Building a Shadowbox for an Heirloom

Procrastination is in My Blood.

You’re in the right place. I’m going to show you how I built a shadowbox for an heirloom, but first, I want to tell you a little bit about my grandma. Please indulge me. She passed away when I was only four years old. I only have fuzzy, unfocused (aka misty, watercolor) memories of her that I’m not even sure are real.

Me and my grandma on my 4th birthday

Still, from all I’ve been told, I feel like she and I are kindred spirits. My creativity comes from her, as does my propensity for procrastination…

When I was born, my grandma finished a crocheted afghan for me. She FINISHED it for me, but she did not START it for me.

My grandmother's crocheted afghan

This afghan was intended for her own first baby, my Uncle Jack. He was born thirty-three years before I was. (My grandma actually holds the Guinness World Record for the most amount of years spent crocheting the same afghan. You can look it up.)

my grandmother in the 20s

(No, not really. That’s grandma laughing at you, dummy.)

To be fair, she picked a ridiculous pattern. The hook size was super tiny and it’s not even made with yarn, but thread. Can you imagine crocheting an entire afghan out of thread in the time it takes to grow a person? She was definitely over-ambitious.

Remind you of anyone?

Yup. I can relate. I tend to go big too. Although… I’m only ten years into my over-ambitious project, so, in Grandma Time, I’m actually way ahead of schedule…

Grandma in the 30s

Anyway, she went on to have four more children and a whole bunch of grandchildren before finishing the afghan for me, her tenth grandchild. Clearly, she loved me best. The afghan lived on my bed all through my childhood, but it hadn’t been used in a very long time. It started to disintegrate over the years. I mean, this thing was OLD. I won’t say exactly how old, but it was already thirty-three years old by the time I was born, so you can do the math.

(No, I’m not going to give you real numbers so you can actually do the math. Nice try…)

After all this time, grandma’s afghan ended up in storage. Falling apart. Never looked at nor appreciated. Much of it beyond repair.

Close up of crocheted afghan

A Shadowbox for an Heirloom

So I had this idea to just save a piece of it for display and let the rest go. Having it in a bag in a closet certainly wasn’t doing it any justice. I talked about it with my mom and she thought grandma would approve.

I carefully separated the corners and some border pieces so that I could reassemble it all into a mini version for framing.

My grandmother's afghan

I actually crocheted the pieces back together myself, so there’s a little bit of my work mixed in here with grandma’s. I think that’s pretty neat.

While I did want it behind glass to protect it, I didn’t want it squished, so I needed a shallow shadowbox. (A shallowbox?) I decided to make one myself, because I can literally do anything. (Yes, even brain surgery. I wouldn’t offer any guarantees on the result, but I could do it.)

I started by picking out some molding I liked and making the frame face.

Building a frame for a shadowbox

Frame for a shadowbox

Then I made another frame out of pine to give me the depth of the box.

Kreg jig building shadowbox frame

Frame for shadowbox clamped

(WOW. Look at all of those brand names! As a professional blogger, it’s my job, my duty, to give you some product links… I used my Kreg Jig to drill some pocket holes with my Makita Drill, then I glued the joints with Gorilla Wood Glue, and clamped it all together with my Irwin Clamps. There. I’m like a Kardashian now. I feel so dirty…)

Then I ripped down some one-by-twos on my table saw to give the glass a place to sit and made a spacer for the “box” part of the shallowbox. I made you this little gif to show how it all comes together…

Gif showing shadowbox parts

Guys, I’m going to fast forward to the end now because this post is stupid long. I nailed, I patched, I sanded, I painted, I procrastinated, I sewed, I glued, I drilled, I screwed and here’s the photo you’ve been waiting for…

Back of shadowbox

Just kidding. That’s the back. Here you go…

My grandmother's afghan in a shadowbox on the wall

Grandma’s Afghan on Display

A shadowbox for my grandmother's afghan hung on the wall

a close up of a shadowbox

Close up of afghan heirloom in shadowbox

My grandmother's afghan in a shadowbox on the wall

(Why, yes! I did make that afghan on the embarrassingly unmade bed! I got the crochet gene from grandma too. But not the bed making one.)

Guys, I did something really cool with the remainder of grandma’s afghan, but this post is so, so long now, so I’m going to save that for my next post. Which will be next week! (Or right now.) Relatively speaking, that’s damned near instant gratification on my crappy blog… (No, really. Now instant. It’s right here.)

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  • SZQ

    I LOVE IT!! That’s a beautiful way to save the afghan – displaying it like that! I’m a crocheter, too & noticed that C2C afghan there! I’m currently working on one right now! Love your posts & humor!

    • My Crappy House

      Good eye! That is a C2C afghan! (Corner to corner, for those who don’t know wtf we’re talking about…) I made that YEARS ago out of 100% cotton and it’s sooo soft.

