A few years ago, my quilt guild promoted the idea of making quilt-related post cards. Their method was simple: just glue fabric in any shape or design to a piece of card stock and add a message and address on the reverse. They had checked with the Post Office and had been told that such cards would be ok to mail. Every member of my guild chapter received one from the project chairperson. Mine was a simple crazy quilt design – just different shaped pieces of fabric glued down, helter-skelter. I really enjoyed getting it, but the raw edges of the fabric along the sides of the card were slightly frayed.
I decided that I wanted to do my Christmas cards that way. An appliqué fanatic, I found a cartoon of a cute mouse in a magazine. I purchased a box of blank unfolded wedding card stock with envelopes from a local printing company. I used a copy machine to enlarge the mouse to fit the card. I cut out the various mouse pieces from fabric. I drew a Santa hat for the mouse and cut it out in fabric. I found a jingle bell print in my Christmas fabric stash that was just the right size to use three of the bells as a necklace for him. I used a good fabric glue to attach the mouse, hat, and bell pieces to the card. So that the cards wouldn’t be frayed in the mail, I put them in the envelopes that came with the card stock. The cards took about 20 minutes each to make. Best of all, the comments I received from my mostly non-quilting and non-crafting family and friends indicated that the cards were a success.
The following year, I wanted to upgrade my cards so that there were no frayed edges. It was also the year that I upgraded my sewing machine to one that had an embroidery module. I decided that the answer to the fraying problem was to bind the card like the binding on a quilt, but to do that, one side of the card had to have something to hem the binding to. My answer was to make a mini-quilt without a fabric backing and that was the size of the card stock.
The design possibilities for such a card are limited only by its maker’s imagination. Thus, cards could be made for birthdays, friendship greetings, condolences, holidays, and any other occasion. One could make a simple pieced mini-quilt top, appliqué or cross-stitch any design, and hand or machine embroider any pattern. I wanted to use my new machine embroidery module for my Christmas cards. There are hundreds of free downloadable machine embroidery designs available on the web which range from simple to elaborate: just search “free machine embroidery designs.” Regardless of the type of quilt top that is made, the following directions for making the card are the same for all.
Decide whether you want to mail the card in an envelope or as a post card. If you want to use envelopes, the card should be at least 1/3″ smaller than the envelope to accommodate the batting. I save dull rotary cutter blades to cut the cards down to size. If you want to send these cards as a post card, they will not be damaged in the mail.
Make the quilt top. The finished size of the quilt top should be about ½” larger than the card stock to allow for slight shrinkage when quilting. When selecting your design, remember that the binding on the front will be ¼” wide or slightly larger. For pieced tops, I suggest a small border around the block so that if, after quilting, the top is larger than the card stock, it can be cut down to size without distorting the appearance of the block. For machine embroidered tops, I also suggest that the finished top should be about 1″ larger than the card stock to allow for possible shrinkage in both the embroidery and quilting stages.
Quilt it. Cut a piece of very thin batting slightly larger than the finished top and hand or machine baste the two pieces together. The card is the quilt backing, so do not include a fabric backing. The cards are small enough to hand quilt if desired, or machine quilt. The quilting lines should be relatively close together. If machine quilting, take the quilting lines all the way to the batting. When finished, center the design over the card, mark around the card on the fabric, and cut the quilt on the marked lines. If hand quilting, center the design on the card, use chalk or a removable marker to draw around the card, and cut the quilt about ½” larger than the card. Quilt to the lines, then center the quilt on the card again. If the quilt is smaller than the previously drawn lines, mark the new cutting line, and cut off the excess. When the quilt is finally cut down to fit the card, if any marked lines remain that are more than ¼” from the cut edges, remove them before proceeding. Note: if embroidery is used as the design, quilt in all appropriate places within the design because large areas that are not quilted will puff up from the rest of the quilt top when it is attached to the card.
Attach the quilt top to the card stock. Pin or staple the quilt to the card. Keep the resulting holes about 1/8″ from the edges of the card. Use three pins or staples on the long sides and two on the short sides. Use a long machine stitch (keep dull needles for this step) to baste the quilt to the card. Be sure the basting stitches are outside of the pin or staple holes but less than ¼” from the edge of the card. Remove the pins or staples.
Make the binding. While a purchased bias binding tape may be used for this, the tapes are a tight fit that is hard to make look right. If you haven’t tried it, making your own bias tape is really very easy. The gadget to make it is available in most fabric shops, and simple instructions come with it. However, cut a bias strip of fabric 1-1/4″ wide, which is wider than the instructions say to use. Pull and press the strip through the gadget. The edges of the tape will be crumpled, but the extra width may be needed to accommodate the batting. Of course, the card can be bound with a strip of bias fabric that has not been folded by the gadget, but I find that it is easier for me to have the folds as guidelines.
Bind the card quilt. Unfold the tape and place the fabric wrong side down on the card stock side of the quilt, matching the edges of the card and binding. Do not try to miter the corners. Cut one side of the fold to ¼” from the fold. Sew on the fold with a slightly larger than normal machine stitch to the long sides of the card. (Use a dull needle for this step, also.) This should give you a ¼” seam which covers the staple or pin holes. Open the tape toward the fabric side of the card. Press the fabric away from the card to set the seam, being careful not to scorch the card stock. Fold the fabric to the quilted side of the card and press to set the fold. The second fold in the tape may, or may not, cover the seam that attached it to the card. If it does not cover the seam, press out the open fold, refold, finger-press, and pin the binding to the quilt top, being careful to keep the pins in the batting so there are no visible holes on the card stock. Press the binding to give it a crisp new fold. Blind stitch by hand to the quilted side. Repeat the process on the short sides, leaving about 1/2″ of tape beyond both sides of the card. Press this overlap to the wrong side of the tape. Be careful to keep this pressed edge parallel to the side of the card. After pressing, shorten this overlap to about 1/4″. Blind stitch, and you are done!
I have mailed many of these quilted cards as post cards, and all have arrived in perfect condition. However, I prefer my Christmas and condolence cards to be mailed in envelopes. These cards are heavier than most normal pieces of mail. The post cards will require a few more cents in postage. Depending on the batting used and how tightly the cards fit into the envelopes, a little more postage also may be required when envelopes are used. It is advisable to take them to a Post Office to verify the amount of postage needed the first time you mail them and again when the postal rates change.
Scraps of cloth and batting, thread, and the card stock make the cost of these cards about 25 cents each, but they are rather expensive in your use of time. How long it takes to make the top depends on what method and/or pattern is used. It takes me about 10 minutes to meander quilt it, about 10 minutes to attach the binding to the card, and about an hour to blind stitch the binding down. On the bright side, I only blind stitch during television commercials, my cards are for my family and my very special friends, and I really enjoy making them. Enjoy!