I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile because several of my friends have asked how we (technically just Dave) did it. This will be a very boring post for anyone who is not interested in making their own letters.
I have been pinning various ideas for personalizing a D and an M (for Dave and Michelle) for awhile. Then one day, I left pinterest up on my laptop and between pinterest, blog surfing, and internet searching, Dave came up with the idea to cover a D and an M with maps. And not just any maps… He decided to cover a D with Georgia (his home state), an M with Oregon (my home state), and an “&” with Southern California (where we lived when we met… and still live).
We had this idea for awhile before we got engaged, and technically we were already engaged the day Dave did most of the work, but we were keeping it (mostly) a secret at that point. However, when I posted a picture of the completed product on Facebook, I started getting quite a few texts, messages, and calls from people wondering what was going on with us. And after we publicly broke the news of the engagement, several people mentioned they thought something was up when they saw the map letters. I guess a guy probably won’t spend hours making sentimental craft letters for a girl he’s not planning to keep around awhile, eh?
It ended up being a fairly complicated process that resulted in a time-intensive, tedious, completely homemade, but beautiful and sentimental project. I would recommend looking for pre-made cardboard letters at a place like Joann’s. We didn’t know about those letters at the time, and after not finding any letters at our local Michael’s that we liked, we decided to make our own.
Supplies We Used:
1) Maps of Oregon, California, and Georgia (Dave’s dad had an old Road Atlas he got from work that he let us use, although we also looked around some thrift/antique shops and contemplated just printing some off the internet).
2) Pre-Made Letters OR Foam Board + Letter Stencils + Box Cutter
3) Modge Podge Glue + Foam Brush
4) Patience. Particularly if your letters contain curves (like D and &).
First, we printed stencils using our computer, printer, and regular paper. We tried out a few fonts and settled on Arial Bold.
Then, we traced out each letter on the foam board. We initially had a different idea for how to make the foam letters, but realized it would be extremely difficult with the curves on the D and the &. So instead, we traced out 3 of each letter, used a box cutter to cut out each letter, and then glued the 3 together. The only part I helped with was the tracing. Me and sharp objects don’t mix.
The process of tracing and cutting out 9 letters was extremely tedious. Plus, of course cutting things with a box cutter isn’t perfect, so we had to go out and get sandpaper to sand the sides down once we attached the 3 together. It was such a tedious process that the white, uncovered letters sat on this bookshelf for a few days before Dave started up the project again. That is why it is better to just BUY letters. You save the most tedious and time consuming part.
When it came time to cover the letters with the maps, we (I helped again!) traced out each letter on the part of the map we wanted. It was important to us to make sure that certain parts of each state made it on the map. For example, the “&” ultimately shows a lot of ocean because we wanted to make sure to include Catalina–the location of our first date.
After we traced out each letter on their respective maps, we knew which portion we wanted to cover the front of each letter, and so we glued the letter onto that portion using the Modge Podge glue. It is very important to apply the glue thinly and evenly, and smooth everything out before it dries, or the map will dry bumpy (we learned that lesson the hard way with another map project I’ll share later).
The M was super easy since the sides were all straight… Dave just had to fold the sides of the map over and trim as needed. But the D and the & were tricky when it came to folding the map around the sides of the letter in a way that didn’t look bunchy/bumpy. Dave cut little slits in the map, which helped the sides fold over flat.
In some cases, when Dave folded the edges of the map around the sides of the letters, there wasn’t enough map to fully cover the sides which left some gaps. So Dave found similar looking portions of other maps to fill in the gaps (e.g. if the portion of the map was ocean, he’d find another ocean piece to fill in the gap). After a letter is completely covered, and the glue underneath has had time to dry, you can brush a thin layer of the Modge Podge glue all over each letter to give it a more finished look.
In the end, the letters looked like this:
I think these letters would look great on a shelf alone… particularly a floating shelf or a mantle. But I put them there mainly as a safe place away from Ellie, and then we liked it so much we left them there. I really love how the D and M each have our hometowns, and the towns of our favorite football teams 😉 And the & symbol not only encompasses Los Angeles, San Diego, and Catalina, but it actually has a dotted line from Long Beach to Catalina showing the exact path of the boat we took to and from Catalina on that fateful April 30th day. It’s probably my favorite DIY project ever, even though my involvement didn’t go much beyond tracing. I am an AWESOME tracer, y’all. Just call me for all of your tracing needs.