Tuesday, December 06, 2016

My Quilt for 2017 La Conner Quilt Museum Challenge

Robin Atkins, quilt for 2017 La Conner Quilt Museum challenge, detail
To be honest with you, the past two months (Oct. and Nov.) have been miserable for me because of the election campaign and results. Now, finally, the cloak of despair, the fog of depression, is lifting a little.

One evening, as I noticed the challenge kit from the La Conner Quilt Museum on top of my quilting to-do pile, a flicker of an idea passed through my brain. Then, as I awoke the next morning, the flicker became a small flame, which in turn lead me to accept an invitation to spend an afternoon quilting with some friends, which (in order to have something to work on) got me rooting through my fabric stash.

Now, quilters, beaders, and artists of all types, will recognize the phenomenon caused by physically touching your materials, supplies, and tools. Suddenly your wearisome thoughts of the election (or whatever else got you down) are gone! You fondle your stuff lovingly, and with great anticipation, you make the first cuts, fanning the flame, turning it into a nice warm fire. Ah, saved from the chilly fog, at last!

vintage quilt block, 11 inches square, hand pieced
It all started with this vintage block from a quilt that someone, somewhere, started long ago, but never finished. It, along with many others, was donated to the La Conner Quilt Museum. The Curator, Kathleen Kok, not knowing what she would do with all the vintage blocks donated over the years, just kept them in a corner waiting for an idea to form. And form it did!

Every year the Museum has a challenge as a fundraiser, showcasing the entries at the annual Quilt Festival. For 2017, the challenge theme is "Time" and the material provided in the kit is one of the vintage blocks from their collection. The block above is the one I picked. It is just so cheerful... how could I resist? Hand pieced, it wasn't perfectly sewn, but still I fell instantly in love with it. Mine for a $10 contribution!

Of course, it was just the block. In the photo above, I have already layered it with backing and batting, and then hand quilted it.

My idea is two-fold. (1) Since the "time" theme can be portrayed by a transition from these early fabrics to modern fabrics, I decided to repeat the block using Kaffe Fassett fabric scraps left over from my shimmer quilt. (2) Feeling powerless in the face of impending doom after the election, I had to find some ways to assert my beliefs, and this quilt was to be one of them. I've long been concerned about the ever-increasing world population, about all the small, yet constant ways overpopulation is damaging and destroying the natural systems of the planet. So the title will be: Under the Quilts, Time Flies, and the Population GROWS. My idea is to illustrate this concept using both color and beads. You'll see.

First though, a few words about making the modern block. At first I tried to make a pattern for the "flower/star" by tracing one of the triangles from the back side. I hand-stitched the required 16 pieces together FOUR different times, varying the seam allowances each time, trying to get it to lie down flat. Obviously, I did not correctly copy the original, because when I finally sewed it so it was nice and flat, it was also too small. Grrr.

A smart quilt friend (thanks Tori) suggested I trace a section from the right side of the block and add 1/4 inch seam allowances all around. Good idea, but there were small differences between the sections... which one to trace? Trying to answer that question, looking at the block, I finally saw how the pattern was derived! (Light bulb!!!)

pattern for vintage quilt block, 11 inches square
It's two overlapping squares of the same size, one on point and one not. All it took was to measure the sides of the squares on the original block (which averaged 8.5 inches), cut them out of paper, fold the diagonals and sides, put a pin through the centers to join them, rotate the top one until the folds lined up, tape the two together, and draw along the fold lines. Voila! Now, all I had to do was cut out one of the half-points, add my quarter-inch seam allowances, and there was the perfect pattern for my new block. The rest went quite quickly, and below you can see the quilted result. (Note: I added quarter-inch seam allowances to each of the pattern pieces shown above to get the final cutting pattern.)


Robin Atkins, hand pieced, hand quilted block, Kaffe Fassett fabrics
You might be wondering why I've layered and quilted these blocks. How will they be joined to form the quilt? The answer is they won't be joined! Instead, they are bound as separate little quilts (each 11 inches square), and then appliqued to a "background quilt."