  • terri

    That’s such a great idea you had, not that you don’t always have great ideas, but this one! So sweet. And as usual, funny as all get out. I don’t even know what that means, I don’t talk like that.

    • My Crappy House

      This comment was funny as all get out! I recently noticed I say “yikes” all the time. I don’t know where I got it, (perhaps Scooby Doo?) but I just go with it.

    • My Crappy House

      Good question! In a nutshell, I tacked it to a piece of linen and then used spray adhesive to glue it to the thin, plywood backer. Maybe I’ll put a couple of pics in next week’s post to illustrate.

  • em

    Oh, happy day when I receive your post notifications!

    I LOVE that you did this with the afghan! I just packed up my late MIL’s gorgeous heirloom tablecloth that was made by my husband’s grandmother (similar material). He doesn’t appreciate it, ugh. I would have loved to do this with hers, but it’s still in beautiful shape, so I’m giving it to my crappy SIL. Boy I hope she treasures it.

    LOVED your amazing GIF by the way. You’re pretty darn good at this!!!

    • My Crappy House

      The work that goes into these crafts is insane. I do hope your crappy SIL appreciates what you’ve given to her! Thanks for the props on my GIF. I channeled my inner Spielberg for that one… I will now patiently await my nomination from The Academy.

  • Ellen Shook

    Your idea of saving a part in a shadowbox is a fantastic idea. You have rendered it beautifully, and I am sure your Grandma would love it. I have some similar pieces from my own, but they are mostly in good shape. I actually have a whole bedspread that she made in the early 1940s which is quite a lot like your piece. Sometimes I drape over a sofa or on a bed. My mother would always wash it in the bathtub, hang it out on the clothesline, and COMB the fringe. I have have never done any of that. ?

    • My Crappy House

      This may sound terrible, but it was almost a relief that it wasn’t in good shape. If it was in perfect condition, it would probably still be in a bag in the closet because I just have no place for it, but I would never have dismantled an heirloom in good condition. I like to think my grandma is happy with what I’ve done, wherever she is now.

  • SH

    My mom did (decades and decades ago) that exact crocheted afghan too! It’s still in good shape and still in the family. Beautiful way to display and honor yours. So curious to see what you did with the rest. And you are on a blog-posting roll!

    • My Crappy House

      I know, right? Three weeks in a row! This is unprecedented! I’m happy your afghan is still in good condition. It really is a beautiful pattern.

  • Barbara H.

    Well done!!! Yikes is older than Scooby Doo, which was around after I grew up but maybe Scooby Doo brought it back into use. I find myself using it again this last year – sometimes that’s the only appropriate response to something. My mother crocheted a similar but different pattern that my sister has on a bed, I think, but it too is having issues. And Mom crocheted the same pattern for me maybe 20 years (or more) ago which is in a bag put away. I don’t dare use it – long time cat owner and lover. I tell myself “someday” but don’t see it coming out of the bag in the near future. I feel sad about that.

    • My Crappy House

      So, then you know! My sadness about it being stuffed away in a closet outweighed my sadness at completely destroying it in order to display it. I never could’ve done it if it wasn’t already so damaged. Good idea to keep it away from the cats. Cats, as you know, are jerks. Lovable jerks.

  • Linda

    This is just beautiful! I’ve been thinking about doing something similar with lace from my wedding dress.
    Love your posts

  • Mom

    Oh honey I absolutely love it. Grandma would definitely love it too. I was just telling Uncle Jack what you were doing, ( I hadn’t seen the blog yet) he got a kick out of it. I have to find a way for him to see the blog. He didn’t understand what I was telling him to do. I wish I could see what you do with all my cross stitch pictures when I’m…..gone.

    • My Crappy House

      Well, you’re not allowed to go anywhere, so it’s a moo point. Like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.

    • My Crappy House

      Well, you have GRAND daughters… Start crocheting now and maybe one of them will frame your work one day…

  • Amy Walters

    I get so excited to get a post from you. You make me laugh out loud every time. Beautiful sentiment and craftsmanship in your work. I really did gasp and then Awww, at the reveal. Grandma would be proud I’m sure.

  • Tina

    I love it. Yup I agree, either display it, use it, gift it, or let it go. Two questions…Is the background just wood or is it fabric? How did you attach it to the background? The attachment points are impressively invisible!

    • My Crappy House

      Sorry for the delay in my reply… The background is a thin piece of plywood. I attached the afghan to fabric, then the fabric to the plywood. To answer you more thoroughly, I have actually made a video to illustrate! I’ll be posting it on Instagram tomorrow, so make sure you follow me!

  • Tina

    Well if I would have read the other comments first. I would have known you tacked it to the linen and then fabric glued the linen to the plywood…lol. Sorry!

  • Lisa

    Wow! You really CAN do anything. I love the word “shallowbox”. I can imagine Lady Gaga singing it with Bradley Cooper, actually. As a followup to that other, less imaginative song that did not spawn a gorgeous framed afgan piece. Such underachievers, those two.

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