Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Home Framing: Lace Method Tutorial

In my still comparatively brief time in the blogging world I've seen literally hundreds of tutorials for 'finishing' embroidery and cross stitch pieces; pillows, scissor fobs, pincushions, bags and lots more. But very few avid stitchers frame their pieces. I've seen all sorts of reasons for it, the most common being it's to expensive to get a piece professionally framed and you can't achieve the same look at home. Not true!!! It's perfectly possible to achieve a nearly professional framed look, quickly and cheaply at home. So I thought I'd show you how with a piece I just framed as part of my brother's birthday present (I'm not sure how much he'll appreciate it, being at 18 year old male, but it suits the decor of his house and I'll get him something more stereotypically appropriate as well). This method works with any fabric piece, however works best with pieces stitched on aida or evenweave.

What you need: 

1. The piece you want to frame, cleaned and ironed. In my case it's DMC's Golden October Cocker Spaniel which I stitched just over a year ago and has been sitting in a drawer since. 
2. A store bought frame that will fit your piece. I took my embroidery to the store with me to figure out what size I need. The frame can really be as expensive or cheap as you like. Being a student on a limited budget, mine was decidedly middle of the range. 
3. One piece of mount board that will fit your frame and a backing piece for the frame - usually a store bought frame will include one of the above and I cut another out of a cardboard box simply by drawing around the first. You can also use fibrecore, thin plywood etc. [NOTE: As has since been noted by several commentators, acid-free mount board is definitely the best option here. I've never had any problems with other options, but with more experience since I originally put this post together, completely agree that it is the ideal!] 
4. Basic craft supplies: Needle, cotton thread, pins. 

Step One: 

Place the mount board onto the back your piece and position it squarely (or how you want the piece to be positioned in the frame). Check the front of the piece to make sure it's where you want it. 

Step Two: 

Ensure that the mount board and the piece of embroidery fit snugly into the frame, with any spacers you want to include (I wasn't using any for this piece). You may need to trim the mount board with a craft knife or scissors if the fabric used for your piece is extremely thick. 

Step Three: 

Once the piece is positioned how you want it, pull it tight and slide a pin through the fabric into the mount board in the middle of each side, leaving the excess fabric to overhang. I find it easier to do this embroidery side up, just to make sure the piece doesn't move out of position while I'm putting the pins in place!

Step Four: 

With the embroidery facing down, pin all the way down two opposing sides (it doesn't matter if you start lengthways or widthways). Make sure to slide the pins into the mount board rather than between the board and the fabric. I go for a pin about every 1cm - it's better to use to many than to few. When finished check the front to make sure the piece is still tight and well positioned. 

Step Five:

This is where the fun really begins. Get a long long (the longer the better) length of strong cotton thread. I used two strands, just for extra strength. Thread it onto a needle and tie a knot at the other end. Bring the cotton through the underside of the fabric overhang where your pinning starts, far enough in from the edge that it won't be affected by fraying. Feel free to trim the fabric if the amount of overhang is excessive, but an inch here is better than a cm. You can see where I've started in the top right corner of the photo above. Run it across the mount board and through the fabric at the other pinned edge. Start lacing back and forth, leaving about 1cm between each lace, as shown above, pulling tight as you go (but not tight enough to shift the fabric) so the lacing is taut like guitar strings. If you need a new length of thread, simply tie it securely into the current one before continuing. I've had people recommend all sorts of knots for making it look like one continuous thread, but honestly no one's ever going to see it and it's more important the knot is secure - so use whatever you feel comfortable will hold. 

Step 6:

Periodically as you go, stop lacing and go back to the beginning and pull each individual lace taut. You'd be surprised how much excess comes through - I did it about three times as I worked over the back, and each time pulled through around 5cm of excess thread. 

Step 7: 

Once you reach the end of the board, pull each individual lace taut once more, then weave or tie in the end of the thread. Again it doesn't matter how you do this so long as its secure. Don't worry if your lacing isn't entirely even, so long as you don't have gigantic gaps on any side. 

Step Eight:

Remove the pins from your laced side and pin the remaining two. The next step is simply a matter of repeating the process over again. Be careful when lacing that you lace through both layers of fabric where the corners fold in. Also be careful that that the corner fabric doesn't overhang the mount board when laced - if it does you may need to trim it on a slant slightly at the edges.

Step Nine: 

Continue the process until the entire back is laced. As you can see here, it really doesn't matter if things are a little uneven - at one point I even forgot to bring the cotton across before lacing the next line and it didn't make any difference to the overall finish. 

Step Ten:

Remove the pins, flip your piece over and make sure your happy with the result! It's easy enough to cut out the lacing and start over if you're not, although obviously not preferable! 

Step Eleven: 
Place your laced piece into the frame, with any spacers your using. Place the back of the frame over of the laced piece to hold it in place and hide it all! 

And You're Done. . .
It really does look like it's been professionally framed. Only thing left to do is stick something on the back to say who the piece is for and who it was stitched and framed by. All up framing this piece took me about an hour and a half, although that was stopping often to take photos. And total cost? NZ $13.99 (got the frame on sale :P) and a few bits I already had lying around. Who says you can't frame your own embroidery pieces?!! 

That's all for now, I hope you've enjoyed my first attempt at a tutorial! 



  1. Wow, you did a fantastic job!

  2. This is the best way to frame a cross stitch work I've ever seen. Great job and tutorial. Maria (Italy)

  3. I linked to this page on my blog here:
    I hope you don't mind!

    1. No problem Sarah, thanks for letting me know!

  4. Wow you've made it seem possible. I have a ton of samplers to frame that I've been too chicken to try doing myself.

    Thank you so much for sharing and hope you drop in at my crafty blog. www.rubymurraysmusings.blogspot.ca

  5. Shared on my website aka blog :)

    1. http://christiescreation.webs.com/

    2. Thanks for letting me know Christie! And thanks for sharing!

  6. Gracias, por este tutorial sobre el enmarcado.

  7. Really great post, and the pictures were really helpful!

  8. Excellent! Attempting my first framing of my first cross stitch. Your step-by-step tutorial demystified the process and gave me the courage to do it myself. Thanks

  9. As a professional picture framer, I would like to comment that you should never use cardboard in any art project that you are framing because of the high acid content. It will deteriorate your art. Please use acid free foam core or 100% cotton rag board.

    1. Thanks - with several more years of experience than I had when I originally wrote this post, I completely agree and have added an edit accordingly!

  10. As another professional framer, please use acid free foam core or mat board. Cardboard is acidic and will ruin your beautiful work!
    Your lacing is excellent, and you did a great job! Acid free board isn't expensive, and it will make your needlework last a lifetime!

    1. Thanks - with several more years of experience than I had when I originally wrote this post, I completely agree and have added an edit accordingly!


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