Saturday, June 4, 2016

Keepsake mash-up: photos, beads and fiber

It’s the time of year when wedding bells start ringing merrily away and the pressure mounts to come up with a special gift.

I decided to try a mash up of three things I love: photos, beads and fibers.

Below is the keepsake I made for my niece's shower gift. If you are interested in doing something similar, I have provided a listing of the materials and techniques I used.

The most important decisions are the overall size of your piece and choosing the photos you want to use. Mariah and her fiancé, Josh, spent almost a year in Europe last year and their blog and Facebook posts provided me with a bonanza of photos. In this piece, I used a fantastic photo from their time teaching in Prague. Hands down, I knew this would be the centerpiece.

But I also wanted to incorporate a series of photos showing the happy couple at various points over the years, starting with their friendship in grade school. So I decided to use smaller photos around the focal. I also knew I wanted the photos on fabric so I could do bead embroidery around them but sent the main photo away to be printed by a professional since I didn’t trust my inkjet printer to do it justice. I chose the company Fotos on Fabric. Their turnaround and service were excellent and the price was really reasonable — about $20 for a 10x10 photo.

I assembled the other pictures I wanted to use. What a cute couple!


In addition to your photos, here are the other materials I used along with where I purchased the items:
  • Two half-yards of fabric in the color scheme you would like to use - Joann Fabrics
  • Décor Bond - Joann Fabrics
  • Pellon 72f Peltex Ultra Firm 2 double sided fusible interface - Joann Fabrics
  • Muslin fabric or other plain fabric for backing - Joann Fabrics
  • Threads and other fibers for embellishment - Stash/Joann Fabrics
  • Beads and charms for embellishment — Stash or your favorite bead store
  • Scraps of ribbons, lace for embellishment — Stash or fabric store
  • Transfer Artist Paper by Lesley Riley - Amazon
  • Tracing paper - Joann Fabrics
  • Access to photo editing program - I use Photoshop CC but you can use Picmonkey (free) or your preferred photo editing program
  • Sewing machine (to connect backing to piece)
If you want to embroider words onto the piece, select quotes or write your own. Then decide on their general placement.

Your Template

Your first step is to make a true-to-size template just to be sure the photos and other bits and bobs you want to incorporate will all fit into the allotted space. I made one on the computer and then transferred it onto a larger piece of cardboard cut to the scale of the piece.

Create Your Canvas

Then, set up your canvas. Using the measurements noted on your template, cut fabric strips that will frame the focal photo.

Using 1/2 inch seam allowances, sew the front of the photo to the front of the fabric strips that will frame it. On the reverse side, iron to flatten seams and trim corners so they lay flat.

Add the next round of fabric strips using the same process. Iron seams and trim.

Continue for as many rounds as specified in your design template.

Once the face of your design is ready, cut a size of Décor Bond that fits the entire canvas. Using the directions on the Décor Bond, adhere it to the reverse side of the canvas. This will stabilize the piece and allow you to more easily add your embroidered words, photos and embellishments.

Here's what my canvas looked like from the back as I started the embroidery:

Canvas from Reverse Showing Decor Bond

You can see how the Decor Bond gives a nice backing for your beading and embroidery work. Here's what it looked like from the front:

Starting the Embroidery

You can also use your sewing machine to stitch around the edges with a zigzag stitch to prevent fraying. The Decor Bond should do the job so it's a matter of preference along with the type of fabric you are using. I started out using the large embroidery frame shown above but found it too bulky and removed it pretty early in the process.

Embroider Your Quotes

If you are using quotes or any embroidery, create your template for tracing onto your canvas. I set up the phrases I chose on Photoshop, printed them, and then used tracing paper to get the design on the canvas.

Make sure the font is sized to fit your template and will suit embroidery. I also added some line guides to mine to make sure I could get good placement on the fabric. Once they are set up the way you like, print your document on regular printer paper. Here's what my template looked like:

Cut out the individual strips and carefully align each one to fit its preferred location on your canvas. Using the tracing paper, impress the words onto the fabric. I did one at a time, embroidering after each one, since the tracing image can smudge and wear away as you work on the fabric. Repeat for all the phrases you have selected.

Smaller Photos

This step is optional but certainly adds fun to the piece. Prepare your smaller photos by editing and re-sizing as needed in your photo editing program. Then print each one on the Transfer Artist Paper (TAP) which is then transferred to muslin. I had a couple fails on this so follow the TAP directions carefully for a good imprint. For extra dimension and stability, apply your muslin images to the canvas using the Pellon 72f Peltex Ultra Firm 2 double sided fusible interface. Below you will see my TAP fails and the better images.

TAP Fails

TAP Success
Now comes the fun: decorating the smaller pics. This is whatever you like. I used a little bit of a different technique on each photo. Although you have adhered the photo image using the Peltex, the additional beadwork provides additional security as well as interest.

Beadwork on Smaller Photos

I embellished each photo and then added more beadwork and beaded motifs as shown in the guide below:

Add Backing

Now you want to hide all those stitch lines and prepare your piece for framing. Cut a piece of muslin to fit the total piece and with reverse sides together, use a zigzag on your sewing machine to sew the backing to the piece.

Lightly steam with an iron to remove any wrinkles but take care not to flatten any of the embellishments on the front.

And voila! You are done. You can frame it at home using a quilting technique or take it to your local frame shop.

Here's another one that just uses one main photo and no embroidery.


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