all around the sides? Those are the notches / flaps.

 8. Glue Fabric onto Letter. Get out the Fabritac again. Lay the letter on top of the wrong side of the back fabric, and start applying glue onto the sides of the paper mache letter and wrapping the “notched tabs” onto the letter. The glue works fast, so work in small sections. Glue it all down and then repeat for the front fabric. Q-tips? They are helpful to get into the creases and the insides of the letters (ex: inside the cut out of the "a").

These little flaps are the notches I am talking about .. they do 2 things: keep you from having to put glue on the front or back fabric which will show (because you glue the SIDES) and make it easy to wrap the letters with the fabric.

 9. The Outside Lining. Make your "circumference" cover … this is a long strip of fabric that covers the sides of the letters and makes it look very nice and neat! Doing this is (as I understand it) sort of like making bias tape.

Measure. Use the flexible tape measure to find out the "circumference" of the letter exteriors... and the inserts. For example, I measured the outside of the "a" as 31 inches - in include wiggle room and overlapping, and the inside of the "a" as 6" (again that includes a little extra length). In the "a" example, you  need to cut a strip of fabric that is 2" wide and 31" long as well as a strip that is 2" wide and 6" long.

Iron. Now that you've cut the pieces, you'll use the iron and lots of steam to make it look like bias tape. The width of the strip is 2" and your letter is 1" deep, so we are going to tuck in the edges 1/2" each, so the finished width is 1" = the depth of the letter. Make sense?Finally, fold one end over, so when it's exposed, the raw edges will be covered up and tidy. (:

Hopefully this picture clarifies what I am talking about ... these are 2 strips: one for the outside of the "a" and one for the inside. They were 2" wide, but I ironed the long ends in by 1/2", so that the finished width is 1".
 10. Wrap the Exterior. Start with the "raw" end of the long exterior strip and glue it down. Start gluing and pulling the exterior strip taut all the way around the letter. Once at the end, glue down that folded over end and hold until it sticks. Don't forget the inside of the letters with “holes”: A, B, D, etc. Overlap the ends in the most inconspicuous area.

11. PS: I will not lie. Wrapping the inside of an "a" is not fun, at all.

12. Instructions for Hanging on a Wall. These letters sit nicely on a shelf, but when I made them for my girls, I wanted them to hang. SO, this is how I did it. The picture will help this make sense: take about 5” of scrap yarn; tie it into a knot so there is a loop; trim the ends. Then, flip the finished letter over and on the top of the back, glue it down. Cut a square of felt and glue it over the top for added “security!” For letters like “u” you will need to make two loops so the letter hangs straight. TIP: When hanging, they might not be perfectly straight – I used double stick tape on the bottom of the letters and stuck it to the wall to help the letters hang better.

Close up of the loop - envision this picture rotated left 90 degrees ... the loop obviously goes UP!
Have fun! Any questions? Leave me a comment with your email address!

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Kimberly Moore said...

Totally love this idea!! Thanks for the tutorial - can't wait to try it. :)

Anonymous said...

Where can I buy these letters???

Anonymous said...

Love the idea. Where did you get your letters from or where can you get paper mache letters?

Isidra Montoya said...

Where can i get the letters?

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