Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Process & Reflections

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All photos personal

So, we letterpressed some invitations.

I’ll get into how the design went down later, but I didn’t do much beyond input for that step (so incredibly grateful to Mrs. Campfire & Mrs. Panda for all their help).

Once we had a design, I started purchasing supplies and Mrs. Panda turned the designs into a plate (here’s her post on the subject–she did all that stuff, including adding in some fun bonus stuff for me). She also does a much better job on explaining the process than I do–I’m just trying to add in a few more things here, so for more a comprehensive view go check out her post, which was up on my computer for a week as we did our invitations.

And then it all came and we were ready to roll. (Ha ha–roll, get it?) Here’s our setup:

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The green thing in the back is my Cuttlebug, next to it is the L Letterpress plate, then we have a stack of invitations (this is the main card, with one color pressed), a pack of baby wipes (not pictured: paper towels), and the inking supplies. I have a cheap plastic tablecloth down to protect my table, and the inking stuff is also on a piece of spare cardboard. I have the inking plate (came with the L letterpress platform) where I roll out my ink with the smaller roller (also included). Then I have my tube of ink and a 4″ Speedball roller. We actually bought a 6″ as many recommend but I hated it. I think we got a bad one but it was also just way too big. After one day I went to the art teacher at my school, who lent me the roller you see, and all was sunshine and butterflies after that. [The L Letterpress kit came with the platform, plate, roller and black ink, as well as some sample paper and small foam strips to hold the paper in place.]

I started by cutting the components of my invitations apart on the plate. Once I had the main invite card (pictured), I had to cut apart the parts I wanted in one color. We made a last minute call to do our names in teal as well as the clovers, so I cut “Together with their parents” and then the rest of the invite text below the names. I just sliced it into three parts that would become teal and two parts that would become gray, but you can also leave an edge down the side holding your pieces together.

Then each piece gets stuck down. I used guides to hold my paper in place first (you need the paper in the same place each time), and then did a combination of putting my pieces upside down on the invite (so they’d press in the right place) and using the grid (which matches on the top & bottom) to line stuff up. Make sure its straight against the grid before you push down, but it is removable.

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Now you’re ready to ink. The small (hard) roller is used to roll out the ink on the inking plate. You just keep rolling for awhile until the ink is satiny. (Oh, go read Mrs. Panda’s post. It’s better than this one.) Once the ink looks good, roll your soft roller through–the first couple times it will soak up ink, but as you get going you’ll need to re-ink less.

Boxcar press will theoretically send you the edges of your plate to use as bearing strips if you ask. I either forgot to do this or they forgot to include them, but no matter because they happily sent me some at their expense (the customer services raves are true). We actually made some stuff without using them because we were impatient. Some of it turned out fine, others were not so hot. Don’t be impatient. Wait for the right supplies (we also were still using the 6″ roller I hated then)–it’s worth it!

So, the plate is inked, you have your paper in place using the foam guides and your plate is ready. Now its time to ink. Use the roller bearers (thats what I’m holding in the photo above) to ink the plate evenly. This is much MUCH easier with two people. I would get my roller ready while Shamrock laid a new piece of paper and then picked up the roller bearer strip and held it in place so I could roll. You can also stick them down, but it would take a lot longer to stick and unstick them every time–much easier to have two people. Then he would take out the roller bearer, close the plate and run it through the machine, open it up, take out the paper, place a new one, I would ink my roller….you get the drift. 600 times.

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The baby wipes are to clean your plates every now & then in case you are seeing issues, and the paper towels help with that too.

Two colors is a little trickier than one because you need to make sure everything lines up correctly. The foam guides start to slip a little bit (Boxcar recommends using paper pins, but I didn’t have that big of an issue with the foam guides), so I placed some additional ones as I started the second color.

Stick down the components of the second run (new color) BEFORE you remove the first plates–it will make it much easier to see where everything goes. I made sure that the two colors were never supposed to be too close to each other so that I would have a little bit of wiggle room to be off, and it worked out fine. We made the two color call a little later in the game–after our trial run–when we decided this wasn’t too bad and it would be worth having to press every piece twice.

I know there’s a lot of OMG-these-were-a-labor-of-love-I’m-so-glad-they’re-done, but I don’t feel that way at all. They weren’t fast. I got my final piece on a Saturday, we pressed that day twice, once Sunday, and a few week nights and were finished by the following Sunday.

There were a few times (notably late that second Saturday night) when things weren’t turning out right that we should have stopped. Clean up (vegetable oil is your friend) sucks. But the pressing. Put on some music and spend some quality time together. I’m a crafter, but Shamrock isn’t at all, and he didn’t mind gettin’ it done either.

If you’re someone who enjoys crafting things before and has taken on a larger scale project before (I’ve done my own Christmas cards, and BM Mathlete’s Baby shower invitations), then doing the invitations will probably be fine for you. If you’ve never done something like this and don’t already own the supplies (ESPECIALLY if you don’t already own the supplies), steer clear. For us? No regrets on making our own invitations.

What I do regret? Those #@%*!#%^ envelopes.

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Shamrock printed our Save the Date envelopes on our printer, and it went quite quickly. So he figured it would be more of the same to do the invitation envelopes–he just wanted to do it on a work printer, since they’re big and fancy and would make short work of our little stack of envelopes. Ha. HA. Day 1 was seven hours (NOTHING useable got printed in the first three and a half hours) and we left half finished. But very grateful we had driven and didn’t need to walk to the train or go back and get our….where’s the car? No, we totally parked it right there.

Our car got towed. And then we hated the envelopes even more. (Signage was unclear, Shamrock contested it, he won, it’s fine. We still hate envelopes.)

But alls well that ends well, and we ended with exactly what I wanted–invitations were my ONE THING and I really wanted to make them myself.

Any incidents make you look back on a DIY and cringe? Try any projects everyone said you’d regret that you’re totally happy with?

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