Upcycle an Empty Picture Frame for Fabric Art

Upcycle an Empty Picture Frame into Fabric Art

You know you’ve got some empty picture frames cluttering up a shelf somewhere. And even if you don’t, the thrift store definitely does!

A picture frame is one of those items that I hate the most to see thrown out. I know it’s ugly, I know it’s tacky, I know that whatever is framed inside of it is REALLY ugly and tacky, but with a little wood putty, a fresh coat of paint, and some creativity, that picture frame can once again look awesome as it once again displays something REALLY awesome.

This particular picture frame, however, was doubly vexing. I’d meant to turn it into a chalkboard menu for my kitchen (a project yet to be completed, but I’ll keep you posted!), but as I was inking the text onto the glass, I absentmindedly leaned my elbow onto it, distracted by something cute that Rory had just said on Gilmore Girls, no doubt, and crack!

Chalkboard menu dreams, ruined. Sigh…

There I was, left with a picture frame that had been meticulously mended with wood putty and painted with my favorite slate-grey paint (also seen on this dresser and this card catalogue–all my stuff is grey!). What to do?

Why, put a quote from Beowulf in it, of COURSE!

This quick and easy fabric framing method will work to frame a piece of embroidery or a quilt block, as well. It’s not the super-fancy way to frame heirloom fabric pieces, but it’s a workable way to frame anything else that you just want to enjoy looking at. Here’s what you do:

1. Prep your frame. Give your frame a once-over and go ahead and make any little repairs that you see, since it’s so easy to do so that it’s silly not to. I just work a small amount of wood putty into any nicks with the tip of a finger, and then sand it smooth once it’s cured.

Prime the frame with a primer suited to its material (I buy this Bulls Eye Zero and use it on pretty much everything), then paint it the jaunty color of your choosing. Let dry.

2. Wrap the cardboard backing in a padding fabric. Find some stash fabric that you hate, but that has a good amount of loft. Set the frame’s cardboard backing on top of this fabric, mark about an inch extra around it on all sides, and cut it out.

Keeping the cardboard backing face-down, pull the fabric edges up and over the back and hot glue them into place, keeping the fabric taut as you go.

3. Wrap the fabric art. The fabric art can be wrapped the same way that you wrap the padding fabric–I used plain linen for my fabric art, then added the Beowulf quote and illustration after it was framed, so I wrapped the linen exactly as I did the padding.

However, if you’re wrapping embroidery or a quilt panel, you can also do it without glue. With the fabric-wrapped cardboard backing face-up, adjust the fabric art until it’s covering the cardboard backing the way that you’d like; you can also set the empty frame over it to judge the effect. Pin the fabric art onto the padding fabric using a couple of flat-headed pins.

Upcycle an Empty Picture Frame into Fabric ArtTurn the piece face-down and again wrap the excess up and over, but instead of gluing it, simply tape it down with masking tape or double-sided tape. Pressure will keep the fabric art secure in its frame, so you only need this tape to keep the art in place while you’re installing the frame.

4. Frame the piece. The cardboard backing will fit back into the frame, but it WILL be pretty snug, now that you’ve added a couple of layers of fabric on either side. Bend the staples along the edge of the frame back over the fabric-covered cardboard backing, and the piece is ready to hang.

I’m a big fan of my Beowulf quote, even though nobody can read it but me. The piece turned out so well that I’m now thinking of framing more illustrated quotes from books, this time ones that can be read by the majority of the human population on our planet!

Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life; my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties; and my for links to articles about poverty, educational politics, and this famous cat who lives in my neighborhood.

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