How to build a craft show (or photo) backdrop with PVC pipe

The completed backdrop

This past November, my sister and I participated in our first ever craft show (which you can read about here). In preparation for the show, I read numerous articles about the importance of your craft show set up and display. I decided that I want to have a backdrop behind our table to help with branding and to help our table to stand out. After doing some research, I decided that the most cost-efficient way to get the look I wanted was to create a backdrop myself based on a pipe and drape system. Keep reading below for an overview of how to build a craft show (or photo) backdrop with PVC pipe.

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The frame (or pipe)

The design for this backdrop was based on the basic pipe and drape system that you see at many large events. You can purchase and rent these (like this one), but as this was for a craft fair, it seemed appropriate (and much more cost effective) to make our own. 

The first thing that I needed to determine for this project were the dimensions of the backdrop. We had reserved an eight-foot table at the craft fair and it was important to me that our backdrop did not intrude into the spaces of our neighboring vendors. So, I decided to make the backdrop approximately seven and a half feet wide. I say “approximately” because the 1” PVC pipe that I used has an actual outside diameter of 1.3 inches. 

My initial sketch (with the incorrect measurements for the vertical pieces)

Because the backdrop was going to be quite wide, I decided that it would be necessary to add a support in the middle of the structure. I sketched up my design and determined what items I would need to purchase to make it happen. At first I wasn’t sure how tall to make my backdrop, but based on the material I chose to use for the ‘drape’ (see below), I determined the appropriate height to be approximately seven feet. This height ended up being a good compromise between sturdiness and presence. Unfortunately, I misremembered the height I wanted and initially cut the pieces for a six-foot high frame. You can see my mistake in the photo of my sketch above. Each vertical piece should have been approximately three feet each (not 2.75 feet as indicated in my sketch). The listed 2.75 feet pieces would be ideal for a six foot backdrop.

Frame construction

Based on my design, I determined that I needed a total of six 10-foot pieces of PVC pipe. I chose 1” PVC pipe because it seemed like the best balance between sturdiness and weight/heaviness. I also purchased the appropriate connectors including elbows, tee sockets, and outlet elbows, all in the 1” size. Once I had all of the components, I cut the PVC pipe to size using a miter saw. A hand saw or band saw could also work for this purpose.

I ultimately determined that I needed eight pieces of PVC that were 3.5 feet long (the horizontal pieces) and eight pieces that were three feet long (the vertical pieces). As mentioned above, I mistakenly cut the vertical pieces to be only 2.75 feet long resulting in a six foot tall frame, so these had to be re-cut. Once I had all of the pieces cut to size, I was able to connect them using the connectors as I had sketched out in my design. One great advantage of this approach is that these pieces come apart so that the backdrop can be easily disassembled for transport and storage. 

The drape

Since our craft show display and merchandise featured upcycled materials, it only made sense that our drape would be made from second-hand materials as well. I purchased several curtains at local thrift stores to use for this project in whites and off-white shades. Most of the curtains I found were 84 inches long but included one additional curtain that was only 63-inches long. I decided to cut the curtains into six-inch strips to add texture and depth to the drape. 

The advantage to using curtains for this project is that each curtain already had a large hem sewn into the bottom. I had to rip out some side seams on the hems of some of the curtains but the others were already open allowing me to hang the curtains easily on my frame. I then slid the curtain strips onto the top portion of the frame in a somewhat random order and then re-connected the pieces. 

Many of the curtains I found were sheer. I generally like the look of the backdrop and think it would work nicely in most circumstances. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the craft show, we found that our booth was not against a wall but instead backed up to another vendor. Had I known this, I likely would have avoided the sheer curtain because you could see a lot of the color and movement from the other booth through our backdrop.

Summary

This backdrop was a huge hit at the craft fair. It very clearly distinguished our both and our brand and set us apart from other vendors. It was easy to build on-site and looked great. The seven foot height was also a good call. It allowed the banner to be hung high enough so that it was still mostly visible if we were standing in front of it. Many other vendors hung their banners or signage on the front of their tables and it was easily obscured by people viewing their merchandise.

However, because the frame is so lightweight, it is not particularly sturdy. I recommend using some weights on the base to add some stability. We used 12lb bags of rice as weights for our backdrop at the show. I made quick covers for them so that they didn’t detract from the look of the background and to make them a bit more resilient. I definitely didn’t want to accidentally poke a hole in a 12lb bag of rice and have to clean it up.

Materials used

For this project, you will need to head to the hardware or home store. To complete my project, I purchased the following items, but this could easily be adapted to different sizes as needed:

  1. Six 10’ pieces of 1” PVC pipe
  2. Five 1” PVC tee sockets
  3. Two 1” PVC side elbow outlets
  4. One 1” PVC cross tee
  5. Two 1” PVC elbows
  6. A bandsaw, miter saw, hand saw, or pipe cutter to cut the PVC pipe to size
  7. Tape measure
  8. Fabric for the drape (I used second-hand curtains from the thrift store)

In the end, the project was pretty easy and straight-forward. I also plan to use this as a photo backdrop for parties in the future and think it is a really versatile project. We got many compliments on it and we can easily switch out the ‘drape’ piece depending on the event. Similarly, we can cut additional pipe pieces to different sizes to adjust this backdrop to our needs while still using the same connectors and drape pieces.

The finished backdrop at the craft fair

Have you ever made a craft booth or party backdrop? What do you think of the finished product?

If you are looking for more crafty inspiration, check out my posts on easy fall window boxes or our storm door update.

I am so glad you visited us at Jack and Bax. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter (sign up available either on the right sidebar or at the bottom of the page). And please follow me on Instagram and Facebook so that you don’t miss any of my upcoming projects!

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