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Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Slate Frames for Hand Embroidery! Yippee!

 

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When you get beyond the beginner stage of hand embroidery and move into more complex forms, you may find that you wish to expand your collection of tools. An indispensible tool for the serious embroiderer – especially if you get into goldwork, silk shading, and other complex techniques – is the slate frame. I’ve found a source in the US who provides hand-made slate frames that are sturdy, beautiful, and in all regards, as far as I can tell, really perfect. I spent a good part of today (July 4th) playing with mine, dressing it in a nice piece of linen. The finished product was worth the effort!

Before I launch into this, I also have a tutorial on how to dress a slate frame for hand embroidery – if that’s what you’re looking for, rather than a source.

On with the news!

Mr. Evan Burroughs, located in Salem, Oregon, makes slate frames for the hand embroiderer! This was such an exciting piece of news for me, because, for the longest time, I couldn’t find a source in the US. Sure, slate frames can be ordered from Britain, but – combine the exchange rate and the shipping, and they are expensive!

When Evan fell out of the sky into my e-mail account one day, I was really thrilled and eager to try his frames.

He makes three sizes of frames. The smallest frame accommodates a piece of embroidery about 10″ x 10″, without having to roll the work. The medium size accommodates a piece from 16″ – 20″ wide, with stretchers that will accommodate a piece about 16″ long before having to roll the work. And the largest size accommodates a piece about 24″ wide by about 28″ long, before you’d have to roll it.

The frames are made out of beech, which is strong wood. The pins are stainless steel cotter pins (rather than the traditional wooden pegs), which allows the pegs on the side stretchers to be placed in 1/4″ increments, giving you really good control on the stretching.

Slate Frame used for Hand Embroidery, Goldwork, and Other Embroidery Techniques

If there were some way to allow you to feel what you’re looking at in that photo, you would understand my infatuation with slate frames! The fabric is perfectly smooth, perfectly taut all around, and oh-so-ready for my next project! Isn’t it just beautiful??

The frames run $59 (small), $69 (medium), and $89 (large). Remember, they are hand made, and they will last you a life time – and then some! As far as the workmanship goes, my experience with mine is this:

I LOVE IT. The wood is smooth as glass, the frame feels in all respects sturdy, everything fits together really well, and… wow. It’s just really nice! When you’re working with it, you know it’s “real” – it’s not cheaply made, plastic, or flimsy. I think it’s a work of art!

Evan is also the fellow behind the Evertite Slimline Tension Adjusting Stretcher Bar frames – which I hope to try soon. I’ve got one set that I want to mount a bird project on; as soon as I do, I’ll let you know what I think of the Evertite frames.

If you want to take your stitching to the next level and invest in a slate frame – or if you’re like me, and you’ve been looking high and low for ages for a source for slate frames – do contact Evan. You can visit his Evertite webpage, where he has his contact information listed. When I arranged for my frame, he said he generally has a few sets of each size of slate frame on hand; if not, his production time runs about a month. It’s worth the wait!

Now, after all the gushing, I have to add a little glimpse of reality for you. A slate frame is not an “easy” option for the embroiderer. It takes much time to dress a frame, and it’s hard work. The end results are worth it, no doubt, but before you delve into a slate frame, do understand that it takes some effort to set up the frame. (I’m typing with sore thumbs…)

That having been said, I think it’s the best way to set up a large project, especially one that will take you some time. The tension lasts forever, and can be adjusted repeatedly without having to take the frame apart. Read “Dressing a Slate Frame” to see how the whole process of setting up a slate frame works.

And finally, just so you know, Evan Burroughs and I are not affiliated – I’m just a very, very happy customer who is so pleased to be able to tell you about his handiwork! Do check him out – and tell him I sent you!

 
 

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(16) Comments

  1. Mary,
    This is wonderful news! The only other place I knew to order them from in the US is from Tristan Brooks, through needleartworks.com. Unfortunately, those only come with 21″ vertical slats. I haven’t ordered them because they would be really difficult to flip over in my lap stand (which I use constantly). I’m so glad to hear of another source so I can finally try a slate frame.

    Thank you for sharing!

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  2. What a great find. I see one in my future. I agree that it really is a wonderful thing. I didn’t consider using a frame until I went to Plymoth Plantation to work on the jacket. The underarm I worked on was on a slate frame on a floor stand and I loved working in that way. I never thought I would since I don’t really even like embroidery hoops, but it made the embroidery easier and better.

