24 September 2012

Frame Making Tutorial

I have never liked the way an art quilt hangs along a wall. Over time they stretch and sag and frankly, just look flat. How I came up with this technique is too long to tell but I suffice it to say, it was inspired.
As I said, I really wanted to "frame" my pieces but how??? I took a small quilt about 16" X 18" and stretched it across a piece of Styrofoam 1.5" thick and adhered lath to the sides then screwed them on. Here is the finished piece.

Wow, I thought. This looks great. So I thought I would do a tutorial for ALL my friends so they can frame large and small pieces weightlessly. The quilt below is 69" X 69" (on point) and weighs about 5 lbs. Can you see the advantage of this method.

                                                (Coastal 2)

These are the materials needed to frame a picture:
  1. Styrofoam rigid insulation board 1.5" thick - this comes in 4'X8' or 2'X8' sheets
  2. craft felt (I buy 72" wide white from Joanns)
  3. 505 spray adhesive or Dritz spray adhersive (spray on fabric not foam)
  4. Straight pins (remember them?)
  5. quilt or quilt top
  6. lath (lumber yard) or a wooden yard stick if you piece is under 1 yard
  7. paint to match piece
  8. 1.25" dry wall screws
  9. Loctite PC 300 Styrofoam adhesive (won't melt Styrofoam) or it's equivalent 
  10. Caulk gun
  11. Screw gun
General info: The Styrofoam insulation is a bit pricey. A 4' X 8' sheet coast about $27. but goes a long way. It also comes in half sheets 2' X 8'. Try to get lath that is straight, clean and unweathered. I had to look for a while but when I found beautiful lath,  bought LOTS. It was beautiful stuff. As I mentioned, a yard stick will do too. You'll just need more than one (probably).

I measure my smallest dimension on the sheet of Styrofoam to leave as much as possible for future use. Hope you get what I'm trying to say on this little post-it.

Then cut that piece to the desired size. Lay the foam on top of the felt and cut the felt about 1/2"-3/8" bigger than the foam.

Now turn the two pieces over and center the felt over the foam. Now it is time to 

use the spray fabric adhesive on the FELT.   * Important note:  If your piece is large fold back half the felt and spray one half. Lay it down without shifting the felt. Carefully fold back the other side of the felt and spray that side and lay in place. ALWAYS smooth carefully from the center to the sides then the center to the top and bottom. Smooth carefully to get any wrinkles out of the felt.

This is a small piece I am spraying half and half as a demonstration. I ordinarily would not spray a piece this small half at a time. Now spray the felt with the adhesive spray and lay out the fabric carefully smoothing it FROM THE CENTER to the sides top and bottom. as before.

After smoothly and making sure the fabric is adhered as smoothly and taunt as possible, place 5 pins about an inch apart starting in the center of the edge.

Next lay the piece flat and pull the fabric and felt from the pinned side to stretch it a bit.

Pin that with about 5 pins. I pins 2 sides at a time then move on to the other two sides making sure there are no wrinkles and the fabric looks smooth and flat.

Next you need to trim the fabric away right up to the pins. The goal is to NOT get any fabric caught with the screws - you will see more about this later. If you do get the fabric caught it is VERY difficult to straighten out the fabric again so avoidance is primary.

I try for about a 1/4" piece of fabric over the edge but definitely less than half way across the foam.

I measure, cut and sand the lath before painting. I don't always paint but I do usually. When I leave it natural, I put NO finish on the wood. You can do what you'd like. If my piece is 12" X 12" I will cut 2 pieces 12" and 2 pieces about 12 1/2. I use the actual lath doubled and make a mark for cutting since I will have 2 pieces of lath.

After they are cut and sanded, I paint them with whatever color I'd like (latex paint)

 Now I drill them. On a 12" piece I drill 2 holes; on a 48" piece 3 holes. I use an 1/8" drill bit for my dry wall screws.

                     See how the hole is drilled at about the 1/3 way mark?

In this picture you can see the drilled hole about center on the pink foam I want that screw as centrally located on the foam as possible - not to close to the back and not too close to the fabric. AVOID the fabric at all coasts.

 Now it is time for the Styrofoam adhesive. Run a bead in the center of the exposed foam.

Now place the lath over the side of the piece. Try to get it on correctly the first time since moving around the lath with adhesive on it can be messy. DO NOT let any adhesive from your hands get on the face of the quilt or fabric. It is water soluble so you might want a wet CLEAN rag or sponge near by to clean your fingers or the fabric. Once dried this stuff will not come off. I place my fingers on the ends of the lath to feel that it is equal distance from the ends/sides.

 I gently/slowly use the screw gun to set the dry wall screws. These screws have big flanges and really grip the Styrofoam as well as anything is able to grip foam.

On the back I put on another piece of lath usually a cut off scrap. Just lately I have pre-drilled it before adhering and added 1.25" dry wall screws. MAKE SURE THE SCREWS ARE NOT LONGER THAN THE FOAM IS THICK or you will have a sharp screw tip poking through you quilt. I do this on BIG pieces only. Then after 24 hours of drying (I like being sure), I attach eyelets and wire for hanging.

Done... So you probably figured out I was taking picture of three different pieces during the tutorial. The picture above is of the piece I framed at the "Maine Event". Most of the other pictures are of a piece that is still drying and the eyelet picture is of Coastal 2 which is waiting to be shipped. Some of the foam was pink and some was blue but ALL of the foam was 1.5" thick. I did frame a piece in 1" foam with the extra bit of lath on the front. I caught a small bit of fabric and couldn't get it back into shape so that piece is marred forever. Lesson learned - don't go below 1.5" thick foam. Most of the cautions I've included in this tutorial fall into the "Ask me how I know" category.

Later I will photograph he quilt that I used most in this tutorial. It is called "Summer Chop".

If you have ANY questions, don't hesitate to email me using the contact link on my profile page.

I hope you do try this. It is an awesome framing technique. A caveat: This may  not be good way to display for a quilt show but great for a Gallery sale.


  1. Thank you so much! It's just now that I realize the opportunities, putting it diagonal!! Great tutorial.


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