Fixing the Collage Frame

Collage Frame by Natalie Parker

I made these collage frames a few years ago for the home office.  They have not stood the test of time.

I used wire and hot glue.  Slowly, some of the wire broke away from the hot glue and I was left with this:

Collage Frame by Natalie Parker

Being the lazy person I am, I left it like this for at least a year.  Maybe two.  I finally got a bee in my bonnet a couple of weeks ago and took them all apart and put them back together again.

I swapped the wire for twine.  I modeled the new frames after a Christmas card holder my talented sister-in-law made for me.  Starting at the top, I wound the twine around the outside of the frame.  This method leaves some unused rows of twine in the back of the frame.  I thought it was neat and added some visual interest.

Collage Frame by Natalie Parker

This redo wasn’t without disaster.  I was halfway through the first one and realized I wasn’t winding tight enough.  If I added the pictures, they’d just drag down the twine.  Do over.  Naturally, the second time I wound it as tight as I could.  I forgot I was using cheapo Ikea frames.  Putting that much pressure on the frame almost broke it.  Do over.  The third time, I kept it at medium tightness and it worked!

Collage Frame by Natalie Parker

Some of the photos have faded a bit.  I picked out some new ones to bump up the color and display more recent stuff.

Collage Frame by Natalie Parker

All done!  After this tuneup, I hope it holds up for another couple years!

Collage Frame by Natalie Parker

Collage Frame by Natalie Parker

Patterned Paper US Map for my Niece & Nephew

Patterned Paper US MapThis map was a Christmas gift to my little niece and nephew.  A combination of canvas, patterned paper and mod podge, it was a little painstaking to put together!  I say painstaking because I like to make things difficult and perfect.

Patterned Paper US MapThis project was inspired by Kate’s Fabric Map over at See Kate Sew.  Kate cut states out of fabric by hand, ironed them onto muslin and then top-stitched them.  I prefer paper and thought it would help me give the project more definition.

Patterned Paper Map Supplies

I cut the states out using my Silhouette SD, but you can do it by hand.  I thought the Silhouette would make it easier, but it was more work than I thought it was and I think both methods are a tie.

Supplies:

  • Patterned paper of your choice
  • Large canvas
  • Scissors or a Silhouette machine
  • A printable map of the US or a map file for the Silhouette
  • Scotch tape
  • Mod Podge and brush

I used a couple different paper pads with sort of patriotic paper.

Patterned Paper US MapPatterned Paper Map Tutorial

First, decide what paper is going to go with each state on the map.  For this process, I printed a small map and used scraps from my papers.  Each paper repeats a few times, but I did not want like papers touching each other.

Patterned Paper US MapSecond, cut out your states.  This is the tedious part and you can do it one of two ways.

If you are doing this by hand, download a US map and print it really big to fit the size of your canvas.  Then, cut out each state and use it as a pattern for your patterned paper.  Kate has really good instructions on how to print and use this method with fabric.  It’s generally applicable to paper, except you will use regular paper and not iron-on.

I used the Silhouette SD and downloaded a US Map and painstakingly split it into 50 separate cut files.*  Why didn’t I just buy each state individually?  One, I’m cheap.  Two, I needed to make sure the proportions and of each state to one another were correct.

Next step, tape sections of states together.  I used plain scotch tape.  Tape big chunks of states together – not the entire map.

Patterned Paper US MapThen, carefully Mod Podge the sections to the canvas.  That’s Mr. P placing all the islands.

Patterned Paper US MapLet it completely dry, then cover the entire canvas with a light coat of Mod Podge.  Warning – the paper may curl or bubble.  Leave it alone.  Usually the bubbles go away when it dries.  Fiddling with it will only mess it up.

Patterned Paper US MapI added a title to the bottom right corner before I Mod Podged the whole canvas.  The font is Lobster.

Patterned Paper US MapLet it dry and touch up if needed.

I really thought I was going to screw this up at some point, but it turned out so cool!

