How to Make an Autumn-Inspired Framed Mirror

This multidimensional mirror features wooden branches and fabric-painted leaves, bringing instant style to any home.


Materials and Tools:

30" wood stretcher frame
coarse sandpaper
38" square of 3mm silk gauze
staple gun and staples
masking tape
"L" shaped red oak wood molding (with a width of 3/4" along each of 2 sides):
- cut four 24" pieces
10" square wood or plastic inner frame with 1/2" wide border
acrylic paint in autumn colors: orange, yellow, brown, purple, red
fabric glue
leaf stamps (purchased or foam cut to general leaf shapes)
razor or other sharp cutting blade

Wooden Branches:
24" square 1/8" masonite or other hard, flat wood panel
acrylic paint: off white, sand or similar color
gold leaf adhesive
20 to 30 gold leaves
high-speed rotary cutting tool

red oak wood lattice strips:
- 1-1/2" wide
- 1/2" deep
- long enough to accommodate cutting 4, 24" pieces (30" each if wood is also being used for building stretcher for silk layer).
red oak 1/4" wooden round dowel:
- 2 pieces for each 24" side
wood glue
hinged spring clamps to hold dowel to wood while drying
"L" shaped metal corner brackets
felt pads
picture hangers
heavy duty hanging wire


Leaves on Silk

1. Assemble a 30-inch wood stretcher either from precut stretchers (sold at art and craft stores) or made from wood. Miter the corners or use butt joints and glue the corners. Make sure the frame is square and secure with nails if necessary. Gentle handling may allow use of wood glue alone.

2. Using coarse sandpaper, round the edges and corners of one facing side of the frame to eliminate hard edges and bumps that might snag the silk. Or tape the facing with masking tape.

3. Spread the silk (minimum 38-inches square) on a large, flat, clean surface. Center the 30-inch wood stretcher on top. Gently begin stretching the silk by starting at the center of one side. The material is so sheer that rolling the edge, and stapling through the roll will be necessary.

  • Move to the opposite side, tugging the silk just enough to eliminate slack and pull the material taut. Don't worry if the fibers pull at the edges. This project only uses the center 24 inches of the silk.
  • Continue working out from the center of each side, turning or moving around the frame and stapling about every two inches until you reach the corners. At each corner, remove slack by gently pulling the material, folding and stapling to the wood frame.

4. Mix acrylic paint with water to prepare washes of each color. Combine one part acrylic to two parts water and perform tests in the center few square inches of the stretched silk. This area will not be used in the final piece and is a good spot for experimentation. Note: Do not apply acrylic paint directly to the silk. Make sure the acrylic and water mixtures are free of flake or clumps of undissolved paint.

Decorating tips:

  • Try different amounts of water in the mix.
  • Use real leaves or leaf rubber stamps. Use scissors to rough up the edges of the rubber stamps for a more natural look. Stamp the images onto the silk. The idea is to dye the silk fibers, not to fill in the space between fibers with paint. The fibers of this sheer silk are so wide that after stamping, you can blow the excess paint away with a puff of air.
  • Apply leaf size, shape, number, color, proximity and pattern as desired.

Branches in Wood

1. Draw a 3/4-inch border around the outside of the 24-inch square masonite with a marker.

2. Set the silk screen (with window cut out from center) on top of the wood panel to determine placement of the branch layer's inside window.

3. Using a pencil, trace around the inside of the window and onto the masonite. This will insure that the two windows line up. Going out from the smaller square, define a 1/2-inch border. The outside and inside borders are now "no cut zones." Cut away the inside of the smaller border with a high-speed cutting tool.

4. Draw or trace the silhouette of tree branches. Note: Remember that you will be cutting away material to leave only the branches and borders, so make sure all forms make contact with the inside or outside edges. To make it clear what should be cut away, color in the branches and borders with paint or a marker.

5. Using a rotary cutting tool, begin cutting away the space between the branches. An organic, imperfect shape is fine. Don't worry about getting all of the lines straight. Be sure not to cut branches away from the inside and outside borders they are connected to.

6. Sand rough corners by folding or rolling coarse sandpaper to fit.

7. Apply gold leaf adhesive evenly to the back side of the cut branches. Seal wood if necessary before application, following the directions for the adhesive. Allow adhesive to cure to an even, clear, tacky surface.

8. Apply gold leaf and press gently with a soft, dry cloth to remove air pockets. The gold leaf between branches can be reused on other branches. Small pieces of the leaf can be pressed against any remaining sticky areas. Brush away any lose gold leaf from the corners and the front side of the layer.

9. Paint the front side of the frame a sandy, off-white color. The inside edges of the branches should also be painted, but be careful not to paint over the gold leaf on the opposite side.

10. Miter cut the "L" shaped wood molding to four 24-inch pieces so that a square frame is created with a smooth outside edge and the "L" shape facing inward. Square the frame and glue with wood glue. Allow to dry completely.

11. Apply an even layer of fabric glue to the flat side of the frame. Set the frame, glue side down, on the stretched and printed silk. Be careful not to slide the frame on the surface, but press to ensure good contact. After a few minutes, turn over (holding the frame in place) and check that the silk is evenly saturated with the glue along the frame. Smooth the glue with your finger, or apply more glue as needed. Be careful not to get glue on the silk inside the frame. Letting the glue go outside this frame is fine. Allow to dry completely with the 24-inch frame resting on top of the stretched silk.

12. Apply fabric glue to one side of the 10-inch square frame. Measure to ensure that placement is centered, and set the 10-inch frame on the silk inside the 24-inch square frame. Make sure that the outside edge of the frame remains clean, while allowing the glue to spread slightly past the inside edge. Allow to dry completely.

13. Using a very sharp edge (craft blade or razor blade), cut around the outside of the 24-inch frame and around the inside of the 10-inch frame. This transfers the stretch, and gives a clean, smooth screen of printed silk, with a 10-inch window in the center.


1. Glue a wood dowel to the wood lattice along its long edge, flush with the narrow edge of the lattice. Apply an even line of wood glue along the widest side of the lattice, about 1/4 inch from the edge. Place the wood dowel and secure with clips or small wood clamps. Remove excess glue from the surface of the frame, and allow to dry completely.

2. Miter cut the wood lattice (with dowel glued on) to fit outside the 24-inch layers. This should be about 3/8 inch wider than the layers, or 24-3/8 inch as an approximate inside dimension. Set the two layers together against the wood to check for the correct inside width. Glue all four corners together and use "L" shaped metal corner brackets to reinforce the frame from the back.

3. Place the two layers inside the back of the frame. Face the stacked design downward on the table surface, so the stretched silk will go in first with the branches behind it. The stretched silk is separated from the branches by the "L" shape of the molding used with the silk. What separates the branches from the mirror is another wooden dowel glued around the inside of the frame, behind the branches layer. These dowel pieces should extend to the corners, but do not need to meet up or be cut to an exact fit since it is a spacer. Allow to dry.

4. Wipe clean and place a 24-inch mirror face down on top of the spacer dowel. The mirror will fill in the remaining depth of the frame. With the frame still face down on a surface, remove the L-shaped metal brackets at the corners (the corners, of course, are still glued). Apply one or two felt pads to the corner of each bracket, and turn so that the corners point inward toward the center of the mirror, and reattach. The brackets will now reinforce the corners and hold the mirror in place.

5. Attach hangers and heavy duty hanging wire, then add bumpers to the bottom two corners.

Rick Wedel, Ann Arbor, Mich.

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