Crafting for a Cause

Crafting for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
By Beth Novak

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and this year I’m celebrating the survivors! My great-grandmother was a breast cancer survivor (twice over!), my grandmother is a breast cancer survivor, and my aunt, although recently diagnosed, I’m sure will be a survivor!

I want to celebrate the strong women of my family, and give my aunt strength during her treatment. I think a reminder of her roots will do just that.

Fabric sheets for inkjet printers*
A variety of fabric scraps, cut into 2.5” squares
A variety of embellishments, such as buttons, ribbons, and trims
Tools: Sewing machine, thread, needle
Fabric glue or glue stick

* These fabric sheets that you can use in your home printer are a great way of personalizing your crafting projects. I love fabric printing services such as Spoonflower, but for small projects these sheets are much more economical. A couple of things to keep in mind: these fabric sheets are very stiff, so I wouldn’t use them too generously through a project. Also, I personally avoid using them in any projects that I plan to wash. You can buy the colorfast version, but I still am not sure I trust it. Please let us know in the comments if you’ve had any experience washing these inkjet fabric sheets! I buy these sheets at JoAnn Fabric, but if you are not near one check your local quilt shop. You can also find them online.

I found photos of my great-grandmother and grandmother both early and later in life, and photos of my aunt both from school and more recently. I scanned them all in black and white so they’d look as if they belong together. If you don’t have a scanner, you can have your photos scanned at your local drug store or anywhere there is a scanning/printing kiosk. I put all the photos onto a page in my word processing software, and printed them onto one page.

I also wanted to print some interesting fabrics to use in my collage. Using the same word processing software, I created a pink box about the size of my page (minus margins) and filled it with text that describes these members of family (mother, sister, aunt, friend, grandmother, survivor).

Finally, I did a Google Images search for “breast cancer cells” and found an interesting image that matched my color palette. I printed the text I created as well as this image to use as fabric.


Using my pinking shears, I cut out each family photo. I chose to keep the paper backing on the fabric to provide some stiffness while cutting with the shears.




Once I cut out the photos, I carefully removed the paper backing.

I chose the text-on-pink fabric as my central background fabric. I cut it down to 6.5” by 8.5” with my rotary cutter – but this time I removed the paper backing before cutting so I wouldn’t dull the blade!

I also cut my last sheet of printed fabric (the breast cancer cells) into 2.5” squares. I need 18 squares to fit all the way around my background fabric.

Using a ¼” seam, sew together the top row of squares and then the bottom row of squares, the left row and then the right row of squares.

Sew the left and right rows of squares to the background fabric.

Sew the top and bottom rows to the background fabric.

Now comes the fun part! Lay out your photos on the background. Once you are happy with your layout, use a little glue from the glue stick to hold them temporarily in place. This will keep everything in place as you sew.

Using your sewing machine, stitch down the edges of your photos.

If your machine has decorative stitches, this would be a great way to use them!

Gather your embellishments, and experiment with what looks good to you. I added buttons at the corners of each photo pair, and made an awareness ribbon. The printed fabric can be hard to manually push a needle through, so I used a little glue on the back of each button before sewing to keep them in place.

Your finished piece can be framed in a traditional frame or shadowbox frame, or finished like a quilt and used as a wall hanging. You could even mount it in an embroidery hoop or wrap it on a canvas.

Because of my family history, I do monthly self-exams and had my first mammogram at age 35. If you have a family history of breast cancer you need to have a baseline mammogram, and if you are 40 or older, you need to have annual mammograms. It’s really not that bad, a few seconds of discomfort could save your life!

Click here to learn how you can help in the fight against breast cancer.




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