How to make Photo Checkerboard – Photo Gift DIY

Welcome to a creative journey where memories are sewn together into a checkered board of memories! In this how-to guide, we’ll embark on a delightful journey: crafting a unique checkerboard sewn from fabric, adorned with cherished snapshots from your vacations. This isn’t just about creating a game; it’s about weaving together the threads of your adventures into a tangible, interactive piece of art that draws you into cherished memories. So, gather your favorite vacation photos, and let’s dive into the wonderful world of fabric crafting, where every stitch tells a story.

Step 1: Gather Your Photos – 56 photos will be used!

I love this project because there are so many photo opportunities! This project is perfect for TONS of photos when you just can’t make a decision! Or, if, you have one favorite photo, use it for all the photo openings!

I have to tell this short story so you know how much I love photos. When I began scrapbooking, I went all in. I even started an online scrapbooking business to fund my scrapbooking addiction! I went to print all the photos I would be scrapbooking for ONE particular year. I was so proud of myself for narrowing it down to 750 photos, thinking I was being so conservative. My husband choked and my friends’ eyes bugged out, but I thought I had done good! Needless to say, I don’t feel like many photos can be left out of my stories, LOL!

How big is a checkerboard?

A checkerboard is 8 blocks wide by 8 blocks tall. You can make your checkerboard as big or as small as you would like, but all the blocks need to be the same size. For the purpose of this project, we are going to make our blocks 3×3, so the board is 24×24 inches.

You will need every other block to be a photo. So 32 of your blocks are going to be photos.

To make the checkers with the photos on them, you will need 24 more photos.

This link below will take you to the Fat Quarter of photos that holds THIRTY 3×3 inch photos….for ONLY $35! That’s only a little more than $1 per photo! Yay!

Order Photo Quilt Blocks here!

You will need a minimum of 56 photos. The 3×3 Fat Quarter Layouts you will purchase will have 60 slots (each fat quarter holds 30, so you will have to order two). So pick out 60 photos and you will have four extra to add to a gift bag, tag, or label!

If you choose to have each side of the checkerboard a different theme of photos, you will need photos for the checkerboard and for the checkers in the following amounts:

  • Theme 1: 28 Photos
  • Theme 2: 28 Photos

Step 2: Order Your Photos – 3×3 inch photos

The best way to print this many photos is to order them online at

Click on the button below to go straight to the 3×3 blocks you will need for this project!

We print your photos a fat quarter of them at a time (18×22 inches). When you choose the 3×3 fat quarter you get to load THIRTY photos onto the layout at one time, crop them, enlarge and reduce them, and ADD WORDS if you would like!

If this is your first time ordering from us, I would recommend you watch this little video that walks you through how easy it is to order online!

Step 3: Cut Out Your Fabric Pieces of Your Checkerboard

Once you receieve your photo blocks in the mail (ususally a week or less), you can start cutting out your checkerboard!

Printed Cotton Quilting Fabric – 1/3 yard of 45″ wide

Sheerweight Fusible Interfacing – 2/3 yards of 20″ wide. If you fuse this before you cut out your blocks, cut the interfacing in half and fuse the 12 x 20 inch piece to each half of your 1/3 yard of fabric.

Cut out 32 of the 3 1/2 inch square blocks. I interface the fabric before cutting, but you can certainly interface them after you have cut them out if you prefer.

Step 4: Cut Out Your Photo Blocks

Once you receive your photo blocks in the mail (ususally a week or less), you can start cutting out your checkerboard! Here is what your fat quarter of photos will look like:

When you receive your photos, they will need to be cut out to 3 1/2 inch squares. DO NOT assume cutting straight down the middle of the white space between the photos will give you the 3 1/2 inch square. When printing the fabric, the fabric shrinks differently, so you will need to position your squaring ruler over the photos and cut out the 3 1/2 inch square to make sure it is the right dimensions.

You will need to choose 16 photos for each side of your checkerboard. Remember, I used two different vacations, so I will need 16 of the Mexico vacation and 16 of the Hawaii vacation.

Step 5: Layout Your Photos How You Like Them for the Checkerboard

Once you get the photos cut out, you will need to start working with them to get them how you like them visually for your checkerboard.

You can organize your photos in many ways:

  • chronological order
  • how the colors look the best
  • darkest to lightest photo
  • by the people or pets in the photos
  • there is no wrong order!

Ideas for getting the laid out perfectly:

  • Lay them out with the fabric pieces so you can see how they look.
  • Lay them out on a flat piece of fabric if you haven’t cut it out yet.
  • Take a picture with your phone and hold it back a little from you so you can see how the colors pop from a camera’s point of view.

Step 6: Layout Checkerboard On Board By Machine

I have learned the hard way to layout out my pieces on a wool mat, board, foam core board, cardboard, or anything that will fit by my machine. I want to be able to check the direction and layout after EVERY step to assure I haven’t sewn it together wrong before it gets too far along!

EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I sew a piece together I lay it back down in my layout to make sure it is still directionally correct and in the correct sequence. It is shocking how quickly something gets out of place! At least for my little mind it is, LOL!

Step 7: Sew Together the Horizontal Rows First

You are going to begin by sewing all the horizontal rows together first.

Make sure to press the seams toward the fabric. This lets your photo block lay nice and flat.

