19. How to Sew a Shabby Chic Picture

salvagebox.co.uk - shabby chic picture

This episode is subtitled: ‘Madalynn and Poppy learn to sew…’

Do you have girly girls who love sewing, baking and doing cartwheels, or do you have a tomboy like my niece Hannah who’s much more likely to be found up a tree or with her nose in a pond?

Hannah and I have great fun. We take Blue on long walks and investigate almost everything there is to investigate along the way. She loves the woods and can spot the smallest of creatures in a crevice as we’re passing by, stopping to see where it’s going and what it’s doing.

‘Would you like to learn to sew?’ I asked her, assuming that there were no boundaries in this aunt/niece bond.

‘No thanks,’ she said, and carried on watching a very handsome beetle crawl along the canal path, its teal body glinting in the sunshine.

‘Oh, why not?’ I asked, slightly taken aback.

‘Because I can’t think of anything I’d like to sew and I’d rather play out.’ Fair enough, I thought, and I had to admit, that beetle was beautiful, shiny and quite mesmerising.

Not long after that I was introduced to Madalynn and Poppy, nine years old, best friends, loving cartwheels and desperate to sew. Perfect! Together we made these shabby chic pictures on the sewing machine – pretty impressive since we made one each and theirs were all their own work. Well, to save some time I did cut the pieces out before we started so all they had to do was sew but sewing was the main event. I think they did brilliantly!

Blue's signatureFirst I gathered my tin of fat quarters and my jar of scraps.

salvagebox.co.uk - shabby chic picture

Then I cut out the pieces. The sky and grass were cut from the tin of fabric but everything else was from my scraps jar. Here are the pieces that you need. The measurements are based on my canvas size which was 20cm x 20cm (standard edge rather than deep edge).

Grass – 26cm x 9cm (this includes a seam allowance)
Sky – 26cm x 19 cm (this includes a seam allowance)
Walls – 10cm x 10 cm
Roof – 10 cm x 6cm
Windows – 2cm x 3cm
Door – 2cm x 3cm
Chimney – 2cm x 3cm
Sun – 5cm diameter

salvagebox.co.uk - shabby chic picture

(Here is a scruffy sketch of the shapes you’ll need.)

The only tricky piece is the roof, which is 10cm across to match the walls, but I don’t start to angle the roof until I’ve gone up 1cm on each side. This allows me to overlap the walls and the roof so I can sew them together before attaching them to the background (more details below).

These are the instructions for stitching the pieces together:

1. Pin the long sides of the grass and sky together (right sides touching). Stitch the pieces together to make one background piece and press open the seam. This is the only seam and the only time we work on the wrong side of the fabric.

salvagebox.co.uk - shabby chic picture

2. Pin the roof to the walls, placing the roof piece behind the walls so that the two pieces overlap by the 1cm vertical parts of the roof. Top-stitch along, near the top of the walls, within the 1cm overlap.

salvagebox.co.uk - shabby chic picture

3. Pin the chimney behind the roof and stitch that on. It will overlap a bit with the roof and the walls.

salvagebox.co.uk - shabby chic picture
4. Pin and stitch the windows and door on (Madalynn was sewing round corners very skilfully in this photo).

salvagebox.co.uk - shabby chic picture
5. Pin the house and the sun to the background and make sure it looks ok when you fold the fabric round the board.

salvagebox.co.uk - shabby chic picture
6. Stitch the house on by sewing fairly close to the edge, round the walls, chimney and roof.

7. Stitch the sun on. This is tricky! Take it slowly and if you need to reposition your machine’s presser foot, make sure your needle is in the fabric to avoid jumps in the stitching.

Now you have your picture! The one on the left is Madalynn’s and Poppy’s is on the right.

salvagebox.co.uk - shabby chic picture

Using a staple gun, staple the fabric to the back of the canvas board, keeping it taut but straight.

salvagebox.co.uk - shabby chic picture

The result? Three pictures plus two clever and very happy little girls!

The hawk eyed amongst you will notice that a fourth picture has crept into this post. I made another one so I could take some more photographs of the process for you.

salvagebox.co.uk - shabby chic picture


  • You may wish to reduce the length of your stitch because the windows and door are so small.
  • Use contrasting thread if you want it to show up.
  • I usually work with long fancy pins but because the windows and door were so small, it was useful to use an ordinary plain pin.
  • If you’re making a few then it would be worth cutting some templates out of card, like I did.
  • Don’t worry about being too neat (it’s all part of the charm!)

Salvaged Items:

  • Scraps of fabric

There will be more projects with scraps of fabric in the future. In the meantime, don’t forget to save your milk carton tops and, if you’ve been following us on Facebook, you’ll know that the full run down of the wooden heart will be here next week – power tools at the ready!

Have fun with your shabby chic pictures everyone. Have a go and post us a picture of your efforts on Facebook.

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