Friday, July 14, 2017

The Stretcher Bar Dilemna

Recently I started a painted canvas project (this is "Fuchsia" from Barbara Elmore, distributed by Sundance Needlepoint) that presented a problem when I was ready to put it on stretcher bars.  The outside dimensions of the canvas are 16 1/4 inches tall by 13 5/8 inches wide.  Needless to say, this isn't going to fit on stretcher bars which are sold in one inch increments!

The 16 1/4 inch dimension can be easily fixed by cutting off that extra quarter inch, or mounting it on 16 inch stretcher bars and letting the extra canvas stick out at the top where it won't be in the way (unless you count catching your threads on that protruding excess as "in the way").  I could also trim the width to 13 inches but the excess canvas margins are not that large and I might need that extra 5/8 inches in width in finishing.  I am not certain at this point if this will be framed or made into a pillow.

There is another way to handle the issue besides taking scissors to the excess and cutting the canvas down to a 16x13 stretcher bar size.  I can lace the canvas.  To understand what I mean, check Susan Roberts' first photo in her "Mounting on Stretcher Bars" article from her website.

Yes, she has laced the canvas to the right side of her too large stretcher bars.  Here is how you lace a canvas.

Two Sets of Stretcher Bars

I rummaged around in my supplies and pulled out a set of 16 inch stretcher bars and a set of 15 inch stretcher bars and slotted them together.  Then I attached my canvas at the top, bottom and left side as usual with staples.  (I personally don't like thumbtacks as they constantly fall out, presenting a danger to feet and paws.)  Then I cut a long length of perle cotton (I think I used about 7 feet) and secured it in the margin outside the design at the top right corner of my canvas.  I began to lace the unsecured right edge by wrapping the perle cotton around the stretcher bars, coming up through the canvas perhaps 7 threads from the raw edge, going over the stretcher bar and taking the needle down again in the same channel, then coming up again through the canvas.  Repeat until you get to the bottom of the canvas.  To tighten the wraps, start at the top right corner again near your knot and pull on the perle cotton until the hole is only slightly distorted, working a wrap at a time, all the way down the side until you get to the bottom.

Right Side Laced

See the little thumbtack in the lower right corner?  I wrapped my perle cotton around that 6-7 times to secure the thread.  I can always unwrap the thread end and retighten the canvas if it starts to loosen a bit as I stitch.  This technique is used with slate frames and scroll bars more often than with stretcher bars since buying a set of cheap stretcher bars is much less work, but if you don't have easy access to a shop that carries stretcher bars and don't want to trim the canvas to fit the bars you have, lacing is the way to go.

If my explanation is totally confusing, Sarah Homfrey has a lovely video about attaching fabric to roller bars (that's what we Americans call scroll bars) that illustrates the lacing technique on the sides.    You won't need to add herringbone tape to the top or sides since needlepoint canvas is stronger.  Plus you probably are not seeking to have your canvas drum tight and you won't need a bracing needle to lace, but the technique is the same, even if the materials are not.

Hope my explanation helps you cope when you have an odd-sized canvas to put on stretcher bars.  Please note you can lace either (or both) sides or the top/bottom, but lacing on the side (or sides) is the traditional way to go.

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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© Copyright June 4, 2017 Jane M. Wood. All rights reserved.


  1. I recently bought, but have not yet tried, a couple of sets of "Adjustable Stretcher Bars" from the F.A. Edmunds company. The bars slide up and down to adjust to the exact size you need. Why don't you think about reviewing them for your readers.

  2. I will think about it. No one here carries them, though, so I'd have to special order. So if you try them and like them, do a review and I'll publish it here.

  3. HI Jane, Needlepoint Tool Time carries the Adjustable Frames by Edmunds. I just finished an ornament on the 8" square frames. I had to reduce the size to fit the canvas. I thought the extra bar width hanging out on the sides might interfere with stitching but it didn't. In the case of your canvas, I would have used the 16" bars & either ignored or cut off the 1/4". They are also a less expensive & lighter than Evertites. They can be adjusted if the canvas starts to sag.

    On a new subject, check out Marlene's new ornaments on my web site. She hopes to encourage new, younger stitchers by creating something that is less expensive & almost instant gratification. By the time I attend Merchant's Night at the ANG Seminar, she will have additional holidays available. Tisha

  4. Thanks for the update on Marlene's plans, Tisha. I'll link to that in the New Summer tab. Good to know you liked the Adjustable Frames.