I decided to make some birthday bunting. In fact, let’s rephrase that. In a moment of slightly hormonal madness, I decided it was imperative that we should not only have birthday bunting, but that I should make it, and that without said bunting Rosa’s fourth birthday would be externally judged and forever found to be lacking. I’m not saying it’s laudable, or rational. I’m just saying that’s how I found myself feeling. And that’s how I found myself, only days before her birthday, running into the haberdashery department of John Lewis searching for some kind of lovely material, felt, and bias binding. (Last time I was there, I was looking for bias binding to go with the laminated cotton I bought for the playhouse, and because it was after the Jubilee weekend and everyone had evidently been making bunting, they had entirely run out of white bias binding, a fact which I found more than slightly hilarious, for reasons which I can’t quite explain.)
Obviously I then fretted about getting it done. And even ended up doing a small amount of ‘sewing whilst the girls were awake’, whereas I normally wait until they’re both safely asleep. Rosa even wandered in whilst I was doing it, and had to be fobbed off with a hasty, “I’m making some bunting for Aunty Becca”. She did sit reasonably happily for a while, though, cutting up my offcuts of felt into little pieces with scissors, which bodes well for a wistfully thought-of future when I might have a bit more time for doing things like this.
I found some printed cotton with a very small design on it (which was handy, because a tiny ‘ditsy’ print was exactly what I’d had in mind, and had J-Lew not delivered the goods, I might have had some kind of mini breakdown right there amongst the wool and the patterns). I had decided to go for felt letters after having some small success with sewing felt lettering onto the girls’ stockings, so bought a pack of white. And thankfully, the bias binding had been re-stocked so I found some navy blue, and some navy cotton, and we were away.
I spent more time than I care to remember trying to decide whether to go for ‘happy birthday’ all on one string (and if so, what to do about the space? A blank flag? A larger space between flags? No break?), or whether to have two smaller ones. In the end I thought about where it would go, and common sense prevailed.
Because the point of this was the words, rather than decorating a larger space, I put the flags as close together as I could. If I was trying to run up metres and metres of this for a party (which I wouldn’t rule out…) I would put a reasonable space between each one to maximise jolliness and minimise the effort. Which is another useful life maxim, I think.
This detail shows how simply put together it was. I pondered doing the flags ‘properly': with two cut out and sewn together wrong sides facing, then turned the right way out. In the end I decided this kind of thing is what pinking shears were invented for, and just cut them out. I really like the zig zag edge, in any case.
I cut out the letters freehand, just because I am foolish and that is the kind of challenge I quite enjoy. But if I had enjoyed less of a misspent childhood making things, and doing art, I would probably have created patterns by blowing up a font to the right size on Word, and printing it out. I then pinned on the letters and sewed round the edge with a straightforward stitch. Something about stitching around the edge of simple felt letters elevates them from faintly primary school-ish to really rather lovely. I can’t explain it. You’ll have to try.
Because I knew they’d be on display, I was quite careful with the beginning and finishing off, pulling the threads through to the back and tying a little knot rather than just running the machine backwards and forwards. By the end I had come to despise letters with many curves (begone, capital ‘B’!) and to rather fancy letters that are all straight lines (well, helloooo, capital ‘Y’…). The curved letters were ok in the end, but I did a lot of turning the machine and the letter by hand, stitch by stitch, which was a bit painstaking and nerve-wracking, even if it did all turn out ok. Then it was just a case of pinning them into the bias binding, and stitching along that in matching navy blue cotton.
It does exactly what I’d hoped, which is to add an instantly celebratory air to our ‘mantlepiece’. When she came downstairs in the morning ready to start her present-fest, Rosa looked at it in a pleased way and said, “Ah! Birthday bunting!” And now we can store it somewhere (and perhaps even remember where that place is) and get it out for every family birthday. Perfect.