Guest Post: Some ATC Construction Techniques

Happy New Year to all the lovely Artist Trading Card Swappers out there!

This week’s ATC swap guest post is from Carley in the USA, who has swapped along with us on several occasions. She has created a fantastically useful post about different ways of constructing an ATC card. I think it’s so useful – thanks so much Carley. 

One important thing to consider when designing an ATC is how everything will come together before you start sewing.  Since there is a pretty strict limit on thickness (1/8″), you should think about the interplay of fabric, stabilizer, and embellishments.  In this post, I’ll give you some ideas on how to change up the layers and construction method to find the right combination for your ATC project.

construction methods

First, let’s go over the main materials and methods for constructing an ATC.  The most common fabrics for making ATCs include quilting cotton, muslin, cotton lawn, and, occasionally, canvas.  The stabilizer is usually heavyweight interfacing or batting, though, as I’ll show below, there are other great options as well.

The two main construction methods are the sandwich method held together with fusible web and/or edge stitching and the pocket method which includes a seam allowance turned to the inside.

Deciding which combination of options to use depends on several factors, including your preferred fabric, available stabilizers, thickness of embellishments, etc.  And any one of these choices might force the others.  Here are a few situations you might encounter.

Let’s say that you want to use some fancy tiny tatted doilies on the front of your ATC.  They are quite thick, so you try to figure out how to use them without exceeding the 1/8″ limit.  You could decrease the overall thickness of the ATC by using thinner fabric, using a thinner interfacing, or by using the sandwich method of construction (seam allowances will add bulk at the edges).  In practice, this might include using cotton lawn or muslin for the fabric and batting in between the layers.

Or, consider that your chosen fabric is very thin and needs extra stabilizing.  You could use heavyweight interfacing if the embellishments don’t add much thickness or use thin plastic with the pocket method of construction if you use more textured embellishments.

A third situation you might face is that you are down to the wire, sewing at midnight, the last day for shipping is tomorrow, and you don’t have any of the standard stabilizers handy.  Before you panic, check the fridge.  Do you have any yogurt or sour cream in a plastic container? If so, here’s what you can do.

 Empty the contents into another dish and wash out the container, then cut out the side panel out and place it between between two sheets of paper:

plastic 1

Turn your iron to the lowest setting and iron the plastic from each side until it’s flat.  The paper may stick to the printed side of the plastic.  Just tear it off and peel off any stuck bits.

plastic 2Cut your plastic to size, making sure all the cuts are clean, and slip it into your ATC.

plastic 3

The plastic only works, of course, if you are using the pocket method of construction since a needle won’t like sewing through it. Leather (particularly split hide) and felt can also work for either construction method.  

leather felt plastic


As a last resort, you could use polyester fiber-fill from your stash or steal a bit from a stuffed animal.  Here’s how to do that.

Create a pocket the same size as your ATC (if using the sandwich method) or just smaller (if using the pocket method). Fill the pocket with fiber-fill so that it is a cushy mound then stitch the opening closed.

fiberfill 1Starting at the center and working outwards (or in a random path as your mood dictates), quilt the pocket, adjusting the fiber-fill with your fingers as necessary.  The resulting piece can be inserted between the outer layers in the same way as any of the traditional methods and will give your ATC a springy stability.
fiberfill 2

I hope you’ve enjoyed this mix of methods to construct your ATC and ideas on designing a card with the right thickness.  I can’t wait to see what everyone makes.  Happy Sewing!

Thanks so much Carley, and happy sewing to you too!

9 thoughts on “Guest Post: Some ATC Construction Techniques

  1. Hi, I am a newbee to your blog!
    I need to ask a few questions!!! What does ATC stand for and what is involved in joining the swap? I am in Canada.
    Quilty Huggs,

    1. Hi there Jacqueline… sorry, I always try and make sure I explain the abbreviation in every post, perhaps I missed it in this one! ATC stands for Artist Trading Card.. You can read more on this blog post. This swap will end at the end of January, and there will be another one in the spring. If you subscribe to my blog, or keep up with me on Facebook or Instagram, then hopefully you will be able to sign up! Thanks so much for being interested! Ali xx

  2. Thank you for these really useful suggestions. I’m always thinking so much about the image that I haven’t considered better ways of construction and this is going to be really helpful – especially the yoghurt pot tip!

  3. That’s very useful, though I have to admit, I haven’t even thought about the 1/8″ thickness (hope my cards were not too fat). I really like the last method using fiber-fill. Thank you, Carley!

  4. This is so useful because whilst I’ve thought a lot about design, I’ve not thought so much about construction techniques. It’s good to see some different methods.

  5. oops.. I think I used my other email on previous comment.. so just wanted to add this one also… Now time to iron!

  6. Great post! Mine might be a bit over 1/8″ thick… so a good reminder.. I am going to iron the heck out of it to see how much I can flatten it.. (Quick, little ATC.. suck in your belly!)

    1. Hi Laurie – don’t worry, I’m not that strict!! I like to give guidance on thickness, just because I know people like to put ATCs in folders with those little pockets, so it’s easier if the card isn’t too thick. But honestly, I am not doing an inspection 😉

      1. Good to know! I ironed the heck out of it.. and it was still 1/16″ too fat… it is vacationing now under a heavy box! 🙂

We always love reading your comments... go ahead, say hello!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s