Wednesday, January 17, 2007

French Memo Board Tutorial

These are really quite easy to make. No crafty/sew goddess skill set required. I used the following, along with a set of bullet points that make it all look so sexy:

For Each Board You Will Need:
  • A piece of wood, particle board, corkboard (with a sturdy backing), or an art canvas with a wooden frame. Note: this website's tutorial mentioned art canvases which sound fantastic because you can sew on the buttons through the back. Maybe next time.
  • A piece of fabric equal to the size of the wood (or canvas, etc.) plus 3 inches on each side. Fabrics to avoid: stretch knits, loosely woven blends that will shred like CRAZY, and, as always, no sequins, as my life-motto dictates.
  • A piece of batting equal to the size of the base plus 2 inches on each side. Polyester quilt batting (fairly low loft) is fine.
  • A staple gun (power or manual, it matters not) and enough staples to finish the job. Also someone, like say Hubster, who knows how to reload it. You will have reloads.
  • Ribbon for each board. How much? Well, I made four boards which were each 16" by 14" and I used about 15 yds of 3/8" wide grosgrain ribbon - that's less than 4yds/board, to give you an idea. Your board's size will vary those numbers. Ribbon is the cheapest thing, so overbuy and send me your scraps. Sweet.
  • Buttons to place at the vertices of the ribbon to create the tension which holds up your photos and papers. I required five buttons per board so that came to 20 buttons total. I used those "Cover Your Own Buttons" kits which was annoying and painful (what with the pounding and angst) but they look lovely and were cheaper than almost all the ready-made buttons in stock.
  • Thread, scissors, a ruler or measuring tape, and icepack for your sore hand after stapling four memo boards together on solid wood.
Step 1: Lay out all the pieces on a table (for better back support) or on the floor (if you're Erica, a known masochist) and line up all your edges. Make sure to smooth down the fabric and batting, which can be rather bunchy. (I forgot to take a picture at this stage because I am a flighty, flighty crafter. This looks exactly like it did then, although you do lose some texture.)

Step 2: Staple, beginning at the center of each side by turns and then stapling the rest of each side based on whatever scheme you think works best. Be ye not afraid to pull on the fabric and stretch it over the frame. Make friends with fabric tension. Marvel at how your hand already hurts.

Step 3: The corners are tricky, but the best method I've found it to staple each side's length out (as pictured above) and then fold the corner into a diagonal over itself, like a diamond. Like this:

That's hard to see, but you'll get it. Don't worry about the batting bunching at the corners. I guess you could cut out the corners a bit, but the batting keeps the board off the wall and thus the staples away from painted surfaces.

Step 4: Trim the edges of the fabric down to 1/4 - 1/2" to keep things neat. (By the by, you can't really see it, but the solid green ones I made were actually pieced because the fabric didn't fit perfectly. The ribbons and any patterns in the fabric will hide those seams so feel free to do that, making sure, of course, that you've pressed the seams to one side.)

Step 5: Measure and cut your ribbons. Sounds easy, right? Well, not so much. First, measure corner to corner diagonally and cut those with about 2 inches to spare on each side. Then staple them in and admire your work with pride before it becomes more annoying and complicated.

Step 6: Back to reality! As to cutting the rest of the ribbons, I'm not sure what to tell you. I guessed and lucked out. Use a tape measure, pieces of string, whatever you can to visualize the lengths and then cut them with a bit to spare, plus the usual 2" on each end to wrap over the frame.

Step 7: Now, I tried out some schemes for placing ribbon, but this worked well for me: place them in a diamond pattern that stretches the entire height and width of the base. To make sure the angles look roughly the same on all of them, I used a ruler to measure out from my main two diagonals - like they said in 2nd grade, it only takes two points to make a straight line. Pin the ribbons in place, applying tension as you pin.

None of this will make a lick of sense to you right now. Fear not, you'll talk yourself through it with the supplies in hand and it'll make more sense. Probably. If not, drink a beer and try again, but maybe have someone else staple.

Step 8: Trim the ribbon edges on the back. Then sew on the buttons at the inner vertices. Don't worry about the vertices near the edges of the frame because the frame itself will provide tension. Plus buttons there would be totally weird-looking. Trust.

Final Product: Chic!

Final Cost? Well, I used a floral pillow sham and parts of a dust ruffle from my bedroom set (neither of which I wanted to use) so those were free. The wood was free because it was leftover from the Great Basement Shelf Redo. I bought an entire roll of the batting, enough for a queen-sized quilt, for $9 and I have TONS leftover for other stuff. The ribbon was on clearance (it was the perfect color, so that ROCKED) for $0.25/yd making that about $4. The buttons were like $6 total. So even if we don't count using batting for later projects, I still only spent $19, plus the cost of the 4X6" prints I'll slip on them. Not bad for filling an entire bedroom wall.

P.S. I haven't hung them up, so I'm not sure what's best for that, but I'm thinking of mounting picture-hanging wire to the back and using a couple of nails per board. They're a mite heavier than an art-canvas version would be because of the solid wood, so we'll see if I have to resort to using studs for extra support. I'll update you on that. If you prefer an al fresco look, just prop the stupid things against the wall on your dresser/desk and go to town!


Mair said...

Nice job, E! They look great. Maybe this will be one of my Saturday "let's pretend I'm not a grad student and I can do fun things with my time" projects.

Emma said...

Hey, Thank you soo much for putting up these instructions for making the Memory Board. I just made mine tonight and it turned out really well, It finishes off the one wall in my room perfectly!

My Evil Twin Charlie said...

Wow, so I really have always wanted to make these, and I Googles it and found your site (which I'm now addicted to)... but I have one question. How do you sew the buttons on when you don't have access to the back of the fabric? Odd question... is this just something you have to try and figure out? I'd appreciate it!

My Evil Twin Charlie said...

That would be GoogleD above... sorry. I've already had a few beers. But don't worry, I don't have a staple gun!

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Chicago Web Designer said...

Nice work. I recently made one of these, really brightens up a room. You can see it here

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the terrific tutorial! I've been buying my supplies for a large one in our study, and am eager to get started but just thought I'd see what other advice people have first.

Pat T. said...

Great tutorial. Thanks so much for the sharing and thank you for your wonderful sense of humour. I had a good chuckle throughout!!