Patterned Paper US Map*Normally, I would make these files available to you for download but my computer crashed right after I finished this project.

Any questions?  Please leave questions in the comments and I’m happy to answer them!

Patterned Paper US Map

The Modern Collage Frame

Photo Art Frame

Consider the collage frame of yore.  I’m talking about frames like this – giant frames with multiple openings where you stick pictures of all your friends and family.

Meet my version of the collage frame.  It’s visually interesting, has room for a ton of pictures and the pictures themselves are easily swapped out!

I came up with this idea for my uninspired, undecorated office.  It’s pretty funny because I do some of my most crafty work in there.  I needed a “statement” piece for the big wall that didn’t darken the room since the room doesn’t get much sun.

The idea was inspired by this.  I loved how lots of little pictures worked in the display and I adapted it to use supplies I already had.

How to Make a Modern, Interchangeable Collage Frame

Supplies:

  • Picture frame(s), guts removed
  • Wire
  • Hot glue gun
  • Pliers
  • Mini clothespins
  • Lots of little pictures

Quantities needed will vary depending on size of frame(s) and how large you want the pictures to be.

Step One: Prepare frame(s)

I used three 20×30-inch Ikea poster frames that I had leftover from our move.  They were already spray painted black.  All I had to do was remove the insides and clean them.

Old Ikea poster frames.

Step Two: Picture Size and Quantity

I printed draft pictures of various sizes to see how they would look in the frames.  I settled on 2.75 inches wide by 1.85 inches tall, 5 pictures per row.  Laying them out, 7 rows would fit nicely.  That meant 35 pictures per frame or 105 pictures total.

Step Three: Select, Print and Cut Pictures

I went through my entire 22,000 picture collection and tried to keep an even balance between scenery and people.  I also tried to feature at least one picture from each trip we’ve taken.  Since I love weddings, there are lots of pictures of friends getting married.  If I’ve been to your wedding, there’s probably a picture of you cutting your wedding cake on my wall.

Proportion Matters: crop all pictures so they are a proportionate size before you size and print them.  Not all cameras take pictures in the same proportion of length and height.  I used Picasa to crop all the pictures to the same 4×6″ proportion.  Then I laid them out in an MS Word document and resized them to X for printing.

Next, print, print away!  This is why I love my photo printer.

I cut each of the pictures with a 1/8-inch white border.

Mini photos for wall art.

Step Four: Practice Hanging the Frames

Yes, decide where you want these frames to go and practice hanging them before you add the wire and pictures.  It is much easier to move the frames around the wall and get them just right when they are empty.

Practice hanging frames.

Step Five: Measure and Attach the Wire

I used 20 gauge wire from Michael’s.  Glue the wire onto the area where the glass would normally rest – this way it won’t be seen.  I started with a big glob of hot glue on one side.  Be patient and let the glue dry.  If you try to stretch the wire across the frame before the glue is fully dry it won’t work.

Stretch the wire across the frame,  hold it in place with pliers, and glue it on the other side.

Note: Hot glue worked for me, although it was a bit finicky.  I’m not sure how it will work if you live in a hotter or more humid climate.

Gluing wire to frame.

Step Six: Attach Pictures, Hang and Enjoy!

Using the mini clothespins, I clipped the pictures to the wire.  I spaced out scenery and people and put some of my favorites near the bottom so I could see them when I was sitting at my desk.

Attach pictures to frame.

The best part about this is that the pictures are easily interchangeable!  You don’t have to take the whole frame down and open it up just to change one picture.

Finally.  Office wall, meet personality.

Photo wall art.

Book Project Epilogue

This is the seventh in a series of posts about designing and building the wall art for my living room:

How’s it Holding Up?

The piece is holding up very well.  I expected some of the books to “open up” a bit more as time passed and they have.  It gives the piece more texture.

