DIY: Inviting Invitations by @RuthlessCrafts
Happy Summer everyone! As soon as I got engaged a few years ago I knew I’d be crafting a lot for the wedding; mostly to save money but also because I love it. I decided to focus my creative energies on the invitations, as that was the project that excited me the most and represented me the best as an artist. If the smaller projects went awry I had backup plans in place; there was no backup for the invitations… I was going to make them work no matter what! I ended up with something I’m super proud of and I am so eager to share them with you.
Our wedding theme evolved into a vintage circus theme. I enjoy a vintage aesthetic and my husband’s favorite color is yellow so that somehow led to the circus theme. I adore old advertisements of any kind so I made the invitations look like circus posters from the 20’s. You could make these for a milestone birthday party, anniversary, shower, graduation or any other significant life event you wish to celebrate with others. Just customize the theme and colors to anything you want!
Here’s what you’ll need:
Unfinished hardboard wall panel/masonite
Paint and paint samples
Masking tape (purchase from a home improvement store for a fraction of the price at a craft store!)
Cardboard for stencil
Inkjet transparencies (on Amazon or at office-supply stores)
Computer and printer
Embossing ink, powder and heat tool
Rounded corner punch
Making your own invitations from scratch is not for the weary. I crafted about 85 invitations and it took 3 months to complete everything and mail them off. Had I worked on them continuously and not done any other projects, it would have been a couple weeks of my time. My advice is to start EARLY so you can work out the kinks and have a beautiful finished product. Even the more “simple” designs can be deceiving; you will always run into a problem that will need solving.
There are many things to consider when creating an invitation; I did a lot of research on USPS.com so I knew what parameters I had to work with and how much I could anticipate spending in postage. I chose to have my invite fit within a standard size envelope (I ended up making those too; see below!). Then there’s the design element, choosing what to say, how to say it and making it look beautiful.
For my invitation base I needed something that would stand up to layers of paint without wrinkling and also be 1/8” in width or less for mailing purposes. I found the unfinished hardboard wall paneling as a fluke; I typed in 1/8” on Lowe’s website! The hardboard is not only extremely cheap (about $8 for a 4’ x 8’ panel at home improvements stores) but it’s also meant to be painted. I had a friend’s dad use their table saw to cut the panels down to size.
Next, I glued a ring of newspaper to the panel. In my early tests I discovered I needed the middle of the invite to be clear of newspaper due to the sunburst design; otherwise when I went to age the panel after it was painted the middle didn’t hold up very well. There is such a thing as too much distressing…!
Since I did the panels in stages, I would glue a bunch with newspaper and then work on the next phase of panels or another project and come back to the panels the next day to allow time for the glue to dry. Once dry, carefully but not-so-carefully tear the newspaper off; some of it should be left on and what’s left needs to be securely glued to the panel.
I used paint samples to ensure some consistency with my paint mixing. If you’re not somewhat experienced in mixing your own colors then buy the colors you need; I mixed my own to save some money and was using primary colors but adding brown and yellow and white to make them antiqued-looking. Using a sponge brush I painted the panels an off-white color; I always add a bit of water to the mixture for a little transparency.
Leave these to dry overnight. Once dried, I started the insane task of creating the sunburst design. I tested a few templates but the only way to ensure mostly clean paint lines (something I am NOT known for!) was to individually tape off each triangle with masking tape. Tedious, but effective. I created a template using cardboard and masking tape. I figured out about how many triangles I wanted (must be an even number) and divided that by 360 degrees, marked off the increments on the cardboard and dotted a dab of yellow paint on every other segment so I knew which segments to paint. I secured the invite into the hole in the template with masking tape (underneath the painted panel in the picture), found dead center on the panel and marked it with a pencil and individually taped off each triangle to paint. The tape could be used twice, once per clean edge otherwise paint would transfer to the panel. I painted every other yellow segment to avoid excessively taping over freshly painted segments. This was the point in the process where I had Thoroughly Modern Millie playing on the TV in the background; it’s a musical made in the 70’s, set in the 20’s and I know it by heart so I didn’t need to watch it to know what was going on. My other favorite crafting movies for these reasons are Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and A&E’s Pride and Prejudice to name a few.
Again, leave these to dry overnight. Once dry, I used more masking tape but this time to distress the paint. Working in small sections, go over different parts of the design to take off some of the paint; it should come off mostly in flakes but sometimes you get a bit more. Then I used sandpaper to round the edges of the painted corners and rough up the panel. Make sure to blow off the excess dust/debris.
The next part is my favorite; designing the wording on the invitation! I have been using MS Word to design flyers and invitations for years so use whatever computer program or alternate method you are comfortable with. I love playing with fonts so I have quite the collection at this point; they are available for purchase or as freeware online. The banner is from a Dover book with CD ROM; these books are available in a wide variety of artistic content with or without CDs and I have always found them very useful. I researched wedding invitations for help with what I wanted to say but when I settled on the circus theme I ended up researching circus posters for those great fantastical sayings. I am proud to say I came up with the “Witness the spectacular feat…” line. The art nouveau border I used is actually upside-down but it worked out so much better that way! Don’t be afraid to use conventional items unconventionally. I love ampersands and used as many as I could. My husband’s name was too long to place across the top like a normal invitation so that’s how our names ended up the way they did. I used 6 fonts, which I would think is too much; but it works.
