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Posted by Maxine Cleminson - - 2 comments

I am frequently looking for ways to brighten our home and add some colour without spending a fortune and I have blogged about this before a number of times. We live in a rented house, so it's not like we can decorate the walls directly and there is a LOT of beige in our home (much to my distaste)! So I have found that a good solution is to put up large colourful items as 'wall art' (sounds a little pretentious, but it's not, honestly!).

I have done this successfully in our master bedroom, where I created a large 'canvas' to match our bedding by repainting some old fabric and stapling it around a wooden frame. I've also put up rugs on the wall to create large scale wall decor on a budget. This last example was for my son's new cowboy themed bedroom (which, I am happy to report, he loves). It was while shopping in a Texas souvenir gift shop for a cowboy-boot shaped money box for his shelf (sad, I know) that I saw a tea towel with a Wild West themed map of Texas on it. I purchased it on a whim and am glad I did so, because it has made a great canvas wall art addition to his new bedroom.

I had intended to buy some wood and create a canvas stretcher frame, but this requires tools I would have had to borrow, so I had been putting it off.  I have done this before and it is quite straightforward and low cost to do, but you will need a few tools to cut & join the pieces of wood together.  There's a good tutorial on how to do this here.

But then I had an(other) idea in the grocery store while picking up some air conditioning filters... these are sturdy yet lightweight, relatively cheap and easy to come by (at least here in Texas where air con is standard!).  But mostly, they are the perfect solution to creating a stretched canvas piece of wall art.

You will need...

  • a piece of fabric you like ... this could be an offcut, a silk scarf, a coordinating pillowcase to match your bedding, a themed tea towel or dish towel or whatever takes your fancy!
  • a 1" thick air conditioning filter that is at least 2" smaller than your fabric all the way around, for example, my tea towel measured 22"x23" so I bought a 20"x20" filter
  • a strong adhesive or staple gun... I used a hot glue gun
  • white paint, white out, white paper or stickers ... I used white address label stickers
  • a soda can ring pull
  • an iron

Firstly, it's a good idea to iron your fabric before starting to make sure there are no unsightly wrinkles or creases on display.

If your fabric is pale, like mine, you will need to cover any writing on your air filter as this may show through. I used white adhesive address labels, but you could use white paint or glue on white paper.

Then, place your fabric over your frame.  Play around with the position until it suits your needs... this is less important with abstract prints, but was very important for my dish towel as I wanted the map central with an even border.  Once positioned, place a dab of glue in the center of one of the long edges and press the fabric to affix.  Pull the fabric taut and repeat on the opposite side, and then again on the other two edges.  Don't pull the fabric too taut though, as the frame is only made of cardboard and may warp out of shape.... you are just aiming for it to not be baggy!

Next, place another dab of glue about an inch or two from one of the corners and gently pull the fabric into place as before and stick it down.  Working on alternate corners, repeat this another 7 times (once on either side of each of the four corners).

Then flip the filter over so the fabric is face down.  You should then place a bead of glue along the edge, leaving the corner.  Gently, wrap the fabric from the front around to the back and press into place.  Repeat for the other 3 edges, until just the corners are left open.  Fold the corners as neatly as possible and glue into place.

Finally, create a hanger for your wall canvas by gluing a soda can ring pull just below the center point of the top edge on the back.

Once your glue is fully dry, your canvas is ready to hang!

If you don't have a hot glue gun or a strong adhesive, you could use a staple gun instead! This whole project cost me about $11 ... $5 for the dish towel & $6 for the filter!  And I think it looks pretty effective, so I'm now on the lookout for some funky fabric to create more!  Remember though, tea towels work brilliantly for this purpose and you can get some that are literally works of art!  Just a quick search turned up the following, all costing less than $15:

From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, a reproduction of Paternosto's 1965, Staccato.

Or the iconic Collection du Chat Noir, 1898 Steinlen.

From the Tate Museum, London, Edvard Munch's Starry Night.

Finally, for those of you loving the Texas theme (and why the heck ain't that y'all!?)... I've managed to track down the exact same tea towel I bought in the local gift store, online... good old Amazon! They even do a 52" square tablecloth version, but I'm not sure you'd get a filter that big! :-) Click on the links below for more information!

2 Responses so far.

  1. Audrey says:

    Where did you get the cute tea towel! Would love to make one for a certain family when we are down there.

  2. Mama Max says:

    Hey Audrey! I've updated the blog with some links to the towel I used... I actually bought mine in a little souvenir shop in Galveston, but I've found the same one on Amazon and posted a link above! I'm sure they'll appreciate it! :-)
    Thanks for your lovely comment!

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