Monday, July 27, 2015

Framing Needlework Tutorial, part one - Picking the Frame

I've had requests for information on how I do my own framing.  Hopefully, I will have detailed enough information in this tutorial to help you frame something yourself.

I am not an expert!  I have read tip and tricks from many reliable sources but am completely self-taught on framing needlework.  I have had multiple projects that I've framed win first place and better ribbons at our local fair.  Proper framing is one of the criteria.

Typically, once I've finished a project the first step is to choose my frame and/or mat(s).  I do this before I wash my piece so that I am handling it less after it is clean.

I get all my frames, mats, foamcore, acrylic (instead of glass) and hanging hardware from  You can get frame and mat samples from them for a small fee if you want a corner sample, or for free if you're fine with just a small side section.  I've always gotten any samples I need added in with an existing order.  I would assume that you would have to pay for the shipping if you are just getting samples.

No, I'm not affiliated with  I'm just a very happy customer.

Measuring your piece

First, I needed to measure the actual stitched area of my piece.  Unless it is something with straight sides, I will have to determine the widest and/or tallest points of my stitching.  Unfortunately, there might be some stitches on one edge that don't line up directly with the stitches on the other edge, so I needed to make sure I had accounted for them all.

On this Santa, the sunflowers on the left and his sleeve on the right are the widest points of the stitching.  Using a quilter's ruler is great because of all the grid lines!  As you can see, the stitching is 3¼" wide.  Always round up to the next 1/8" if it's not an exact fraction of an inch.  For instance, something 3.4" should be rounded up to 3½".

Now this bit is important:  add at least ¼" to this dimension!  Traditional framing usually subtracts about a ¼" from the dimensions of what's being framed (prints) to hold it in place.  Needlework doesn't need to be held in place by the frame or mats because of the extra fabric around the edges that goes around your backing material - usually foamcore.  Personally, I usually add ½" - ¾' to give myself a bit of a fabric border between the stitching and the mat(s).

I didn't take a photo measuring the height of this Santa but overall it is 9 5/8" tall and 3¼' wide. You'll see my "signature" in a few of the following photos.  I did not include that in my measurements because I wanted it hidden behind the mats.  Why did I even sign it then?  So that long after I'm gone, if the frame is ever damaged or someone rescues it from obscurity, it will still be a "signed" piece.  There wasn't really a way to hide it within the design where it would still be visible, so I went this route.

Because this is so narrow, I had to round up to at least 4" for the width because that was the smallest size allowed by the frame company.  I ended up using the dimensions 4 1/8" x 10 3/8" as the size of the "image" I was framing.  Whatever amount you end up adding to the width, make sure you add the same amount to the height or you'll end up with a "unique" framing package!  If you want unique on purpose, go for it!

Choosing mat(s)

Whether you choose to use mats is a matter of personal preference.  Personally, I prefer.  At the very least, a single mat will keep your needlework and the acrylic from touching which is an absolute must!

The best rule of thumb I've heard for choosing a single mat's color is this:  choose the 3rd most predominant color in your artwork.  For a second, or even third mat, I don't know of a rule of thumb.  I choose another color in the artwork.  I don't have a formula for this, I just do a trial and error method.  This is where my mat samples come in.  The cover photo for this Santa had a white-ish and a dark red mat.  Since I liked that combo, that's where I started.  I grabbed a couple different red mats and put them on my piece to see which looked best.

In this instance, I preferred the darker one.  Now to see it with the white-ish mat:

The standard amount for offsetting mats is ¼" so I tried to stack them about that much apart for the visual inspection.  The two colors shown here are Maroon and Antique White.

Choosing a Frame

This is a bit rustic looking so I wanted a frame that was a tad rustic looking too.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos with the frame sample(s).  Basically, I would just leave the mats where they were in the previous photo and put the frame samples against the outside edge of my mats until I found the one that screamed, "Me!".  In this case, Wood Gold Cream (WX354) screamed the loudest.

If you have a dark wall, frames with a metallic finish are going to stand out well against your wall.  Try to avoid frames that match your wall because they will blend in too much and your entire piece won't "pop" like it deserves to.

If you are not using any mats, you will need spacers to keep a distance between your needlework and your acrylic/glass.

If you buy an "off the shelf" frame you are going to want to make sure that the area where the cross stitch goes is deep enough to accommodate your glass, mats, and fabric on foamcore.  Most stock frames are made for flat items like prints and photographs.  You would be checking the area in red:

Finishing Kits

Needlework should be mounted on foamcore.  Acid-free is, of course, the best option.

Acrylic or glass?  The main purpose of either is to protect your needlework from the "elements":  dust, pet hair, etc.  I go with acrylic mainly because it is what offers.  There are advantages:  it's lighter, less expensive, and more shatter resistant.  Yes, you can get acrylic that protects from UV.  Yes, you can get non-glare acrylic too.  Non-glare and UV Protective are not the same thing.  Non-glare is only what it says.  If you are using more than one mat, non-glare will cause your needlework to look blurry because of its distance from the stitching.

Hanging hardware.  After having used both sawtooth and wire options, I give wire hangers two thumbs up...or a high five, fist bump, whatever.  Wire is stronger and much more adjustable.  It also comes standard with most framing packages or at least it should. automatically includes it with any frame purchase.

Here's a photo of this Santa all framed:

Part two of this tutorial series will cover washing your project.

Happy Stitching!



Heather said...

Great tutorial I'll definitely be using this.

Elaine said...

Do you staple to the foam core, or lace? I always heard lacing was better. Of course, I never finish anything, so framing isn't usually an issue for me.

sew.darn.quilt said...

Thank you for this tutorial as well as your up coming washing tute. I have always been too nervous about submersing any stitching I've completed.

Leonore Winterer said...

Great tutorial!