DIY Menu Planning Board


So, ever since I put together my calendar wall, I’ve wanted to flank it with a couple organizer/pin board thingies.  I shopped and shopped and shopped, but nothing was coming up in the sizes I wanted, and what I did find even halfway suitable cost MUCH more than I was willing to pay.  For a while I just used some of those stick-on cork tiles, but it really wasn’t quite what I wanted.  When you have a giant yearly calendar on your wall, you try to get away from the “car dealership” look as much as possible.


On the right I made a little file sorter/corkboard/penholder panel, and on the left I wanted something for menu planning and weekly reminders.


To make my board, I used about a yard of polyester utility fabric (think the stuff that they make hanging shoe organizers or sweater holders, or even reusable shopping bags out of), about 4 scraps of cute quilting fabric, some grommets, a pack of double fold bias tape, those same cork tiles I had before, and some freezer paper.  All of these things are available at Walmart!


And, oh yeah. You’ll totally need this stuff, too.  Heat’n’Bond Lite Sewable Iron-On Adhesive.  (You can also pick this up at Walmart.)  Seriously.  And I guess if you think my cork board is super lame and aren’t in the mood to make one of your own, you might just hang in here with me anyway, ’cause I’m totally going to show you how I do appliqué, and that’s a super useful skill to have for ANY project!  (Especially gifts!)


First thing’s first.  You gotta print out your letters.  I wanted to keep a somewhat modern feel to this project, so I chose a simple Hevetica font in 250 pt.  Bold.  You can do whatever you want.  Just don’t use Comic Sans.  That font will make everyone hate you.  Don’t ask me how I know this.


Now most appliqué tutorials tell me I need to print out my designs in reverse then trace them onto the non-shiney side of the Heat’n’Bond.  But looky what I figured out:


Just flip that sucker over, rub it with quarter onto the papery, non-shiney side of your Heat’n’Bond sheet, and boom!  Image transferred in reverse, just the way you’ll need it!  I wish I would have figured that out earlier in the project because it is SO much faster than tracing!


Go ahead and cut your letters apart (BUT DON’T CUT THEM OUT!) and iron them onto the WRONG side of your fabric scraps.  By the way, did I mention you’ll want this to be COTTON fabric?  That’s important.  VERY important.  Once you’ve adhered the Heat’n’Bond, you can get out your fabric scissors and cut the letters out.  Peel the paper and there should be a shiny coating on the wrong side of your fabric letters.


Oh my!  This is when things start to get really, really exciting!  Cut two pieces of your backing fabric 13″ wide and, really, whatever length you want.  I did 26″.  Then measure, so you get letters spaced apart just right!  I’ve got a fancy smancy quilt ruler so…


Yay!  I love making things all straight and perfect, don’t you?  And now it’s time to iron them onto your fabric!!!  Could you be more excited?!  I dove right in with gusto!


Oh. No.

This is what happens when you iron polyester utility fabric.  First of all, I know what you’re thinking.  I’m not stupid.  I knew that stuff would melt like butter.  But just look at this again:


I mean, COME ON!  Look at how cute all my letters are!  Wouldn’t you have gotten a little overzealous, too?  But if you make your own, seriously.  Don’t.  Don’t get carried away.  Trust me, I know what it is to get caught up in the moment.  To lose you head.  I had to start all over.  Be smart.  Use protection.


By protection, I mean a pressing cloth, or just a piece of scrap cotton fabric, and try to use the lowest effective heat setting on your iron.  I bumped mine up gradually just until I could tell it was getting the job done.  Otherwise, you can do what my mother suggests and stay away from the fabric I chose all together and go with a quilting cotton.  I just didn’t want to do that.  I thought, maybe, just maybe using this weird utility fabric would make my project look more “store bought”.


Now, another thing about this fabric I chose… Um… Maybe my mother was right, because while MOST fabric has given me no trouble when I went to stitch on the appliqué, this one required a “tear away stabilizer”.  Luckily, a lot of those tracing appliqué tutorials warned about this sort of thing long ago, so I chose to CAREFULLY iron some freezer paper to the back of the work.


To keep things looking clean and modern, I chose to appliqué with a straight stitch.  If you look closely at my presser foot, there’s a tiny mark in the center that I used to keep my stitching lined up evenly with the edge of my appliqué.  If your machine is similar you’ll probably want to adjust your needle position.


You adjust your needle position with the same gear or button you’d use to adjust stitch width (like for a zig zag stitch) on your machine.  This dial controls mine.  Two and a half is the center for me, so by dialing to about 3.5, it put my stitches just a smidge to the left of the little mark on my presser foot.  Sorry if that seems like an elementary little lesson, but I’m always surprised at how many folks own sewing machines but haven’t had the time to familiarize themselves with the little functions like this.  Here’s another thing:


For most appliqué projects, I like to use a straight stitch (although zigzag is, admittedly, the more traditional choice) with a very small stitch length.  The smaller the stitch length, the slower the fabric will feed into the machine, the more control I have of my detailed topstitching.

For less detailed projects, I prefer longer stitch lengths, so get out your manual and make sure you know how to make this adjustment, because it can make sewing SO much easier!


This project has a lot of sharp corners, so you can practice pivoting by plunging your needle deep into the fabric, raising the presser foot, and turning the project accordingly.  Cut some extra letters to practice on a scrap of fabric.  The S’s were especially tricky.  I practiced three or four S’s before stitching the actual project.  You can always take your foot off the pedal and use the hand wheel if things get super tricky.

Don’t worry too much if you run off your letters or get a bit wonky.  Mine aren’t perfect either, and nobody’s going to notice.  Seriously.  We think people are so impressed with our sewing, but, in my experience, they pretty much just notice our fabric choices.


Now you can tear away your freezer paper.  I found it worked best to apply the freezer paper backing to just two or three letters at a time as I worked.


You’ve stitched all your letters to the front, and now things are heating up!  Take your second piece of utility fabric, pin it to the first, and apply your bias tape.  I just folded it around my edges and topstitched my way around the perimeter.  When I got to a corner, I would just kind of stop, fold things down neatly, and start a new line of stitching.  There might be a better way to do it, but this worked for me.  LEAVE THE TOP PANEL OPEN…


…so you can insert your cork tiles!  I used two, then cut an extra little piece from a third to add.  If you cut the width of your panels to exactly 13 inches, they should fit just right!  I left about an inch at the top with no cork to make the next steps easier.


Once you’ve closed the top up with your bias tape (I folded mine inside itself and stitched it over the end to make it pseudo tidy), you will be ready to insert the grommets!  Cut or punch small holes in the top corners of your project, then just follow the instructions on the back of the grommet setter packaging to use a hammer and set them in place.  Grommets intimidated me so much, but really, it cost less than $2 for the grommet setting tool (Walmart again), and don’t they make things look professional?!  You have to give them a try.


And then you’re done!  This is perfect for sticky notes, 4″x6″ recipe cards, homework reminders…  However you want to use it!  For now it’s my menu planning board and sits just above my dining table next to my big calendar.  If you make this, or something similar, leave a link to your blog in the comments!  I’d love to see what you come up with!



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4 thoughts on “DIY Menu Planning Board

    • I’ve done that before, with success, but in this case, my newer printer jammed up every single time! Totally bummed me out!

      Thanks for the tip, though!

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