Saturday, February 7, 2015

Quickly Framing Stitchery

I am an avid cross-stitcher. I learned how from a friend in my early 20s and have enjoyed it ever since. It's my therapy, it keeps my hands busy and my mind alert.

During my parenting years, it was often the only thing I did that stayed done without instantly unraveling, getting dirty, getting hungry, etc., so it gave me great satisfaction to put in that final crossed stitch and know that not only did I do that, but ten years later, it would still be there as I left it.

In addition, working the needle is often my way of taking notes when I'm listening to something, because it keeps me just focused enough to not drift off into other thoughts (or to sleep) instead of paying attention.

I tend to be a tactile learner, so getting my hands involved, even when the teaching method is lecture, helps me learn and retain information.

And of course, the best thing about doing needlework is that it connects me to our ancestors through an ancient skill that is useful as art, and as a way of personalizing functional items. In many cases, needlework was the only recording of the lives of generations of women over the centuries.


Take how much I love to stitch, multiply it by 100, and that's how much I am intimidated about finishing projects. Framing, sewing them into completed works - I am always so afraid I'll mess it up and ruin all my lovely stitching.

Professional framing is a wonderful option - but very expensive (as it should be - they're making sure the fiber art passes the test of time). I'm happy to do so when I can afford it, but I stitch more than I can afford to have framed. So, unless I just want to stow all my needlework away in a bag forever, I occasionally need to get past my fear and get it done myself.

This past weekend, I participated in a gathering that included a small gallery viewing of various types of artwork from the attendees, and I had a finished piece I wanted to share - which meant I had to frame it, and frame it fast.

First let me mention a bit about this piece - the design is from Ink Circles, straight out the creative and prolific mind of Tracy Horner.  For the last couple years, she'd been offering a monthly subscription "Roll Your Own" mandala series and this was the first in the set.  The idea of these is that she sets up the outlines, and works out how the shade differences ought to work within the color areas.  But the stitcher gets to 'roll their own' and decide what those colors might be.  Throughout the whole thing, Tracy has been so helpful and supportive of all the stitchers, showing them graphically what their color schemes would look like with the finished mandalas.

While this series is no longer available as a subscription, she has begun publishing them as print charts.  This design is found at your local stitchery shop or online here:  Ink Circles Roll-Your-Own Mandala Set #3.

My colors were chosen to loosely evoke peacock shades, and I was so happy with how it turned out!

So - back to my dilemma!  I needed to get this framed quickly for display, but I also was not entirely sure if I wanted it framed permanently - I have this very ambitious idea of getting the series of these stitched up and then used as quilt panels.  Someday, far far from now. Maybe.

Commitment anxiety!

So this is what I did to frame it in such a way that it could later be removed from the frame and used differently.

What I used:

Finished stitchery, cleaned and ironed

1 square 8"x8" frame from AC Moore

1 8"x10" adhesive-backed mounting board (I used Pres-On Self Stick)

a 'guillotine' style cutter (I have the Fiskar's trimmer)

a flat surface to work on

A word about selecting frames:  

If you're not purchasing a frame intended for needlework, you need to make sure the one you select will work.  Those with sliding backs tend not to, as your needlework will be more bulky than a photograph.  That leaves those that have prongs on the back that bend over to close it - keeping in mind that it will be a little thicker, make sure those prongs are long enough and pliable enough to bend even if the backing is in a slightly different place. This also means that you want to make sure that the backing isn't already flush with the back of the frame, or it will bump out once you're done.

I was very happy with this model - the displayed item is held flush with the front, so there's a lot of space in the back, and getting my stitchery in was easy with the prongs.  I think it cost me about $6.

Discard the glass - needlework wants to be free!  With these types of frames particularly, the glass would be flush against the stitchery and squish down the fibers.  Also, even if it's 'no-glare' glass, you'd lose a lot of the vibrancy of color and texture if you hid it behind glass.  So carefully put that into your recycle bin, and then let's move on.

Because my piece is a square, I needed to cut down a piece of adhesive backed mounting to fit.  They come in several standard sizes, though, so if you're framing into a 5"x7", 8"x10", 9"x12", or 11"x14", you can skip this whole step!

Otherwise, you've got to cut the mounting board to fit.  It is thick and sturdy, so you want a good box cutter or a handled "guillotine" trimmer (which is what I use) to do it.

I used the backing of the frame to ensure size, lined it up on the cutter and then carefully chopped it to size, holding firm to it so it didn't shift.

