homepage: Dr. Carol JVF Burns

See the Sewing/Crafts section of my main Table of Contents for other sewing projects!

4" x 6" Photo Holders, Fabric/Cardboard, Double-Sided

Have some special photos? Too many for a collage?
Don't want them forgotten in yet another photo album on the shelf?
This may be a solution!

These photos are (optionally) labeled (machine embroidery) and protected in a two-sided fabric/cardboard display.
They hang from notebook rings on a wall clip: take the entire bunch to browse through, or just one piece.
Routinely change the ‘outside’ photo as they hang, for variety.
I choose about 20 special photos to represent each year.
These instructions are for 4" x 6" photos, but could be easily modified for other sizes.

I recommend you make one of these first, to check that you like it!
Then, be efficient, and do one step at a time for all the remaining holders:
cut all the fabric/cardboard/plastic at once;
sew all the same seams at once;
do all the eyelets at once;
you get the idea!

(1a) Caption/date labels:

If you want machine-embroidered captions and dates, use steps (1b), (1c) and (1d).

Otherwise, for each two-sided photo holder:
  • cut 4 pieces fabric, each 4¾" x 1¾" (sides)
  • cut 4 pieces fabric, each 8¾" x 1¾" (top/bottom)
I use my Janome Memory Craft 350E embroidery machine with Embrilliance software.
The features used for this project require Embrilliance Enthusiast.
It is assumed you know how to use your embroidery machine and software;
only basic instructions are given here.
Embrilliance commands are indicated in bold typewriter type.

 


(1b) Caption labels:

You will embroider captions for three photos at a time.

  • Create a ‘caption template’ in Embrilliance:
    The finished template is shown at right.
    This (long) step is done only once!
    Then, you'll repeatedly load the template, change the text and stitch.
    • set hoop to 200mm x 140mm (landscape orientation)
    • save your file (cntl-s): captionTemplate.be
      Then, save periodically throughout this process.
    • Baste the hoop:
      Only the stabilizer will be hooped;
      the fabric is merely positioned on the hooped stabilizer.
      This basting (and cutting marks, next step) hold the fabric in place.
      Utility - Baste Hoop
    • Put in cutting marks:
      Captions will be cut apart (horizontally) using a rotary cutter and quilting ruler; just align the ruler with the marks made here.
      Stitching order: start at upper left, down left edge, up right edge.
      create a text hyphen "-";
      make sure units are inches;
      set center (horiz,vert) to (-3.7 , 2.625) (upper left);
      Copy, paste, (horiz,vert) = (-3.7 , 0.875);
      Paste, (-3.7 ,-0.875);
      Paste, (-3.7 , -2.625) (bottom left);
      Paste, (3.7 , -2.625) (bottom right);
      Paste, (3.7 ,-0.875);
      Paste, (3.7 ,0.875);
      Paste, (3.7 , 2.625) (upper right)
    • Create 3 sample captions, properly positioned,
      that stitch out top-to-bottom:

      create text placeholder: ‘sample caption’
      use block text; height 9mm
      It is automatically centered in the hoop.
      This is a good size—it stitches out reliably, is easy to read,
      and gives you plenty of characters in the hoop width.
      It looks best to have the same size stitching on all photo holders.

      Change units to inches.
      Set the vertical "show the center value" to 1.75 inches (top caption).
      Copy, paste, set vertical "show center" to 0 inches (middle caption).
      Paste, set vertical "show center" to -1.75 inches (bottom caption).
  • Replace sample text:
    Replace the sample text with desired captions.
    Save stitch file to USB: File-Save Stitch File As...
    Do not cntl-s since it will overwrite the ‘.be’ file.
  • Stitch out captions:
    Use fabric 9¼" x 6" (or larger); the fabric may shrink a bit.
    Center the fabric on hooped stabilizer.
    Use the SAME top and bobbin thread.

    Stitch out captions.
    After stitching out each caption, stop the machine and cut the long jump thread,
    before the next caption starts to stitch.
    Otherwise, the tension from the jump thread can distort the first few letters.
  • Cut apart:
    Trim jump threads (on both front and back);
    do not remove the hoop basting (yet).

    Do not remove the stabilizer (yet).

    Cut into three 8¾" x 1¾" strips, as follows:
    • on the long direction, locate the basted hoop center marks
    • from each center: make pencil marks $\,\frac{8.75}2 = 4\frac 38\,$ inches in both directions
    • use the pencil marks to trim the strips to the correct 8¾" length
    • use the embroidered marks to get the correct 1¾" widths

    Remove the remaining hoop basting stitches from the strip ends.
    Remove the stabilizer.

create a ‘caption template’ in Embrilliance;
repeatedly change text and re-stitch


hoop the stabilizer; position fabric


basting stitches and cutting marks hold fabric in place


cut into strips, each 8¾" x 1¾"
(1c) Date labels:

