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Thursday, May 23, 2013


Thank you all so much for your many comments, prayers, and concern for my family and our great state of Oklahoma.  The search and rescue efforts have ended and things are now moving into recovery and clean-up mode.  We are so sorry for those who have lost loved ones and whose lives have been turned upside down, but it is SO encouraging to see how Oklahomans have once again risen to the challenge and are turning out in droves to volunteer, donate, and support in whatever way they can.  We are also so grateful for the love we feel from around the nation and across the is much appreciated.  Once again, if you would like to help by making a monetary donation, the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is the charity I highly recommend.  Many of our people are working with them and we hope to as a family be able to pitch in the the days to come as well. 100% of the money given goes straight to help others.  I love this clip where even the national news media recognize how faith-based organizations and the Baptist Disaster Relief in particular can get things done!

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Yesterday I picked up this oil painting during a quick thrift store stop.  I've never bought this kind of thing while thrifting before, but I've seen them gracing so many eclectic gallery walls, and this one spoke to me.  The painting itself was in pretty good shape, but the frame and mat were nasty.  I knew right away how I wanted this makeover to go!

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About 10 years ago (pre-blogs!) the Pottery Barn catalog was a good source of inspiration to me for new ideas.  One thing that I always wanted to replicate was the walls of big collections of framed, matted photos.  However, when on a limited budget, all of those custom sized photo mats can add up quickly!  So, I invested in my own Mat Cutter.  In the 10 years since, it's more than paid for itself with all of the mats I have cut.  

Large sheets of mat board are available at most framing and craft supply stores.  I always purchase mine at Hobby Lobby for less than $5 when on sale or with a coupon.  They measure 32 x40", so depending on the size of your frame you can get several mats out of one sheet.  

It's so easy to cut your own mats.  I've always followed the directions that came with the cutter, but now I've done so many I don't have to refer to them.  The directions also include information for cutting double mats, and also many other shapes rather than the traditional square or rectangle opening.  

Supplies Needed:

Mat Cutter, Mat board, pencil, yardstick, utility knife, backing board, table protection (I use an old cardboard cutting board folded over)

This is what the cutter looks like:

Put something over your table or counter to protect it.  When trimming the mat the knife will go through the mat board, so protect your surface! 

1) Cut the mat board to fit inside the frame you want to use.  Since I was replacing an old mat, I traced around it to get the size I needed.  

I like to use a yardstick as a straight edged and trim the board with a utility or exacto knife.  You can also do this step with the mat cutter, but I find it quicker to do it this way so I'm not having to switch around the blade on the cutter.

2) Decide what size you want the border of your mat to be.  I wanted a 2" mat.  Set the guide on the mat cutter to your desired size.  

3) TURN THE MAT BOARD FACE DOWN, and using the guide, draw a pencil line on all four sides.  These will be the lines you cut on.

4) The corners that you have marked will show you where to start and stop with the blade.

5) Put the backing board under your mat.  I use another piece of old mat board for this-your blade will be cutting into it so it needs to be something thick. Put the mat board back under the guide.  

Using the register mark on the side of the blade, line it up with the pencil mark you have made.  This is where your cut will start.  Use your left hand to press down firmly on the metal guide edge to hold the mat in place, while depressing the blade into the mat with your right thumb.  Pushing down firmly, slowly and steadily run the blade along the guide, cutting through the mat.

6) Stop when the register mark on the side of the blade cutter reaches the next edge.  Sometimes it takes a little practice to stop at exactly the right spot, just don't cut past the pencil line!

7) Pull the mat board out, rotate it to the next pencil marked edge, and follow the same steps to cut the remaining three sides.

8) If all goes well, the middle section should pop right out and you will have a perfectly, professionally cut mat!

The portion that came out of the middle is big enough that I'll use it for another mat on another project.  And I've probably been under a rock, but I've never noticed this double sided mat.  The top is white and the bottom is black, so when cut the inside beveled edge is the opposite color than the front part of the mat.  Love that little detail!

With a new mat, a quick coat of spray paint, and a little gold detailing, here's how it turned out.  

I think it will be the perfect piece to start with for a gallery wall in my bedroom.  The painting in the frame was $5, and I probably used around $2 worth of the mat board, so not a bad start for $7!

See that dresser in the shot?  It started out as Emily's dresser and now it's been functioning as my nightstand. Now since I got the new ones to go there I'm thinking of doing something like this and moving it to the living room. 

Here are a few other places where I've used pictures with mats that I cut myself:

To make the zebra mat shown here, I used a spray adhesive to glue wrapping paper to the board before I cut the center holes in the mat, then proceeded with the above steps.


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Would you like to comment?

  1. This is awesome. Love, love the painting you found

  2. You totally rock, Jennifer. I am not surprised that you own a mat cutter! What a difference a new mat and the black frame make to your new picture - it looks amazing! I miss my frame shop equipment so very much, most especially the professional mat cutter I had. I can't stand paying to have framing done for me now and should get one of these. A tip for your readers: it's handy when cutting mats to keep a fresh razor blade on hand, in case the corners aren't completely free. Pulling them apart can rip that top paper on the mat. The corner of the razor is also great for flicking out any flaws or imperfections in the mat board.

  3. I have clearly been under a rock, I've never even seen a mat cutter! Wow, you have got your money's worth, your mats look great!

  4. Okay, first: I totally need a mat cutter now! I once tried to cut a mat using just a utility knife, and it was not pretty. Second: I LOOOOVE that amazing picture you found and it is just perfect in your frame now! Gorgeous!

  5. This looks great really professional too :) I like the pops of orange on the gallery wall, very nice

  6. That is soooo amazing! Such a great makeover.

  7. Thank you so much for this post! I found it awhile ago and saved it...I'd never even heard of a mat cutter before but this is EXACTLY what I need! I'm revisiting now as I make my Christmas list. ;-) What model did you buy? I found one by a company called "Logan" at Hobby Lobby for about $70. It says it's a mat cutting kit with a 24" straight edge. Am I on the right track? Thanks again!!!!

  8. Hi Laura! Mine is the Logan Compact Mat Cutter, Model 301-M. It says it's 32" which is good because if I remember right, a whole sheet of mat board will fit through it (I don't have to trim it first). I bought it at Michaels and have had it for years but think it was around that price, then I used a coupon.

  9. Thank you!! Perfect! I have forwarded this information to Santa. ;-)


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