I'm a member of an online quilting group which began making textile ATCs to swap as a Cheer-Me-Up for those unable to go to our retreat in Perth Western Australia in May 2008. The swap was so successful with some 700 cards traded that we decided to keep the swap group going with mini swaps. We make six cards to a set theme, keep one and send 5 to the other members who signed up to swap within that theme. I have a collection of over 120 cards now in a folder with plastic pockets holding 9 cards to a page, like the ones used for football and YuGiO cards? Here is a little tutorial on my method of making them, with hints taken from lots of different web sites.
1. ATCs must be no larger than 2 1/2 inches x 3 1/2 inches. I made a window template to help in selecting areas from created fabric backgrounds or fabrics, or for seeing if a piece of stitching will fit within the size limit. You could also use template plastic (the kind for making quilt templates which is opaque) if you have it.
2. ATCs are a "sandwich" composed of 3 layers:
a front of fabric which you may create and embellish as liked
a middle layer of stiffening eg. Pellon, Timtex, pelmet Vilene, cardstock
and a backing of fabric, iron on Vilene, paper etc.
These layers are fused together using your preferred fusible product eg. Misty Fuse, Vleisofix, Wonder Under etc. then stitched around the edge to seal
3. First photo shows equipment used, clockwise starting at 12 o'clock they are
Timtex, templates, pellon with baking paper, Misty Fuse, roll of Vleisofix.
4. Next photo shows the front of the card. I fused my cream homespun to Pellon with some Misty Fuse fusible web, then stitched the Redwork flower design within the marked card outline. I like to leave the final trimming to size till all layers are fused together.
5. Since I'm making 6 cards here I cut a piece of my chosen backing fabric. I've used a burgandy printed fabric here fused on the wrong side to the Misty Fuse webbing (following the manufacturers' directions )using baking paper so my iron doesn't stick. Then I place the backing right side down on the baking paper and place the front of the cards right side up, cover with baking paper again and press with a dry iron to fuse in place. Then I turn the whole lot over again and press again on the back.
6. Now I trim to the maximum size of 2 1/2 inches x 3 1/2 inches using my rotary cutter and square ruler. You could scissor cut on the line if needed. Depending on the edging, it may be best to trim off couple more millimeters. A fancy braid or ric-rac for instance can add a little to the size, so best to make the card a little under size. I like to satin stitch around the edge by machine, but you can blanket stitch by machine or hand, zig zag, straight stitch, or bind with fabric, ribbon, or braid. You could also choose to leave the edges raw if it fits your theme.
7. Any beads, sequins, charms, letters etc. are best left until last if you are machine stitching, unless you're confident you won't catch them in the machine. I sometimes use Vilene as my backing layer so I can write with a fabric pen on the back, or sometimes I print a label on heavy paper and glue it on with fabric glue. You should label your work with at least your name, and contact details and the date made. Some groups like you to add the Group swap name, and if you are making multiples you should mark each card with it's number within a set.
e.g. 1 of 6, 2 of 6 etc. on each of a set of 6 cards.
When I make only one card I write "an original ATC" instead of the number on the label.
I have successfully used bubble jet printed silk and cotton pictures on cards as the front and as an embellishment. You can also used mixed media on these little cards, so cardstock, any paper embellishments etc. are usually welcomed as long as the card is mostly textile based. Stitched sample pieces make great ATCs, as do little pieces of lace or felted bits. Painted fabric backgrounds are popular just at the moment too.
I hope this was not too complicated, and that you have as much fun as I have had in making these little works of textile art to swap.