Recycled Canvas Art

Do you want original artwork for your home, but haven’t got the money to splash out on an expensive canvas? Look no further, as this tutorial is perfect for transforming your outdated art into something quirky and fun.

A great way to re-cycle and use up your oddments of material and will keep you and the kids entertained for the afternoon.

If you haven’t got a canvas to hand, why not head down to your local charity shops. It doesn’t matter what picture it is, actually the more bland, the better, as you will get it for a good price. Ours cost us just 30 pence, and there is no way you would be able to purchase the wood for that price.

Here’s what you need

Material (old jeans are great for this project)


coloured thread (this can be matching or a contrast colour)


old canvas

(you may need pliers)

staple gun

tape measure

Fabric marker or pencil

iron (optional and not needed if you are just using felt)


Here’s what you do

The first thing you need to do is decide what fabric and colours you want to use. We used old jeans for the background. Using strips is the easiest, but patchwork looks great too, and its an ideal way to make use of smaller scraps of material. Place the fabrics next to each other to find the effect you want. Sometimes it’s better to mix all sorts of colours and patterns together. We have used felt in plain colours  for the frog. As the canvas is going to be hung on the wall and not handled, felt is perfect. As it fluffs up with use, it’s not ideal to use on projects that will be touched and cuddled. Felt doesn’t like being washed either so it’s worth taking your time when choosing fabrics.

Print out the frog template HERE, or with the link above and cut out all the shapes.

If you want to use your templates again, it’s a good idea to use the thickest card your printer will take. Paper is good too, but won’t last as long. Do not use your best dressmaking scissors for this job. (Adult supervision is required)

Lay all the pieces down to form the picture so that you can see if your image will fit on the canvas.

Lay all your pieces down on your felt or fabric. Pin them in place to stop them moving and draw around them with a washable fabric pen.

Don’t worry too much if you haven’t got one, a washable felt tip will do. Just make sure when you cut out the shapes, you cut slightly inside the lines so they will be cut off. Adult supervision is required when using scissors.

Once you have cut out your pieces, put them somewhere safe until you need them.

You now need to prepare your canvas.  If you don’t have the right tools for removing the old canvas, you can make your panel and attach it over the original. Never use sharp tools that can cause injury and this part must be undertaken but a proficient adult.

If you have trouble removing the old staples, you may need a pair of pliers. Never leave half staples in the wood as it will be sharp and dangerous.

Don’t throw the old canvas away. You will see that the back is white and is perfect for future projects.

Once you have removed the old canvas you can use it as a template. Measure the size and make a note of it as this is the size you need to make your new panel. If you are not removing the old canvas, measure the front of the frame, then measure the side depth and add on enough to allow the fabric to cover the back edge of the frame.

You now need to create a panel that is the size your require. Our old canvas measured 23 inches by 23 inches so that’s the size we will be making. If you are making a patchwork panel it is a good idea to sew your squares or pieces into lengths and then sew them together. We used long strips for ours as we wanted a water effect so it looks like the frog is on a pond. A top tip is to make the strips slightly longer than you need. That way your panel will be neater once you cut it to size.

This part is not essential but worth doing as it protects the edges of the strips. Overlock the sides of the strips to stop them fraying. Don’t worry if you don’t have an overlocking machine, a zig zag stitch works just as well.

Now sew all your strips together. Sometimes the best projects have no planning so don’t worry if you get two pieces the same colour next to each other. We laid ours out beforehand as we wanted alternative stripes. A 2.5 straight stitch is good for sewing fabric together.  It will give a nice strong bond and you shouldn’t see any gaps in your stitches.

Once you have sewn your strips or patchwork pieces together, iron the seams open on the back. Take care when pressing and always follow the manufacturers instructions on your fabric. Adults should do this part.

Ironing the seams will flatten the material, but it is a good idea to sew a top stitch either side on all the seams. A stitch length of 3 or above is good for this. It’s just to hold the folds in place and you will find it easier to sew a longer stitch length.

Once you have sewn your seams, cut your panel to size. Overlock or zig zag the sides. This will minimise fraying as you pull the panel over the frame.

Before attaching the panel, the image needs to be sewn in place. Lay all the pieces down in the position you want them.

