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DIY Idea: Use Thrifted Picture Frames for Home Decor

by Kelly Rae Smith
craft & maker

diy craft project

I always wind up with little knickknacks I seem to think I’ll use one day for something. Do you keep little stashes of mementos (old buttons? charms? coins?) or envelopes of photos, intending to one day properly preserve them or put them to use? Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with sentimentality. I think it’s also the crafter in us that wants to do something creative with those things eventually — like turn them into your own special work of art.

Well one day, I finally decided to do just that. I have an entire drawer of envelopes full of paper memories: fliers, tickets, cards, photos, and other memorabilia. I went through it all and realized what I wanted to preserve first and foremost: things that remind me of my father.

I have this card he gave me when I graduated from college. It has been with me through the zillion moves I have made over the past ten years — always prominently displayed. It’s obvious from the coffee stain on the front and the general wear that we’ve been places together. It was time to put it behind some glass, for sure. And after rummaging through other mementos, it was clear that a collage in his honor was past due.

So, I found a pretty, old oval-shaped wooden picture frame that seemed perfect. It has some wear and tear, too, but that makes it even more endearing, in my opinion. Remember, you can also find a shadow box or convert an old drawer into a memento shrine. For my project, I chose mostly paper products, so this thrifted frame worked wonderfully.

how to upcycle tiny treasures

Next, I found some appropriate art paper: black with tiny gold polka dots. The gold would match the frame well. I cut it out in the shape of the frame’s glass.

diy craft project

Then, I gathered those special things together: A piece of paper he’d written his name on while I played “school” with him when I was little; a photo of us with my sister on my fourth birthday; another pic of us when I was braces-faced teen; and a dried flower from his mother’s funeral. I also decided to add a beautiful postcard shaped like a fan I bought in Barcelona. I’d gone there once because he told me it was beautiful. And of course, the old graduation card was the prominent item for my new collage.

how to use mementos in crafts

I often love to glue sweet little items to boring frames. I once glued a Folly Beach shell to a frame to remind me of home when I lived overseas. An old broken earring also makes for a good decoration on a frame or card, but my most common theme would have to be vintage buttons.

I have a bag of beautiful old buttons that belonged to my grandmother, and her mother, that often find their way to a frame, a homemade card, or the outside of a wrapped gift. I even commissioned a local artist to make a few pairs into earrings for my mom and sister. For this frame, I consulted the grand button bag once more, this time choosing a brassy one with an anchor. It’s perfect because my dad was in the Navy. I decided to glue this final addition to the outside of the frame to make this work of art complete. When I stand back and view it, it’s simple but full of love — just like my dad was.  Perfect!

What sentiments are you itching to use in a project?

Kelly Rae Smith writes about thrifting, crafting and home décor for eBay, where she recommends this guide (here) for 12 theme ideas you can apply to your own memento collage project.

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Kelly Rae Smith

Kelly is a music editor, vintage seller and lifelong crafter who you can follow on Twitter here.