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Cross stitch ... life ... art

Framing needlework with fabric
June 22nd, 2015

I finished stitching my red alphabet about 5 years ago, and almost that long ago I bought the supplies for finishing it as a wall hanging, but only recently actually finished it. It came out pretty well. It’s not as flat as it ought to be and I hope some additional pressing will fix that. I had intended to write a tutorial on how to do this (not that the way I did it is the only way) but some things went wrong along the way that I can’t explain. Still, I can give you some pointers.

The first thing I did was fuse a sheet of fairly stiff Pellon to the back of the stitching. I had debated about whether I wanted to do this, but reasoned that if I decided it needed to come off, I could get it off again. Now I think that was the right choice because it will keep the stitching from sagging from its own weight. It was too big to block (on anything I had available) so I just went ahead and fused it. It didn’t come out 100% rectangular which made trimming the margins so they were all the same size tricky. I wanted to trim it so there was a 2″ border all the way around but because it was a little distorted in places, I couldn’t just measure 2″ from the edge of the stitching. I had to make marks at various places along the stitching and then draw a line that went through most of them. (I would have liked a larger border but the designer was seriously confused about how big each block would be and once I figured out what the real size would be, there wasn’t as much extra fabric as I had intended.)

In retrospect, I think I should have cut a paper pattern the size of the stitching, pinned it to the front of the fabric, and made sure that the edges and corners of pattern and stitching were aligned with each other, then fused it.

Next, I basted a piece of the backing/frame material (red and white ticking) to the back.

I decided to use 1/2″ seams to make calculating sizes easier. I chose 2″ for the frame width, which means, allowing for seams and the back of the frame, that the pattern pieces for the frame need to be 5″ wide. The frame pieces were shaped like this:

The end points should be right angles. The long side should be the same length as the side of the fabric (edge to edge). I folded the pattern in half to find the center and aligned the center with a line on the fabric. (It would be easier to use plain fabric. If you are stitching a cross-stitched picture, it would look better than patterned fabric anyway.)

To stitch the frame to a side, start 1/2″ away from the edge (or whatever you are using for the seam allowance) and end 1/2″ from the other edge. The seam allowances need to be free to make the miter. Be careful, when attaching an adjacent piece of the frame, not to stitch past the point where the stitching on the first piece ends. The 3 seams at each corner (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal) have to just meet. It’s better to have them not quite meet and fill in the hole by hand than have any of them cross. Only stitch from the corner close to the needlework to 1/2″ away from the point.

Now press the frame away from the stitching. Press under the seam allowances on the back, and fold each frame piece in half and press. For some reason I haven’t worked out, the back was too big! I had to trim the ends of the frame. I pressed under the seam allowances on the diagonals, whipstitched the edges of the frame to the back just over the seam line, and then stitched the diagonal seams at the corners.

I cut 2 4″ squares of the ticking, turned under opposite sides, and folded them in half and stitched the ends together to make tubes. I turned them inside out and fused them to the back corners of the stitching. It would have been better to make 3 (or even a continuous pocket) and to attach them to the top of the frame. Since they’re only fused, that’s easily corrected. You might want a rod at the bottom too to make it hang straight, and maybe attach a couple of curtain weights.

The fact that the lines in the ticking meet almost perfectly at the corners, is, I believe, dumb luck. Or “miracle” might be a better word. I think it is just an artifact of the size of the fabric and the spacing of the lines. I did envision that happening, but I don’t think I had any right to expect it.

I may make a small model and try to figure out my mistakes so that I can write a tutorial. I realize that this description is too vague for anyone but a pretty experienced sewer to be able to follow. I do like the “frameyness” of it with the mitered corners and the supplies were only about $10 instead of $x00 for having it professionally framed.

Another way you could do this would be to finish the needlework by itself, without a frame, and then make a backing piece as a separate piece and then join them. Get a piece of backing material for your stitching, and put the right sides together. Stitch just past your cross stitching on 3 sides, trim the seams, turn it right side out and press. Hand-finish the 4th side. Now do something similar with two pieces of framing/backing material to make a separate, larger, rectangular piece. Finally, attach the stitching to the larger frame piece. Or rather than sewing a backing to the cross stitch, you could just turn the edges under and then fuse it to your frame piece. No mitering, no patterns needed, and less sensitive to miscalculations. Just center the stitching piece on the underneath piece.

