1:39pm? Yes I'll Have Some Wine, Thank You!

I have to make an admission, I am…a workaholic. For someone who is self employed living in Hawaii you may find it surprising that I never fail to skip the beach and push myself into working 10+ hour days almost everyday. My 22 yr old surf bum self would kick my ass if she met me now. Because of this one of my two new years resolutions is to do more things that I like for myself and my own satisfaction. I thought one of those things would be to build a really awesome french message board frame for a map my parents gifted my husband on Christmas where we can literally pin out individual and shared travel routes… 

The idea is something you'd expect to see on Pinterest - especially as I have linked this blog post with the final image onto the site - and man does that end result look awesome, if I do say so myself. But what isn't shown in that 2x3" thumbnail is all the bedlam it took to get to that final result, which I will now share with you here so you can avoid all that :)

First, let me say, I know this isn't in the vein of fine art, but the way I see it is that I'm a creative professional, and I created this, so I'm sharing. I will add, however, that this experience taught me never to do more than one project like this a year and to stick to painting and illustrating from now on, so consider this a minor blip on my blog not to be repeated again so soon.

Let's begin with materials, shall we? 

- A large piece of plywood [size depends on the map you're working with] thick enough that you can put screws through it but keep in mind the thicker it is, the heavier it will be, and the more heavy duty your hardware to hang it will need to be.
- Quilters batting.
- A fabric of your choice.
- Thumb tacks.
- Buttons.
- Ribbon.
- A stapler.
- A power drill.
- Wood glue.
- Crazy glue, or some other super glue.
- Screws.
- Sewing kit or machine.
- Straight pins.
- Hardware to hang it with a weight limit higher than 100lb - you'll be adding paper, photos, etc so your end weight will be greater than when you started.

Keep in mind this is a general list of materials needed, all the specifics about length of fabric/ribbon, number of screws/buttons, etc will be determined by the size of the overall board you're making.

And now for some photo instructions:


Measure out the map so it sits in the center of the board. We had this board cut by the hardware store and I used the extra pieces to reinforce the back since it's a thin piece of plywood and I didn't want it to warp over time. I used wood glue and screws to secure the reinforcement pieces [not pictured]. What you also don't see is how we secured the hanging hardware to the back. This again is dictated by your size and weight so the way we did it is totally a preference thing [You'll see the double overlap wire in the final photo].

Sorry for the photo quality on most of these, I tried to get this project done quickly in order to get back to my commissions so there was no time to set up a nice step by step photo shoot...

Sorry for the photo quality on most of these, I tried to get this project done quickly in order to get back to my commissions so there was no time to set up a nice step by step photo shoot...

Here I'm measuring out the batting that will be around the map which allows paper and photos to stay firmly tucked under the ribbon. Once fitted, staple it down.


Next I measured out the fabric and I'm busy matching up the pattern so I can sew the pieces together for a seamless look. The fabric we chose and the size of the board made this necessary, it may not be with different sizes/fabrics. Thanks to having a mom who worked professionally as a seamstress I knew to pin everything in place with straight pins first to secure the line I needed to sew.


Then came the fun part…. sewing that entire line by hand because I don't own a sewing machine. Took about two hours while watching The Brady Bunch Movie [who does that?…what a terrible movie.]


Alright, now here's where some major gaps in photos come in. In this picture we've upholstered the fabric to the board so it's ready for the ribbons and then the map. First, make sure you staple out the entire boarder inside where the map will sit. This is important so that the map is flush to the wood and the fabric wraps tightly around the batting. You could cut out the fabric where the map sits as it's unnecessary but that required way more work. After the map area was solidly stapled out we stapled the fabric around the back edges exactly like I stretch my canvases. An easier way to explain it is by showing you this tutorial: How to Stretch a Canvas[See! There is some fine art knowledge in this post after all]
In my opinion it's important you follow these stretching instructions so the fabric doesn't pull more to one side than the other, skewing your pattern, and so it's sufficiently tight over the batting; but if you know of a better way, go for it!

Next what you missed is how we did the ribbon. This is so easy I can simply talk you through it real quick:

1. Decide the pattern you want. Most french message boards are just a criss cross pattern, we decided to get fancy and do a crisscross with an overlapping crisscross inside the middle diamond on each edge. Our ribbon patterns aren't perfect as you can see, but this is hand made and I wasn't about to agonize over something that will be covered up as we add our treasures.
2. Measure your ribbon. It doesn't have to go all the way under the map to the opposite side, in fact that's a complete waste of materials, just inside the map border enough that you won't see the mechanics once the map is mounted. We used about 54ft of ribbon creating this, and, I can't stress enough, secure the ribbon tightly! As you stuff things under each ribbon it will loosen if you haven't secured them well enough, defeating the purpose. The 'give' comes in with the batting, and so the ribbon must be taut against it to work. We pulled tight and stapled the hell out of 'em.
3. Once the ribbon is crossed use a thumb tack to secure the place where they cross and crazy glue a button on top. The buttons are optional I suppose, we used wooden buttons to fit the vintage jungle explorer motif that went with our map/fabric.
4. Once all the ribbon and buttons are on, mount the map. 

& Voila!


Our message board map measures 6x4 feet and sits above our bed in lieu of a headboard. Already we've hung some of our favorite ticket stubs, maps, and keys from our travels with much more to come! And as for the map itself? I used those straight pins that helped me sew the fabric together to indicate where I'd traveled before I met him, where he'd traveled before he met me, and where we've travelled together [awwww].


Through this whole process my best advice to anyone who wants to make this for themselves is PLAN! PLAN! PLAN! I'm more of a 'wing it' type person and this time it bit me in the ass, hard.
Get a list of materials you need before you go - size of board, length of fabric/ribbons, size of screws, etc. What made this exceptionally difficult for us is that here in Hawaii nothing is convenient when you live in the country. We had to drive over an hour to get the wood we needed because our local hardware store is unable to cut the wood in their lumberyard [I won't name names but let's just say their slogan rhymes with "The Most Unhelpful Place"], and any little thing we forgot required another hour drive to a shop that carried them, slowing what should have been done in a day into a two day project I didn't anticipate spending so much time on - hence the 1:39 celebration glass of wine.

I'd also like to mention that I formulated how to create this just by figuring out the construction of an old french message board I've had since I was a teen - they're not very complex - but there might be a more streamlined way to get this project done, so see if you can't go about it a better way!

Thanks for checking out this slapped together tutorial & I'm off now to paint and do what I do best!