And remember, NEVER touch your iron to your Photo Quilt Blocks directly!

Now you are going to sew your rows together. Because you have pressed all your seams toward the fabric, you seams should nest nicely!

When you start sewing the rows together, press the row seams OPEN.

Repeat this for the other side of your checkerboard.

Step 8: Sew Together the Two Halves of the Checkerboard

You will want the two halves of the checkerboard facing the opposite directions. That way each person looks at their half of the checkerboard with the photos right side up to them!

Step 9: Add a Border to the Checkerboard

We are now going to cut 1 1/2 inch strips on the straight of grain to make a border around the checkerboard. You will need two strips that are 25 inches long, and two strips that are 28 inches long. After you sew them on, you can trim them down to match the edges of your checkerboard. Sew the 25 inch strips on the sides first, and then sew the 28 inch strips on the top and bottom.

Here is what your checkerboard will look like when you have all the borders on:

Step 10: Fuse Batting To Your Checkerboard

Now we are going to fuse Hobbs Heirloom double sided fusible batting to your checkerboard.

I like this because you fuse the front of your checkerboard to one side and the backing to the other side and then you have no shifting while you are quilting your checkerboard! It’s amazing! It comes in many different sizes. I order the queen size, and then just cut it to size for my tiny projects such as this one!

Fuse the batting to the checkerboard, making sure to cover it with a piece of cotton fabric. Iron on the top side of the checkerboard with the batting underneath. Only hold your iron over each section about 5 seconds on the wool setting. ***Remember*** that this fabric is printed using sublimation. So too much heat for too long will cause the ink to start gassing out of your fabric.

Next , you are going to trim the batting down to the same size as your checkerboard on all edges.

Step 11: Fuse the Checkerboard and Batting to the Backing

Now that your checkerboard is fused to the batting, we are going to fuse the other side of the batting to the backing.

Cut your backing 2 inches bigger on all sides. The measurements should be about 28 1/2- 29 inches square.

Now flip your checkerboard over, and fuse in the same manner as the top pressing on the backing fabric. 5-7 seconds on wool setting.

Step 12: Choosing Thread to Quilt Your Checkerboard

You are now going to quilt your checkerboard.

I use Superior Clear Thread in the top (it’s my favorite), and matching thread to my backing for the bobbin. I used Mettler Polyester Thread in the bobbin

You can purchase the Superior Clear Thread in my shop here!

I like using the clear thread when I am stitching over the photo blocks. This way there are no interupting colors on the photos and it blends in no matter what the color.

Tips for sewing with clear thread:

  • Use a larger needle 90/14 (size 18 for a longarm needle) so that the thread doesn’t drag any when passing through the needle.
  • I don’t recommend this for use in the bobbin as it stretches and breaks easily.
  • Use a thread net over the spool to help keep it in line and stitching correctly

Step 13: Quilting Your Checkerboard

You can choose many ways to quilt your checkerboard. I chose to stitch in the ditch to accent the squares the checkers would be sitting on.

I chose to stitch in the ditch, which means I just stitch in the seams between the blocks. I also made my stitch length a little longer from 2.5 up to 3.0. You will know when you start stitching if you need to adjust your stitch length. It will drag if the stitch length is too short.

Quilt your entire checkerboard as desired and then we’ll move on to the next step!

Step 14: Binding Your Quilt

In this tutorial I am going to walk you through how to do a self binding on this quilt.

I have another tutorial here, that walks you through adding a binding around the edges as a separate piece. You can take a look and see which method you would prefer!

First, on the wrong side where there are no photos or clear thread, press your quilt and get it nice and flat.

Now, we are going to trim the backing fabric down to 1 INCH from the edge of the checkerboard.

Next, we are going to start folding and creating the self binding!

Fold over so the edge of the backing is just barely to the edge of the checkerboard.

Do this along one whole side.

Now flip the fold of the backing up over the edge of the checkerboard forming the binding.

Pin binding in place easing in any of the fullness.

Now, how to turn a corner! This one just had to be a video!

Let’s get pinned up and ready to go to the sewing machine!

Next, I am going to show you how to “ease in” the fullness of the binding.

Step 15: Creating the Checker Pieces

Supplies you will need:

  • Mason jar lids (regular size). These need to be the one-piece lids. You will need 12 of one color and 12 of another. I spray painted mine, but after doing so, the next time I will choose metal lids of different colors so I don’t have to spend the time painting and fixing paint chips!
  • Regular Mouth Canning Jar lids – these are what you are going to wrap the photo around. I actually dug all the old ones out of my cupboard and used them up and saved my new ones for food!
  • Needle, thread, scissors, pencil, double-sided tape ( I LOVE this Scortape), mason jar lid, and photo block.

The below video is going to show you how to create your photo inserts for your checkers!

Now let’s assemble our checkers!


Tools you need:

  • thread, needles, double-sided tape
  • hot glue gun


Lori McCroskey is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to quilts, projects, and gifts created with photos printed on fabric. She also has a business where you can have her print your photos on fabric for you! Inspired by her love for sewing, scrapbooking, and family, Lori has a passion for capturing memories in useable gifts, quilts, and crafts that get your photos off your phone, out of the album, freed from a frame, and into memorable keepsakes that your friends and family will treasure. Learn more about Lori here!

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