Picture Frame Jewelry Organizers: Easy, Pretty and Fun

Hey, we’re almost halfway through the year! If you’ve got a big gift list for the holidays, its time to start thinking DIY now.

This project met all aspects of my DIY gift code, especially these:

  • Pretty
  • Useful
  • Something I’d want
  • Not too heavy to ship
  • Fun to make
  • Possible to make in advance

Jewelry is beautiful art. But when it’s stuck in a box, you don’t get to see it enough. Plus I wanted to cut the clutter on top of my dresser. Enter the picture frame jewelry organizer. I made two for me and loved them so much I decided to make jewelry organizers a main holiday gift for family and friends.

 

Turns out I needed four jewelry organizers . . .
Turns out I needed four jewelry organizers . . .
Necklace jewelry organizer
Necklace jewelry organizer: s hooks are used to hang the necklaces

 

Earring jewelry organizer
Earring jewelry organizer. Ideal for fish hook earrings. S hooks can be used for other types of loops. Won’t work for posts.

 

Budget: to make two for myself with thrifted frames, I spent about $15, excluding the cost of tin snips, so about $7.50 each. But it’s possible to spend more depending on your materials choice. When I got into manufacturing mode and was buying bigger sheets, the cost came down to $3-6 each.

Timing: summer and fall I added empty picture frames to my thrift store check list and accumulated the ones I needed at the right prices. I also started searching for metal sheets/radiator sheets to use in the frames. Since I was spray painting some of the frames, it was most ideal to be able to do this outside, before the cold set in, so that was the urgency in finding the frames. Once it got cold, I hit thrift stores for inexpensive jewelry. For this, the gift was the organizer, not the jewelry, but I wanted to include at least one item with the organizer so the recipients would know what it was.

Shopping list: here’s the snapshot list. Still, do scan the details below to save some cash and time on this project.

  1. Frames without glass
  2. Paint or spray paint (optional)
  3. Radiator grill sheet(s) also known as “metal sheets” or “aluminum sheets.”
  4. Small s hooks (optional, for necklaces)
  5. Thrift store find jewelry
  6. Tin snips or other scissors that easily cut sheet metal

To do these as gifts the way I did, you will need:

  • Frames without glass.  These are sometimes as cheap as $0.50 at thrift stores. I focused on wood, avoiding metals. Go for frames that have a little projection from the wall. Here’s why: you’re going to hang jewelry in the face of the frame so you creating a little distance between front and the wall prevents your earrings from hitting the wall. If you’re going to buy new frames, watch for sales, and make a budget – remember, when you buy new, you’re also paying for glass you don’t need. If you’re shipping gifts, keep manageable size in mind.  The easiest frames to work with are the ones that have little tabs holding the glass in place (see below). You’ll ditch the glass but the tabs are perfect for holding the metal sheet. However, if they don’t have little tabs, you can still wedge the metal sheet inside the frame securely. If you’d like to make a frame, Ana White’s great blog has a post on barnwood frames that would work well for about $1.50 each
  • Paint or spray paint, if you want to change the color. I focused on black and white with a couple of silver frames. For this project, I only used spray paint
  • Radiator grill sheet(s) also known as “metal sheets” or “aluminum sheets.” The sources I used were Michael’s (with a Retailmenot coupon code – but be aware, these are in store and not shown on the Michael’s site. They’re about $11-14 without the coupon for a smallish — about 12″x24″– sheet so bring that coupon!), ACE Hardware (pretty choices though not super cheap, about $25-$30 for a larger sheet), and Home Depot (the most cost effective — $22.78!– for a 3×3′ aluminum sheet but limited pattern choices). These come in both a silver and gold finish. I used silver but the gold is chic these days. What’s right for you will depend on how many you want to make — see below.   Some notes on choosing:.

a) The cloverleaf and star patterns are most readily available and work well. If you choose a pattern with narrower openings like this oriental one below, it can be hard to get earrings with their backers through the spaces. So the tighter patterns are best used for necklaces with small s hooks.

Necklace jewelry organizer. Holes in this pattern are too tight for earrings.
Necklace jewelry organizer. Holes in this pattern are too tight for earrings with backers but little s hooks work fine.

b) Rustic look note: you could use chicken wire for a farmhouse sort of look, either in a single or double layer. This is often very cheap at used building goods outlets. I got a roll for only $3 but the look was less polished and it wasn’t as easy to work with my always-torn up hands as the aluminum sheets.

c) MD is a leading manufacturer of these sheets. They seem to sell mostly through retailers but the choices on their site (page down) are fun to browse.

MD Metal Sheet: this is the spendy version you can get at craft stores like Michael's
MD Metal Sheet: this is the spendy small version you can get at craft stores like Michael’s.
  •  Small s hooks (about $1.20 for a pack of eight at True Value). You need these if you want to use your organizer to hang necklaces.
  • Thrift store find jewelry: for earrings, you want fish hook style.
  • Tin snips or other scissors that can cut thin metal (available at craft and home improvement stores). I kinda balked at investing in tin snips but I am glad now that I did: I seem to use mine for something every week. Here’s where a Retailmenot coupon at Michael’s also is a big help (about $7.50 with a 50% off coupon). These are also available from home stores and Amazon (here are my Tekton snips on Amazon, about $9).

Let’s get started: The basics of this project are that you’re going to replace any glass with a metal sheet cut to slightly over the size of the frame opening. It’s that simple! A step-by-step follows.

  1. Take your frame and get it clean and pretty: pop out any glass and set aside
  2. If you’re painting you frame, do it now
  3. If your frame came with a mat, use that as your pattern to measure out the size to cut your metal sheet insert, adding 1/4 inch on each side. If no mat, measure your frame’s opening and add 1/2 inch to your measurement on each side. Basically you want a 1/4 inch excess on all sides so it fits securely in the opening. Also, this gives you the chance to let the metal protrude from the frame a little, which can look and work great.  If you’re cutting multiple inserts, lay as many out as possible on your metal sheet so you can eyeball how it all fits together as shown below:
    Here's mats are laid out on the sheet to make sure we get as many as possible out of one sheet.
    Here mats are laid out on the sheet to make sure we get as many as possible out of one sheet.

    Use a pen to mark off one insert at a time or just do a quick snip with your tin snips and cut along the line. Remember to go slightly big since you can always make it smaller later. Also, do one at a time instead of tracing them all at once. As you cut, things will shift slightly and you don’t want unnecessary marks, especially if you’re using a Sharpie!

  4. Cut your inserts using your tin snips

    Golly I love my tin snips!
    Golly I love my tin snips!
  5. Install your inserts into each frame from the back. If there are any little mat holders, flip them back down to keep the sheet firmly in place.

    Notice how the inserts that used to hold the mat in now hold the metal sheet
    Notice how the little black tab inserts that used to hold the mat in now hold the metal sheet?
  6. You are done. No joke.Silver painted frame

    Jewelry organizers, ready to wrap
    Jewelry organizers, ready to wrap

One more note: you might end up with some extra strips of the flat metal sheets. Hang onto them! They can be used to wrap a votive or for other small projects.

So what about you? What’s your favorite DIY holiday gift this year? Do you struggle with mass production AND personalization the way I do?

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