I ended up having to put a wedge underneath the bottom portion of the frame to hold it off the wall.  Originally the top of the frame came away from the wall for a centimeter while the bottom of the frame touched the wall.  This angle made the books open up a bit too much.  Putting the wedge underneath the bottom of the frame helps.

Dust hasn’t been an issue yet, but when I do have to clean it I’m going to use the wand attachment from my vacuum cleaner and the brush attachment to gently go over the piece.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some responses to some frequent comments and some good info if you haven’t read all of the posts yet.  I’ll start with the most frequent question/criticism first.

Don’t you feel bad about destroying books?

Nope.  I thought I would but I didn’t.  I wouldn’t cut up a new book or something off my own shelf.  I bought these books used and they were either library discards or others at the end of their life.  Contrary to what we’d like to think, books don’t last forever.

I was really taken with a comment from a librarian about crafting with books:

“I have a strong opinion that books that you bother to keep in your life to read or refer to should be respected and taken care of … but once they pass that point, anything goes … My library receives hundreds of books a week as donations for our book sales, and we constantly weed [books] from our collections … The things we couldn’t sell often (used to) go to a recycling dumpster and we had to pay to have them hauled away and pulped…”

See?  Trust your librarian.

Couldn’t you have made color copies of the book pages for the same effect and spared the books?

Maybe, but I don’t think it would have the same effect.  This piece is all about texture and it would have been sacrificed if I didn’t use real books.  Plus it would have taken a lot longer if I had to copy and make my own “books.”

You said you ordered the books but then you said you bought them used.  Which is it?

Both.  Most of the books are from an online store called Better World Books  through Half.com.  Buying them together helped me get better prices on the books and shipping.  Funds raised by Better World Books go toward literacy initiatives and libraries. Read more about how I purchased the books here.

If you do this project and it doesn’t matter to you which books you use, you can hit a used book sale in your community and accomplish this much faster.

What are you doing with the rest of the book pages and covers?

They’re not going to waste, trust me.  I’m enamored with book page crafts now, so you will have to keep tuning in to see what I have planned!

How Big is the Piece?

62 inches wide by 36.5 inches tall.  We built it to fit the space over our living room couch.

Where did you get the frame?

I made it!

Oh, I don’t really have tools in my house so I guess I can’t build my own.

Not true.  I don’t have many tools either.  It’s designed so a building novice with few tools can make it (we live in a small 2-bedroom duplex).  As long as you have a store that’s willing to cut wood to size for you, the rest of the supplies are cheap.  Read the full post on how I built the frame here, you can do it!

You can also pick up a cool frame from a thrift store!

How did you attach the books to the frame?

I glued cork board to the inside of the frame and then used thumb tacks.  I used rubber cement for single pages.  Read more about the process in this post.

Did you use just any old books or is there a theme?

They are favorite books of my husband and I (both fiction and non-fiction).  One or both of us have read each book in the piece.  It makes me smile when I look at it and see much loved stories.

Do any of the books repeat in different parts of the piece?

Nope.

Did you specifically pick which page of the book to show?  How did you take them apart?

Yup.  Either the husband or I selected a favorite or interesting part of each book.  It’s that much cooler to look on the wall and see when Mary discovers a garden or when Julia had that memorable meal which would change her life.  Read more about this process and how I took the books apart in this post.

What’s the big grey blob near the top right of the piece?

It’s a picture of the Ursa Major constellation from the book The Stars by H.A. Rey.  My husband received this book when he was a kid and used it to learn the constellations.  It’s still on our bookshelf and is one of his most treasured books.  I found a copy of it used but I ended up  using a copy of the page.  The original page is blue and white.  It threw off the piece to have the constellation be the only color, so I took some artistic license.  H.A. Rey also wrote Curious George.

I bet I could make this cheaper with a handful of books that repeated.

Yup, you could.  I tend to make things more difficult than they should be.  I should change the name of my blog to The Masochistic Crafter.

I welcome more of your questions!  Thanks for stopping by!