The picture is worked in layers so we need to attach the one that would be at the back first. For this image it is the lily pad. To keep the picture in the right place it is a good idea to place pins to show where to top of the frogs head should be. As the head is one of the last pieces to sew, the pins will make sure that we stay on track with positioning.

Before you start sewing on the pieces, have a play around with your zig zag stitch to find the look you are after. We chose a 5 width and 1 stitch length for our edging but the choice is yours.

When selecting thread you can either use a matching colour or be bold and go for a contrast shade. If you are nervous with your stitching, go for the matching option so that they will blend into the shape.  Once you are more confident, try using a different colour. Sew round the edge of the piece taking care that you overlap the stitch so that is catches the edge and the backing fabric.

You now need to build the picture and the next piece is the back legs and body. To get the positioning perfect, place the head down just to check it’s ok.

Once you are happy, remove the head and pin the legs in place.

Sew around this part with your chosen stitch.

Add the belly and sew in place.

It’s now time to add the front legs. Again put the head on just so that you can see the legs are in the right place. Remove the head and sew on the legs.

You can now finally add the head and sew in place.

Next, add on the eyes and sew in place. Don’t forget to change the colour of your thread.

Add on the pupils, again checking your thead colour and now we can add on the mouth and tongue. If you prefer, you can sew the tongue down as you did with the other pieces. We wanted to give the picture a more 3D effect so have chosen to let the tongue flap. If we sew it down, how on earth will Freddy Frog catch his supper?  To give the tongue more dimension, sew a line of stitching halfway down the tongue to the bottom.

If you want your tongue to stick out, tuck it behind the mouth. As you sew the mouth it will catch the edge of the tongue and hold it in place.

Stitch the mouth with a zig zag stitch. This is the only time that you need to pay attention to the width of your stitching. Ideally, you want it to be slightly narrower than the width of your mouth so that it won’t show.

The last layer is the lily.  This is attached all in one go as again we wanted a 3D effect. If you want to sew all your layers down, start with the larger petal first, then add the smaller and finally add the centre.

Using the centre colour thread sew back and forth several times to attach all the layers together.  You may find that the layers are a bit thick for your machine. If you have a walking foot, now is the time to use it. If your machine won’t take all the layers, just hand sew the lily on.

Although no one will see that back once it’s hung, trim the back image so that it looks neat.

To attach the panel to the frame, lay it face down on a flat surface and place the frame down over it.  Make sure that the image is central. You may find this part slightly more challenging if you have left the old canvas on as you won’t be able to see the picture. If this case try and make sure that you have the same amount of fabric showing each side. That way the image should be central when you turn it over.

Put one staple in the centre of each side. This is the part where you are working your tension. Pull the fabric taut (but not tight) making sure that the image doesn’t move out of place.

Turn the frame over to check your image placement and tension. If it is too loose, start again and once you are happy you can move onto the next stage.

Turn the frame back over and now you can start fixing the sides. There are two ways you can do this. Working from the centre staple outwards, you can place staples on all four sides at the same time. A couple in the first side, turn the canvas, a couple in the second side and so on. Keep adding until all the sides have a row of staples. We chose the second option which is to work one side at a time. Make sure that you keep the edge of the fabrc straight and even and staple along one side. Don’t go right up to the corners. Once you have stapled one side, work in the opposite side next to even your tension out. Then work on the remaining two sides.

The corners can be fairly tricky if it’s your first time doing them. You are aiming to get a neat fold. Fold one side down and fold the other over. It may take a few attempts before you are happy.

Staple the corners down. As you have already worked the tension along the sides, you can use more force to get the corners to behave. Do the same for all four corners.

Once you have the fold you like, you can carefully cut away any excess fabric in the corner. If you are not confident with this, leave the corners as they are. If you cut away the wrong piece or too much material, it will ruin your project.

Now turn your canvas over and admire your work.

You can see how the flower and tongue add dimension and interest to the canvas.

So next time you pass a charity shop, bag yourself a bargain canvas, grab all your oddments of material and get creating.

We love seeing your creations and makes, so don’t forget to tag us #CraftyCoCreations

Happy sewing

The Crafty Co


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *