Monday, March 10, 2014

How to make your children’s artwork a part of your home (but not something you have to hang on your walls)

How to make your children’s artwork a part of your home
(but not something you have to hang on your walls)

By Heather Friedmann

As a mom of two young kids who love art projects, I’m overwhelmed by the mass quantity of art that one drawing session can produce.  

Our house is not very big, and we try as much as we can to minimize clutter, but some of the drawings my kids produce are good enough that I’d like to keep the drawings around for a while.  Rather than put the drawings all in a frame or in a book, I tried to think of other ways that we could incorporate the art into our home in a fun, semi-permanent way and in a manner in which there was a low risk for the art to get ruined, even if the kids were left unattended with the art.  It was important to me that the kids can have access to their own art and be proud of their work, and I thought it would be really great if I could turn the art into something they could touch without worrying about it being harmed, either by accident or on purpose.  
I’ve discovered and fallen in love with this website named Spoonflower ( where you can make your own fabric. I thought, how neat would it be to turn some of my favorite kid drawings into a fabric that could be used for dinner napkins, a table runner, pillowcase edging, throw pillows for the couch, a custom quilt, as the background for a kid’s growth chart, or even staple the fabric to a canvas to use as a wall decoration in their room?  These are just examples of what you can do with the fabric, because literally your imagination is the limit at Spoonflower.  

The tutorial on how I turned the drawing my daughter did into fabric and then into a throw pillow is below.  If you’d like to buy this exact fabric for a project of your own, it’s available via Spoonflower at and

1)      Take the drawing that you want to turn into a fabric.  To make the fabric, I actually combined two of my daughter’s drawings into one, but here’s one of the drawings I used below.  If you need to change the colors of the drawing, don’t sweat – you can use this link to adjust colors later on:

      2) Either scan the photo to your computer or take a photo of the drawing and upload it to your computer.
      3)Use editing software, like Photoshop, or even Microsoft Paint, to ensure that the quality is to your liking in terms of size, color, contrast, etc.  Since I took a photo rather than scanned it and because it was my first time doing something like this, and because the computer I was working with only had Microsoft Paint, I made myself bananas erasing out the grey sections to ensure the most contrast.  

I’d recommend to any normal person to be sensible and not to do this, but if you’re so inclined, by all means, follow my approach.  It’s slow going, but it works.  Here’s an example of my work in progress for some other face drawings she had made.  The erasing made the background completely white, which was my goal.  See where the grey areas are?  That’s where I still had to go back in and keep erasing until it looked like the final version on the right.  Also, if you look closely, you’ll see that I took some tiny artistic liberties and made the faces slightly more smiley, but by and large, it’s my daughter’s original drawing that’s the final version.

When you’re done editing, you should have something that looks like this (or, alternatively, see photo above, right):

If at this point you want to combine two drawings, just paste them side by side in the same file and resize as necessary.   


Keep in mind that the bigger the file, the more flexibility you will have in your design, because Spoonflower sets a minimum of 150 DPI for its fabrics, so smaller files will have a smaller pattern on the fabric.  If you have a large file size, you will have more flexibility to adjust the pattern size.  Your file can be saved as a .TIF, a .JPG, a .PNG, a .GIF, and others.  See the screen grab below or the Spoonflower website for a complete listing of acceptable formats.
4)      Sign up for a Spoonflower account ( and under the “CREATE” tab, choose “custom fabric” from the dropdown menu.   

Upload your file.  Here’s the finished file that I uploaded:

And here’s the other fabric that I made later as a follow-up to the original:

You can resize the design’s overall size on the fabric, as well as its repeating pattern by clicking on the “Smaller” button icon (changes the DPI) and you can amend how the drawing repeats on the fabric by clicking on the various tabs next to Repeat (Basic, Half Drop, etc.) 

5      Once you are satisfied with the results, you can order your fabric.  There are a variety of fabrics from which to choose, depending on your project type a specific fabric may be a better choice for you.  For the pillow fabrics, I used the linen-cotton canvas blend at $27/yard.  For my first project, I had ordered the cheapest fabric option available, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone waste their time with the cheapest fabric.  It’s flimsy and the color transfer to the fabric is not nearly as good as the more expensive fabrics.  Spoonflower just recently expanded its line to include the silk and the jersey fabrics, and these each hold promise, though I stand by the quality and value of the $27/yard linen-cotton blend, especially for the throw pillow project.  Bonus: if you decide to list your fabric design for sale on the Spoonflower site, you are given a small discount on any of your purchases (your own or from other fabrics for sale on the site), so keep that in mind.  With a yard of the linen-cotton canvas blend fabric, a yard measures 54” wide, so there’s plenty of opportunity to face a few 18” by 18” throw pillows and have leftovers for other smaller projects (cosmetics case, clutch, etc.) as well.  

6        Find your inner zen (patience).  Spoonflower takes a while to actually process the order and mail it out and when you’re excited and eager to start the process, it can feel like a long time between uploading your design and ordering it and the day the package actually arrives in the mail.  

Here's a photo of the finished fabric as it arrived from Spoonflower for both the gold faces drawing and the navy faces drawing:


7      To make the actual pillow itself, I just cut a slightly larger than 18” by 18” square (to include seam allowances) from the yard of fabric.  If you’d like a “rotating gallery” of sorts where you can swap out pillow covers, I’d recommend making a pillow cover with a zipper for easy removal.  If you’re looking for a keepsake pillow that you’re not ever going to change, you can probably skip the zipper and just sew the pillow cover onto the pillow to finish it off.  

If you'd like a full tutorial on how to make a cover for the pillow, stay tuned, I'll post one as soon as I can.