How to Frame Your Cross Stitch
The safest way to beautifully display your finished cross stitch, embroidery or needlework projects is to put them in a frame.
Small designs also make beautiful gifts, and by framing it yourself you can keep the cost of the gift to a reasonable amount.
It is easy to make sure your work is treated carefully when you frame it yourself, ensuring there will be no problems in the years to come.
You don't want your finished masterpieces to hide away in a box or cupboard forever!
Problems with professional framing
Professional framing costs a lot of money, and there is no guarantee that they will actually take care of the fabric.
I have seen some very poor results:
- The fabric wasn't secured at all - the extra fabric hung down behind the frame.
- The fabric was cut and stapled - the tension frayed the fabric and the staples rusted.
- The fabric was glued to the foam-core board - the glue stained the fabric yellow within a short time, and could not be cleanly removed.
- Double sided tape was unevenly applied to the fabric, then stretched - the design was not positioned well, it left sticky residue on the fabric, and the tape could not be re-used.
- The mats used behind and in front of the fabric were not acid free - the fabric stained over time.
- Choose a frame the complements your design.
- Choose a neutral mat color for the mat next to the frame.
- For the mat next to the design, choose a color that matches one used in the cross stitch, or a lighter variation. You can use multiple neutral mat colors if you prefer.
- The width of the mat directly next to your design should be at least as wide as your frame. The width of the front mats should be slightly smaller, letting you see contrasting mat colors, if used.
- Use plain glass, and avoid non-reflective glass which can mute the colors and make the edges in a design appear blurry.
Buying a needlework frame
You need to ensure that your frame is deep enough to fit the following layers:
- glass, protecting from dust and smoke.
- 2-3 acid-free mats, protecting your fabric from the glass.
- your laced cross stitch on an acid-free foam-core mounting board.
- a sheet of acid-free paper, mat or foam-core board, protecting the back of the fabric.
- solid backing - some frames may have only bend-able, metal clips, others have a solid backing layer.
You can either buy a pre-made frame with glass, if you can find one that fits your design. Or you can have a custom-made frame assembled, and the glass cut to size.
Many framing shops and even some DIY warehouses have a wide variety of frames and mat colors.
I usually purchase custom-made frames with the glass cut to size for large and unusually shaped projects. I don't have the tools for frame and glass cutting!
For both custom and pre-made frames, I like to cut the front mats and the foam-core board myself. I can use the left-overs for smaller projects, or to provide extra space under the glass, protecting beaded needlework.
Preparing the needlework for framing
Make sure you have enough extra fabric around the design so it can be laced over a foam-core board before framing.
If there is not enough fabric to provide adequate tension, you may be able to carefully machine or hand sew extra fabric around the edges.
By cleaning, drying, ironing and stretching your completed cross stitch, it will be in the best condition for framing. Washing removes dirt and skin oils that remains on the surface after stitching.
Use a gentle, phosphate free soap, formulated for washing needlework, cross stitch, silk fabrics, and quilts.
Important: Test your threads and fabric before washing to make sure the colors do not run.
Washing and drying
- Gently wash your finished piece. Don't wring the fabric to dry it - gently roll it in a clean, white, fluffy towel.
- Lie the damp fabric flat to dry inside, away from sunlight. Alternatively, hang with pegs evenly spaced along the top edge.
Ironing and stretching
To avoid stains, make sure the towel, fabric and iron are completely clean before pressing.
- When completely dry, lay the cross stitch with the design side down on a clean, fluffy white towel. This will avoid compressing the design when it is ironed.
- Lay a white or cream-colored tea towel, muslin cloth, or piece of calico fabric on the back of the cross stitch, and iron on a low to medium heat setting.
- To remove stubborn creases, if your threads and fabrics are colorfast, you may be able to safely use steam while ironing. Stretch the fabric evenly while ironing to get rid of extra-stubborn creases.
Important: Allow the cross stitch to dry completely after ironing, flat and un-creased, for a few days before framing.
Preparing the frame and mats
Remove the glass from the frame before you begin.
You may like to place the front mats and frame over the design, so you can decide how wide to cut the mats - note these measurements as you make them.
- Cut the foam-core board to fit inside the frame, with a sharp knife. Don't make it a tight fit - the fabric will wrap around this board.
- Measure and cut the mats that will be placed in front of your cross stitch with a sharp knife. They should fit snugly in the frame.
Often, the inner edge of these mats are cut at a slight angle, as you can see in the photo.
- Cut the lowest mat (the one next to your design) so that it is wider that the mat above. You can then see the contrasting mat colors, if used.
If your design needs extra space to protect it from the glass, use narrow off-cuts to provide extra depth.
- Place the glass back in the frame, followed by the mats in order from the most narrow to the widest.
Mounting the needlework
To make the design stay flat and even, tension needs to be applied to the fabric.
Although it is popular and easy to apply, acid-free mounting tape can be difficult to remove, leaving a residue which may discolor over time.
I prefer to lace the back of the cross stitch - this is a damage-free and reversible process.
How to lace a cross stitch
- Center the cross stitch on the foam-core board with the design facing outwards, and pin it in place with sharp stainless steel pins. Start in the middle of each edge and pin towards the corners to apply even tension. These pins will be removed after lacing.
- Turn the board over. Along the long edges, fold the extra fabric over the back of the foam-core board.
- Using a strong, neutral-colored sewing thread, and needle with a strong eye, hand sew the two folded edges together in a zig-zag pattern, tightening the fabric evenly as you sew. Use enough tension in the thread to keep the design lightly stretched.
Stitch at least 2cm (1") from the edge of the fabric. This will avoid the fabric fraying and help maintain an even tension.
Start and finish about 2cm (1") from the edges of the foam-core board. Too much tension at the corners can round the corners of the foam-core board and distort the design.
- Fold the extra fabric towards the back on the shorter sides, keeping the corner folds neat. Hand sew the two edges together, once again keeping the tension even.
Try to avoid catching the lacing and fabric underneath, as this can make the tension uneven.
Framing and hanging the cross stitch
Tidy the back of the cross stitch, finish the framing, and then hang your finished work.
- Remove all of the stainless steel pins. Even though they are stainless steel, they may still corrode over time and cause stains.
- If necessary, tidy the corner folds to be as neat and flat as possible. I found it easier to use a pair of tweezers.
- Put the laced cross stitch into its frame.
- Cover the back with a layer of acid-free paper, mat or foam-core. This protects the fabric and the lacing from damage and dust.
- Choose a place to hang your framed cross stitch, and hang from a heavy duty picture hook or picture hanging wire.
Enjoy seeing your completed project!
Quilted frames for cross stitch projects
A more casual and less protective option to framing is to make a quilted pillow or cushion with your finished cross stitch or needlework project.
If you have any tips and tricks for framing your needlework, let us know in the comments below!