How to: Turn your child’s artwork into a lasting keepsake

I love my children’s artwork.  Which is good, because I get a lot of it!  I will confess that some of the countless “masterpieces” end up in the trash at the end of the day (horrified gasp!), but some of them make it into the stack of “keepers” that I keep on the shelf above my sewing desk.  The trouble is, I’m not always good at keeping tack of loose papers.  Sometimes those beautiful works of art get shuffled in with the junk mail, or become bent and wrinkled, or just fade with time.

A few years ago I had an “ah-ha” moment and I started embroidering and framing the children’s artwork.  No more worrying about fragile pieces of paper that get lost and damaged, and it got all those lovely pictures off my desk and onto the wall were they could be enjoyed by everyone.

So, if you have some priceless pieces of art that you’ve been saving, and would like to turn them into lasting keepsakes, this is how it’s done:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAList of supplies needed: one embroidery hoop ($1.99 at most craft stores), an embroidery needle, embroidery thread in a variety of colors (33 cents/ bundle), a small pair of scissors, and some light colored fabric.  Plain old muslin works great but in this case I’m using fabric that has a subtle floral design.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow comes the hardest part; choosing from all that amazing art you’ve been collecting.  This is one that Miss E drew a few weeks ago.  I fell in love with her loopy circus animals, and decided to embroider them so I could include it in a wall grouping above her bed.  I usually make a copy of the original artwork, and then use a Sharpie to trace over the photocopy, just to make sure the lines are nice and dark and easy to see.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Next tape the photocopied picture to a window that gets lots of sunlight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen tape your fabric over the top of the picture.  As you can see from the picture I cut my fabric quite a bit larger than the picture.  You want extra fabric all the way around the design, so that you can trim it down later to a size that will fit in a standard frame.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow, using a regular old pencil, carefully trace over the image onto the fabric.  This will transfer your child’s art work onto the fabric.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATake your embroidery hoop and pull the two rings apart.  Put the smaller ring under the fabric.  Center is around the drawing.  Then place the larger ring over the top of the fabric and push it down onto the smaller hoop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext, cut approximately a 12 inch section of embroidery thread.  Cut it too long and the thread will have a tendency to tangle up; cut it too short and you will spend most of your time tying off and re-threading your needle (no fun!).  As you can see I’ve threaded the needle with a standard knot and one end and a few inches of “tail” on the other end, just to keep the needle from coming un-threaded (apparently “un-threaded” isn’t an actual word. huh) .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow we begin to embroider!  The stitch I’m going teach you is called the back-stitch and it’s one of the most useful embroidery stitches you can learn. Start but running the tip of your needle along the backside of the fabric, until you can see that the needle is right under one of your lines.  Then, gently pull the needle up through the fabric until the length of your thread has come through, and the knot you made is right up against the backside of the fabric.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATaking your needle move one stitch length to the left and push the needle down through the fabric.  (Note: a stitch length is however long you want to make it.  Just keep in mind that smaller, even stitches look the nicest.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPull the thread until it is taut with the fabric.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow to make your second stitch.  Position your needle one stitch-length to the right of your last stitch.  Gently pull your thread through so that there’s no slack thread on the backside of the fabric.  Put your needle down right next to the last stitch.  There should be no space between the stitches.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAContinue to follow the line of your design; making back-stitches from right to left.

When you start to run out of thread, or you’ve come to the end of your design, you will need to tie-off on the back.  Make sure that you have three or four inches of thread left to work with.  If you don’t leave enough thread you won’t be able to make a knot on the back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo make a knot, slide your needle under the last stitch you made.  This time don’t pull the thread all the way through.  Leave a loop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASlip your needle back through the center of the loop, and gently pull the loop closed.  Then slide the needle back under that first knot and make another knot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt should look like this.  Cut the thread close to the knot, re-thread your needle and start again!  Continue to back-stitch all the way around your design.

Feel free to use a variety of colors.  In some cases my children used particular colors and I matched them as close as I could.  In this case Miss E’s circus animals were done in pencil, so I chose colors that would go well in her room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce your embroidery is done, find a frame that compliments the artwork, and hang it up in a place of honor!  You will need to gently iron the finished embroidery and trim the fabric to fit the frame.

It took a little bit of work but now you have a keepsake that will stand the test of time.  And who knows?  Maybe someday it will hang on your granddaughter or grandson’s wall.

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you’ve been inspire to try a little embroidery, I think you’ll find it very addicting :)


PS- if you are interested in learning more embroidery stitches there are tons of great video tutorials on Youtube.

5 thoughts on “How to: Turn your child’s artwork into a lasting keepsake

  1. Clarita

    I LOVE this!! I’ve been doing a few little kiddo crafting/sewing projects lately, and it is SO fun! I love to see my girls excited about good old fashioned things. :) One day E will be able to do the stitching on these precious little drawings. :) GREAT idea and tutorial, April! xo

  2. Christy

    So cute! I have the same project in my project pile! I got as far as tracing dinosaurs onto the fabric, and it has only been waiting for the embroidery for 1.5 years. Maybe I should mail it to you. :) -


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