Hang by a Thread
Custom Frames Made of Paper

Cheap * Convenient * Fun to Create

I like pictures. I like to look at them. I like to hang them on the wall. I like to paint them.

Nothing improves a picture like a frame. These pictures are in paper frames that I made. I've experimented with several different cuts and folds and various sources of paper and card stock, and these are examples of some of my experiments.

Paper frames are not difficult to make. With a little practice, you can turn out frames that are perfectly square at the corners and that look like frames made of wood or metal.
Picture frames made of paper are cheap and practical. If you fold your own, you'll find you get great results with brown paper bags, junk mail, and miscellaneous scraps and wrappings. You can dress a plain frame up with a layer of color comics or a glossy magazine page
With a photo or diploma or painting on paper, the framed work weighs so little you can hang it with adhesive tape. No nails to bang in. Easy to re-arrange. Hang your kids' framed pictures on the refrigerator door. If one falls off, no harm done.
You can make your own frame, following my instructions, or you can let me make you a frame. Shoot me an email. Type "picframe" in the subject box. Address is stepfour at stepfour dot com. Less expensive than wood or metal frame of comparable size. Note that some of the frames pictured here are prototypes and are presented as such. Follow these instructions, and your corners will be tight and pretty.
Here's how to make your own frame.
1. Make marks along the width of a letter-size sheet of light card stock or kraft paper at 6 mm, 12.5 mm, 18.5 mm, 25.5 mm, 39.5 mm, 53.5 mm, 60.5 mm, 74 mm, 80 mm. Scribe lines lengthwise parallel to the edge and to each other at the marks. Cut lengthwise along the 80 mm line.

2. Fold inward on each of the lines. Use a straight edge to keep the folds straight and parallel.
3. Flatten the strip and fold in half widthwise and inward, and fold each half of the strip in half again widthwise and inward, so that the strip is divided by folds into four segments of equal length.
4. At each end of the strip and at each widthwise fold, scribe a line 14 mm from each end and parallel to each end and 14 mm from each widthwise fold on each side of the fold. Scribe a diagonal line from the intersection of the 14 mm and 53.5 mm line to the end of the 39.5 mm line.

5. At each end of the strip cut along the 53.5 mm line to the intersection with the 14 mm line you scribed according to instruction 4.

6. Fold outward at each widthwise fold in turn and cut along the 53.5 mm line to the intersection with the 14 mm line you scribed according to instruction 4.
7. At each end, fold inward on the diagonal you scribed according to instruction 4. At each widthwise fold, fold outward and fold again inward and outward on the diagonal line you scribed according to instruction 4. Unfold and lay the strip flat after each diagonal fold.
8. At each end, cut along the 14 mm line across the 6 mm, 12.5 mm, and 18.5 mm lines to the 25.5 mm line. Cut along the 25.5 mm line from its end to its intersection with the 14 mm line and discard the snipped-off portions. At each widthwise fold, fold outward and cut along the 14 mm line across the 6 mm, 12.5 mm, and 18.5 mm lines to the 25.5 mm line. Cut along the 25.5 mm line from its intersection with the widthwise fold to its intersection with the 14 mm line and discard the snipped-off portions.
9. At each end, cut along the 14 mm line across the 74 mm line to the 60.5 mm line. Cut along the 60.5 mm line from its end to its intersection with the 14 mm line and discard the snipped-off portions. At each widthwise fold, fold outward and cut along the 14 mm line across the 74 mm line to the 60.5 mm line. Cut along the end of the 60.5 mm line to its intersection with the 14 mm line and discard the snipped-off portions. Cut along each widthwise fold from the 60.5 mm line to the 53.5 mm line, and fold each of the resulting flaps inward.
10. Fold each segment inward on each of the lengthwise folds to form two hollow boxes nested alongside each other. The flap between the 60.5 mm line and the 53.5 mm line should nest behind the triangle formed by the diagonal fold. Use wire bag ties or paper rings to hold the segments close or put a dot of rubber cement on each segment where the two boxes touch and, once dry, refold the boxes.
11. Join the two ends of the strip to each other to form a square frame. Ensure the tightness of the mitred corners by unfolding the assembly and putting a dot of rubber cement on all the triangular surfaces that meet when the two ends are joined. When the cement dries, refold the assembly, and squeeze the joints closed from the back of the frame with a pair of tweezers. Remove the paper rings. Holds a 2 1/4 inch square picture.


You may not have many two-and-a-quarter-inch square pictures, and so you'll probably have to make some adjustments to my recipe to accommodate the pics you do have. For a five-by-seven-inch school photo, for instance, you would need a strip of paper over two feet long. You may have a shopping bag around somewhere that's big enough for the job, but it probably has some folds in it that you don't need. Try ironing it. No steam.

If you don't have a suitable piece of paper, assemble your frame from four separate pieces. Except for the dimensions, they will look just like any of the four segments described in the instructions. Fold each one and put a dot of rubber cement on the flap described in instruction 9 and on the back of each adjoining triangular surface. Press them together when the cement dries.

This gives you four double-barreled paper boxes, mitred to forty-five degrees at each end. Put a dot of rubber cement on the triangular surface at each end and stick the pieces together when the cement dries. From the back of the frame, squeeze the mitred corners tight with a pair of tweezers. For additional support, fasten the pieces together at the four outer corners with transparent tape.

Another item you might find useful is a pdf I posted consisting of a template for cutting and folding the paper. You can print it out as is and cement it to whatever paper you're using for your frame or, if you want a wider frame, you can magnify the picture before printing it. To vary the length of the strip, add or remove segments in the middle.

Hang by a Thread
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