8 Responses to “Framing needlework with fabric”
  1. From Les Bell
    8 years, 12 months ago

    Fantastic! You did an excellent job!

  2. From Christine
    8 years, 11 months ago

    That is stunning work! Well done!

  3. From Karen
    8 years, 11 months ago

    WONDERFULLY DONE! I am still amazed at this HUGE project! Great finishing, your coordinating fabric is perfect!

  4. From TgRobinon
    8 years, 11 months ago

    Thanks for posting :-)

  5. From leah
    8 years, 11 months ago

    I love the pattern, it’s gorgeous! Where did you get it?

    See the reply to Cathy S.

  6. From Evelyn
    8 years, 11 months ago

    Please don’t consider this a criticism, it’s gorgeous! Magnificent. So I have been sitting here looking at the View of Delft for about a year and not knowing what to do with it. The only cleaner I would trust with washing it has retired at the age of 96. I’m 70 and so some of my earliest work goes back 40+ years and I can tell the difference in the linen from the stains from perspiration over that time. I didn’t wash the pieces because they looked clean to me. They were not. And I always got up to stretch and wash/rinse my hands meticulously. I was a traditional stitcher as well as a quilter, but now it’s all about SQ. Still, my previous lives could come in handy. For one, stitchers on non-evenweaves, as well as aida and linen, typically put the piece face down and lay a museum-quality archival base the size of the finished piece to frame on top of it, fold the edges of the front to the back, then lace carefully back and forth from the center of the horizontals out slowly to the sizes and the same with the vertical sides. You can then drop the laced piece into a less expensive or repurposed frame or one of those metal frame sets. If you can’t get that kind of base in museum-quality materials, fusing is probably best and you can still lace the embroidered piece together over that, protecting it from the base. The fusing should be a little larger than the base so that it wraps around to the back, and the embroidered fabric even larger. As a quilter I know that you’ve measured properly at the middles of each side and are bringing the ends of the sides to that measurement, but stripes, wowie. I can’t miter borders and I doubt it was beginner’s luck on your part. More like genius. Your way of mitering corners of the borders is something I’ve never seen before but I may try it if I ever finish any of the dozens of quilt tops I am neglecting. But I wouldn’t do it even on fairly heavy unstriped cloth, because I’m not good at it. The slight bowing out at the corners of the border bothers me because quilters learn to see these things at great distances; and I would probably try backing the borders with the same weight of fusing. The bowing at the bottom center bothers me because I worry that the weight of the piece is pulling down the ground fabric. So I would definitely put another rod in the bottom and use a rod pocket that goes from side to side on both top and bottom. I think weights would stretch it. Another trick quilters know about is Magic Sizing which is a trade-marked spray-on non-starch stiffener which coincidentally will bring things into square as you are ironing it dry. I would completely cover the embroidered center to try it. It doesn’t scorch, but if you have never used it, try it out on various fabrics including some of the one you intend to use for the border. It can often correct small wavy places and you can tug the fabric into shape and hit it again till it behaves. I can’t be responsible for what happens to you, I’m having enough trouble being responsible for myself. There are people who will lace your piece professionally. It can cost as much as the framing. Sorry so long-winded.

    Thanks for all your constructive comments. It’s very helpful. I do plan to work more on this and hope to resolve all the issues.

  7. From Sue M.
    8 years, 11 months ago

    I love this and I appreciate your sharing your finishing process. I have the SQ pattern The Star of Bethlehem by Edward Burr-Jones in my “to do” stack and plan on finishing it like a tapestry instead of framing it. The suggestions you’ve made will be helpful when I get to that point. Thanks!

  8. From Cathy S
    8 years, 11 months ago

    This pattern is absolutely gorgeous. I know you said you finished this several years ago but do you remember where you got it from as I’m wondering if it might perhaps still be available. Thanks

    It was designed by Dessins DHC and I got it through the online needlework show. They still have a website but there isn’t anything there but an email address. They didn’t respond to me but they might to you. The only name for the pattern seems to be “Black and White” (it was supposed to be done on black aida). They used to sell them as individual letters.

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