Q. I've just completed a needlepoint picture of the Blue Boy and I'm quite proud of it. But I was stunned to learn what it would cost to frame it. Any suggestions?
A. In London recently, the English Embroider's Guild show was filled with ideas for framing. Many designs were framed with needlework: Not only is this the newest, most original way of finishing a work -- it will also save you a fortune.
In some cases, the frame was an integral part of the picture, just like the Chinese panels that are so popular now. At other times, the picture overlapped the frame, using the texture of the needlework to its greatest advantage.
One lovely patchwork and quilted design was called Victorian Fantasy and was done entirely in black silk, satin and velvet. The whole design consisted of frames, each one a strip of quilted fabric surrounding a central lucious black silk rose. The play of light and shade was enhanced by tiny, jet beads sewn in clusters on the surface.
Another embroidery, framed with its own stitches, was a tiny applique picture of a winter landscape in the snow. It was done entirely in fabric combined with delicate embroidery stiches, using single strands of cotton floss, and the whole picture was then framed by a white linen matt. But the original, show-stopping idea was the way the snow hills were brought right out of the picture to the viewer's eye. This was done by cleverly extending the embroidery over the fabric matt itself.
At the lower edge of the matt, folded organdy, couched with tan thread was transformed into snowy furrows. Poking out from the snow were clusters of dried grass, gently curved as though blown by the wind. Each blade of grass was actually a single strand of floss, slightly curled with a scissor balde and stiffened with spray starch or acrylic fixative. You could try this embroidered frame technique by first stiching the furrows and grasses on your linen mounted in an embroidery frame and then applying the fabric to a cardboard matt.
So why not surround your Blue Boy masterpiece with stitches of your own creation, and make a needlepoint frame? To do this, draw lines radiating out from the corners of the finished needlepoint on the true diagonal of the canvas. Then, in just the right color, work a geometric or bargello pattern around the outside edge. At the corners on the diagonal line, allow the stiches to share the same holes, to make a crisp, finished look.
Then stretch the design on artists's stretcher strips, available in almost any size at art supply stores. Assemble the four strips in the lengths needed and cover with muslin, stretched and stapled on top. Mark the center of each strip with a pencil and mark the centers of the needlepoint canvas by folding the piece in half along the edges and creasing well. Now align the creases on the needleworkwith the marks on the stretcher strips and staple the four sides at the marks, stretching the work out tightly. sContinue stretching the canvas in this way, working out from the centers and alternating from side to side, stapling the corners last.
Wide grosgrain ribbons or strips of calico prints can be sewn together to form a colorful frame for needlework, too. Try joining the strips with feather, herringbone or long-armed cross stitch in a contrasting color thread. Wedges of printed fabric, joined in a wide band, will form an oval or circular frame.
An old-fashioned techinque will help to stretch your needlework over a cardboard backing. Criss-cross the back with lacing stitches, pulling the fabric tightly around the cardboard. This avoids modern-day pitfalls such as staples that don't hold to cardboard and dried-out masking tape that won't stick. If the lacing stiches slacken with time, just pull them up and adjust.