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DIY: Hand-Lettered Stitched Photo Canvas

by Colleen Pastoor
craft & maker

How to Make a DIY Hand Lettered Stitched Photo Canvas on CreativeLive

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at a photo canvas for some time, but I haven’t loved the finish on the photos from modgepodge or other methods I’d found.

I’m excited that this version of a DIY calligraphy-inspired, stitched photo canvas doesn’t have any messy wrapped edges, the finish is a perfect matte, and the stitching makes it double the fun.

For this canvas project, I chose a simple image of a crystal clear glacier lake from a camping trip a few years back and lettered ‘make a splash’ to stitch over top. I love how care-free it feels, perfect for summer decor. It would also make a lovely gift for a friend embarking on a new adventure.

Now, before you write this off because it involves stitching… let me tell you this is my first attempt at embroidery and I’ve got a way to make sure you don’t go off track.

Here’s what you’ll need in order to make your own:

• 8×10 Canvas (or canvas size of your choosing)

• 8×10 Gloss printed photograph (or to match your canvas size)

• Artist heavy gel medium in matte (I used Golden brand and it worked fabulous)

• Painting sponge

• Embroidery thread in your choice of color

• Needle with an eye large enough to just fit the thread through (and no bigger!)

• Rubber thimble

• Vinyl for template (I cut mine with a Cricut cutting machine, but a steady hand and craft knife would work great as well!) and transfer tape

Let’s get started!

How to Make a DIY Hand Lettered Stitched Photo Canvas on CreativeLive Photo 1

1. Adhere Your Photo to the Canvas. The first step is to create your photo canvas. Use your sponge to evenly apply a generous layer of gel medium to the canvas and smooth your photo over top the blank canvas.

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2. Coat Over Your Photo. Let it dry, then apply another layer of coating over the top of the photo, making sure to cover every bit. If you miss a spot, wait until it is completely dry before applying another layer over that spot. If it’s not totally dry, you risk pulling up the gel medium that is setting and it will make such a mess!

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3. Create Your Hand-Lettered Template. While your canvas is drying, decide the phrase you would like to stitch and create a template. If you would like to use the same phrase and lettering I created, you can download the template for that here. If you need some inspiration, check out Introduction to Calligraphy with Bianca Mascorro.

Either use a cutting machine like a Cricut or use a craft knife on a cutting mat with a steady hand to cut the template out of vinyl. Remove the lettering leaving the template intact. Use transfer tape to apply the vinyl template to the *dry* photo canvas.

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4. Begin Stitching! Start at one end of a letter and start stitching. Since I had never stitched before, I found that the canvas was easier than cloth in that it doesn’t stretch on you, but harder in that it’s SO stiff. Use a rubber thimble or risk having sore fingers for days (I learned this lesson the hard way and went to buy a thimble halfway through).

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If the needle is too thick, you’ll find it will make quite a large hole in the photograph – not very pretty. I switched to a thinner needle after a few stitches- it was very difficult to thread the embroidery thread through the tiny eye, but it made much cleaner stitches! I also found that the thread didn’t give me as thick of stitches as I would have liked, so I stitched each stitch twice to make it double the thickness. This really added to the impact of the piece. The vinyl template worked even from the back when held in the light to guide my stitches.

5. Remove the Vinyl. When you’re done your stitching (after a couple Netflix marathons, I’m sure), gently peel back the vinyl to reveal your finished art!

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6. Hang It! Now it’s all ready to hang. Step back and marvel at the work you’ve done.

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I’m so happy with how this turned out and excited to get a splash of summer color on my walls. I have also thought about doing some simple geometric shapes on a photograph (think triangles- straight lines!) to avoid using a template. What would you choose to stitch on your canvas?

If you need some inspiration or would love to learn how to create your own calligraphy, join Introduction to Calligraphy with Bianca Mascorro.

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Colleen Pastoor

Colleen is a wife, Mama to 23 month old twins, and the DIY and lifestyle blogger behind Lemon Thistle where she shares printable art and hands on tutorials for DIY home decor, parties and gifts.