Thanks for the suggestions - i'll try them out and let you know how I get on
some time ago i cross stitched a noah's ark design for my niece, it had so many colours it was very difficult to choose the frame colour...
i ended up painting the frame white and when it dried, painted over it with blue. let that dry and rubbed through the blue layer to expose the white in places, giving it a weathered look. i then painted chipboard animals in bright colours to match the design and glued them to the frame in various spots.
took extra time, but i'm still pleased with how it looks 5 years later!