How to Stretch Mount a Cross Stitch Needlework
Whether you're looking to save a few dollars by stretch mounting and framing your own stitchery, or you just like doing your needlework projects from start to finish yourself, this lens was created to show you how to do it properly and using archival methods.
It is easy to assume that a piece of needlework will only have meaning to yourself and therefore you may feel compelled to skimp a little on the framing. But trust me on this, I have reframed many old pieces of needlework that have gotten stained or moldy from improper framing. Not surprisingly, stitchery and needlework often becomes a family heirloom and doing the job correctly from the beginning will preserve it for future generations.
This page offers you a fully illustrated step by step on the proper way to stretch mount as well as an all text at a glance version. The technique shown here will allow you to remove the stitchery in the future and have it come out in exactly the same condition it was in when you framed it. Many other techniques including those using mounting boards, aren't archival and may damage your needlework over time.
I've been a professional picture framer for over 20 years and I have stretched quite literally thousands of cross stitches over the years. In that time I've learned a couple of things which I will share with you here.
- In this article, I use the term foamcore and foamboard interchangeably. They are in fact the same thing and it just depends on the manufacturer as to what it is called.
- Also, you can also mount needlework using a technique known as lacing and it is just as archival and non-damaging to your needlework as the technique I am illustrating here. I prefer the method I was taught when working in a museum because it allows me to better control the straightness despite taking a little more time.
Table of Contents
• First Thing's First: Wash Your Hands
• What You'll Need
• How to Stretch Mount Your Cross Stitch in Preparation for Framing — 6 Steps
• Why I Don't Recommend Using Sticky Boards for Mounting Needle Art, and When Using Mounting Board Is Okay
• Add Your Mat For a Finished Cross Stitch Ready for Framing
• Padding Your Cross Stitch
• Tips From a Professional Framer
• How to DIY Stretch Mount Your Needlework — 6 Steps
• Cross Stitch and Needlework Framing FAQ
First Thing's First: Wash Your Hands!
You'd be surprised how much natural oil clean hands contain. This makes it very important to wash your hands before starting this framing project. You will be pulling on the aide cloth while stretching and there will be an oil transfer which will stain or yellow the fabric over time. If you're going to the effort of stretch mounting and framing your needlework you should definitely do it up right.
What You'll Need
Since I already told you NOT to use sticky boards for mounting your needlework, I thought I'd best give you an alternative do-it-yourself option.
There are various way frame shops mount needlework with some being more effective at keeping the aida cloth running straight than others. Here's the way I was taught when I worked the framing department for a museum. I like this method because it really allows you to do the best job possible at getting the cloth straight as well as being pretty much totally reversible. It's a slower method but I believe the benefits are worth the time.
- Acid Free Foam Core 3/16 in diameter.
- 1/2 - 3/4 inch sequin (straight) pins
- Push Pins (not absolutely necessary but they make things easier)
- Acid Free Tape
- A Utility Knife For Cutting Foamboard
Note: I'm a firm believer in using acid free products whenever you can. So often people think their project isn't worth the extra cost but the truth is a beautifully done cross stitch becomes a family heirloom. And by using quality products now you'll help preserve it for future generations.
How to Stretch Mount Your Cross Stitch in Preparation for Framing
Tip: When Cutting matboard or foamboard be sure the blade you are using is sharp. Also keep your lines straight. You may want to score the initial cut to allow for a smooth straight stroke on subsequent cuts. Using a straight edge is very helpful in this.
- If you are planning on matting your needlework (as opposed to just popping it straight into a frame) it works well to cut your foam board to fit your frame size. Then figure how wide a mat you're planning on having and cut your foam board less than that to allow for the mat to overlay the cloth's edges.
- So for an example your mat is to be 2 inches wide, you'd want to mark your foam board to be cut at 1 3/4 or less. This way the mat completely covers the edges.
Steps For Cutting Foamboard
- Mark foam board cut lines.
- Add a slash mark to intersect the cut lines This gives you a point of reference for popping it back into the foam board surround when done stretching. You do this in case you don't cut a perfect fall out piece.
- Cut foam board using smooth powerful strokes. Be sure whatever blade you're using is sharp. Foam boards tend to tear and bunch with a dull blade. Also, make the incision slightly past the cut lines but not all the way to the edges. Keep your blade straight both horizontally and vertically as this will affect your stretching success.
These aren't totally necessary for this project but they do make it far easier to get your stitchery lined up straight which really shows up once it's framed.
If you think you'll be mounting a lot of your own needlework, I'd suggest investing in some.
- Center your stitchery on the foam board. And use a couple of push pins on each side to hold it in place. Do this by pushing the pins into the edge of the foam board. Do not push into face of the foam board.
Beginning on one edge pull aida cloth straight using the edge of the foam board as your guide and pin along one side.
Note: I often start pinning in a corner and then expand out on two edges at the same time. For me this seems to help me keep things more straight.
The shorter the length the easier it is to use these. Unfortunately, the shorter the pin the harder they are to find at traditional craft stores. I mostly have to order mine special by the case from a quilting or sewing store or buy them on line.