Here is how they look with the binding.

vintage quilt block, hand quilted and bound by Robin Atkins

Robin Atkins, hand pieced, hand quilted block, Kaffe Fassett fabrics
Notice that the over-all color of the modern block is darker. This matches my concern about over-population of the planet. Time flies, and the population GROWS, making the world a darker place for me, as many species become stressed and obsolete, as the desert lands grow and the forests shrink, as potable water becomes polluted and scarce, as crowded people war with each other. You know. If you watch the documentaries and contribute to various environmental causes, you know. Darker.

Thus, the quilt also becomes darker as the eye travels from top to bottom. Here is how it looks with the two blocks on the background quilt, the transitioning colors from light to dark, representing about 70 years in time passing (estimating the date of the fabrics in the vintage block at approximately 1946). This is a relatively tiny period of world history, but one in which world population accelerated from 2.3 billion to 7.4 billion.

Robin Atkins, quilt for 2017 La Conner Quilt Museum challenge
You can probably see the little heart beads, but if you click to enlarge the photo, you'll see them more clearly. The pair at the top represents a couple. They dive under the quilt, have some fun, and produce four lovely children (between the two blocks). These four pair up, dive under the quilt, resulting in 16 children. Under the quilts, time flies, and the population GROWS. That's m' story, and I'm sticking to it.

Now, here's a question for you loyal readers who have come so far with me on this thing.  The quilt looks really pretty the way it is. But originally, I had planned to do more beading on it.  I planned to bead several vines circling the outer border of the quilt (not the binding). Across the top of the quilt, the vine would be light green, with many green leaves, bright-colored flowers, and some critter beads/charms (bees, birds, bears, fish). As it trailed down the sides, it would become darker, until at the bottom it was beaded with dark brown, black, and darkest greens, with no critters, and only a few dark flowers. The message would be, "this is what happens when we overpopulate the world." What do you think... leave it like it is now or bead the borders?

Global Population Information

Global Footprint Network data shows that humanity currently uses the equivalent of 1.6 planet Earths to provide the renewable resources we use.. If all 7.8 billion of us were to enjoy a European standard of living (which is only HALF the consumption rate of the average American), the Earth could sustainably support only about 2 billion people (about a fourth of the world's current population).

Bottom line? The current population is more than THREE times the sustainable level.

Think of it this way. Every single month increasing world population adds another Los Angeles AND another Chicago to the planet. That's 24 gigantic cities worth of people every year.

Evidence of heavy population demand on resources is all around us. Global aquifers are being pumped 3.5 times faster than rainfall can naturally recharge them. Eventually they will run dry, perhaps as soon as 75 years. Topsoil is being lost 10-40 times faster than it is formed.  Feeding all 7.8 billion of us is increasingly difficult, impossible actually. There is no technology solution to accommodate the increasing demand of uncontrolled global population growth. The only solution is voluntary one child per couple for a couple of generations, on a Global participation level. If all countries followed the lead of countries with the lowest birth rates (Taiwan, Spain, Portugal, South Korea, and Poland), we could reach a Global population of 3 billion by 2100!

Please, talk about this with your child-bearing-aged kids, grand kids, students, etc. We teach environmentally sound practices in most schools, write books and make documentary films about issues like clean water, over-fishing, fracking, etc. But rarely does the topic center on overpopulation. Be proactive. Make it happen.

If you are willing to read (or listen to an audio book) to learn more about Global population, Count Down is an excellent read.

Here is a link to the previous bead embroidery pieces I've made concerning population growth.Thank you for reading all the way to the end, and for anything you can do to help people understand what we need to do.




Thursday, October 27, 2016

I have Dupuytren’s Disease


Last November an odd, rather hard, bump suddenly appeared in the palm of my right hand. A few weeks later, in a routine physical exam, I asked my Dr. what the lump might be. She thought it was a harmless, ganglion cyst. In January, suddenly two more lumps appeared in the same area of my palm, about a half inch below my little and ring fingers. Feeling some concern about this, I made an appointment with a hand specialist, a surgeon, who told me with absolute certainty that I had Dupuytren’s Disease.

