We originally made this backdrop for use during the ceremony and then later moving it to the photobooth area (instructables for this coming soon), but we decided against that for a couple reasons. First off, the wind was SUPER crazy during set up and we worried it would be blowing all over us during the ceremony (photo included).
Luckily the wind was just a light breeze for the rest of the night so this ended up not being an issue anyway. But also, the flowers that day on the gazebo were so so beautiful that we did not want to cover anything up. (Plus they matched the flower in Katelyn's hair so it was pretty much meant to be!)
Step 1: Backdrop Frame - Overview
Our backdrop consisted of a couple parts- the frame and the fabric. We’ll start with the frame.
To make our frame, we decided to build two legs with feet to keep them sturdy, and notches on top of the legs that could hold 2 curtain rods for our fabric to hang from. In the picture below, you can see the front-on view (along with close up photos of the notches).
We knew we’d be driving this contraption from Houston to Austin for the wedding, so we wanted something that would pack well and be easy to set up. To make it pack well, the legs needed to be removable from the feet so everything could lay flat. And instead of doing wood across the top we decided on curtain rods because they were also easy to remove AND the curtain rods would allow our width to be adjustable (we didn’t want to be locked into a specific width).
Step 2: Backdrop Frame - Feet
We started with the feet. We knew we wanted them to be able to hold a 2×4 vertically in place as a leg, but that 2×4 also needed to be easily removable. We bought some 2×4’s and got them cut at Home Depot into 6 pieces. Evan sanded a few rough edges, but how much sanding you do will depend on how polished you want it to be. We didn’t do much haha.
For each foot, Evan placed 2 pieces parallel to each other and one across the top. The plan was to secure the top one to the bottom two with some long screws, so he drilled pilot holes first.
With the pilot holes drilled, he then secured the boards with 5 long screws on each side. We wanted this backdrop to be sturdy people! I’ve seen too many “wedding fail” videos to risk this thing crashing down on us (or small children, or grandparents, or drunk uncles).
Step 3: Backdrop - Vertical Supports
To make assembly and disassembly easy, Evan decided we could use L brackets and these little bolts with pins to hold everything in place. You’ll see what we mean as we get there. First, we used a 2×4 to space two L brackets in the center of each foot. We made sure they were as tight as they could be against the 2×4. We secured those to the foot with screws and washers.
Since both our hands were occupied for the next step (Katelyn holding things, Evan drilling) we didn’t get photos of the next part, but basically Evan then drilled screws through those two holes in the L bracket and out the other side of the 2×4. These holes were just barely big enough to hold our bolts, so everything was nice and snug. Then we used a rubber mallet to pound the bolts through the holes (illustration included). We got the bolts and pins from our local big box store.
After the bolts were pounded through, we made things extra extra secure by popping a little pin through the other end. The photos below were taken after we stained it, but they really help demonstrate, so just pretend that wood is still unstained :)
For the legs, you can really do whatever height you want. We wanted something that was tall enough for Evan to stand in front of, so we just used the full length of the 2×4’s you get at Home Depot (8 feet).
We used winmax dark walnut stain to finish them (link in blog) After we stained it, we labeled the feet and legs so that when we reassembled things we would put the correct leg with the correct foot. Even though you’d think 2×4’s are all the same size, there is a little variation sometimes. And since we wanted the legs to fit so snugly in the brackets on each foot, we wanted to make sure we paired the right leg with the foot that was fitted to it. So we labeled the left foot and leg with an A, and the right foot and leg with a B.
Step 4: Backdrop - Curtain Rods
Then we cut notches in the top of each 2×4 that would be able to hold the curtain rods going across the top. Again, we chose to use curtain rods (instead of another 2×4 or PVC) because they would be width-adjustable. Plus, we already had them, so they were freeeee.
We roughly sharpied on some zig-zags onto our wood as guides (since that would be easier to cut than anything rounded out).
Then just a couple quick cuts on our jig saw and we had notches for our curtain rods to sit nicely into!
Pssst, the reason we did two notches on each leg instead of one is because I’ve seen too many barren-looking backdrops. You know, where the breeze flutters it a bit and you see how sparse all those fabric strips look when there is no solidity to them. So we decided to have one curtain rod with fabric strips, and another curtain rod behind it with white sheer curtains that would act as a solid background for the fabric. The awesome part was that we already had cheap white sheer curtains from Ikea so we just used those!
The curtain rods sat nicely in the top of the notches when everything was assembled. And that’s pretty much it for the frame, all done!
Step 5: Fabric - Prep
We've seen TONS of pretty fabric and ribbon backdrops on Pinterest- but ribbon would get real expensive real fast, so that option was nixed pretty early on. We liked the idea of fabric strips, but we wanted to do a really soft, subtle gradient and we weren't sure we would find all the colors we needed to do that. So Katelyn decided to make the colors herself aka become a fabric dye mixologist aka end up with really weird looking perma-stained hands.