You will embroider dates for four photos at a time.
These instructions are similar to (1b)—so they're abbreviated.
  • Create a ‘date template’ in Embrilliance:
    The finished template is shown at right.
    • set hoop to 140mm x 200mm (portrait orientation)
    • save your file (cntl-s): dateTemplate.be
    • Utility - Baste Hoop
    • Put in cutting marks:
      These will be used for both horizontal and vertical cuts.
      create a plus sign "+";
      make sure units are inches;
      set center (horiz,vert) to (-2.375 , 3.5) (upper left);
      Copy, paste, (horiz,vert) = (-2.375 , 1.75);
      Copy, paste, (horiz,vert) = (-2.375 , 0);
      Copy, paste, (horiz,vert) = (-2.375 , -1.75);
      Paste, (-2.375 ,-3.5) (bottom left);
      Paste, (2.375 , -3.5) (bottom right);
      Paste, (2.375 , -1.75);
      Paste, (2.375 , 0);
      Paste, (2.375 , 1.75);
      Paste, (2.375 , 3.5) (upper right)
    • Create 4 sample dates, properly positioned,
      that stitch out top-to-bottom:

      Create date placeholder, in desired format, say: ‘MAY 27, 2019’
      I use 3-letter dates, for consistency of date size:
      JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC
      use block text; height 9mm

      Change units to inches.
      Set the vertical "show the center value" to 2.625 inches (top date).
      Copy, paste, 0.875
      Paste, -0.875
      Paste, -2.625 (bottom date)
  • Replace sample text:
    Replace the sample text with desired dates.
    Save stitch file to USB: File-Save Stitch File As...
    Do not cntl-s since it will overwrite the ‘.be’ file.
  • Stitch out dates:
    Use fabric 8" x 5¾" (or larger); the fabric may shrink a bit.
    Center the fabric on hooped stabilizer.
    Use the SAME top and bobbin thread.

    Stitch out dates.
    After stitching out each date, stop the machine and cut the long jump thread,
    before the next date starts to stitch.
    Otherwise, the tension from the jump thread can distort the first few letters.
  • Cut apart:
    Trim jump threads (on both front and back);
    do not remove the hoop basting (yet).

    Do not remove the stabilizer (yet).

    Cut into four 4¾" x 1¾" strips, using the cutting marks.
    Remove the remaining hoop basting stitches from the strip ends.
    Remove the stabilizer.

create a ‘date template’ in Embrilliance;
repeatedly change dates and re-stitch


hoop the stabilizer; position fabric


use the cutting marks to
cut into strips, each 4¾" x 1¾"
(1d) Cut additional fabric strips; press:

For each photo holder, cut:
  • 2 pieces fabric, each 4¾" x 1¾" (unlabeled sides)
  • 2 pieces fabric, each 8¾" x 1¾" (tops)
Press all strips with a steam iron.
Lay pieces out in the correct orientations.

lay pieces out in the correct orientations
(2) Cut plastic and cardboard:

For each photo holder, cut:
  • 2 pieces no-glare plastic, 4⅝" x 6⅝" (1 for each side);
    can use no-glare sheet protectors.
    (The plastic opening ends up being a smidgeon smaller than 4" x 6",
    to guarantee that no cardboard shows through from behind the photo.)
  • 1 piece cardboard, 5¼" x 7¼" (say, from an Amazon shipping box)

The two pieces of plastic are here,
but they're hard to see!
(3) Sew plastic to fabric sides:

Some of these photos show larger text, with knockdown stitching
(Utility-Add Knockdown Stitching).
I was experimenting to see what I liked best!

There are two sides per photo holder.
Sew 3/8" seams.
Use polyester thread in both top and bobbin.

I put the date on left; blank panel on right.
Be sure to get the text orientation correct!

All sewing is right sides together.
Use wonder clips to hold plastic to fabric:
the flat side of the clip goes down (on the bottom).
Don't put common pins through the plastic;
the plastic does tend to shift around.

You may find it helpful to use a teflon foot when sewing plastic.
Remove wonder clips as you sew.

If doing more than one at a time, use chaining;
lock at the beginning and end of each unit.

After sewing, push the side seams away from the plastic opening.
Check that the plastic opening is a smidgeon narrower than the photo.
As needed, re-sew the right (non-labeled) seam a bit further in.

Sew with plastic on top and teflon foot;
wonder clips minimize shifting.

Check that plastic opening is
a smidgeon less than 6";
adjust un-labeled side seam as needed.
(4) Sew on TOP and BOTTOM pieces:

Similarly, sew on the top and bottom strips with 3/8" seams.
Be sure the text is centered on the bottom.
As you sew, make sure the side seams stay folded away from the plastic window!

If doing more than one at a time, use chaining;
lock at the beginning and end of each unit.

After sewing, push the seams away from the plastic opening.
Check that the plastic opening is a smidgeon less than 4" high.
As needed, re-sew the top (non-labeled) seam a bit further in.

Sew on top and bottom strips;
make sure side seams are folded
away from window!

Check that plastic opening is
a smidgeon less than 4" high;
adjust top seam as needed.
(5) Create a stitched window border:

A stitched window border keeps the seams away from the plastic window,
and adds a decorative element.