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  3. Hi Mary,

    I’ve read a lot about the Evertite frames and when I ran into them recently in this lovely needlework shop when we were vacationing in the St Petersburg area in FL (Silk Road Needle Arts — the proprietor was such a nice man!), well, I just had to try them out.

    I am using them on the first time on a medium sized project (16 x12 frame) and I like them. It is nice to just tack your project on once and just adjust the frame tension as needed, e.g. relaxing it when you are working on bullion knots.

    I am jealous over your slate frame though and I think Mr. Burroughs is likely to hear from me in the near future.:)

    I am looking forward to hearing about your progress,a s well as what you think about the Evertite frames.

    Best regards,
    Chris

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  4. Another slate frame source is Historic Workshop in Oregon too. I have their 39 inches by 29 1/2 inches frame and it’s lovely. They are all custom made. The people involved are historical re-enactors and their wares are quite authentic.

    They also sell a stand.

    Link here http://www.historicworkshop.com/

    Go under “Sewing and Knitting”

    Mona

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  5. I also have had trouble finding slate frames. Most of mine come from England – Viking Loom. The one I have from the Royal School is heavy but necessary for large projects.
    Recently I saw one from http://www.spanishpeacock.com and have one on order. They are made to order so must wait to see/feel it. Glad you found another source. These are such a must for serious embroidery.
    – Robin (bayrose.org)
    broider-baroness.blogspot.com

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  6. I may be completely off base but I just sort of automatically associated the idea of a “slate” frame with one of those old time slate writing boards, and figured it had to do with the fact that you end up with a large firm flat “blank slate” to work with.

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  7. Hi, sterling! Yep, that sounds good – and I know exactly what you mean, because I associate it the same way (the hard flat surface).

    The thing is, slate frames were used much earlier than the advent of “slates” for writing on. Slates for writing were made popular, I think, with the advent of schooling children in reading and writing, which really didn’t happen until after the Renaissance – and really didn’t go full fledged until quite while after that, even. Of course, MAYBE the frames weren’t called “slate frames” back then. Hmmm…. Well, it’s something to think about, anyway!

    Thanks for your comment!

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  8. Hi Mary,
    Slate frames are definitely the way to go! I customized mine with help from a friend..to be about 39″ X 39″. It was for a competition and definitely a life saver though it does take time to lace!… We used simple everyday items to put it together and in fact was even light enough for me to use in Paris! Thinking of selling them…?

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  9. just found this great site! i was wondering if you knew of any current slate frame makers in the usa right now? i live in oregon, but that evan burroughs fellow doesn’t seem to do them any more. and i need BIG one (48″x84″). i may just have to have someone help me build them. THANK YOU.

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    1. Hi, Shawn –

      You might visit Hedgehog Handworks (http://www.hedgehoghandworks.com/catalog/index.php) and contact the owner to find out if they can custom make the size you want. The difficulty at that size, I think, is going to be keeping tight tension without warping the slats. I think this was solved way back when by putting a kind of brace in the back of the frame, when the work couldn’t be rolled. If the work you’re doing is something that can be rolled, maybe the 84″ length isn’t necessary? With goldwork, this isn’t a good idea, but if it’s pretty much just flat surface work, normally the work is rolled. This eliminates the need for a huge frame, and it also makes it easier to access the various parts of the embroidery on the frame. Just a thought! ~MC

  10. Just made my own frame for my next project, total cost of the frame (which takes a 50×50 cm fabric) 6 Euros, total working time perhaps a couple of hours because I don’t have power tools at hand. It is not a work of art, it is in fact rather basic, but is fully functional and flat packable, and I am really happy with it! 🙂

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    1. Yes, Jeanny, you’d use this or something very similar. Slate frames were in use from the late Middle Ages onwards. For the 1700’s, it was commonly used, especially when embroidering garments pieces, before they were cut from the frame and sewn into clothes. You can see it, in fact, in the book “18th Century Embroidery” by Gail Marsh… ~MC

  11. What is your opinion of scroll frames? I sometimes use these for needlpoint canvas. However, it seems that there is no way to keep the sides taut. Any suggestions?

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    1. Hi, Ginny – I don’t use scroll frames anymore. I used to use them, but I have built up quite a collection of other frames now. In any case, you can lace the sides of scroll frames just like you do with the slate frame. When it’s time to scroll, just move the lacing. That will help with the tension problem from the sides.

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