I then had to slightly trim it a little more so keep that in mind - it has to fit into the frame, so it needs to be a tiny bit smaller than that backing in order to account for the fabric. (oops - this is why this always stresses me out!)

Once it's sized right, the next step is to peel the paper off the adhesive side of the mounting board and then carefully set the needlework onto the sticky side so that it is centered.  The adhesive is light, so if you don't get it right, you can pick it up and move it again. (which also allows you to take it out again later if, like me, you have commitment issues)

Now here is where I couldn't get a picture because I don't have enough hands - once it's on the mounting board, put it into the frame and check how it looks.  If it's off-center, take it out and do it again.

Once it's where you want it, leave it in the frame, turn it over, and neatly fold up the overhanging fabric.  I like to start by turning in the corners (like you're folding over the corner of a book page), and then turning in the sides.

If you need to, you can use a bit of tape to hold the edges down - attach as little of the fabric as possible, as this may require losing that portion if you ever take this out to do something else with.  You're just keeping it secured while you put the backing on the frame - after that, the frame will hold it together.

Once it's in, put the backing on, push those prongs down to secure it, and you're done - it's ready to hang!

One last fun thing about these mandalas - they look just as good hanging on the diagonal as they do hanging as a square!


  1. This is a great idea. I've framed a few things for myself but always struggled with getting just the way I liked. I like this way - much better than mine. Thanks for sharing.

  2. What a beautiful project and very helpful instructions, too. Thanks, Lynda!

  3. Very nice tutorial on Framing a beautiful piece of art. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop! I hope you’ll join us again next week!

    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

  4. This turned out great! Wonderful tutorial!

  5. I used to cross-stitch all the time and produced some lovely pieces which I got professionally framed. I had to stop when I injured my elbow but one day I'm going to start stitching again so I'm keeping your post for then. Thank you.

  6. What a beautiful cross stitch! I think I like it hung on the diagonal -- gives it that extra bit of interest! I'm a cross stitcher too, and the framing is always the scary part! You've given some great tips :)

  7. Beautiful mandala! And I love it hung on the diagonal--it really pops that way! Thank you for sharing your tutorial with us at Merry Monday!

  8. Lynda, this looks beautiful framed! I actually would have less anxiety about framing it than pillowing it since spills and dirt can ruin your hard work so easily (and I don't know any other alternatives come to think of it...). Thank you for linking up to the Art of Home-Making Mondays this week!

  9. I feel exactly as you do about finishing a piece. I love the handcrafting, but to actually frame the thing, yuk! Your tutorial is great, and I may have to use it some day! I love the colors your chose for your mandala. The finished result is breathtaking. Nice job! Smiles, Linda at Paper Seedlings

  10. Hi Lynda...It has been so long since I cross stitched. I used to be totally addicted. I think I must have gotten less addicted as my littles grew into bigs. Then there was the need to create things they could use and wear, so my love of knitting and crocheting began. As well as sewing. But, now, I think it's time to revisit my old love. Thanks for this great tutorial on framing the pieces I have yet to frame!-Sue

  11. This is such a great! I really love the pattern! Thanks so much for Linking up for the Best of the Blogosphere!

  12. Hello beautiful! This looks so amazing. Pinned and tweeted. Thank you for being a part of our party and we hope to see you on Monday at 7 pm. We can't wait to party with you! Happy Valentines' Day! Lou Lou Girls

  13. What beautiful needlework! I haven't tried this type of craft before but can appreciate the effort that goes into it. It never occurred to me that choosing the right type of frame is important when you want to display your work for the world to see but it makes sense. Out of curiosity, what do you do with the glass? Thanks for linking up at Mum-bo Monday

  14. What a lovely piece of needlework! Thanks for this great tutorial! Your frame really helps show off the beauty of this piece! Thanks for sharing at Talented Tuesdays!

  15. Beautiful needle work and the framing is great! Thanks for sharing it with SYC.

  16. Beautiful cross stitch! I just saw another cross stitch project this morning and it got me thinking I should pick it back up...thanks for the tutorial! Over The Apple Tree

  17. What a brilliant idea! Thanks for linking up to Funtastic Friday. Hope to see you again this week.

  18. It came out nice. I had some embroidery professionally framed - once. It was too expensive to do again, though, so happy to find this and see it isn't that hard!

  19. Nice job! Thanks for sharing. I, too, am always wary of "finishing" my finished stitchery projects. And I do have a pile of them in a drawer :) Good for you for getting it done!