Use a ¼ inch foot (no guide).
Put the needle position all the way to the right.
Center the right edge of the fabric in the middle of the quarter-inch foot,
to achieve a scant ⅛" border.

Start in the upper-right corner; sew counter-clockwise.
Do not lock the stitch at the beginning;
stitch all around the plastic window, pivoting at corners.
Overlap slightly and lock-stitch at the end.

Now, measure from the just-stitched date-side stitching to the opposite side:
it should be a bit more than 6" (preferably about 6⅛").
If not, stitch a second window border, just a bit further out.

You will be stitching over this window border in step (9),
through both layers of fabric and cardboard,
to create pockets for the photos.
You want to be sure that the pockets are big enough!

stitch a ⅛" window border
(6) Sew FRONT to BACK:

Lay the front and back on top of each other, right sides together.

Align the plastic windows.

Use 4 common pins through the fabric (not plastic) to keep windows aligned:
one pin each, centered on top, bottom, left, right.

Flip the photo holder over, so the pins are poking out on the bottom.

Square up edges/trim excess with a quilting ruler and rotary cutter:
align 1¼" mark on ruler with plastic window edge, and cut edges.
Thus, you achieve a perfect 1¼" fabric border all around the plastic window.

With right sides together, sew the bottom seam only (caption side) with a ¼" seam.
Remove the pin as you sew.
If desired, use a ¼" seam foot with guide.

align windows;
use four common pins
to keep them aligned

flip over so pins are poking down;
square up edges 1¼" from plastic window

sew, right sides together,
on bottom only,
with ¼" seam
If you have trouble with the presser foot hitting your caption on the left,
then use a professional grade HP foot.
It's a narrower foot; it will still give a perfect ¼" seam if you run the right edge along the fabric with the needle position all the way to the left.

Remove remaining pins; open up.
Iron center seam open with a Clover mini-iron.
Be careful not to iron the plastic!

use professional HP foot, if needed,
so presser foot doesn't hit
embroidered caption on left

press center seam open
with a Clover mini-iron
(7) Finish Top Edges:

The technique used in steps (7) and (8) allows the plastic to stay wrinkle-free!

Press under 1/4" on both top edges.
Be very careful not to iron the plastic!
The Clover mini-iron is perfect for this.

Sew both top seams with a heavy-duty overedge stitch:
(Janome 9400 QCP) Garment–Overedge–Heavy, foot M

press under 1/4" on top edges;
be very careful not to iron the plastic

stitch both top edges
with a heavy-duty overedge stitch
(8) Sew side seams:

Press under 1/4" on both side edges, keeping the center seam open.
Be very careful not to iron the plastic!

Fold, right-sides out, so that windows are aligned.

Using the same heavy-duty overedge stitch that was used in step (7):
  • start in upper right corner
  • sew down right edge
  • pivot at corner
  • sew bottom edge
    (for a uniform border all around)
  • pivot at corner
  • sew up left edge
Do not sew the top closed!

press under 1/4" on side edges;
be very careful not to iron the plastic




sew bottom edge
(for a uniform border all around);
pivot at corner

use same heavy-duty overedge from step (7);
start in upper-right corner;
sew down right edge;
pivot at corner


sew up left edge
(9) Insert cardboard; stitch photo pocket:

Carefully insert the cardboard; don't wrinkle the plastic!
Be sure to push the cardboard all the way to the bottom.

Put the side you consider to be most important on top.

Using the general purpose presser foot and default straight stitch,
stitch again over the window pocket stitching from step (5).
(You are stitching through both layers of fabric and the cardboard.)
Start in the upper right window pocket;
stitch down the right side, across the bottom, up the left side.
Do NOT stitch the top!

This creates two photo pockets.
Carefully insert the photos on both sides;
again, don't wrinkle the plastic!

Minor wrinkles in the plastic can be eliminated (or at least lessened)
by waving a hot blow dryer over the plastic.

put ‘most important’ side on top;
stitch around sides/bottom of window pocket
through both layers of fabric and cardboard

carefully insert photos on both sides
(10) Stitch top closed:
Machine-stitch the top closed.
Use a basting stitch that can be easily removed (with a seam ripper)
if you want to remove photos.

stitch the top closed
 
(11) Attach eyelet for hanging:
Turn the photo holder to the earliest-date side.
Attach an eyelet in the upper left corner, as follows:

Use a Crop-A-Dile.

Put a tiny mark where you want the hole;
punch the hole with the 1/8" hole side.

Put a 1/8" eyelet in the hole;
the top of the eyelet goes on the earliest-date side.
Use top C, base 3 (top C goes into the front of the eyelet).
Press firmly!

attach eyelet for hanging
 
(12) Attach ring; hang:

Put a mini loose-leaf binder ring through the eyelet hole.
All the rings (say, for a year's worth of photos) are attached to a larger binder ring.
Hang the larger ring on a Command hook on the wall.

use binder rings to hang

hang on a command hook