- When finished with the push pins all around. Pull out a handful ( 5-10) and begin replacing them with the sequin pins. Again push the sequin pins straight into side edge of the foam board. Try not to have them come out the back of the foamboard and of course not out the front either.
- By using the push pins first and then finishing with straight pins it allows for making minute adjustments for getting your needle art to be as straight as possible.
Note: Get some 1/2 or 3/4 inches straight pins. The shorter the better since they are going into the edge of the foamcore board. Longer pins are far more difficult to use in this way. The short pins are getting hard to come by. Even most Hobby Lobby or Crafting stores don't carry pins this small anymore. So I've taken to either buying them online or having to special order a case through a store.
- This is where that tick mark you made when cutting the foam board comes in handy. Simply line them up so your fall out center piece is aligned with its surround and push it back into the surround. It's going to be a tight fit (which is exactly what you want) because now you have the added thickness of the aida cloth as well.
- Foam board will crease and snap so apply an even pressure. Just be patient and move slowly. It will fit back in.
- Lay needlework face down on a clean work surface and pull the extra cloth over and tape into place. You can do this by using atg (double sided tape) under the edge of the cloth or simply tape. This is more for it to lay flat so the back of your frame looks neat so you need not get to carried away with the tape.
- After fixing down the extra cloth then tape the seams between the center fall out piece and it's surrounding ring. This will help hold it tightly into place.
Note: I recommend using acid free tape for this. That way any adhesive that gets transferred to your needlework does not yellow or stain it.
Why I Don't Recommend Using Sticky Boards for Mounting Needle Art, and When Using Mounting Board Is Okay
So for those of you Do It Yourself-ers out there, the sticky board is familiar way to quickly mount your needleworks. It's a thin board with a tacky adhesive that allows you to mount your needlework just by laying it on top of it. It's quick. It's cheap. It's easy. So what's not to like?
Reason Not To Use Sticky Board
- Many of these are not archival and therefore the adhesive or the underlying board may cause yellowing over time.
- When repositioning or removing the needlework, the adhesive mat pull your stitches loose.
- Stitchery is too large.
- Getting the cloth exceptionally straight is quite difficult with this method.
Reasons When It Might Be Okay
- When the stitchery is not meant to be kept as an heirloom.
- When not enough extra aida cloth has been left to allow for stretching or lacing.
For the second reason, you could, in fact, have a frame create an archival version of this my dry mounting the cloth. However, this too would mean pulling loose threads if it is removed.
This works really well for applying to the backside of the foamboard along the edges in order to get the extra aida cloth to lay down. Double Sided Tape is also used for mounting the mat as well as for use on the back of frames for applying a dustcover.
Add Your Mat For a Finished Cross Stitch Ready for Framing
- Run one strip of ATG (double sided tape) or bead of glue all along each side of the foam board ring surround and attach the mat. You can center your mat by using a ruler or by simply counting the squares of the aida cloth fabric.
- Note: If using glue be sure to set it aside for awhile until it sets up and dries. Usually 15 or 20 minutes is plenty. Glue can also be used for attaching the dust cover to the back of the frame.
Padding Your Cross Stitch
- I usually recommend putting glass and glazing on all needlework when having them framed. This avoids a lot of potential problems with dust, dirt, bug and smokers and may save the owner money in having their needlework dry-cleaned on a regular basis. But I do have some die-hard stitchers who think glazing blocks all the intricate details of the stitchery. Which of course it does, but most of the time the benefits of glazing outweigh this.
- That being said, one of my faithful cross stitch customers always wants no glass, but with padding.
- Padding adds character and dimension to the piece that framing it flat lacks. This is a simple effect to achieve with some batting material.
Steps For Padding A Cross Stitch When Framing
Disclaimer: In this example, I am going to be matting the cross stitch, as well, so there is some unstitched aida around the edges.
- Simply cut the batting about 1/2 inch smaller than the board you are stretching the cross stitch on. You want this little extra space unpadded so the matting can lay flat and push the padded cross-stitch up without too much strain on the matting. If the mat board is overstrained, it will pop loose from the foam core board surround sometime later when it's hanging.
- Glue or use ATG tape to hold the batting in place on the backer board.
- Then stretch as normal.
- It's really pretty easy and it does add a lot of interest to the finished piece.
Tips From a Professional Framer
I've been a professional picture framer for over 20 years and in that time I've stretched quite literally thousands of stitcheries. I have maintained some of the same customers for all that time and I feel honored that they trust me enough to frame their precious needlework, that they willingly ship it across many states instead of getting it framed locally.
So from my many years of experience, I have learned a couple of things about what makes a beautiful piece of needle art and will share them here:
- Always wash your hands before handling any needlework oils from your hands can sink into the fabric and may not come out even with washing.
- If there is not a lot of extra fabric, serge the edges so it doesn't fray when working on it or when framing it particularly if you lace the back. If you have plenty of extra surrounding aida around the stitched image there is no real need to do this.
- Avoid tight stitches. A couple of things happen when you do this. The cloth pulls at an angle and may not stretch straight. Also if the framer pulls too hard on it to get it straight, some of your stitches may pop.