Dupuytrens Disease, stage N, my right hand

In case you are wondering, Dupuytren (pronounced sort of like doo-pi-tron), is the name of a French surgeon who pioneered a surgical treatment for the disease in 1831. With thanks to the internet, especially The International Dupuytren Society website and forum, I have learned a lot about this disease and have since taken steps to prevent or at least slow its further development.

Dupuytren’s Disease (also called Dupuytren's contracture) is basically a non-malignant, tumor-building, auto-immune disease that affects the hands, with about a 40% chance of eventually turning a functioning hand into a claw which cannot be opened. The disease targets the tiny fibers which join the skin on the palm and fingers to the structure of the hand (bone, muscles, tendons, nerves). The fibers become enlarged, hardened, and inflexible. In roughly 60% of the people who have it, the disease at some point goes dormant, leaving the person with partial to full use of their hand(s). For the unlucky 40% who lose the use of their hand(s), the options are grim. Surgery to remove the fibrous tumors, along with 6 months of physical therapy following surgery, is a horrendous ordeal. And often the small bits of remaining tumor grow and spread, resulting in a closed, useless hand again some months or years later. There is no known cure.
You can skip this paragraph if you are not so interested in the disease in general. In the following paragraphs, I’ll tell you about my personal experience with it so far... Some other names for Dupuytren’s Disease are: claw hand, Viking disease, palmar fascia contracture, and flexion contracture. Because it often causes one or more fingers to curl inward toward the palm, it is sometimes confused with trigger finger, an entirely different affliction. It is linked to heredity, Northern European descent, diabetes and other auto-immune diseases. Men are more likely to have it than women, and its incidence increases in older (over 50) folks for both men and women. Often it is dormant until there is injury or trauma to the hand(s). There are currently four categories of treatment: radiation therapy (successful only in the very early developmental stage of the disease), needle aponeurotomy (generally considered for stage 1 or 2 of the disease with 6 to 90 degrees of deformation), collagenase injection (also stage 1 or 2), and surgery (advanced stages).
Dupuytrens Disease, my right hand prior to symptoms showing
This is a copy-machine scan of my right hand in August, 2012. At that time, I probably had the disease, but there were no obvious signs of it.

my hand (beaded), before onset of Dupuytren's Disease
This is a piece I created using the above scan. It celebrates the many blessings of my hand. Who knew that 4 years later it would be in jeopardy.
If you know me at all, you know that I love to stitch! Give me a needle and thread, a few beads or layered fabric that needs hand-quilting, and I am in heaven. If I couldn’t stitch, I’d be miserable. Already, I noticed (in January) that my right (dominant) hand was losing flexibility and strength. I dropped things all of the time because my grip was not as strong. And I could not spread my fingers or flex them backwards. The progression was alarmingly fast at that time, and affected my ability to hold and control a needle, scissors, etc.

So, as I learned more and more about the possible development of my disease, I decided to take an immediate step to get radiation therapy, which reportedly has an 85 to 93% chance of halting further development of the disease, if taken when the disease is in its initial, active, developmental phase. The treatment consists of 5 + 5, daily, low-dose, radiation sessions (with a 3 month or more interval between the first and second five sessions).

In the USA, the medical profession has mostly chosen to ignore the early stages of the disease, because (I guess) it only becomes a serious issue for about 40% of those who have it, and they (like me) are mostly older folks with a good chance of dying before the disease becomes seriously debilitating. Until quite recently, treatment has been in the realm of the surgeons. The one who diagnosed me, for example, did not even mention radiation therapy. He simply said that if it got worse, much worse, we could consider surgery.

For this reason, not many hospitals or insurance plans offer or cover radiation therapy. I discovered that it is offered by Overlake Hospital in Bellevue, WA, but not covered by my Medicare Insurance Plan. The out-of-pocket expense for the treatments for one hand would be a whopping $25,000 if I chose to pay for it myself. Even if my insurance had covered it, my cost would still have been 20% or $5,000. So I began to look into other options.

