How to Hand Embroider with a Stretcher Bar Frame – Easy and so worth it!

Whilst working on my latest design I decided it would look really nice worked in a square shape and then mounted on a canvas board when finished. My plan was to just stitch the design in a hoop and move it around as I went but I soon realised I would need to think again.

Constantly removing the fabric and rearranging it in the hoop was not only annoying (!) but it made the whole piece look more ragged and the stitches that were getting squashed (even though I was as careful as I could be) didn’t look as good as they could have.

I was looking around for alternative frames for stitching the whole piece that would be inexpensive, easy to do, and provide a nice stitching experience whilst seeing the whole design! I also wanted it to fit in the Seat frame I already had so it had a lot to live up to.

Stretcher bar frames seemed to be the thing that ticked all the boxes so I decided to start the design again and I am so glad I did. For a little bit more effort than popping in a hoop, the bar frame for me has been a game changer.

A Stretcher Bar Frame is basically wooden bars which fit together to form a frame that you attach your embroidery to for stitching.

You can get the bars in all sorts of sizes to make lots of different frame sizes – each set is sold as a pair so you need 2 sets to make a frame! These Siesta bars are fitted together by the interlocking edges.

I also wanted to try the ‘Elbesee Universal Craft Frame’ – which has plastic corner connectors to fit them together rather than interlocking edges. (again sold in a pair so you need to get 2 pairs to make a frame!)

So, which one to choose. Purely as I liked the rigidity of the Elbesee Bars, I decided to go with this – as you can see in the photo – the Siesta ones do move so its personal choice. Once your fabric is tacked on I doubt it makes much difference.

Once you have got your frame, all you need is your fabric and some pins to tack it on to the frame with.

Make sure the fabric extends outside of the frame by at least 2 inches on each side.

Trace your chosen design on to your fabric prior to putting on the frame.

To prevent fraying, you can edge the fabric with masking tape or cut with pinking shears.

Place your design face down on a clean flat surface and place the bar frame on the back- make sure the design is central in the frame as best you can.

Pull the top edge of fabric over the frame bar (making sure your design stays central) and put your first pin in the middle of the bar. Pull the fabric over and continue to pin along the bar from the centre outwards on both sides.

Once all the pins are along the top bar you can pull the fabric nice and tight on the bottom edge and pin in the same way from the centre out – keep the tension nice and tight and even. You should have all your pins on the top and bottom bars as in the photo above.

Next, you need to pin the 2 side bars. I found it easier to pin each side in the middle first to provide some tension and then put the remainder of the pins in one side and then the other.

As you can see from the photo above, I have kept the tension really nice and tight and the fabric is lovely and taut.

Here’s how it looks from the front…

Now you are all set to get stitching.

Here’s how it looks part way through stitching – it’s clean, taut, I can see it all for colour choices and best of all I am not messing around taking it in and out of a hoop – yay!

This pattern will be coming soon…

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