Thursday, January 26, 2012

A finishing primer

Few things are more exciting and rewarding to a stitcher than putting in those last stitches and finishing a piece.

Unless, of course, it's picking up your finished piece from the framer.

I got to do that last week and was pleasantly surprised to see it look even better than I had anticipated. My Southwestern Pots stitching came alive with the colors of the double mats and frame, carefully chosen by Sandy, a professional framer at the Attic Needlework shop in Mesa.

It's not an easy job to select the right combination for the framing of your piece. And what makes it difficult is that there are so many wonderful color combinations and choices available. If you find a framer with much experience and an artistic flair, one who can suggest techniques you would never have thought possible, you have a real treasure.

I highly recommend framing your work at a needlework specialty shop. They are in business for their love of the art and know how to frame fiber arts. Believe me, not every framer does.

Or find a good frame shop and question them to determine if they know the proper way to frame fabric. Do not assume that they do.  What is their technique? Do they press and prepare the fabric for framing or do you need to bring it in ready?

I have a good method, passed on to me by my sister, Edie, for "freeze-drying" your finished piece. It involves washing it with a fine fabric wash (as you might use for hosiery) or a drop of Dawn detergent. Lay it on a towel and roll to remove excess moisture, then put it in the freezer for a short time. Then remove and press with an iron, pressing on the wrong side of the fabric.

I always bring my piece in ready to be framed; that is, clean and rolled in tissue around a paper-towel cardboard roll. Some bring pieces in all crumpled and leave it to the framer to prepare.

If I am trying to match my piece to colors in a room, I bring in a sofa pillow, a scrap of carpeting or a paint sample.  When you start looking at the hundreds of hues available for mats and frames, it's easy to become confused. You don't want to rely on your memory or resort to guesswork at that point.

I also avoid places such as arts and crafts shops as they often have part-time sales clerks doubling as framing "consultants." They may also use inferior products while advertising deep discounts for them. At the point of framing your piece, you have invested too much time (and love) in the creation to let it be spoiled by poor finishing.

It's not always necessary to use glass in framed pieces. If it is a relatively small piece, involves beads, or texture, I want the look of fabric without the glass to spoil it.  In a larger piece, I usually use UV non-glare glass. There is also museum-quality glass; expensive, but you can hardly see there's glass at all. It is often well worth the investment.

Don't compromise on the finishing of a piece after you've labored to make it so beautiful. Your handwork should be a lasting treasure.

Above all, enjoy the creating. I have started pieces that turned out to be frustrating and a work of labor, not a work of love. That's the point at which I "chuck" it! I do needlework for the sheer enjoyment of it, like reading a good book you can't put down.  When I can hardly wait to get back to a piece, and can hardly stand to put it down, I know I've got a good thing.

And the happy ending is the finished product.