How to made a shadowbox display

Last week I shared my rusty nail shadowbox project.   Today I’ll show you how I made them – they were SO simple and quick to do, with a very satisfying result.  What could be better?

rusty nail collage burlap antique


What you’ll need:

  1. Nails (or something else you want to collage)
  2. Shadow Box Frames
  3. Cardboard ( I used recycled Priority Mail boxes)
  4. Super 77 or some other sort of even adhesive
  5. burlap or other cloth the create the background of your collage
  6. Needle and thread (a VERY sharp needle!)
  7. A pencil
  8. An exacto knife or really, really sharp scissors
  9. A safety pin
  10. Masking tape

Step One:  Design the Layout

I took this clump of nails…

green bowl greenware pottery antique nails rusty nails

and started playing around with them the cardboard backing of the shadowbox frame to see how I might arrange them.  I considered size, shape and color…

IMG_0432     IMG_0431     IMG_0430

The big decision was whether I should use all the nails as a single collage or if I should break them into two.  I decided to break them into two – it looked less busy…

Take a photo of your final layout to use as a reference when you start to assemble the collage

Step Two: Create the Backing

Next you have to create a cardboard backing to adhere your nails to.  I recycled an old USPS Priority Mail box.  Use the shadow box’s mat to use as a template to cut the cardboard to size:

making a shadow box backing


Cut your burlap to size, leaving a generous portion hanging over the edge of the cardboard.  You can trim it later.

Spray the cardboard with Super 77 adhesive and press the burlap onto the cardboard.  It should be dry in just a minute or two.

Trim the burlap – no need to be super neat with it – just get it within a half-inch or so of the cardboard edge.

Step Three: Trace your Pattern

Using the photo you took of your final design layout, layout the nails on the reverse side of the backing (not the burlaped side) – and trace with a pencil.

Next, use a safety pin and perforate along the traced outlines so you have pre-set holes to sew through – it saves hassle later, believe me.

Here’s a picture of me making the perforations on the first board I laid out.  As you can see there aren’t any pencil marks, which just made it more difficult to do.  Thus, the pencil tip!  I used pencil on the second board and it went so.much.more.smoothly.  ahhhh.

safety pin punch holes

 Step Four: Sew

Thread your needle with a thread that will blend in with the nails and tie a few knots at the end.

Poke your needle through the back of the cardboard and pull thread through, securing with a piece of making tape at the end to be sure the thread stays secure – it will need to be strong to hold up the heavy-ish nails!

punch back of cardboard

Balance your nail on the burlap side and stitch it on, using the perforated holes as a guide.  It is sort of like sewing a button – you are a little blind from one side, but it doesn’t take too much effort to get it sewn on just right…

rusty nail burlap closeup sewn

After each nail is sewn on, snip the thread and secure the threads with tape again – this will ensure that the whole thing will stay in place and not get all droopy over time:

tape up the back of the cardboard


Step Five: Frame!

Once you’ve sewn on all of your nails, just pop the cardboard into your shadow box frame and viola!  You have a nice little collage that is totally unique!

burlap rust nail antique


Give it a try!  It took me about 90 minutes to do both frames – low time commitment and BIG outcome!  My kind of project.

Let’s have another look – I love it!

rusty nail collage burlap antique single thumbnail



Linking up!

Boogieboard Cottage

Home Stories A2Z
Mod Vintage Life


Monday Funday at Uncommon Design Online
A Diamond in the Stuff

 Cozy Little House
My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia


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