The Book Project Finale


This is the sixth in a series of posts about designing
and building the wall art for my living room.
Read the first post about how I got the idea here,
the second post about building the frame here,
the third post about buying the books here,
the fourth post about taking apart the books here,
and the fifth post about laying out and attaching the books here.

Yes, it’s DONE and I’m THRILLED with it!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Hanging it on the Wall

I decided not to tempt fate and bought an art hanging kit that was rated to hold 100 pounds. Check your hardware store. I looked at the craft store, but they only carried 50-pound sets.

The kit comes with metal loops that get screwed into the back of the frame and wire to attach to the hooks.

After that, I attached some rubber bumpers to the corners and around the screws to keep it from scratching the wall.

So as not to scratch the wall.

The kit also came with two hooks that we nailed into the wall studs. I bought an extra hook because the piece was so big and I wanted to add one to distribute the weight.

Big time hook.

Finally, the husband and I lifted it into place so the wire was resting on the hooks. It was almost too easy.

It’s Finished!

Ta-duh! Here it is hanging over the couch:

A close-up:

This piece is definitely unique to us and we are both really pleased with how it worked out. I’m pleased that I was able to take my hair-brained idea and actually make it work. The husband is pleased that we actually have something hanging on the wall above the couch. Win Win!


I’ll revisit this in a couple of weeks and let you know how it’s holding up along with some final thoughts about what I’ve learned. Thanks for following along!

The Book Project: the Layout

This is the fifth in a series of posts about designing
and building the wall art for my living room.
Read the first post about how I got the idea here,
the second post about building the frame here,
the third post about buying the books here,
and the fourth post about taking apart the books here.

Previously in our story, I took apart all the books for my project.

Hmmmmmmm . . . how am I going to attach them to the frame? Originally, I considered some type of glue. However, I needed something to secure several pages of the books so gravity wouldn’t pull them off the frame. Then I remembered the book wall where I got this idea in the first place: they used tacks.

Continue reading

The Book Project: Taking Apart the Books

This is the fourth in a series of posts about designing
and building the wall art for my living room.
Read the first post about how I got the idea here,
the second post about building the frame here,
and the third post about buying the books here.

Now that I FINALLY had all of the books for my project, it was time to take them apart.  I had been avoiding this.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it.  I wasn’t sure if any of the ideas I had would work out.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about cutting up the books.

Continue reading

The Book Project: Buying the Books


This is the third in a series of posts about designing and building the wall art for my living room.
Read the first post about how I got the idea here
and the second post about building the frame here.

You didn’t think that this project was restricted to great pieces of literature, did you? Okay, we’re on the same page.

Choosing, ordering and preparing the books for this project was the hardest part.

This project could easily be accomplished by going to a library book sale, filling a bag and being done with it. I like things complicated. We were only going to use books that the husband and/or I have read and liked.

Continue reading

The Book Project: Building the Frame

This is the second in a series of posts about designing and building the wall art for my living room. Read the first post about how I got the idea here.

I had to build the frame for the book project/wall art myself if I wanted it to be like I was picturing it in my mind. I am not handy. My mom owns power tools. I don’t build things. Unfortunately she lives hours away and I had to figure this out myself (the husband was busying himself with graduate coursework, tsk, tsk).

This is a really long post!

How Big Should We Make This Thing?

The husband and I agreed that we wanted it centered over the couch. We also agreed that we should use 1″x4″s, making the pieces of the frame 4 inches wide.

We stood on the couch with tacks and string and thought it out. We settled on 62 inches wide by 36.5 inches tall.

Very hard to see, but there is string on the wall marking the placement and size of the frame.

I’m not afraid to admit that we got lazy and left the string up there for several weeks until I was done building the piece.

A closer look. The string marks the outer and inner parts of the frame.

Trip to Home Depot

I don’t own power tools, so I had to design the frame carefully so there would be no fancy supplies required.

