How to make your wedding invitations out of vintage handkerchiefs

August 23 | Guest post by Erin

When we started looking for wedding invitations, we only had one requirement. It had to be something that our guests hadn't seen before. Well, maybe two. We're on a super tight budget, so they had to be cheap! I fell in love with these tea towel invitations, but they were way out of our budget. Being the crafty gal that I am, my brain started swirling with ideas. For years my grandma has been using a product called Bubble Jet Set to make things like photo quilts. It's this amazing stuff that lets you print onto fabric using you home printer, and when you're done it is permanent and safe for machine washing and drying. (I know… it's awesome!)

This technique can be used for so many things. Goodie bags with your wedding logo? Dual purpose hankie wedding programs for those guests who get teary eyed at the ceremony? The possibilities are endless! So here is how we made our handkerchief wedding invitations…

Supplies:

Once you've got your design ready, the fun begins.

The invitation size is limited to 8"x8" because our printer has a maximum width of 8.5" paper. For this, I'll be using 8.5"x11" paper, but you could really do whatever size you want if your printer will handle it. (If you have a wide format printer, then you can make bigger things!)

Calculate how much fabric you need. If you are using 44" wide fabric you can get 12 invitations from one yard. We got our fabric from Walmart for $2 per yard. The fabric really looked vintage, which is exactly what we wanted. For 40 invitations I bought 4 yards and had a little left over.

Wash and dry your fabric. I suggest trimming the cut ends with pinking shears, or stitching down the edge with a zig-zag stitch to prevent fraying.

While the fabric is in the wash, cut the freezer paper into 8.5×11 sheets, until you have enough for one for every invitation. (or skip this if you have the pre-cut paper)

Once the fabric is dry, iron out all the wrinkles. Cut it into 12"x 9.5" pieces. If you're using very cheap fabric like we did, look out for blemishes and work around them.

Look out for blemishes in your fabric.

Pour some Bubble Jet Set into your baking dish, enough to cover the bottom of the dish. Lay in about 10 pieces of the fabric that you just cut. Pour the rest of the bottle over the top. (Don't worry, you can pour the extra back into the bottle to reuse it later.) Make sure that all layers are completely saturated. Let it sit for five minutes.

Take each piece out and gently squeeze it just enough so that it isn't soaking wet and dripping all over and hang up to dry. Repeat until all your squares of fabric have been treated. Use a funnel to pour the extra liquid back into the bottle to use again.

Soak fabric in Bubble Jet Set for five minutes.

Once your fabric squares are dry, you have to attach them to the paper so they can go through the printer. Pour out all the water in your iron, and set it to medium high. Once it's warmed up let it steam a minute so that all the water is evaporated. Iron all the 8.5×11 sheets to the fabric with the wax side of the paper to the fabric. Iron until the paper is completely stuck to the fabric. Be sure to get the paper straight, especially if the grain of the fabric is very noticeable.

Use the rotary cutter to trim the fabric to the edges of the paper. Trimming the paper a teeny bit smaller is better than any fabric hanging over the edge of the paper.

Cut the paper-backed fabric to letter size.

Now you're ready to print!

If it's been a little bit since you ironed the paper onto the fabric, you may notice that it is starting to curl up on the edges. That's because the wax paper came from a roll. You want the paper as flat as possible when it's going through the printer, or else the curled edge of the paper will hit the print head and cause smears all over your fabric. The same goes for wrinkles in the fabric. It must be absolutely smooth. To prevent this, I ironed each piece one more time right before I fed it into the printer.

Make sure your print settings are for regular paper, and high quality. They're in different places on every printer, so you may have to look for it.

Choose high quality printing on plain paper in your printer settings.

Feed the sheets through the printer one by one. This is the tedious part. For some reason, I felt the need to watch each one printing just to make sure that it didn't mess up. I didn't make many extras so I was scared that I would ruin too many and have to make more.

Make sure that the fabric is perfectly smooth before you print.

Once they are all printed, it's time to rinse them. Wash out your baking dish and fill about half way with clean water. Add about 1 tbsp of mild detergent to it and swirl it around a little to distribute it. Peel each of your printed pieces of fabric off of the paper backing and lay it into the dish. Gently swish it around. You'll see the Bubble Jet Set coming off and turning the water a milky white. Be careful not to rub the printed parts of the fabric together. You don't need to vigorously wash it, but just enough to get all the Bubble Jet Set off.

(Note: It says on the bottle that you can also wash them in your washing machine on delicate. I DO NOT recommend this. I tried this and it made gray spots all over my fabric. I don't know if my washing machine was dirty, or if it was the ink coming off of the fabric, but they would not come out. Plus, it unravels the edges of the fabric pretty bad.)

Hang them to dry. Try not to stretch the fabric, or it will dry that way and your image will be skewed. This is where a fan comes in handy to speed up the drying process. Once you've gone through all this hard work, you just want to hold the finished product in your hand!

After it's dry, use your rotary cutter to cut clean, straight edges.

Finish the edges with your sewing machine. Either use a serger (see below) or a regular sewing machine and give it a rolled edge hem.

I used my serger, which I think was faster and gave it a very vintage look. Set your serger to the shortest stitch setting and set it up for 3-thread sewing. Sew all the way around the outside of the invitation. Cut the threads at the end flush with the edge of the fabric.

Bonus tutorial in a tutorial: How to sew perfect serger corners. I'm sure there are better tutorials somewhere online, but this is how I did it. Give it some practice on some scraps a couple times before you do it on an invitation.

