I don’t know about you, but when I finish a piece of embroidery, usually the last thing I want to do is the real “finish work” – that is, the framing or sewing or whatever it takes to bring the project to full completion. But once in a while, I do have to force myself to buckle down and actually DO something with the pieces I embroider. And once I’ve accomplished the finish work, I’m always glad I did!
With Christmas looming, I’ve been cramming in some simple frame jobs for gifts. So I thought I’d take you through the steps of a simple frame job for a piece of embroidery. It’s a long one with lots of photos, so grab your coffee…
First of all, you need to find frames. When you frame embroidery, if you decide to put the piece behind glass, you should plan on double matting or putting spacers in to keep the glass off the front of your work. Or, you can do like I did, and find frames that have a “shadow box” effect, where a space of half an inch or more is intentionally left between the glass and the object to be framed.
You can always choose to make the frame yourself, by the way, but this is a “simple” frame job, done in a relatively short amount of time!
After you’ve assembled all your supplies, the first thing to do is prepare the piece for framing. If you need to wash it, now’s the time to do that! How do you know if you need to wash your embroidery? If there are any obvious marks on it, if there has been an opportunity for dust build-up, if you weren’t particularly careful with clean hands while you worked (even if you can’t see specific marks, hand oil can show up over time!)… probably you should wash it. Certain types of thread are not conducive to washing in water – overdyed silks, etc., shouldn’t be just dunked into a bucket of water. But I used DMC on these projects, and it’s pretty color-fast, so I wasn’t worries about color running.
You can avoid having to wash a project by being super-careful with it, and by covering it with tissue or other cloth while you work, and only exposing the part you’re working on. But that’s a different story…
Prepare a bowl of lukewarm water and a little ivory liquid soap. I use a stainless steel bowl. I placed the embroidery piece in the water and moved it around, but I don’t squeeze it or rub it all over or anything like that. I just gently swish it in the bowl. If there’s a specific spot on fabric, I’ll treat it first, and I might rub that one spot on the fabric, but you’re not doing heavy-duty laundry here – just rinsing the piece.
After the gentle washing (I let it soak for 5 or 10 minutes), I rinse the piece thoroughly under running water. Don’t wring it – just let the water rinse over the work, until it runs clear and there’s no evidence of suds, and then a little longer for good measure. Turn it over, too – rinse front and back.
Then lay the piece face down on a clean towel, and gently press another towel on top of it to remove excess water.
Once all three pieces were washed, I took them to my ironing board, where I already had a clean white pillow case ready. For ironing embroidery, I use a clean white pillow case folded in half, with a flannel pad inside the fold. The flannel pad is made of four layers of soft, thin flannel.
After hand blocking (that is, arranging the pieces by gently pulling them and squaring them up), I left the pieces on the ironing board to dry a little bit on their own.
When I’m ready to iron, I iron the piece upside-down, with the right side on the pillow case with the flannel underneath it. This helps cushion the embroidery and keeps the stitches from getting flattened.
I iron the piece when it’s still damp. Iron it gently, not pushing on the iron to try to dry the thing and get every wrinkle out. Just gently iron, blocking the piece into a square as you go, and being very aware of the temperature of the iron and the fabric. I always lift the iron after moving in one direction – I don’t just go back-and-forth and back-and-forth with it. I move in one direction, lift, put it back down, move, lift, put it back down.
After ironing the piece from the back, I turn it over and look at the front. If there is any area on the front of the ground fabric that I want to iron, I do so carefully, without touching the stitches.
In the photo above, you can see two circled areas where there are wrinkles on the piece. This comes from faulty tension when I worked the piece. It could also come from the drying process of the fabric and the thread, but both were dry when I took the photo, and I suspected there would be some tension problems in these areas once the thing was off the embroidery frame and blocked.
Never fear – those slight wrinkles will be significantly (if not completely) reduced by the time the whole framing process is finished.
Now that the pieces are ironed and ready to frame, it’s time to give some attention to the frames. This is the back of the frame – notice the octagon-shaped back cover. The board on which the embroidery is mounted is the same shape. I used an acid-free white mat board and cut it to fit the inside of the frame; it’s a rectangle shape with the corners snipped off.
You can see here the space between the glass and the place where the embroidery will rest. It’s about half an inch. I admit, the frames are a bit cheap – that’s a plastic edge – but for 50% off 11.99, they were in my budget!
And here you can see clearly the shape of the mat board and how it fits in the opening.
Position the embroidery over the mounting board, centering it carefully, then turn the embroidery over, placing it face down on your work surface. I use a pencil and lightly draw the position of the mounting board on the back of the embroidered piece. That way, if anything gets knocked or the work slides about, it’s no big deal.
After folding the embroidery over the board (it’s inside there), I realized it needs to be trimmed. Since I marked the position of the mounting board, it’s easy enough just to trim off a couple inches.
There. Remember that the front of the embroidery (the right side) is face down on my work surface. The mat board is positioned over the piece, and then the sides are wrapped around the mat board. There needs to be some spa
ce between the two sides of the fabric, as you can see here, because you’re going to lace them, and the lacing will supply tension.
I used a #12 DMC cotton string (it comes in a ball, and is usually used for tatting or crochet) and a #7 crewel needle to do the lacing.
Make sure you cut a Long Length of string when you’re ready to start lacing. It’s no fun to stop, tie off, and start again. I used about a yard.
I folded the edges of the fabric and finger pressed them, then started lacing. This is done by catching the edge of the fabric (about an 1/8 of an inch or so in) and crossing back and forth between both sides.
Because the mat board isn’t square, but rather the corners are cut off, I had to do some extra trimming, and I just sort of played that by ear. I didn’t want a lot of bulk on the back of the mat board.
I folded the corners neatly, finger pressed, and tacked them down with a new length of #12 thread.
Then I folded the opposite ends down – not quite as neat as it could be – and laced them, pulling the lacing fairly tight as I worked. I was skimpy with the thread!! Learn from my mistake and make sure you start with a long enough length.
In any case, it still worked out fine.
Then, I put the mounted embroidery into the frame, and you’ll notice that there’s a bit of “wiggle room” here. I cut the mat smaller, since the fabric would take up some space, but it was a bit too small. This poses the problem that the piece might shift in the frame.
To remedy that, I cut a piece of foam to fit inside the back of the frame, to help hold everything in place.
The back of the frame was very well fitted, though, so everything was good and snug.
And here you see two framed up and ready to go.
And here’s the iris – there’s only the slightest bit of puckering between the petal and leaf on the left. Most of the puckering that was there was really reduced by the tension provided in the mouting process. No one else seems to be able to see the puckers except me! But if you look close enough…
So that’s a simple framing job…
Hope it was helpful!