6 Dec 2014

Liv Gets Crafty: DIY Carnival Letters

My dream wedding was never all-white and classic. In my imaginings, it was fun, colourful and full of laughter! I always knew that the decorating was going to be a big deal for me. When you think of 'CARNIVAL', what's the first thing that comes to your mind?? To me, it was always big, lit-up marquee letters! THAT was where my wedding planning started!

Making these love letters was the most drawn-out and time-consuming part of the preparation (even more-so than the origami bouquets!). They were my bridezilla moment, the one thing I had to have, no matter what. If the dodgems were rained out, if the band cancelled, or if the cake sunk, at least my decorations were killer! So, making these bad boys was a real adventure, I've written up a quick tutorial on how to make them below, or keep reading for a blow-by-blow of some of my mishaps! Good luck!

So, the most important thing to note here is: at first I thought I'd be fine to just make them out of foamboard and cardboard. It was at the light-hole-cutting stage where we realized that the light strings were going to be too heavy for the foamboard, so we started over with MDF wood sheets. BUT, we used our pre-measured and cut-out letters as stencils and just traced them onto the wood. It all worked in the end! If I was to remake something similar for a party I'd use fairy lights and foamboard, but since I wanted these to be tougher, wood was the best material.

Quick Instructions:

- Measure out your letters evenly
- Cut out the letters and sand them back
- Equally space the light holes along the letter
- Cut holes big enough for the light bases to push through so at the end you can screw the light bulbs in from the front
- Cut strips of cardboard to glue along the edges (to create a shadow look with the lights)
- Glue the strips down, slightly overlapping the ends of each piece to prevent light leaks
- Paint your letters
- Push the light bases through, screw the bulbs on the front and then tape the light strings to the back of the letters

You will need:

(Note: you don't have to use the foamboard as stencils, if you feel confident enough, jump straight to the wooden board!)


- Foamboard sheets or/and MDF wooden board sheets
- Sheets of cardboard
- Paint (and obviously paint brushes for later)
- Light strings


- Stanley knife
- Ruler, pencil and an eraser
- A compass
- Power drill with round bit
- Power jig-saw
- Sanding equipment
- Electrical/duct tape

Measure out your letters evenly

The first and most important step is measuring up the letters to the size you want. Originally I used these foamboard A2 sheets and measured each letter to take up as much of the sheet as possible. So the basic measurements for each letter are:

- 77cm high
-50cm long 
- 12cm wide 
- 7cm long serifs (except on the 'V')
-the curve in the letters started 8cm up from the straight edge.
- Cardboard strips (which glue on later) are 9.5cm wide
- light bulb holes are 4cm in diameter

All the serifs on the letters ( the little flick on the side) are 7cm long, except on the 'v' as it was going to be too squishy between them on the top of the letter. 

I measured and re-sketched the letters out several times before I was happy with them. So take your time and just keep going! This is the hardest step, it's all smooth sailing from here.  

I cut out the foamboard stencils with a Stanley knife and the MDF wood with a jigsaw. As I'd already cut (and then changed my mind about the) foamboard, I used them as a stencil on the wood.

Cut out the letters and sand them back

Make sure you have a few hands around for the jigsaw cutting, you need someone to help manoeuvre and keep the letter still while someone else cuts. One sneeze in the wrong direction and you might end up with an 'I' instead of an 'L'!

After cutting, I sanded down the edges using Dad's electrical sander, obviously plain old sandpaper would work fine, but since I had Dad's whole tool shed to play with, I figured I'd give it a go!

Cut holes big enough for the light bases to push through so at the end you can screw the light bulbs in on the front.

The next step depends on what string lights you buy. We had two strings of 20 lights each so split it up to 10 lights per letter. I found it hard to get the right kind of lights so the globes were removable (otherwise the light holes have to be huge to push the globe through as well!), as most lights are now all one-piece LEDs. I found these ones on ebay (more expensive than I intended, but worth it)!

We re-measured the letters and then evenly (or as close as we could get) spaced apart the light bulb holes. This is where your round drill bit comes in handy, the 4cm round bit from Bunnings worked perfectly! We tried so many different cutting techniques to get these holes the right size. This annoyance was another one of the reasons we upgraded the base material from the foamboard to wood.

Cut strips of cardboard to glue along the edges (to create a shadow look with the lights)
and glue the strips down, slightly overlapping the ends of each piece to prevent light leaks.

We cut the letter sides from cardboard as it bent easily around the curves and corners. The sides are 9.5cm wide, providing just enough space away from the lights to create a great shadow effect against the wood. We used hot glue to stick them to the wood and individually glued and overlapped every piece- make sure you do the inside of the letter first, figured that out the hard way! Ha! If you use the same kind of measurements as ours, you'll need about four sheets of A2 card.

Paint your letters and then after they are dry, push your light bulbs through and tape the strings to the back!

 Several coats of a good paint were needed before I got a good colour coverage. The MDF wood soaks up paint so deeply! The colour we picked was something like cherry red as the light bulbs brighten the paint up so much. I originally tried a genuine carnival red colour but it became really washed out once it was against the lights.

And that's it! I loved the look they added to our carnival-themed wedding reception, they were a total hit!

1 comment:

  1. Super cool DIY. It looked like a super fun wedding! Best wishes <3



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