First Birthday: Happy Birthday Burlap Banner

by , under Book Themed First Birthday Party, Tutorials and Printables

For my son’s first birthday I knew I wanted to make a “Happy Birthday” banner that I could reuse for years to come.  I’ve seen a lot of burlap on Pinterest and, I have to admit, I’ve fallen in love.  I searched the internet for inspiration and found these on an Etsy shop called iwishedforyou.

Burlap banner from Etsy:   iwishedforyou

Burlap banner from Etsy:   iwishedforyouThey are so adorable and, get this, up for sale now in her shop!!!  As beautiful as they are, I just couldn’t afford $64 for the “Happy Birthday” one.  Besides, I’m very handy with the sewing machine and knew I could make my own.  I also can’t wait to tell everyone who asks where I got the banner that I made it.  Is that selfish/egotistical of me or just the trademark of a crafty mama?  I’ll go with the latter.

So, I go to work and made this…

Happy Birthday Burlap Banner    || Happy Birthday Burlap Banner    || Happy Birthday Burlap Banner    ||

How awesome is this?  I know I didn’t do the colorful background like iwishedforyou.  I wanted a universal banner for any themed party in the future and thought colors would be limiting.  Besides, his party theme this year was vintage books.

So, here’s my tutorial on how to make the banner.  It’s a bit lengthy, so you can just skip to the parts you need.  If you have any questions, I’m here for you!

What You Need

  • 2 yards of burlap that’s also 40 inches wide
  • scissors
  • sewing machine
  • white thread and a bobbin
  • white paint
  • stencils
  • a stencil brush
  • plate or tray of some sort to pour paint in
  • a plastic cutting board or something covered in plastic (you’ll see what I mean in the painting section)
  • brown Sharpie
  • jute twine
  • tape
  • skewer

Cutting the Buntings

I heard cutting burlap was messy, so I decided to look up easy ways to cut it to avoid the infamous mess.  I found this blog post at What Meegan Makes that showed an easy way to do it.  Basically, you just need to measure where you want to cut.  Then, find a thread of the burlap right where you would want to cut a straight line and pull it out. It will be tough and the burlap will bunch.  The thread might even snap.  But keep pulling!  Once the thread is out, you will have a nice straight line to cut down and will avoid the fiber mess!  If what I said confuses you, check out Meegan’s post.

How big did I cut my buntings?  

First, I took my 40 inch wide burlap roll and first cut it like this in 17 inch wide strips using Meegan’s technique above.

Pattern for How to Make a "Happy Birthday Burlap Banner"   ||

Then I cut the 17 inch x 2 yard strips into 6 inch wide segments. I then folded those segments in half and cut the triangle shapes notches to make it look like a bunting.  Click here to see what I did with those triangular scraps!

Happy Birthday Burlap Banner How To    ||

I made 16 (14 to spell Happy Birthday, 1 for the space between the words, and one in case I messed up).

Sewing the Buntings

If you aren’t handy with a sewing machine, you may want to turn this part over to someone who is.  You DO NOT want to try sewing this by hand.  Use white thread and thread your machine.  I actually went through two full bobbins of thread making these.  I first sewed around using a slightly zig-zagged stitch (closer to straight) and decided I preferred a really zig-zagged stitch, so I had to go back over it.  I set the stitch length between 3 and 4.  Just try it out on some scraps until you find a stitch you like.

I sewed across the top first the entire way, leaving a pocket where the jute twine will thread through.  Don’t forget to back-stitch to hold those ends together!  Then I went all the way around.

Happy Birthday Burlap Banner  How To  ||

It’s okay if it looks messy at first because you will need to trim it anyways!

Trimming the burlap after you sew creates a nice clean look without the need for neurotic measuring.  "Happy Birthday Burlap Banner"    ||

Painting the Buntings

I decided there was no way I could hand paint the letters.  They would look terrible!  I knew I needed a stencil.  Finding one that I actually liked was harder said than done.  Have you noticed how ridiculously unorganized Joann Fabrics is?  There are stencils in at least five different locations in my store.  I was finally ready to give up finding one when I stumbled across this pack in the scrapbook aisle.  I wish I could find them online to link them for you, but I can’t!  They were whiteboard letter punch outs.  You get two of each page of several styles of letters!

Happy Birthday Burlap Banner    ||

I chose my letter style by punching out the letters I liked and putting them on the bunting to see how it would look.  I chose the style of that’s on the bunting in this photo.

When you paint these buntings, they will bleed through the burlap a bit, so I put this picture frame covered in plastic under the bunting.

Happy Birthday Burlap Banner    ||

After each bunting, I wiped the seeped paint off the plastic with a napkin so the next bunting back wouldn’t get really messy.  Using a stencil brush (the yellow round brush in the photo) I dabbed the paint on.  Don’t be afraid to use a lot of paint.  I only needed as much pictured.  Be careful to hold down the stencil tight so the paint doesn’t seep.  I also had to use glue dots to hold down the pieces in the middle of A, B, P, D, and R.

Happy Birthday Burlap Banner How To    ||

Use this part of the stencil rather than the punched out letter.

When the paint is dry, you’ll want to do a little artsy trick to really make those letters pop (and to hide any seepage like I had)!  To do this, grab a brown Sharpie.  Now trace the RIGHT edges of each letter like in the picture below.

Trace only the RIGHT sides of a letter with a dark Sharpie to make it look 3D.  Happy Birthday Burlap Banner How To    ||    thelittledabbler.comSee how tracing only one side (as if the sun were making a shadow) makes the letter pop?  Pretty nifty trick!

Threading the Banner

You will need some thick jute twine for this.  At first I was fuzzled (meaning f***ing puzzled) by how I was going to get the rough twine through the rough burlap.  That’s when my fiancé had this bright idea.

To thread jute twine through a burlap banner, duct tape the jute to the non-pointy end of a wooden skewer!!!  Happy Birthday Burlap Banner How To    ||

Yep, I duct taped an end of the twine on the non-pointy (that’s key!) end of a wooden skewer and it worked like a charm.  Isn’t he a genius?!  Make sure you are putting the letters on in the right order with a blank spacer bunting in the middle!

And voilà!  You have yourself a beautiful burlap Happy Birthday banner!

Book Themed Birthday Party Pinterest Board

More First Birthday Projects:

3D Book Themed “ONE” Sign

(other) Book Themed Decorations

Happy Birthday Burlap Banner

Chalkboard Stats

The Food Setup

Party Wall Art and Signs

  1. Meegan Makes

    What a cute and adorable banner!! Thanks for the shout out of how to cut burlap without the mess 🙂
    Can wait to see more of your blog 🙂

    • Libby Sawyer

      No problem! 🙂 The pin from that blog post has pretty much gone viral on Pinterest. It made the cutting process so much easier! Thank you!