Frame within a frame - after

Thrift store frames

I absolutely adore this “bird cage” illustration by Emma SanCartier. And I wanted to make this small piece of art stand out. I could have mounted it in an up-sized frame with generous matting. I decided to make a frame-within-a-frame instead, mostly because I already had all the supplies on hand. The frames were thrift store finds, and the fabric was a scrap I picked up from Fabmo. To buy your own “bird cage” print or any of Emma’s other gorgeous prints, go to her Etsy shop.

How to make a frame within a frame


  • 1 large picture frame—make sure it’s is deeper than the small frame, so upon final assembly the small frame will not stick out farther than the large frame
  • 1 small picture frame
  • spray primer
  • spray paint
  • fabric—I used a thick tapestry-like piece
  • white glue—I used Aleene’s Tacky Glue
  • white Bristol board or cardboard


  • metal ruler and pencil
  • fine-point marker
  • staple gun and staples
  • fabric scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • utility knife and self-healing mat
  • drop cloth or newspaper

1. First paint the frames to match (if they don’t already). Spray two coats of primer, then two coats of paint. Let dry about an hour between coats.

Cut a window in the cardboard

2. While the spray paint is drying, measure the opening of your large frame. Using the ruler, self-healing mat, and utility knife, measure and cut a piece of the cardboard to fit. Mine was 11×14 inches. Then measure the opening of the smaller frame, then cut a hole the same size in the center of the cardboard.

Cut the fabric

3. Cut the fabric the same size as the cardboard. A rotary cutter, ruler, and mat make this job easy. But you can use scissors instead, of course.

Cut hole in fabric

4. Trace the cardboard opening with the marker onto the fabric. Cut on the line you drew to create the hole in the middle.

Glue fabric to cardboard

5. Apply glue to one section of the cardboard at a time and glue the back of the fabric to the cardboard. Press down. Let dry.

Staple to the frame

6. Place your small frame face down. Remove the glass and backing. Place your fabric-covered cardboard face down on top, lining up the opening in the center. Staple the cardboard to the frame every couple inches all the way around the opening. Make sure the staples are small enough that they don’t pierce all the way through the frame.

Cut triangles

7. Insert the smaller frame and backing into the larger frame. Getting it to stay there will depend on your frame’s existing hardware. Mine had none, so this is what I did: I cut the scrap cardboard into 4 large triangles and 16 small triangles.

Triangles glued together

8. Then I stacked them together and glued them in place as shown.

staple triangles in corners

9. Then I stapled a triangle (small triangles hidden underneath) to each corner of the frame. Finally, re-insert the glass, art, and backing into the small frame; attach your picture hanger; and hang it on the wall.