How To: Stretch an embroidery without a hoop
A little while back I did a tutorial on how to finish off an embroidery by stretching it in a hoop. As an alternative to a hoop frame, I also stretch embroideries in square and rectangular formats (it just depends on what each individual piece needs). This is the technique I’ve adapted to mount my square and rectangular embroideries and get them ready for framing. As with the hoop technique, this isn’t the only way, and not necessarily the best or right way, but it’s what works for me.
NOTE: This technique works best for stiffer fabrics like hessian and velvet, and embroideries that don’t need to be stretched too much for their final display. If your embroidery requires more significant stretching you can do extra stitches at the back of the piece (see Step Twelve). For less sturdy fabrics a better alternative would be to stretch the embroidery using only the fabric it is stitched on, rather than sewing it onto an additional piece of fabric before mounting- keep an eye out for a little tutorial on that!
Step One- Foam Core
Finish off the edge of your embroidery the way you wish. In my hessian example I left the edge raw as it emphasizes the rough weave of the fabric. You could do the same, do a simple folded edge, or heck- you could even stitch some lace along the edges if that’s your style. Next, cut a piece of foam core or mount board that is the same dimensions as your embroidery. Alternatively, your piece of foam core can be larger than your embroidery to create a border around it with your chosen “mounting fabric”- I’ll explain it in the next step.
Step Two- Fabric
Cut a piece of fabric that is bigger than the foam core (I’m going to call this the “mounting fabric”). You need about 5cm of excess fabric at each edge so that it can easily wrap around the back of the foam core. I used plain white cotton fabric as it wouldn’t be visible. If you want a fabric border around the edge of the embroidery choose a fabric that is suitable for your work.
Step Three- Guidelines
Centre the foam core on the back of the “mounting fabric” and mark its position at each corner.
Step Four- Zig-Zag
Overlock or fold and zig-zag a hem to reinforce the edges of the fabric.
Step Five- Markers
Push sewing pins through the corner points you marked on the back of the mounting fabric so that you can see their positioning on the front. It’s better to not draw guidelines on the front of the fabric in case you can’t remove the marks.
Step Six- Position Embroidery
Position your embroidery in the centre of the mounting fabric using the pins as a guide. If you don’t want the fabric border (as in my example) the corners of your embroidery will meet the pins. If you want the fabric border then you need to centre your embroidery inside the area marked by the pins. Carefully pin your embroidery in place.
Step Seven- Stitch It On!
Now it’s time to stitch your embroidery onto the mounting fabric. I used a simple running stitch and I chose my thread colours to match the colours of the hessian. Obviously you could totally use contrasting colours and stitching that will stand out!
Step Eight- Position Foam Core
Now that your embroidery is safely stitched in place it’s time to sew the mounting fabric to the foam core. Put a clean towel down on your work surface (for protection) and place your embroidery and mounting fabric combo face down on it. Align the foam core on the back of the fabric using the corner marks you made in Step Three.
Step Nine- Fold Corners
Fold down each corner of fabric and pop a pin through the foam core to hold it in place. Do the same all around the edges- fold the fabric over and pin it in place.
Step Ten- Crease Corners
Going back to the corners- use your nail or a bone folder to crease the fabric along the edge of the foam core. Fold the fabric over and pin in place. Repeat this until all sides of the fabric are folded over the foam core and all the corners are also neatly folded and pinned.
Step Eleven- Stitch Corners
At each corner stitch the fabric where the folds meet (use doubled-up sewing thread). Make sure your stitching brings the folds together tightly and securely as these corners are actually holding everything together. Repeat at each corner.
Step Twelve- Success!
Your embroidery is now mounted and can easily be framed. If you feel that your embroidery needs to be stretched more, use Serafil or another strong filament fibre to stitch across the back of the foam core from edge to edge of the mounting fabric using herringbone stitch. Stitch across from both sides as well as from top to bottom. Keep the thread tight and keep checking that the embroidery is stretching evenly.
- Make sure that all of your tools are clean before you start working so you don’t risk marking your hard work in any way.
- Put a clean towel on your work surface to protect your embroidery as you work.
- Try to use sewing to mount embroideries rather than cutting and glueing the fabric in place. Sewing is less permanent than cutting and glueing. If you need to make any repairs to the embroidery you can easily remove all of your stitches.
I hope that this little tutorial is helpful to fellow embroiderers out there. Leave a comment below to let me know if you try this technique and how it works for you!