upcycled wall art for thanksgiving

I was at Lancaster Creative Reuse a few weeks ago–which, by the way, is my favorite place EVER…  I was looking at stacks and stacks of fabric samples, secretly wishing I had a sewing machine so I could re-teach myself all the sewing skills I learned in high school.  The neat thing about fabric samples is that they almost always have coordinating “friends.”  If you find a texture you like, you’ll probably find several identically-textured samples with slightly coordinating or contrasting colors.  Even the smallest samples can be turned into beautiful or adorable things–no sewing machine required.I want to tell you about Lancaster Creative Reuse, first.  I should write a blog post about it (and I probably will), but for the non-local readers or those who are not familiar with one of Lancaster’s best kept secrets:

Lancaster Creative Reuse connects community excess to those who can use it creatively.  The project inspires creativity, increases access to the arts through affordability, and encourages reuse. Opened in August 2010, the LCR store provides low-cost supplies as well as an Open Craft table.  Lancaster Creative Reuse is a project of the nonprofit Keystone Art & Culture Center.

I took that information directly from their website, because…they describe their store and their mission so much better than I can.  The best I can tell you is that it’s the coolest store ever and they have amazing stuff and I’m there once a week (at least).  You can check out their website here.

So one day, Gabriel was making something at the Open Craft table and I was oohing and ahhing over some beautiful fabric samples and wishing I had a sewing machine.  I noticed a lot of the samples had different weights and textures but most of them were very rich, warm autumn hues, and well…they just looked so darn good together.

I had to have them.  And the price was right–ten squares for 50¢, plus I found some dark, espresso brown fabric for $1.50.

fabric samples

I decided to do some Thanksgiving wall art, since our walls are mostly bare and we’ve been in our home for 5 years now.  I picked a clean, traditional font and turned it into letter stencils, and printed them out on cardstock.  You can download and print them too–I’ll have links to the PDFs at the end of this blog post.

give thanks template

I cut them out.  And for the inside part of the letter A, I used the Fiskars Fingertip Swivel Knife with a glass cutting mat underneath.  I couldn’t live without a swivel blade!

give thanks template fiskars swivel blade

Before I committed to cutting the fabric samples, I arranged and rearranged them so they looked balanced.  This way I avoided having too many dark colors grouped together, or vice versa.

maharan fabric samples

Want to know a secret?  At first I HATED them when I laid them out.  I thought it was going to look so ugly!  I couldn’t understand why I thought they would coordinate so well together when I was at Lancaster Creative Reuse.  And then Ron-The-Artist recommended I lay the dark brown fabric down first, so I can see the colors against the background I was using…instead of my unattractive dining room table.

Oh…yeah.  Totally.  Duh.

tracing letter stencils

When I was satisfied with the alphabet letter/fabric sample matchup, I began to trace my templates and cut them out.  I flipped them and traced them backward, on the back side of the fabric.  Just in case my pencil would decide to take a wanton trip in the wrong direction.

tracing fabric letters

The backs of the fabric samples had a finish to them (well, almost all of them did), so it was easy to trace the outline of the letters.  I cut them out and put them aside.  Then I threw my back out (see yesterday’s post here) and the whole project was delayed for a week.

When I was ready to resume my wall art, I made a quick visit to the Dollar Tree to buy a piece of foam board.  It was almost big enough, but I ended up having to layer the letters to get the word THANKS across the board.  I think it looks cute, though.

DSC_0637 copy

Attaching the fabric to a foam board was a bit of a problem, though.  I was going to use industrial spray adhesive, but with the daylight savings time change, I couldn’t ever seem to find time to get outside during daylight hours!  So I sprayed a test patch on one side of the board, promptly got a fume-y contact high, noticed the adhesive left some wet dots on the fabric, and uttered a string of four+ letter words while I tried to salvage my project.

It dried clear, thankfully.  But I just didn’t want to spray the adhesive in the house.  So I switched to Aleen’s Fabric Fusion and a clean piece of sponge to dab the glue onto the surface of the foam board–in sections.

aleen's fabric glue

I knew I had to apply it as if I was doing Mod Podge (hey–it just occurred to me, I should’ve picked up Mod Podge for Fabric…*sigh*).  If I squeezed it onto the foam board, it would dry and show swirls and patterns through the fabric.  I needed thin, complete coverage, so I sponged it on.

When I was done, I powered up the heavy duty hot glue gun and glued the scrappy edges down, directly onto the foam board.  I pulled the fabric nice and tight around the edges.

DSC_0641 copy

I arranged the letters, and then used a paint brush to apply Aleen’s Fabric Fusion to the back of each letter.  This was a bit tedious because the glue does not spread well.  But…it worked.

I felt like it needed a little something more, so I free-handed some leaf shapes to add to the bottom.  I don’t have those available to download and print, but I am sure you can find an image if you do an image search for “leaf shapes.”

All in all, I am pleased with how it turned out, and now my home looks a little more festive–which always seems to pull me up when I’m down in the dumps.

Here are the letters to spell GIVE THANKS.  There are two letters to a page.  They are free for you to download, print, and use for personal use.  All I ask is that you link back to my site if you use them for a project!

PDF links:    lettersG_I    lettersV_E    lettersT_H    lettersA_K    lettersN_S

give thanks thanksgiving wall art