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Fabric Mats

You might have seen cloth-covered picture mats at custom-frame shops, but did you know you can create the same effect at home?




Try a variety of fabrics, letting the images unify the arrangement (leave the original photo-safe mats in place to protect your prints and to give the displays a pleasing sense of dimension). We fitted this trio in a sunny yellow damask; a nubby, green silk; and a loosely woven golden silk. The colors and textures stand out splendidly against the muted grass cloth on the wall.


  • Paperboard (available at art-supply stores)
  • Utility knife
  • Ruler
  • Positionable mounting adhesive (sold at office-supply stores)
  • Bone folder
  • Frame, original mat, print, and backing board


  1. Step 1

    From paperboard (available at art-supply stores), use a utility knife to cut an insert the same size as your picture mat. Cut a window in the insert, measuring and marking to make it 1/4 inch wider and taller than that in the original mat.

  2. Step 2

    Cut the fabric 2 inches taller and 2 inches wider than the insert.

  3. Step 3

    Following the manufacturer's instructions, use positionable mounting adhesive (sold at office-supply stores) to affix fabric to insert, centering it so there's a 1-inch border on each side.

  4. Step 4

    Miter corners of fabric, as shown, then fold and adhere; smooth with a bone folder.

  5. Step 5

    Using a utility knife, cut an X in fabric in the insert's opening. Trim excess fabric, then adhere by folding and smoothing fabric flaps.

  6. Step 6

    Place finished insert against frame, followed by original mat, print, and backing board.

Martha Stewart Living, September 2006



Reviews (12)

  • Tanyamom 28 Apr, 2008

    My only suggestion for that would be to save the fabric from the center for use elsewhere.
    Otherwise we will have a seam.

  • livinoutloud01 25 Apr, 2008

    jayejaye, I don't see how you can do this project with saving fabric in mind and not have seams. You could possibly cut 4 strips, fold under fabric ~ 1/4 inch on one edge to hid the selvages, then do a 'log cabin' kinda thing. The effect will at least be uniform. If the picture is important and the fabric is perfect for it, I would just take the hit on the fabric amount. You'll be glad you did!

  • jayejaye 25 Apr, 2008

    if my frame is very big and i want to save material, how should i do it?

  • lorit71 24 Apr, 2008

    Martha your amazing thanks for your inspiration

  • WINDJAMMER 24 Apr, 2008

    I LOVE YOU GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Such a pleasure to occasionally --can't do it often because I don't have time, cruise through your versatile and so-helpful site!!! It's well organized and logically coordinated so that I can quickly find what interests me most and almost always draws me to/into a nice surprise or two; I'm never disappointed!!!!!!

    Keep up the great work!!!!!!

    Windjammer of Indiana

  • mizwidget 23 Apr, 2008

    It is even better if you can find acid-free picture mat board and paperboard. Your art prints and photos won't fade or get that brown tinge with time.

  • sharonmanis 23 Apr, 2008

    Martha proabley did not do this someone that works for her did so thanks to that person!

  • Sharret42 23 Apr, 2008

    I covered some Paris postcards and old fashion prints with pieces of black lace that I bought at a huge flea market in Paris several years ago. Just lay it down on top of the print/photo, etc., put the glass on that and then into the frame. Et voila! Use an open design lace versus a heavy, dense lace pattern so you can see the images. Sharon in Asheville, NC

  • mariaconsueruiz 23 Apr, 2008


  • betyorazz 23 Apr, 2008

    Martha this is s very clever idea and since there are so many wonderful fabrics out there the effect is endless ..thanks

  • Anna_Marie 23 Apr, 2008

    This would solve the problem of trying to make a mitered cut on the inner mat edge, at home. The covered mat would not need to have a mitered edge. The directions do not mention using glass. When I worked in a frame shop, we glued the covered mats to the outside of the glass. Putting fabric mats under glass supposedly could lead to moisture getting trapped inside. Any other opinions about this? I have several pictures waiting to be re-matted.

  • kleasterling 23 Apr, 2008

    This is the easiest way to truly customize your photos and art! I collect remnants of high end designer fabrics and discontinued samples, usually a dollar for a 12 or 14 inch square and Terrifically Tacky Tape, the stuff with the red liner. You won't believe how great this looks! Also wonderful way to create a custom background for shadow boxes! Don' be afraid to try it.