Handmade Birthday Banner

One of the traditions I have kept up for Anja is making her a new handmade (and reusable) birthday decoration each year (hers last seen here, as I sadly didn’t get a 3rd birthday post up in 2010).  For Anja’s first, I made her a cloth banner to hang from the ceiling (visible in the 4th and 6th pictures here).

I decided to make Markus the same thing for his first birthday with a couple tweaks: boy colors and only one shape instead of multiple.  Anja’s banner had circles, flowers, rectangles and triangles, whereas Markus’s just has large triangles (more manly, right?).  :)

I began the process this time with a tune-up of my sewing machine, since I haven’t used it in probably a year or two.  I was so so so proud of myself for watching some YouTube tutorials, reading the manual, and saving myself the cash and hassle required to have it professionally cleaned and oiled.  If you’ve never tried it yourself, it is absolutely doable!

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My sewing machine is very old–it was my grandmother’s, in fact. My mom learned on this machine when she was a girl. I feel so blessed every time I use it, remembering the little dolls and clothing I used to craft with Grandma. That said, I had to read the manual for the cleaning/oiling, since the layout of my machine was dissimilar enough to the tutorials I watched to require it.

Thankfully Grandma was meticulous; she kept every little piece of the machine kit in its box.

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If you are an imperfectionist like me when it comes to crafts, this is just the banner for you. I don’t mind if the edges get a little raggedy. It adds character!

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Here’s a quick step-by-step if you’d like to try one (And they by no means need to be 50-footers like mine; even a few pennants strung together would hang marvelously over a door or a hearth.):

1. Make a template out of cardboard. The side of a cereal box would work just fine. My triangles are about 6″ across the top and 9″ long, she guesstimated without measuring.

2. Pick out some fabrics. I picked five fabrics within the color scheme I had planned. Fat quarters at the fabric store are a good place to start, but buy a yard of each if you want to make a long banner. Get a coordinating thread if you’d like, just some all-purpose if you’re using light- to mid-weight cotton.

3. Trace the template onto the fabric and cut. A rotary cutter is a nice tool for this, but I used a scissors for most of it. It’s more portable that way.

4. Sew! I don’t stitch the edges of mine. I simply place two fabrics right side out, back-to-back, and start sewing about 1/4″ to 3/8″ inch from the edge across the top. When I reach the end of that triangle, I place the next triangle onto the feed dogs (those little teeth that pull your fabric under the presser foot and needle) so that it’s just a millimeter or two after the previous triangle. The whole thing will be held together with that thread. Anja’s banner has made it through three birthdays (and hung over some pretty long distances) without breaking once, and even if it does break, all you do to fix it is stitch between the two disconnected pieces again.

5. Hang and enjoy. One thing with storing a banner sewn in this method: you will want to lay the pieces in a container neatly, with care.  If those threads get tangled, you will not want to take the time to untangle them the next year.  It only takes me about 3 or 4 minutes to lay mine back and forth nicely in its box after we take it down each year, and I think that amount of effort is worth it to save so much frustration later.  If you make one (or have made one prior) let me know!  I’d love to see it.

Finished Markus’s banner today, just in time for his first birthday tomorrow *stifles a sob*.

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3 thoughts on “Handmade Birthday Banner

  1. You must have thought our attempts at decorating for your birthdays were pretty lame. I didn’t have the creativity or whatever to go to the lengths you do. Your kids will have wonderful memories of it though and I am proud of you for doing it. Hope we can get to the party.

  2. Pingback: Markus’s 1st Birthday, a bit late « Minnesota Mom

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