Mounting, Matting and Framing

Not all needlework needs to be framed like a picture. Needlework can be found on pillows, linens, clothing, box lids, jewellery, light switch plates, and so on.

While you may not think the twenty little holiday ornaments you finished late last night have great value, this is not your decision to make. Fifty years from now, they may be someone's pride and joy. And you don't want to be the person who messes up someone's priceless collection of early twenty-first century needlework, do you?

If you are going to frame your project, here are some suggestions. They are very conservative and cautious. It seems safest to list many things that a stitcher might want to know. You are then free to use or ignore whatever you choose. If you take your work to a shop to get it framed, ask the people there if they do conservation framing. Make sure they are aware of the following issues.

  • Don't do anything which cannot be undone several years later.
  • Avoid anything which cause the project to have long term exposure to chemicals, metal or acid.
  • Cut any selvage edge before framing.
  • Zig-zag each edge, or stitch unbleached muslin to each edge.
  • Use acid free foam core or acid-free white mat board as a backing. These are available in framing stores, art supply stores and office supply stores. Have it cut at the store, or use an X-acto knife at home. Make it 1/8 inch smaller than the frame you will be using. Avoid normal cardboard and paper, as they have high acid contents. The acid can damage fabric over time. Do not use sticky board. The chemicals can damage your fabric, and the glue can provide lunch for bugs.
  • Centre the piece on the backing. Fold the extra fabric to the back and tuck in the corners. The fabric on the front should be taut but not stretched. You may want to use straight pins pushed into the edge of the backing to temporarily hold the fabric in place. Use unwaxed dental floss, quilting thread or some other strong thread to lace the fabric to the backing. Lace the long edges first, sewing from the left to the right and back to the left, somewhat like lacing a shoe with only one end of the shoe lace. Keep the stitches about an inch apart. Make sure the thread is evenly tight. Repeat the lacing for the short edges. Remove the pins, as even rust-free pins may rust over time.
  • If you use matboard, make sure it is acid-free rag matboard. Consider using acid-free rag matboard even for double and triple matted pieces, where not all of the matboard is touching the fabric. The regular matboard ages much faster, and it releases fumes.
  • Should you use glass? As with everything else, it's up to you. On the one hand, glass can protect against dust and pollution. On the other hand, it may trap moisture and cause mildew. If you use glass, make sure it does not touch the needlework. Spacers or matboard are good for this. Regular glass is O.K. Standard non-glare glass is bad, as it actually lets more ultraviolet light in, and may release chemicals. Conservation glass or UV glass is very good, but expensive. Figure out how much the project is worth to you, and be willing to pay accordingly.
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