NOTE: I have edited this post after considering the viewpoint of several readers. The method I describe here is not museum quality or conservation quality work.
Fortunately, the easy way is also the way many professional framers mount needlework.
The first step is to prepare your stitched project for framing. Stitch basting lines at each corner to make it easy to get your work evenly spaced. I know. NO ONE likes to baste. I promise you that it will save time in the end. Before I start, I have a good idea of how much space I’ll need to allow on each side. I stitch that length plus a little more. This example is on linen but I do it on Aida, too. Leave a tail so you can pull it out when you’re all done. In this photo, the tails are way-y-y-y too short. Don’t do what I did.
Next, you’ll want to wash and iron your project. Unless you have a good reason not to or just don’t want to. I always do but I’m not in charge of you nor I am the stitching police.
For many people the next step is blocking the needlework. Canvas work requires blocking. Needlework on linen, aida, and other evenweave fabrics does not require blocking. There are many needlepoint blogs for you folks who work on canvas. I am not an expert in this area. Actually, I’m not the expert in anything. I’m just opinionated.
I need only three things to mount needlework ready for framing. The finished stitchery, a piece of ⅜” thick white acid free foam core cut to size, and stainless steel straight pins.
As crafty and cheap as I am, I do not cut my own acid free foam core. I prefer not to have to store big sheets of it and for the life of me I cannot cut it square and true. I go to a frame shop and get them to do it. I went to Hobby Lobby to get a piece cut for this project for just a couple of bucks. Not counting what I spent in other departments.
You can get stainless steel pins at most fabric, hobby, and craft store. Make sure they are stainless steel so they will not rust. This is critically important. I love the little itty bitty half-inch ones but if you can’t find them, the regular one inch ones will do. They’re just a little more work.
Center the fabric over the board and use those basting lines it to get it right. Start at any corner and pin the fabric into the thickness of the foam core … not the front or the back. Pin about every inch to start with. We’ll go back and fill in once we know it’ centered. Do not push the pins in all the way in case you need to make an adjustment. I’ll be referring to this as the first corner.
Now, pin along one of the sides, watching the fabric fibers to get it straight. Tug the fabric so it is taut. That means it’s naturally tight and flat … not pulled so tight it’s stretched beyond it’s natural weave. This is why you don’t need to block your work, by the way.
Keep a watch on the second corner as you are approaching it. If it seems you are not going to hit it just right, stop and un-pin and start over, making whatever adjustment you need to make.
If you made it to the second corner with one side pinned in place, you’re half way to making sure it’s centered. You won’t know for sure until you get to the third corner. If the basting threads are even at the third corner, you’re good to go the rest of the way. If not, un-pin and go back to the first corner.
The placement does not have to be quite so exacting if you are using a mat. Getting the fabric straight does matter so do be careful with that. I always have the acid free mounting board cut an inch or so wider than the mat opening but smaller than the frame. I’ll show you how my system works in the next post.
But if you are not using a mat, make sure the fabric is absolutely centered within a thread. Trust me, it will show if it’s not as close as that.
Once you get to the third corner, you’re halfway done! Now I go back and add pins, giving a little tug if needed so it’s exactly right. I pull the basting threads out once I am sure I don’t need them. See how the place where the basting was is slightly visible? I run my unpolished nail over them to get the fibers back in line. A new, unused eraser also works. (Did you know an eraser will also put threads back in place when you have to rip out stitches?)
The last step is to secure the corners to the back of the acid free foam core just to keep it out of the way. I use a few more of the stainless steel straight pins, pinning fabric to fabric, not pushing the pins into the mounting board.
Each time you mount a piece of needlework, it will get easier and easier. Besides saving money, you have the benefit of knowing it’s done right and you save some time at the framer’s since you’ll be bringing it to them ready to go!
As stated at the beginning of this post, a conservationist framer would not work in this fashion. At issue is the nature of the filling used in most foam core. Research has shown that it may cause the needlework to yellow around the edges over time. In my personal experience, I have yet to find this to be true. In the future, I will be researching various brands of foam core. Some appear to be better than others.
My intent here is to share an affordable and attainable method to safely mount your needlework. It saddens me when needleworkers speak of finished pieces stored in a box or drawer because framing is financially out of reach. I strive to find a way to get those pieces out of storage and onto the wall to be happily displayed.
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