So we bought some white muslin fabric since it was super cheap and easy to dye. We guessed what length we would want it to be and just bought just enough for that. When we got home, we laid it out and got to tearing! If you have a cat, they can really help with this part.
Unfortunately, because we were Mochi-wrangling, we didn’t get a pic of the tearing process. But it’s super simple: just make little snips with scissors along the edge and start ripping. We made our snips 2-3 inches apart so that our strips would be 2-3 inches wide. With other fabrics you might need to cut down the whole length of the strip, but with muslin it’s way easier to rip away. Plus I liked the natural looking ripped edges more than I would have liked a sharp cut edge anyway. We left a few pieces in bigger sections so I could test out if it was easier to rip and then dye, or dye and then rip.
Step 6: Fabric - Dyeing
To use the dye, just follow the instructions on the bottle. You get warm water and put a weeeee little bit of dye in and mix it about. The water doesn’t have to be boiling or anything, just warm. Though it even works with cold water if you leave it in there long enough.
We left the fabric in the dye for a little while and impatiently checked and checked until we decided to pull it out to prevent it from getting over-saturated. Since we were going for pastels, we wanted the color to be very faint. Unfortunately, even at it’s faintest it was still… too much.
See that light pink in the middle of the pile (second photo) that looks like a washed out highlighter? That’s how it turned out, and it was a little too glowy for us. So we decided we’d try mixing out colors to (hopefully) tone it down. Spoiler: when we used the mixed dye to color the fabric, it turned out like the darker pink part of the pile in the photo above. Which had better, warmer undertones, but was too dark to be pastel. Dang.
Then we discovered that Rit actually has a color mixing guide on their website! Totally should have checked that out beforehand! Turned out we needed to get some tan dye to warm up and subdue the brightness of the colors.
We started out following the rules, measuring teaspoons of dyes and cups of water, but by the end we were winging it. The dye was really forgiving, and because we wanted all out strips to vary, it was ok if the color was a little different each time. Also, if you dye the fabric one color and don’t quite like it, you can dye it again in another color to get sort of a wash of that second color onto the first. For example, many times out pink mixes were still too pink or my blues were still too blue, so we'd make a batch of tan dye and leave the pinks and blues in there for a while to soak up the tan. Hope all this makes sense and isn’t too confusing. It’s not that hard once you start getting your hands dirty, we promise :)
We found that we liked tearing the fabric into strips first and then dying it, but you may like doing it the other way around. After we pulled out each strip from the dye and rung it out, we let it air dry hanging in the shower. You can see that it dries pretty wrinkly, but I thought that actually gave it a nice shabby chic effect.
Once it was dry, we set up a couple curtain rods so we could see how it would look once it was more put together. As we mentioned earlier, we decided to use two curtain rods for the backdrop: one in front for the fabric, and one behind to hang sheer white curtains from (to act as sort of a backdrop for my backdrop, if you will).
To attach the fabric to the curtain rod, I just folded it over and pinned it to itself with a safety pin. I kept going, adding more and more neutral pinkish-tan pieces to pull everything together. Once we finished the wooden backdrop frame, I was super excited to actually put it all together!
Step 7: Fabric - Finalizing the Bottom
And then… womp womp. Somehow in our excitement about dyeing, we totally got the wrong length for our fabric. It was like our backdrop was wearing high waters. Here's where our pain can help y'all. Assemble the frame and test fabric lengths first before cutting them all and dyeing them.
Luckily, we had bought the last of a bolt of fabric and was cutting it as we went, so we still had a little bit that was uncut. But it definitely wasn’t enough to match the amount of too-short strands. It ended up looking like just a handful of full length pieces peeking out from underneath the short ones. But we didn’t want to toss all our beautifully dyed, vertically challenged fabric and we didn’t want to buy a buttload more fabric either. So we got sneaky.
Yep, we took a few of the short strips and cut them up into even smaller bits that were just long enough to bridge the gap from the short strips to the floor. We tried to match up colors and widths on some so it would look like a continuous strand. On others, we’d purposefully pin (for example) a skinny blue piece behind a wide pink piece and just look at it and pretend that a full length blue piece was hiding behind the big pink one. Which is totally what it looked like!
After pinning everything in place, Katelyn just hand stitched it together. Unless you were looking at it as closely as this photo was, the seams were pretty much invisible! Ta-daaa!!!
Step 8: Transport to Location and Enjoy!
To transport the fabric to the wedding, we split the curtain rod in half and rolled up each side. Then we put them both in a trashbag together to keep the rolls of fabric in place.
And there you have it! It was super easy to transport, reassemble, and disassemble at the end of the night. Plus… it looked gorgeous!!!
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