How to turn corners with a serger

And now is the part where a fiance that can follow directions well comes in handy. Assembly!

I used envelopes that are 4.25"x5.5", which works perfectly for the 8"x8" invitations. I cut white cardstock to 4"x5" pieces and folded the invitations around it so that the top middle of the invitation was showing when the envelope was opened. I used red cardstock to line the envelopes, and also added an RSVP postcard.

After everything was done, we had awesome custom invitations for under $1 each. Pretty sweet, huh? If one of you makes something using this technique please share some pictures, I'd love to see it!

  1. This is the coolest thing I've seen in months! It could work for so many other occasions too.

    19 agree
  2. This is amazing, thank you so much for sharing!! I'm not sure what I might want to use it for, but so glad it's now an option.

    16 agree
  3. Hey, that's my invitations! Yay!

    I just had another idea, printed neckties for the guys?

    16 agree
  4. Well, that's just about the best thing ever. Nicely done, Erin!

    12 agree
  5. Hello dear, how are you?
    I really liked this invitation! I am looking forward to making them but I have some questions:
    1. How many bottles of bubble jet set do I need for 200 invitations?
    2. I live in Colombia, do you know with which name can I find these products – bubble jet set and freezer paper? or in which kind of store?

    Thank you so much for everything! Such a beautiful work!

    13 agree
    • Hi Linda! I used about 2/3 of a 32 oz. bottle for 40 invitations. So I would guess you would need maybe 4 bottles for 200 invitations. I've only bought it directly from the manufacturer, C. Jenkins Co. (www.cjenkinscompany.com) It says on their website that they will ship just about anywhere in the world, including Colombia.

      Freezer paper should be in any grocery store. It is sold in rolls, near the aluminum foil and plastic wrap here in the US. Freezer paper is just paper that is coated with wax on one side of it. It's often used by butchers to wrap meat in, the wax side keeps the moisture from leaking through the paper. (C. Jenkins also sells pre-cut letter sized freezer paper: http://www.cjenkinscompany.com/C_Jenkins_Freezer_Paper_s/2.htm)

      Hope this helps!

      12 agree
      • Hello Erin, how are you?
        Thank you so much for all the information you gave us!. Tonight I've gotten the freezer paper in a supermarket here in Colombia. In addition I have bought the cotton fabric too! I just want to have the bubble jet set to begin! I am really happy! Thanks!!!!!

        10 agree
  6. Okay, I declare you to be the Karazy Crafty Queen of all time! I cannot believe what lovely handkerchief invites/forever keepsakes you came up with!

    11 agree
  7. That's insane and I really want to do this. Holy crap so many ideas coming to mind now!

    9 agree
  8. I was lucky enough to receive one of these in the mail! They are insanely awesome! And what a great tutorial Erin!

    11 agree
  9. This is EXCELLENT! I just ordered my Bubble Jet fluid and will be picking up my other items tomorrow! Thanks so much for sharing this!!! And congrats on your upcoming wedding!

    8 agree
  10. Absolutely love these invitation ideas! Can you send me the original picture you used to make my own. Thank you!

    6 agree
  11. I LOVE this!!! I am going to steal this idea to make my wedding programs! Thankyou!

    7 agree
  12. Hi Erin,

    These are simply amazing! I have been trying to come up with something amazing and this really is it :)

    I'm just wondering so freeze paper is like greaseproof paper? That's what we call it in the uk if that's the same thing.

    Also do you use the ordinary ink just do the bubble jet set soaking first?

    I know it's cheeky but would it be possible to have an email that has your original picture on? So I can amend from there and have the right size, as I am the worlds least creative person so any help would be amazing.

    Thanks in advance
    Kelly

    5 agree
    • Hey Kelly! Sorry, I just noticed your comment. :) I'm not quite sure if greaseproof paper is the same. Freezer paper is coated with wax on one side ( which is why you can iron fabric to it, it melts the wax to the fabric).
      This is what I used: http://goo.gl/6OoEG
      You can also buy smaller pre-cut sheets in craft stores here in the US, like this: http://goo.gl/cgFb0

      And yes, you can use your regular printer ink on the fabric after soaking it in the Bubble Jet Set.

      p.s. I'll upload the image that I used to Flickr later this week, when I can get to the computer that I did it on. :)

      5 agree
  13. L O V E this! I am wondering where did you find the image you choose to use? or maybe key words you used… hoping to find a version for San Francisco!

    THANK YOU for the inspiration!
    Jenn

    4 agree
  14. Awesome can't wait to give it ago on tea towels as the printer goes up to a3 so excited now thank you

    1 agrees
  15. Greetings from Philadelphia. Just found your great tip while searching for a solution to reverse this process. Have come across a small bag full of beautiful vintage hankies that have a wedding invite printed on them. Unfortunately, they were tossed and a large number of the vintage hankies are like new and feature beautiful embroidered edges, lace or other lovely features. Can you recommend a safe process to remove the printer ink that doesn't further harm the linens? Thanks for any tip or resource you can offer.
    DD@Phila

    0 agree
  16. This is exactly what i've been looking for!! i also stumbled upon tea towel invites and have fallen in love, but they are just so expensive! so this seems perfect!
    I was just wondering, i know it has to be a certain width (the width that the printer will print to) but what about length? could you make it to any length? (might sound like a bit of a silly question!) :)

    0 agree
  17. This may have just solved my invitation dilemma. Thanks so much for sharing!

    0 agree

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