You have a design. You've sketched out the shape, you know the dimensions of your banner. You have purchased your fabrics. And now you are ready to begin.

BASIC BANNER CONSTRUCTION

There are all kinds of construction variables, of course, depending on whether you are building a sheer banner or a more substantial one. We'll deal with the more substantial one here. A banner with a front, a back and a stabilizing middle fabric.

STEP 1 THE FOUNDATION

The stabilizing middle fabric
This is a good place to begin. Your SF (stabilizing fabric) should be a close weave that does not shift--like a canvas or poplin. Even muslin will do, but I prefer the denser fabrics. Your first step will be to adhere your front background fabric to the stabilizer if your background is designed to be all in one piece. The gluing technique for this attachment that I have found works best is just looping the glue back and forth with about 4-6 inches between glue lines. It is not necessary to cover the whole surface. If there are any puddles or globs, smooth them out before positioning your top background fabric. Do glue all the edges. Now you can safely continue and add large or heavy components knowing that you will not be stretching your background fabric out of shape.

If your design has large blocks of different fabrics, you can use the SF as a puzzle backboard for the jigsaw pieces of your design. And in that case, you can sketch the design right onto the SF and fit & glue your top pieces on one by one. This is a very desirable technique as it will save quite a bit on fabric as you piece expensive fabrics together rather than layering them one on top of the other.

Casing or tabs for the rod pocket?
This is also the time to decide how the top pocket rod will be constructed. If it is curtain casing style, that casing can be made from the SF, and the back & fronts glued to it. If you would like to attach tabs, that should be done at this point, or at any time before the back is glued on. The casing can be stitched or glued. Both are equally strong. 6 inches is a good standard depth to make the casing.

An easier way to make a "tabbed" effect than actually sewing and fitting all those tabs (have you ever done that and actually got them all to hang perfectly straight? arrrgggh!) is to do faux tabs. Faux tabs start out as a regular casing pocket finish. But after the back of the banner is glued on, notches are cut out of the casing to make the tab effect. Trim is glued to the raw edges to give a finished appearance. And there are never any tabs that hang funny and need adjusting. You can tell this is my favorite way to do tabs. :)

Finishing the edges of the background fabrics
No matter how good an idea it seems to be to leave the selvage edges on the sides of your fabrics, DON'T DO IT! Cut them off, and finish the edges by gluing on some kind of trim. Right now you are asking WHY? It's got a lovely edge now, why mess with that? The reason is that in time, the center of the fabric will begin to sag, but the selvage edges will NEVER sag, and then you have a poorly hanging banner. Save yourself all that grief of later having to rip your banner apart by just doing it right in the first place.

STEP 2 APPLYING THE DESIGNS

Applique: (jigsaw puzzle pieces) cut and place by gluing down the edges of the shapes. Put a few dots of glue in the centers of large pieces. No need for full glue coverage. Pad with fiberfill or quilt batting for dimension. Trim raw edges with decorative trim. Or finish pieces with serged rolled edges before adding to the banner. Don't be afraid to add dimension by scrunching and forming fabrics in a 3-dimensional way. Think of building your banner as fabric sculpture.

Draping: You can add graceful effects by draping fabrics that are fluid and lend themselves to that treatment. They can be draped and free hanging, or draped and glued into a static position. Good technique when portraying things that flow--like water and garments.

Lettering: The lettering almost always THE most important part of the banner, so give it proper attention. Make it fabulous, ornate or starkly strong, and make sure it is big enough and clear enough to READ! Remember to check letters for contrast, value and wow factor. Consider padding the letters. This is where you should spend some money on fabulous trims. Letters can be:
  • traced, cut out, glued down & trimmed (padded or not)
  • shaped from long strips of fabric and draped into letter shapes chalked on the background (padded or not)
  • painted on with fabric paint
  • formed completely from trims
[Consider ways to make your own unique trims, as pre-made ones can get quite expensive. You can cut-out long lengths of designs from fabrics, cut stretch fabric on the bias and pull the strips into a cord, you can trim letter edges with dimensional paint, or use Christmas garland beads wrapped with thin fabric strips or other inexpensive trims.]

An easy way to do letter templates is to blow up a font you like to the size you need and print on regular paper. Cut out the letter shapes. Iron a light-weight fusible facing to the back of your letter fabric. Now lay your letter patterns UP SIDE DOWN on the wrong side of the fabric and trace around the patterns right onto the interfacing. When you cut out the letters, your fabric will be already stabilized and the edges won't fray as you work with them. This technique allows you to use quite flimsy fabrics for lettering that you could not easily use otherwise.

Ornaments: Glue AND sew heavy beading. (This is the only time you actually need to do some sewing. Sorry, no way around it. Because beading does not have a flat edge, constant movement and rolling will eventually pop off the beading, so you have to reinforce the glue with some stitching here.) Try to add some kind of ornamentation, fringe, bells or some other kind of doo-dad on the bottoms of your banners. The weight of them helps to pull out any wrinkles that may have occured during rolling or transport.

STEP 3 ATTACH THE BACK

Glue the back fabric to the back of the SF in the same way you did the front fabric, just some wide loops of glue. Bring the back and front fabrics up together at the top of your casing, and cut so that they both end exactly at the top of the casing fold. (If you've attached tabs, then of course, just bring the back fabric up to the bottom of the tabs.) You can glue a piece of trim over the joint or not...no one will see that border anyway as it will be resting across the top of the pole. Cut a notch out of the middle back for your pole to insert. Glue some trim on the raw edges. Now, if you are making faux tabs, cut them out, being careful not to cut too low and cut out your casing stitching/gluing. Glue trim on the raw edges.

Add your back design now. It might be tempting to put your back design on the fabric before attaching it to the banner, but remember, you want to work on a stable surface. So unless your back fabric is very stable on it's own, wait until it is attached to add your design. Since it is the back and you will be rolling against any design, it is best not to use padded letters or designs on the back, as they will tend to get very scrunched and look bad after a short time.

c. ZionFire.com

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