Lacing is one of the best ways to prepare your needlework pieces for framing. It's not hard to learn and might seem difficult at first, but with a little practice and patience, you’ll be doing your own lacing and saving money as well. Once mastered, it's enjoyable and you'll have the added satisfaction in knowing that the job is done right.
The method of lacing I'm going to show you was taught to me by a dear friend, Linda Brady. Keep in mind that there are many ways to lace and this is just one method.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Make sure all materials are acid free.
Foam core or mat board cut to frame size with or without mats added on
Needles (two make the job easier)
Button/carpet thread (use only white or ecru as the colored thread tends to break)
Rubber gloves or finger cots
Wash and press your needlework making sure there are no creases. Zigzag or serge all fabric edges. If the fabric isn't large enough after serging, sew muslin strips 1 ½ - 2 inches wide to the edges of the needlework fabric, starting with the sides and then going along the top and bottom. Measure where you want the edge of the mats or frame to go and remember that a frame has about a ¼ inch lip on it for the glass. Once you have that figure, cut the foam core to the appropriate size. Measure to find the centers on the sides of the foam core and make a very light pencil mark. Write all measurements down so you don't forget them! Find the centers on your needlework and mark these spots with pins. Lay your needlework on top of the foam core and match up the centers. Noting the pencil marks on the foam core, take the straight pin that is marking the spot on the linen/aida and walk the pin in about two linen threads or one aida square and then slide the pin into the side of the foam core.
Following the linen/aida thread to where your pin is, start placing pins about every ½ inch or so, making sure the spacing of pins is even and not too far apart. Your fabric needs to be taut with no "waves" or puckering. Always start your pinning with the center-marking pin and work your way towards the corner. Be very careful not to pull the corners too tight or you’ll end up with unsightly rounded corners. When you've finished pinning, take your ruler and re-measure around the design to make sure your measurements are equal on all sides. If need be, re-adjust the pins to get the correct measurement. If it is off by just a thread or two you can adjust by "rolling" the fabric with your fingers when that side is laced.
Now for the fun part! You'll be lacing from top to bottom and when that's done, you'll be going from side to side. Thread your needle with a long length of button/carpet thread. DO NOT CUT THE THREAD as it needs to be one continous length. Starting in a top corner make a stitch about the width of your baby finger. Now go straight down to the bottom and make another stitch and then return to the top leaving a space the width of your thumb between stitches. Continue to other side, gently tugging and pulling the thread as you go. Go slow or your thread will twist and you’ll end up with an ugly knotted mess! When you reach the end, DO NOT tie off. Go back to the beginning corner and cut the thread and with second needle,secure the thread into the fabric by making a French knot (wrapped three times around needle) and weave the tail of the thread in the direction of the opposite side.
Put on rubber gloves or finger cots (I prefer the finger cots on the forefinger of both hands. They can be found where you buy Band-Aids). They'll help give you the grip you'll need to pull the thread taut and to keep it from slipping through your fingers. They'll also help you to get a good grip on the fabric if you need to "roll" the edge
Now starting at the side you just knotted take the first thread and gently pull on it to make it taut. Remember to keep the whole thing flat so you won't accidentally break the thread or tear through the linen threads. This motion is like tightening laces on shoes or a corset. The threads are tight enough when they "ping" when snapped. DO NOT PULL THE CORNERS TOO TIGHT or they'll become rounded! Do not remove any pins until completely finished. There should be no slack whatsoever in the pulled threads or your fabric will be wavy and uneven. When finished, tie off with a French knot. Repeat for the other side.
Doublecheck all your measurements around the design. If they are off by a thread or two, gently roll the fabric around the foam core until everything is even, using your thumb and forefinger.
You're finished! That wasn’t so bad was it?
With practice, lacing will become easier and faster. Don’t be afraid to tackle a larger piece.
Special thanks to Carol whose pictures and text are featured here; to Pat S. who conceived the idea for this page and Ali G. who converted the pictures into a useable format.