RSN Crewelwork Course Day 1 – framing

We’ve all been told or have read somewhere that the twill fabric must be “as tight as a drum” to ensure the best results. Until I used a slate frame, I’d never really experienced just how tight “as tight as a drum” could be! It takes time ( a lot!) and effort (you’ll need to use your muscles) but it is completely worth both the time and effort.

I’ll talk about what we did on the course to frame up the linen twill. I was very busy doing the framing and didn’t get photos of every step, but hopefully you’ll understand.

A slate frame is made of 4 pieces of wood. The top and bottom have very thick, strong webbing attached to the wood. The sides have holes in them which allow the frame to be stretched apart, thus tightening the fabric. I asked why it’s called a slate frame and one theory is that it’s similar in shape and design to the old fashioned slates that children used in school.

Before mounting your fabric on the frame you need to mark the center to the webbing that’s attached to the frame. This ensures that the center of the twill will be attached to the center of the frame. Rather than measuring the fabric to find the middle, we were taught to measure the wood and find the middle that way. Wood doesn’t stretch while fabric does so using the wood ensures that the middle will be accurately measured.

Next you need to fold over the top and bottom of the twill and crease it with your fingernail to make a good fold. (You could iron it but it really isn’t necessary!) It’s important to fold the twill as it adds strength to the fabric. You’ll be sewing this folded edge to the webbing that’s part of the frame, Attach the folded end to the webbing and whip stitch them together using heavy duty button thread. You must put the back side of your linen twill next to the back side of the webbing. When you pin them together, put the pins in vertically not horizontally to keep the webbing and the twill from puckering.

After you’ve sewn the top and bottom of the linen twill to the top and bottom of the frame, it’s time to attach a piece of twill tape to the sides of the linen twill. This strengthens the side of the linen twill so when you lace string through both the linen twill and the twill tape the fabric won’t tear.

At this point you need to stretch the twill but sliding/pulling the top and bottom away from each other and putting the metal pegs in the holes on the sides of the frame to hold it in place. It won’t be super tight but don’t worry – you’ll stretch it again later to tighten it up more.

Again, pinning vertically attach the twill tape to the linen twill. Then stitch the twill tape to the linen twill fabric using buttonhole thread.

The next step is to lace the fabric to the sides of the frame. We used simple cotton string (the kind you get at the hardware store) and a huge curved needle. Lacing the fabric takes time and a LOT of strength to pull the string tightly enough. It’s really important to keep the side of the fabric straight. This process is complex enough so I”ll take time when I get home to write up a clear and complete tutorial.

Now the linen twill really is drum tight! Next step is transferring the design to the twill – look for that next time!

Here’s Nicola Jarvis, our tutor, very happy because we’re all framed up. Whew!


12 thoughts on “RSN Crewelwork Course Day 1 – framing

  1. Dear Kathy

    WOW! It looks very good!
    Thanks so much, by sharing and by taking the trouble to write this for us. I confess that I read every word and
    and I’m enjoying it!!

    Hugs 🙂

  2. Framing up for Japanese embroidery is a similar process. Slightly different because of differences in the frame, but the result is the same, drum tight fabric. It is a time consuming process but you will love the difference that it makes when it comes to stitching and the difference it makes to your finished work.

  3. Oh, now I get it. Thanks for the full perspective photos. I’ve never managed to get the full picture from the close up shots usually provided and so have never really understood why slate frames would be all that different from stretcher frames. Love going along with you on this adventure.

  4. Very nice! Thanks for all the pictures. This is practically a book in blog form. I hope they don’t mind you posting all this info online, because it would stink if they stopped you partway through!

  5. I have just discovered your blog, and am so happy I have! You are doing what is quickly becoming my dream. I’m halfway through the Master Craftsman Certification in Crewel, which is only making me want to do and learn even more. Thank you for sharing…

  6. Hi Kathy,
    Elissa’s right — this IS a book, but better because it’s from a personal point of view. You take us on the journey with you. This lesson is so clear. You understand what the rest of us need to know because it’s what you need to know, and because you are, it seems to me, a born teacher.
    Thank you so much for taking the time to photograph and write in such detail when the course is so demanding. It is extraordinarily generous of you and is hugely appreciated.
    Warmest regards,
    Suzy B

  7. Dear Kathy, as a long time reader and admirer of your blog, I have finally decided to jump in and attempt to create a Jacobean Tree of Life design, and I want to try and follow your instructions and advice based upon your recent RSN course. So my design is ready and I have ordered some ‘Prick and pounce’ from Sarah Homfrey. Right now I am trying to attach the linen twill to the webbing on the top bar of the slate frame, but I am uncertain as to what exactly you mean when you write
    “You’ll be sewing this folded edge to the webbing that’s part of the frame, Attach the folded end to the webbing and whip stitch them together using heavy duty button thread. You must put the back side of your linen twill next to the back side of the webbing.”
    Would you mind terribly explaining this to me in another way please? Is the edge folded wrong side to wrong side? How do you place the back side of the linen to the back side of the webbing if the linen is folded backwards from the front facing you? Do you work the stitching exactly on the folded edge? I have tried to organize my materials to resemble what I see in your photos, but the only way I can get it to work out right is to have webbing on top of bar facing me, and then attach linen under the webbing…but then i have to whip stitch on linen fabric not on the fold! So I am utterly confused. Really hoping that you can enlighten me. Thank you! 🙂

    • Hi Edith,

      I’ve had a great day at school and my class 5 and 6 students have gotten started on stitching in their class. Whew! it is so different teaching embroidery than music. I’m exhausted.
      If you can please wait until tomorrow I will send you a email with better instructions and a picture. And, next time I mount a piece onto my frame, I”ll take very details and sequential photos so I can show anyone who wants to know how to do it.
      Liebe Grusse,

  8. Hi Kathy,
    thank you so very much! Tonight I shall turn to practicing some crewel stitches on my sampler! Your students are very lucky to have such a gifted teacher as yourself guiding them.

  9. Hi Kathy, I have decided to try and keep a journal of my progress with this piece and also for other embroideries I am working on and playing with. In case you are interested here’s the link: Be warned though that my work is nowhere near the standard of yours!! However I am hoping that this new piece, the Tree of Life design will change all this and plunge me into the heart of perfection!!! 🙂

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