How To: Stretch Over Mountboard

How To: Stretch Your Beautiful Embroidery Over Mountboard!

I get asked about my framing techniques all of the time and most people assume I get my Stitchscapes professionally framed. Whilst this would be lovely, it can be very costly to get a professional to do it, and I would be worried that the embroidery wouldn't look taut enough, or hadn't been angled properly in the final result- I guess I'm saying I am a control freak about my 'scapes...

Anyway, to frame them yourself can be really easy once you know how, and I thought I would share with you my method of doing it. Below is a full picture tutorial (using a couple of stitchscape examples) which I hope will be helpful, but if anything is unclear please do let me know and I'll try to answer your questions. I recommend that you read this tutorial once before you start so that you don't miss a step. 

To start with, you need to get your hands on the following:

- Mountboard (I prefer to use Daler Rowney Antique White board but others are available)
- Sequin/Lills Pins 13mm (Basically short stubby pins- one place you can get them is here but most craft/haberdashery shops should stock them also.)
- White Sewing Cotton (Coats or Gutermann are fine for this in terms of thickness)
- Sewing Needle
- Scissors
- Sharp Scalpel or Blade
- Cutting Mat
- Metal Ruler
- Pencil

Once you have finished your embroidery, remove it from the hoop and give it a good press. Don't worry if you can't completely remove the hoop marks, these will be pulled out during the stretching. Measure the widest point across where your stitches are and add 0.5cm - 1cm per side on top of this measurement. You will need this additional width so that when you fix the embroidery to a mount if you are using one, or pop it straight into a frame, it leaves an allowance for the mount to overlap the embroidery without covering your stitching.
The size of this additional space can be amended to suit your own needs- you may require lots of space around the stitching, or you may not have as much extra backing fabric to work with.

Cut the board to size with your scalpel and metal ruler. Double check that you are happy with the size of it against the back of the hoop. 

Hold the board and embroidery up to the light so that you can clearly see the outline of the board and position it exactly where you want it behind the embroidery.

Holding this position in place, you will need to pin at the centre of each side, through the fabric and into the cut edge of the mountboard. Try to keep the pins at a perpendicular angle as you go into the board to reduce damage- ideally, the point of your pin should not pierce the sides of the mountboard although it isn't the end of the world if this happens, simply remove the pin and re-position it.

One of the best tips I can give you is to keep checking you are happy with the positioning of the embroidery on the board at all times. Fold the edges of the fabric under the board to see where it is being squared off- especially if you have specific linear features. It is a real pain to have to undo lots of pins once we start, and an even bigger pain once you've stitched the embroidery over the board and decide that it isn't straight enough.

Ok, so to start pinning pick an edge, any edge, and, working from your central pin outwards in a single direction, pull the fabric back and over the side of the board (tilt your hand slightly towards the direction you are working towards as well to help ease the fabric out from the centre), pinning every centimetre or so as you go. Work your way along until you reach the corner. Note: when you are pulling, don't yank or pull really tightly for this first side, you just need to ensure that the fabric is flat.

Once you have reached the corner, go back to the centre and repeat the pinning process in the other direction until one side is completely pinned.

Resting the embroidery on the pins, you need to start on the opposite side and work in exactly the same way but pull slightly harder on the fabric. You may need to reposition that initial central pin, so remove, pull the fabric tightly and pop it back in again, then work from the centre outwards. Note: You don't want the mountboard to bend so if you notice a curve starting to form in the card, release the tension by removing the pins. The aim is to get the fabric as tight as possible on the board without bending it.
Once you have completed the first two sides, move on to the third side and repeat, pinning outwards from the centre. Once done, work on the fourth and final side, again you may need to pull slightly harder on this side. Check that your embroidery is still central within the taught square that has now been created. If not, undo those pins!

Once you are happy with the position of the embroidery, the backing fabric is taught (check there are no visible bobbles or marks from any knots on the back) and all the pins are in place, turn the piece over so that it is embroidery side down. You may need to trim the edges slightly, but remember to leave at least 3cm if you can on each side to do your sewing in.

Take a long length of your thread, fold over one of the fabric edges and knot your thread in the fabric at the centre. As with the pinning, you need to work from the centre outwards to avoid wrinkles. Using the diagram above, you need to work tight stitches between opposite fabric flaps. The diagram begins in the top left corner, working downwards to the opposite side. Keeping your needle always facing in the same direction, make a little stitch at the opposite centre point to your knot, then work in a zig-zag fashion to the right and between the two fabric flaps. The thread will start to cross over itself.

Pause stitching as you get close to the corners as you will need to mitre these for a neat corner and to reduce bulk within your frame. Fold the corner in towards the centre and push the fold that is created underneath the fabric flap you are working on, keeping your finger on the edge as shown. You can use a pair of scissors to push the folded fabric right to the edge of the mountboard for the cleanest mitre. Try to keep the corner section of fabric at a ninety degree angle as shown below.

You will need to do this on the top and bottom fabric flaps.

Once you have finished stitching up to the edge, or if your thread runs out, you will need to tighten the threads before you knot it off. From your very first knot, and following the direction of the threads, pull the thread along so that it tightens. It's amazing how much you can pull, but again remember that you are trying to avoid bending the card and, also, don't pull so tightly that your thread snaps. Once pulled along, securely knot the thread, keeping the tension as much as possible.

Turn your embroidery and repeat the stitching process from the centre outwards, don't forget to mitre the edges. Pull the threads and knot off.

Turn the embroidery so that you are now working on the un-stitched fabric flaps. Where the black lines are on the above image is where you will have to crease the fabric as you fold the flaps down to complete your lovely neat mitre.

Top tip before you carry on, remove all but the very corner pins from the two sides that are now secured down- it will really help you avoid getting in a tangle with that long thread. I speak from experience. Starting at the centre again, repeat the stitching process outwards towards the right hand edge.

When you reach the corners, check that the fold is flat and then you will need to secure the mitre in place so make sure your little stitches go under both sides of the mitre to keep this together.

And.....the other way! Stitch the mitres, pull and knot off.

By jove, you've only gone and done it!!! Remove the remaining pins and flip your piece over! If you checked and rechecked your pinning position at the start, you should now be thrilled with the placement of your gorgeous stitching. It should all be taught with no hoop dents present in the backing fabric, and the board itself should not be bent. If it has a small curve to it, try bending and wibbling it slightly against the curve and it should straighten itself out.

The framing is now up to you. I prefer to cut my own mounts using the same colour of mountboard, cutting the square to fit the frame, and then measuring how far in I need to cut the centre square so that the stitchscape fits just snugly behind the cut out. You can buy pre-cut mounts as well if you would prefer not to risk accidentally slicing just that little bit too far.
You will also notice that I prefer to keep the edges of the fabric layers free. This is because I use these to help secure the embroidery to the mount using masking tape, but if you would prefer just to get them out of the way, fold them toward the back and make a running stitch between the fabric layers and the backing fabric as shown above.

I really hope this has helped you if you have decided to bite the bullet and stretch your own embroidery. There are several ways of doing this- you could just tape the fabric edges to a pre-existing mount, but I find that eventually the tape gives up and your fabric starts to sag. This technique should stay neat and taut for longer. As I mentioned at the beginning, if you have any queries or problems, please don't hesitate to get in touch through any of my social media pages listed on the right hand side of the page, and if you have used this technique to help your framing, I would love to see what you've been up to!

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