- Always cross your X's in the same direction. This allows for your finished needlework to look smooth and tapestry like. Light reflects off the floss and makes it obvious when the X's run in opposite directions.
- Do not tie knot your loose threads. Simply thread them through other stitches to hold in place. Knotting your floss will cause it to be lumpy when framed. The back side of your cross stitch should be neat and you should be able to see the image almost as clearly from the back as from the front. If however you have already used knots then try padding the stitchery with batting for a nice dimensional look. You won't be able to use glass but other than that it makes for a nice look.
- Bleed check your floss. I'm not sure if this is as important as it used to be but it's a good idea to soak floss for bleeding before using it. This way when you wash it before framing it, your colors won't run. Also occasionally a picture framer may use a liquid relaxer so even if you've no plans to wash it, it may still get wet and bleed.
- Try not to leave needlework in hoops too long. Sometimes the ring marks don't wash out.
- Roll your stitchery when not working on it — much like leaving your needlework in a hoop, folding your stitchery may cause creases and grunge lines that don't wash out.
- Wash (with a mild soap) and if necessary iron it before having it framed. Not all frame shops offer this service for you.
- No need to starch — a light starch is fine but a heavy starch may impede the mounting process.
- Use glass if you plan to hang it anywhere it may get dirty. Like: in a kitchen, near a fireplace, in a bathroom, if you have dust issues in your home, or if you or a family member is a smoker, to name a few. This will save you from the expense of having it torn apart to be washed and then re-framed.
- Use Clear Glass Nonglare or anti-reflective glass. It can tend to be foggy and gets worse with more space between the work and the fabric. It is okay when used with a single mat, but less so with a double mat. I wouldn't recommend on anything more than a double mat.
- Be sure there is an air space between the needlework and the glass, as this prevents mold growth. An airspace can be achieved by simply adding a mat or two or using framing spacers.
How to DIY Stretch Mount Your Needlework
- Cut a piece of Acid Free foam board the size you need to frame it. If you are planning on matting it you can cut an opening in the center of it which you'll stretch your stitchery and then push back in. Be sure that the board is square (as in not crooked) because you will be using it as a guide for lining the edges of the fabric.
- Center your stitchery on the foam board. And use a couple push pins on each side to hold it in place. Do this by pushing the pins into the edge of the foam board. Do not push into face of the foam board.
- Beginning on one edge pull aida cloth straight using the edge of the foam board as your guide and pin along one side.
Note: I often start pinning in a corner and then expand out on two edges at the same time. For me this seems to help me keep things more straight.
- When finished with the push pins all around. Pull out a handful (5-10) and begin replacing them with the sequin pins. Again push sequin pins into side edge of the foam board. This steps will also help make the minute adjustments for getting your needle art to be even more straight.
Note: Get some 1/2 or 3/4 inches straight pins. The shorter the better since they are going into the edge of the foamcore board. Longer pins are far more difficult to use in this way, but these really are hard to come by. Even most Hobby Lobby or Crafting stores don't carry pins this small.
- Push back into center ring and tape into place.
- Pull extra aida to the back of the mounting board and tape into place so they lay flat.
- Add your mat. If no matting is being used you are done.
Cross Stitch and Needlework Framing FAQ
- Q: Should I wash my needlework before having it framed?
- A: Yes. Most frame shops do not clean needlework. So you can use either a mild soap or get it dry cleaned. Be sure that none of your colors will bleed before wetting the needlework.
- Q: Should I use starch?
- A: It's not generally necessary but if you do make sure it's a light starch. Heavily starched needlework can be hard to stretch straight.
- Q: Should I frame with glass?
- A: This is a personal decision I prefer glass because it really helps protect the cross stitch from air born pollutants as well as bugs. If you choose not to use glass applying scotch guard might be a good idea.
- Q: Do I need to worry about fraying edges on my aida cloth?
- A: Generally not unless you have very little extra aida around your stitched image. An inch or more and you should be fine.
- Q: What's the best way to prevent fraying?
- A: Serging with a sewing machine is quick and easy as well as archival. I know many stitchers who tape or use fray check, though.
- Q: Ideally how much extra fabric do you need for framing a cross stitch?
- A: That depends on the cross stitch image, the frame shop preferences and the size of the stitchery. A good rule of thumb is no less than 1 inch beyond the area you want to show when framed. So be sure to factor in surrounding aida that will be visible in this equation. Two inches is really nice. Much more than that will most likely be cut away and just a waste of fabric.
- Q: My cross stitch looks dingier now that it's framed, why?
- A: If your stitchery is on white or light colored cloth when it is mounted it's put over a white mounting board which makes smudges show up more. To check how clean you finished needlework really is before framing lay it on a bright white surface and examine it under a bright light.
- Q: If my cross stitch fabric is made up of symmetrical squares why isn't it framed straight?
- A: Well, this can happen for two reasons.
- The stitches were pulled too tight and thus skewed and rippled the cloth.
- Due to the shape of some designs, there is a lot of stitching in the center but then far less on some dangling bits to the image. Once again the fabric was pulled tight where the stitching is heavy and remains loose where the stitching is light.
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© 2010 Mona