Here was the idea:

  • Get a thin piece of plywood cut to exact area that I wanted for the frame.
  • Cut two 1×4’s the width of the plywood.
  • Cut 2 more 1×4’s that would be the length of the plywood, less 8 inches (i.e. less the width of the other two 1×4’s that were just cut.
  • Glue the 1×4’s to the plywood, so the 1×4’s were flush with the edge of the plywood.

Sounds simple enough? It took me weeks to come up with that.

I knew the folks at Home Depot make straight cuts on their power saws for free. I came prepared with the exact measurements I wanted and they took care of it!

Thin plywood and 1x4s cut at Home Depot.

Laying everything together, the cuts were perfect!

An idea of what it will look like put together.

Sanding and Staining

I sanded all the pieces to prepare them for staining.

Wait, I thought she said she didn’t own power tools?

I don’t. If you live in a metropolitan area, check to see if your community has a tool lending library! Mine does!

Sand all the pieces and smooth out any rough spots.

This was my first time staining, so I read the directions carefully.

Wood conditioner and stain.

First, I applied a coat of pre-stain wood conditioner. This helps the stain adhere to the wood.

Apply the conditioner.

Next, I brushed the stain onto the 1×4’s. The stain looks darker than it is. The excess gets wiped off later.

Stain the 1x4s.

Then a helper showed up.

He thinks hes helping. Hes the neighbors cat but he thinks he owns our yard.

I conditioned and stained the edges of the plywood. Since the 1×4’s would be flush with the edge of the plywood, I wanted the edge of the plywood to be dark as well.

Condition and stain the edges of the plywood.

After the stain sat for a while, I wiped off the excess. I thought about doing a second coat, but I ended up liking the slightly distressed look with just one coat.

And I was lazy.

Good thing the husband concurred.

Wipe off excess stain.

Finally, Some Wood Glue. A Lot of Wood Glue.

I left everything to dry until I had time to work on it again. That was at least a week later.

We glued each 1×4 onto the plywood and then secured them using clamps and a lot of heavy books while it dried.

Finished.

If that is a frame, where is the glass?

Nope, no glass. I wanted the frame to be open so people could touch the books and turn the pages if they wanted to. The original version I saw didn’t have glass either. It was just a bunch of exposed books inside a large frame.

Now I had the hard part out of the way.

Or so I thought.

Update: Visit Part 3 – Buying the Books

Some Old Friends Came Over . . .

Yes, they are books. I like to think of them as old friends. I recently ordered an absurd amount of used books. When the first box finally arrived, I opened it and felt an immediate rush of this happy, pleasant feeling. I can only describe it as the way you feel when you see an old friend after a very long time. If you are a reader, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

One of the best first lines of a book, ever. Can you guess what it is?

But what are these books for? They are for the largest, most epic craft project I have ever attempted.

The Muse

Prepare yourself for a long story.

The husband and I decided to visit a new bar in our neighborhood a few months ago. At the same time, I was trying to come up with an idea for our living room wall. I had four different ideas and I wasn’t thrilled with any of them.

All along the upper half of the wall of the bar were books.

Lots and lots of books. I was struck. This was it.

Dimly lit cell phone picture from inside the bar.

We sat at the bar and wondered what if we built something like this for our living room wall? Better yet, what if we made it out of our favorite books?

I decided to postpone making a choice until the next day.

Don’t make decorating decisions under the influence.

The next morning, it still seemed like an awesome idea and I ordered some books. Every time I think I may have gone off the deep end with this idea, I look at the progress and know: this is going to be awesome!

Extra Pages

This project will also leave me with a fair amount of leftover book pages. I’m going to use them in some smaller scale book crafts that I can’t wait to do. This will ensure that the leftovers do not go to waste.

I’m going to chronicle building this thing in a series of posts.

I can’t wait to share this project with you!

Stay tuned.

If you are in the Bay Area and want to visit the bar and see the books for yourself, visit Room 389 in Oakland. The drinks are excellent.

Update: Visit Part 2 – Building the Frame