Contemporary Makeover For Cross Stitch

Cross Stitch: Original Framing

It could be a matter of personal preference making you want to re-frame something. Creating a new look for a room might urge you to ring the changes. Sensing that the original framing hasn’t been done well and that, to give the artwork a fighting chance, you want to start from scratch. And sometimes it’s all of those combined making you reach for the pliers.

Where I pause longest to consider the options is with “sewn artwork”. Whether it is something to hang at home or a piece being framed for a customer, there are several issues with fabrics that should influence your planning. In all cases choose the best method of preparing, attaching and stretching the artwork. Secondly, allow enough depth away from the glass to accommodate any variation in stitching, knotted features and sewn-in items.

A third issue is more subjective: design and style. Whilst needlecraft is often associated with cosiness and homeliness it doesn’t have to be “dressed” in the design equivalent of a pair of old slippers. There must be a way of giving something a more contemporary style without loosing the traditional qualities of the art.

An Ugly Duckling

A few years ago, I was given a piece of framed cross stitch as a present. It is a well crafted piece of work (by a family member). Its true value is with the work involved producing it alongside the thought of the gift. However, as with much of this art form, the original frame had been created purely as a practical mechanism for hanging it on a wall. End result, a few weeks’ work in the stitching, but only 30 minutes in the framing. It deserved better.

The panel had been hanging around (sorry about the pun) for two years in its original frame, niggling away at me. Now was the time to sort it out. The issue wasn’t to make out I’m better than the original framer: in fact everything was put together accurately and tidily. I wanted a decorative piece to hang in my dining room. And it was all about seeing if, with a bit of thought, time and different use of materials, I couldn’t create that more contemporary feel for this particular piece of sewing.

Personally, I like clean-cut framing: mouldings with strong lines, natural colours and a physical presence. I also prefer, light, neutral mounts which give the artwork a chance to do the work. Both of these choices help framing to fit in well with the array of my own framed landscape photography and contemporary paintings. We are lucky enough to have large wall spaces and good light in many of the rooms, so large scale pieces feature strongly. The good light also means that added depth and layers show up well.


Pinning cross stich over foam core.Falling Apart

When dismantling the original frame the thinking was as much about design as changing the method of presentation. There were a couple of problems with the original. Although the cross-stitch had been laced, it had been stretched across an MDF panel. Visually it gave the artwork a dirty, beige look because the brown surface was visible though the fabric. No mount had been used, leaving the artwork in contact with the glass for a few years. The lacing was quite flimsy, with very fine threads used. These had torn through the fabric in places allowing the panel to ruck up.

The first decision was easy. Stretching and pinning across a foam panel insert would give the tension needed. Why not lace it? Pinning allowed me to position the artwork more evenly and maintain the rectangular nature of the design. The white surface of the foam core panel, underlying the fabric, had the added benefit of lightening the appearance of the artwork. I should also point out that pinning is not the easy option on a piece this size – it took 45 minutes of fine tuning!

Better By Design

Close up of all mount layers.From the start I knew that I wanted to create a sculpted look to the mount: the double mount close to the outer edge catches the light and adds extra depth without crowding out the artwork. I had also opted for a “sea shell” mount: however, with the “all white” look, it was too bright close in to the stitched panel. By that time I had decided on a dark wood moulding and tried to use a darker, complimentary shade, instead, as the inner mount. When I tried a range of shade boards, they all looked too crisp, detracting from the textures in the fabric and needlework. Eventually, I decided to create a sponged finish on the inner mount, using acrylic paints. It provides a textured step before you hit all of the white.

Although I frequently use deep rebate mouldings through choice for my own work, there was a practical element involved in my final selection. With a “package” depth in the order of at least 17 mm, the project ruled out many of the standard mouldings. The profile (M1008DR), that I finally chose, has no curves at all: almost completely square cut, there is an angled face towards the sight edge. The dark (conker) brown has the richness and warmth I wanted, to reflect some of the deeper accent tones of the cross-stitch.

Cross Stitch: New LookSome people will say that there was nothing much wrong with the original framing – it certainly cost less to produce. The difference for me is that this is now a piece of decorative art that is a feature of a room we use all of the time, instead of being tucked away as a reminder of somebody’s sewing efforts.

The message is simple: framing at its best creates a piece of art. At its worst it destroys it.


To see the project explained click: Project Library and look for The Ugly Duckling


Posted on: 8 Jul 2009@07:56:32, updated on: 8 Jul 2009@07:56:32.