DIY frame within a frame

Frame within a frame, photo

I 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. (This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, I may earn a small commission. You can read my full disclosure here.)

To buy one of Emma’s unique and quirky prints, visit her online shop. She specializes in illustrating strange and interesting creatures, which she features in her book Monsters You Should Know. As you can probably tell, I’m a fan.

Two picture frames, before photo

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 won’t stick out farther than the large frame)

  • 1 small picture frame

  • primer or spray primer

  • paint or spray paint

  • fabric (I used a thick tapestry-like piece)
  • white glue (I used Aleene’s Tacky Glue)

  • white chipboard or cardboard

Cut the cardboard, photo

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.

2. While the 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, photo

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 the opening, photo

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 the fabric to the opening, photo

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 cardboard to small frame, photo

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 cardboard triangles, photo

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.

Glue cardboard triangles together, photo

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

Assemble and staple the triangles to the frame, photo

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.

Crafty Nest frame within a frame Pinterest photo

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Made this project? Email your photo(s) to monica (at) craftynest (dot) com, and I’ll share your version here!

Carrie's frame within a frame, photo

Carrie Stanley-Root, who blogs at Dittle Dattle, made this frame for her son’s bedroom. She used a slightly different process, and it works just as well.

Katy's frames within frames, photo

Katy, who used to blog at Simply Beginning, took the frame-within-a-frame idea and ran with it. She made mirrors within a frame within a frame with candles. She got the idea from a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, where she learned that people in Colonial times used mirrors to multiply candlelight.