Mounting your Canvas
Preparing the Canvas
Preparing a canvas for needlepoint is a simple process. The first step is to bind the edges of the canvas. Binding covers the rough edges of the canvas so that they will not snag your threads or scratch your hands. There are several ways to bind canvas, all work well. First,you can turn under a margin of canvas on all sides and sew it. This provides a thick edge.
Second, you can sew on seam binding of some kind all around the canvas. This provides a nicely finished edge and is a great method if you have a sewing machine close by.
Most folks I know tape the edges of their canvas. If you can find it, use the white needlepoint tape used by shops. The easiest way to get some is to buy it from your local shop. One roll should last for several years.
This tape is artist’s tape and is a less sticky tape which leaves no residue. You can also find it in art supply stores (not in chain crafts stores).
Once you have used the artist’s tape, press it with a bone folder to make sure it adheres securely to the canvas. Also keep this tape in a dark place as sunlight dissolves the adhesive.
You can also use masking tape. This is by far the cheapest solution, but it has some drawbacks. Masking tape will discolor your canvas and the acids in the tape can destroy needlework, so be sure to cut away all the canvas which has been covered by the tape before finishing. Masking tape also gets less sticky as time passes, so it will come away and get brittle on older pieces of needlepoint.
Next you need to discover the grain of the canvas and mark one edge as the top.
If you are doing a painted canvas, the design most likely has a clear top and bottom. Along the edge of the canvas write “top” in permanent marker to remind yourself. If, like me, you tend to forget the direction tent stitch should go in, mark an arrow going from lower left to upper right.
If your canvas has a selvage on it, the selvage should be on the left or right. Turn your canvas appropriately and mark the top.
If you have no selvage and the canvas is mono, you will need to unravel one vertical thread and one horizontal thread to find the grain of the canvas. One of these threads will be more wavy than the other. That thread is the warp of the canvas and should run up and down. Mark the appropriate side “top.”
If you are using interlock canvas, take a close look at the canvas. In one direction, the warp, there are two strands winding around a single thread. Those threads should be vertical. This is less critical for interlock canvas, but knowing the grain is a good habit to get into. Mark the appropriate side “top.”
Needlepoint mounting consists of attaching the needlepoint to some kind of frame so that the canvas stays flat and taut.
The simplest kind of mounting is to use stretcher bars and tacks, preferably quilter’s tacks or brass needlework tacks.
Begin by finding stitcher’s stretcher bars. These come in sizes from 4” to 30” in sizes by whole inches. They are sold in packages of two. You will need two sets to stretch your canvas.
These sets should be the length and width of the canvas. Assemble the sides into a rectangular frame.
Get your tacks. Quilter’s tacks because they have large heads and thicker shafts than regular thumb tacks, so they are very sturdy. Brass tacks are very sharp and don’t rust. They are good for humid areas and for those with poor hand strength.
Begin needlepoint mounting by placing your needlepoint on top of the frame. Put a tack into one corner. Some people put the needlepoint below the stretcher bars with the wrong side of the canvas against the bars; this is also correct.
Stretch the needlepoint gently, then put another tack into the diagonally opposite corner.
Repeat this process with the other set of corners.
Now put the tacks in the center of each side, doing both top and bottom, then left and right.
The number of tacks you put into the frame after this depends on the size of the frame. You should strive to have tacks every 1-2”. Always do needlepoint mounting the same way:
stretch the needlepoint gently
place a tack
go to the diagonally opposite area of the frame and stretch again
place another tack
Repeat this process until you feel there are enough tacks to keep the canvas tight.
Final Thoughts on Needlepoint Mounting
As you stitch the canvas will relax and start to sag; this is normal.
If the needlepoint mounting becomes too stretched out, you may have to tighten it. Do this by removing the tacks from two adjacent sides.
Stretch the canvas gently and replace the tacks, first at the corners, then in the centers, then filling in. This should do the trick.
Badly sagging needlepoint, may need to be removed from the frame altogether and remounted from the beginning.