Initially I was planning on doing an image transfer method for all the invitations. Basically you print an image backwards, glue it to your surface and use a bit of water and a lot of patience to peel away the paper (the ink stays on the transferred surface). I love this method and use it whenever I can. That being said it’s pretty much only good for smaller images. I completely failed when it came to transferring the wording… it was horrible. My solution was to purchase inkjet transparencies (about $1/page), invert the image so it was backwards and printed on the printable side and then glue that to the invite… worked like a dream. Because of the cost of the transparencies, I squeezed 2 invites per page so I only had to buy 1 pack of 50 transparencies (I still didn’t pay full price because of my coupon!). I inverted the images so that when I glued the transparency down the ink was protected. I used my rounded corner punch to take off the sharp corners and used Mod Podge Gloss in a very thin layer to secure the transparency to the painted panel. If I pushed the transparency down too hard into the glue the ink would actually transfer off the transparency and onto the panel in a wavy manner so I had to be delicate. Also, that version of Mod Podge dries very quickly so I was careful not to get my fingerprints or any fuzz on the glued panel.
Some of the hardboard paneling I purchased had the fake wood paneling look on the back so I needed to cover the backs of the invitations for that reason. The best way to buy a large amount of quality images inexpensively is to purchase calendars. I’m not kidding. I found this out years ago when I worked at a bookstore, purchased a dozen random calendars that I liked for no specific purpose other than the fact that they were on sale and then unwittingly continued to use them for scrapbooking and other crafting projects. There were only a few selections of vintage circus calendars online so I ended up buying 3 of the Asgaard Press ones. I cut the pages down a bit smaller than the size of the invite, rounded off the corners and glued them down. If your image has an orientation, make sure it compliments the front side of your invitation. After that I embossed my “Handmade By” stamp and added “RUTH” with one of my alphabet stamp sets. To do this, place the stamp in the embossing ink, stamp the paper, pour embossing powder over the image, tap it off gently and then use your heat tool until the powder melts and looks shiny.
RSVP POSTCARDS AND MAP INSERTS
To go along with the invitations I also crafted RSVP postcards and map inserts. Postcard postage is cheaper than regular return postage and the postcards fit our casual theme. The map insert is cute as well as informational.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Skill level: Beginner
Time: Takes about 2 min to craft 1 postcard after you’ve completed the design and printed them off; the map inserts took me about 2 hours total.
Designing these was a piece of cake after doing the invitation! I googled RSVP postcards to get ideas for formatting, design and wording. I used MS Word to create these along with the map inserts and added some altered images of circus-themed animals to tie everything together. I used brown paper bags because they’re free with my groceries, made of recycled paper and totally go with the vintage theme. You can either design multiple postcards to print on (1) 8.5” x 11” page or you can cut them individually like I did and then print each one. Since I used the paper bags I had to feed each page through the printer so it would ensure no snags or misprints. I glued cardstock in between the calendar page and the printed postcard to give it some heft as it went through the mail machines. I left the corners square this time because I felt like it was too much of a good thing and it no longer added to my aesthetic.
The map insert includes a basic map and directions along with our free website I made for registry and other information about the venue. I made them the same size as the postcard only because I didn’t want to have to cut 2 sizes of paper. Cutting up bags is easy but tiring!
Lastly, I decided to make my own envelopes out of brown paper bags. You can buy kraft brown paper envelopes but I couldn’t pass up essentially free envelopes for convenience!
Here’s what you’ll need:
Skill level: Beginner
Time: Takes about 5 min for 1 envelope.
Because I made my invites to fit a standard-sized envelope I was able to use that size envelope as a template to make my own template with a pointed flap; all envelopes I found in this size had a straight flap. Otherwise there are envelope templates online and available through MS Word. I made mine out of cardboard for durability. I think I was able to get 4 envelopes out of each paper bag by rotating the template. I kept the scraps not knowing if I would use them; that was an excellent decision as I did indeed end up using them for the RSVP postcards and map inserts.
Cut the bottom of a paper bag out so you have a flat surface. Trace your template and cut it out using scissors. Some of my bags were not plain and had the store’s graphics on them; I made that the inside of the envelope and it worked out quite nicely.
Fold the flaps to meet each other. Using a Q-tip, carefully line the edges with glue and seal. I placed a blank invite panel inside the envelope as I glued it to ensure I didn’t accidentally glue the thing shut and to make sure I didn’t glue it too tightly together. TIP: make the envelope looser than it’s contents. I learned this the hard way and ended up remaking a ton of envelopes… my maid of honor was a real trooper! Once the envelopes were stuffed I sealed it using the Q-tip and glue.
I addressed all the envelopes using a run-of-the-mill calligraphy pen. To keep with the circus theme I made a list of adjectives for each letter of the alphabet and gave each guest or family a lovely fantastical name. For individual guests I would use an adjective with the same letter as their first name; for families I would use an adjective to match the first letter of the last name. I am not proficient in calligraphy but I like to address envelopes rather than use labels; personal preference. Once the envelopes were addressed I stamped some circus-themed rubber stamps on the envelopes for added flair. I wrote down each adjective I used on the Excel spreadsheet I made for the guest list; this was majorly fortuitous because I was able to use the same adjective when addressing our thank-yous!
To hold all the items together in the envelope I cut a strip of paper and used a wax seal in the middle to secure it. To save on wax I shaved pieces off with my X-acto knife and then used my heat tool from a foot or so away to melt the wax and then stamped my seal. I was able to get fairly uniform seals which was great seeing as I had about a hundred to make! Once formed, I glued the seals on to preserve the wax shape.
So here’s the total finished product; what do you think? Tell me in the comments below!
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