June 2, 2012

DIY Canvas Growth Chart

This project was a Mother's Day Gift for my mumsie this year, and I love how it turned out!  I love making gifts, and I stewed for a long time over something I could make that was personal, hopefully not something to add to the junk pile :), and not something she already had 10 of (like framed pictures of my kids or their artwork)...

My mom is starting to amass the crew of grandkids, and has a wonderful "grandkids'" room in her house with endless toys, books, artwork, and cribs & beds for when her grandkids visit.  Some of her grandkids live close, and some live far, and I thought this project would be fun for everyone, because everyone can participate in it whenever they visit.

So, here's how I made this canvas fabric growth chart....

I bought "duck cloth canvas" at the fabric store (with a coupon), at about 8 feet long, or 2.75 yards. 

I cut the entire length of the fabric...all 8 feet, at 10" wide, to make a long strip for the growth chart.  I then used a zig zag stitch to sew along all 4 edges, so that the fabric wouldn't fray. 

Now, you could totally freehand the numbers, but I decided to use my Silhouette to cut cardstock into stencils for the numbers (you can see what they look like below).  Each number was .75" tall. 
Now, I have to say, I am REALLY glad I used the odd numbers only, because there are less small pieces to align.  For example, see how the #9 has a free floating piece in the middle of it, to make it look like a 9?  That is a total pain to paint around.  If I had used the even numbers, most of the stencils would have had a piece like that.  So trust me, odd numbers are better :) 

One by one, I took each stencil and I lined the left edge of the number up so that it was exactly 1" from the left edge of the fabric.  At this time, I made sure the number was evenly spaced at the appropriate point up the growth chart.  Using the clear plastic ruler that comes with my rotary cutter was extremely helpful!  So, if you look at the #5 below, you see how it is centered at the 5th inch up the side of the growth chart.  Each stencil was carefully placed before I painted it.

Then, I held the cardstock down tight while I dabbed black fabric paint onto the stencil with a stiff paint brush, and then carefully lifted the cardstock off to reveal the number.  It worked great!

I made larger, 2.25" tall stencils for each of the foot marks 1' through 6'.  Those were about aligned 3" from the left edge of the fabric.

The lines (see below) were made with a ruler and a paintbrush that I ran along the edge of the ruler.  The odd numbers had .5" long lines, the even number spaces had 1.75" long lines, and the foot marks had 2.5" long lines.  It was easy to use a ruler to swipe a paintbrush against.  The lines were straight of course, and I could see how long I was making each line, which prevented me from having to mark it with a pencil first. 

I used freezer paper to make a stencil for the wording.  I have used freezer paper on many projects, including these t-shirts.  It makes a great stencil because you can iron it to the fabric for a secure hold, and peel it off with no residue when you are done. 

Here is the finished stencil... love it!

I folded the bottom under by a few inches, and sewed across the long edge to form it into a loop.  I didn't want my growth chart hanging all the way to the floor, so I had planned on folding it under (even though it cut off some of my painted numbers).  In the loop that was created by sewing, I slipped this thin piece of melamine board to weigh the fabric down, and help it hang straight. 

I cut of the excess fabric from the top (I decided I wanted mine barely over 6' tall), and then sewed the top under to make a smaller loop, so that I could slip a dowel through (or in this case a pretty stick) for hanging it from. 

My stick has twine wrapped and tied around the two ends to hang the growth chart from...

And here is the finished product!!
I pinned little cards with the grandkids' names and heights to the fabric, so that my mom can decide if she wants to hand write on the fabric, or continue to pin cards on as the kids grow. 

It will look darling in the grandkid's room at grandma's house, and the kids love to measure themselves!  Making these as gifts, or for your own personal use is very satisfying, sentimental, and extremely customizable!  It takes a bit of time and patience, because of the repetitive nature of the painting - but I think it is well worth it!!

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  1. It is hanging in the grandkids room right now, and I love it! It makes me smile everytime I see it. Thanks again for this thoughtful gift. Love you tons, mom

  2. WOW!!!!!! This is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!!!!! I just love it, beautifully done!

  3. I really like your canvas version, it turned out great! I have this linked to my oversized rulers growth carts post as well today, nice job!

  4. This is really cool...I want to do this for my boys. Did you need to prep the canvas material with anything before painting on it or was it ready to go?

    1. Nope, I didn't prep the canvas at all. You could use fabric paint if you wanted to, but acrylic paint is also permanent on fabric, and something I always have around the house. Good luck!

    2. Okay, great. Thanks so much!

    3. A neighbor (who has since moved away) made one of these for my boys about 10 years ago. The chart goes up to about 5'8", but my oldest is now 5'10 and only 14 yrs old! I want to add about 6" to the top by sewing some canvas there. But the original canvas is kinda dirty near the bottom. Do you think it can be washed? The ruler lines/numbers (as well as the actual measurements) were done with a Sharpie. I think the paint is acrylic.

    4. Hi Grammar Gnome!
      Well, the acrylic paint certainly won't wash off - and the sharpie claims to be permanent :) Though it might fade a little bit with washing. I might suggest hand washing though - because in my experience, wrinkles are so hard to get out of canvas (even with an iron). Sink or tub you could keep it nice and flat. You could also do something fun like use colored canvas to add on to the top. That way you aren't trying to match the same color, and won't see the disparity when one is dirty. They have tons of colored duck cloth at the fabric store. You could choose a few and do alternating 1" strips, or even 3 larger blocks of color sewn to the top. I think that would look nice too! Good luck!

  5. Hi! I just now found your blog and it is great! Maybe I am just missing it but how do you cut out or make your own stencils, whether its the cardstock or the freezer paper... do you just use scissors? I feel silly for asking but just not sure, thank you!

    1. Hi Jennie!
      Thanks for your comment.
      I used my Silhouette digital cutting machine. You could use scissors, sure. Or, I bet a hardware store, or craft store, would have number stencils you could use and re-use.
      Those would be my suggestions.
      Good luck!

  6. Hi, Lindsay.

    Great family ruler! Thanks for the file. Just about finished with ours! :)'

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