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DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag. Include a love note or secret message on the back! - from All for the Memories

This fun DIY project works for kids or adults. Using any photo, craft sticks, Mod Podge and a craft knife you can create a unique personalized puzzle. Recycling a canvas bag with a digital stamp, freezer paper and fabric ink makes your puzzle a perfect keepsake!

To make the bag you can use a regular stamp or in my case I wanted a larger version of the stamp so I used the digital file from Studio Calico’s monthly kit to create a cut file for the Silhouette and cut it out onto freezer paper (smooth side down). If you don’t have a die cutting machine you can just print out the digital stamp and use as a template to cut it out of freezer paper by hand using a craft knife.

Once your stamp/image is cut out of the freezer paper (smooth side down) prepare your storage bag (this is a canvas bag that a Studio Calico add-on came in) by putting a piece of cardboard on the inside so the paint doesn’t go all the way through.

Iron the freezer paper stencil onto the bag with the steam setting OFF.

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

Using a blot brush blot (don’t use strokes) the paint over the stencil. This will help ink from seeping underneath the stencil. A very textured fabric like this one will likely have some ink link through but it creates sort of a fun stamped look.

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

Slowly peel off the freezer paper to reveal your finished bag! Let dry and iron over the top to seal the paint. If you don’t want to mess with the digital stamp and cutting, just use fabric markers, sew on a paper label, or use fabric paint with foam alphabet stamps (make it work with what you have!)

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

For the puzzle – print out a favorite photo onto regular paper and line up craft sticks over the top to see how many you’ll need.

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

Paint the back of the photo with a thin coat of the Mod Podge (or your favorite adhesive).

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

Line up the craft sticks over the back of the photo (you can re-apply if needed). If you want to be exact you can use a guide like an old book or rulers to keep the sticks in line.

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

Turn over and apply a coat of the Mod Podge over the top of the photo. *This step is optional, if you’re using an inkjet print you may get some bleeding/smearing so apply a clear acrylic sealer beforehand. I covered mine just fine without but used a very thin coat with a light hand. I did this just to make sure the paper was adhered well to the sticks so a spray sealer would work as well.

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

If you want, you can add a secret note on the back!

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

Next, you’ll need to separate the craft sticks. Using a craft knife carefully cut the photo in between each stick (make sure your knife is sharp unlike mine was)

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

You may need to coat each individual stick with another coat of the Mod Podge to be sure that the entire stick is coated for longevity.

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

Add your puzzle to your bag and you have a fun, personalized gift for your Valentine! Don’t want to mess with making your own bag? Check out this post that includes a free printable topper!

DIY Photo puzzle with printable tag! DIY Photo puzzle with printable tag!

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories

DIY Valentine photo puzzle and storage bag from All for the Memories


Allison Waken is the founder, writer, photographer, and content creator of All for the Memories and All for the Boys.


    • I didn’t see where there was an answer to what kind of paper to put the photo on? A photo print or regular paper?

      • AllisonWaken

        I used regular paper but some people have had issues when using Mod Podge I think it depends on the type of printer maybe? Regular paper is easier to trim and is what I used here!

  1. Kim stewart

    This is so fun! I might make one for my son on Valentines day!

  2. Can I use your pictures for the school newspaper? I’ll be sure to credit you.

    • Allison Waken

      Hi Jennifer! Yes you many, thanks for asking!


  3. This is so adorable! I’ve been looking for ideas on what to do for a 7 year old and a 3 year old. I’ll be sending them a Valentine’s package since I live far away and was wondering what to give besides homemade heart brownies. This is it!! Thank you!

    • Allison Waken

      I actually sized my photo to just fit the width of the craft sticks so I made it 4" wide

  4. Robinson2404

    I think it was a 4×6. But anywho I totally going to copy. I’ll make sure to let people know to go on your blog !!! Great , super idea!!!!

  5. rachie12345

    Love it!! Definitely doing this for valentines day!!!

  6. I work at a learning center for intellectually disabled adults. It’s so nice to be able to find a project that will translate nicely for them. Any other projects that you could recommend?

  7. This is a cute craft that little ones can have fun putting together. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Catherine

    Love this! Thank you for the idea. My daughter looooves two of her cousins so much that she calls them her "sisters". However, these cousins both live far away. For their birthdays, we are making these puzzles and mailing them. I decided to take it a step further and after gluing/cutting the puzzle the first time, I then glued a second photo to the BACK side of the popsicle sticks and Mod Podge’d again and cut out again. You can either leave it as is (which would be a great challenge for an older child), or you can give some distinguishing mark on the sticks so that you can tell one side from the other. I chose to paint the tips of the popsicle sticks black — just for the front photo. So her cousins first have to flip the pieces to black side or plain wood side, and then put it together. Just something extra.

    • Catherine

      BTW – I used 9 of the fatter popsicle sticks — which was just about perfect for a 5×7 photo. Just a little extra to trim off from the length.

  9. jeanniebliss

    what a fantastically brilliant and unusual idea
    I am a grannie but going to do it this year
    as funds are short but this does fascinate me
    so thank you thank love Jeannie bliss that is me

  10. Hi! I don’t understand the part on how to make the ‘Love you to pieces’ Like can you elaborate clearer for me? I may lack some resources needed to do this too :'(

  11. Hi Allison! I love this project idea! So fun and creative! Do you mind if I share a link to this on my blog? With credits to you, of course.


    • AllisonWaken

      Please do! Thanks for asking!

  12. Such a cool idea! Thank you! This would make a nice personable gift for any holiday or birthday! You show how when heads get together we can share ideas that others haven’t thought of ! Thanx for sharing!!!

  13. Maureen Murphy

    What a very cute and inexpensive idea. Thank you so very much!

  14. Thank you so much Allison, I am always looking for something my 5yr old granddaughter can do, to give her mommy and this is just perfect. She is also learning to sew, so she will have a blast making the little bag also.

  15. Love this!!!! thank you for sharing such a beautiful idea.

  16. thanks! for the “how to” on your craft! So many on Pinterest show pictures but no instructions.

  17. Michelle

    My 3rd grade teacher had us do this, but with math problems. Looks like it’s still a hit even way after the 70’s.

  18. I’m sad about this project. I just tried it. You must print the photo on a laser jet printer – not ink jet. Also, the mod podge just stays white when you paint it on the picture! If you are meant to dilute it, the directions on this post, nor the Mod Podge directions say so. The idea is great, but the directions could have been better. I’m pretty frustrated as I was very excited about doing this and now I’m sitting here looking at a picture that looks like it’s been covered in white paint. I have no idea how to salvage this project.

    • AllisonWaken

      The Mod Podge should definitely not stay white – they have different formulas so not sure what happened there! Here is some great info on using mod podge on all sorts of surfaces http://modpodgerocksblog.com/learn-how-to-mod-podge I did use mine on an inkjet print, but very lightly and with a very light coat. Sorry it didn’t work out of you!

      Mod Podge does go on a little white but should dry nice and clear.

  19. Lovely idea which id love to try with my twin boys but what is freezer paper? Many thanks xx

    • AllisonWaken

      It’s made to freeze items in and not stick, but it slightly adheres to fabric when you heat it up making it a good surface to create a stencil out of. It’s not needed here though, you could make the words with pre-made stencils, stamps or even just hand write (or paint) it.

    • AllisonWaken

      It would be a little thicker on the sticks but should work just fine