Dupuytren's disease, markup of nodules and cords on both hands

I learned that one of the Radiation Treatment Centers in Germany had been treating about 300 Dupuytren patients per year since the mid-1980s, and keeping extensive follow-up records on their patients. The total cost of treatments for one hand is $1,800. I figured if I bought airline tickets enough in advance and stayed in low-cost lodging, I could make two trips to Germany and get the treatments for a lot less than I would pay in the USA.  A few emails later, I had an appointment for my first clinic visit and treatment in Hamburg, Germany, April 23, 2016. My cost for lodging and travel expenses and the first round of treatments was just under $3,000.

Dupuytren's disease, radiation therapy in Hamburg, Germany
The RT machine just before my last treatment. It will be lowered to just above my hand for the 30 +/- seconds of the radiation.
Good news! I just returned from the second (last) round of treatments, with the cost being less because of cheaper airfare and no initial exam/treatment plan. The total cost for both trips to Germany and the treatments was about 1/5 of what it would have been close to home in Bellevue, WA!

Although I also have the disease in my left hand, it has not developed enough yet to warrant radiation treatment, and (with luck) may never do so. On this second visit, the Dr. was pleased to tell me that he could detect no further progression of the disease in my right hand since the first series of treatments. I’m hoping to be among the lucky 90 or so percent who never see further development of the disease. Although I’m slower and clumsier than I was 10 months ago, I can still sew, bead, crochet, and knit! Let’s hear it for taking quick, affirmative action!

If you have this disease or know anyone who does, you/they can find specific information and links here, including the details of when, where, how much, and by whom I had the treatments.

And last of all, here is a link to an interesting article, featuring 7 famous people who have Dupuytren's Disease.
 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Hexie 2 Report - 733 Hexie Flowers Finished!

hexie flowers, detail, Robin Atkins

I started cutting scraps of fabric to make hexie flowers on September 1, 2015. After 9 months of labor, I have just finished stitching the 733rd flower!  I'll do the math for you... That's 5,131 hexies. They are small ones, 3/4 inch per side. The finished flowers measure just under 4" in diameter.

44 hexie flowers, Robin Atkins

To give you an idea, this is what 44 hexie flowers look like. In case you don't know, for each hexie, the fabric is cut, and then basted over a paper, hexagon-shaped form. The hexies are then hand-stitched together to make the flowers. It takes about 1 hour to make one hexie flower, start-to-finish; thus 44 hours to make the batch above. Click the photo to see better detail of this process, which is called English paper piecing.


733 hexie flowers, Robin Atkins
And here are all 733 hexie flowers! Each flower is a different fabric. Although a few of the flower petal fabrics were also used for flower centers, I'm certain that there are over 1,000 different fabrics used in these flowers.

What's next? Well, I'm going to build a design wall using sound-proofing foam-board covered with a king-sized flannel sheet. I haven't quite figured out how to make it yet.

When the design wall is ready, I'll get out my hexie flowers and start to "paint" with them. Who knows what will emerge? Not me. I only have a vague idea that I might want to try "painting" an abstract view of our island shoreline.

When the "painting" process is finished, I'll stitch the flowers together in small groups, and then stitch the groups together. The result, hopefully in my lifetime, will be a queen-sized, non-traditional style, hexie quilt!

Thanks to everybody who shared scraps of fabric for me to use!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

For those interested, here is a link to a "time study" and photos of my previous hexie quilt, Mama's Garden!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Does Machine Quilting Enhance Quilts that are otherwise Hand-Sewn?

Oh dear, I'm sorry to have neglected posting here for so long. Although many suitable topics and photos have passed through my mind and camera, there just hasn't seemed to be a nice chunk of time available for putting it all together. Today is the day to begin again!

quilt, Inspired by Alice, Marilyn Lidstom Larson, border detail
Inspired by Alice, by Marilyn Lidstrom Larson of Willow City, ND (detail of border)

For the past two months, it's been all about quilts and quilting for me, with beading taking a bit of a back seat for a while. My quilt and travel buddy, Lunnette, and I flew to Ontario, California for The Road to California, which is a ginormous quilt show with more than 1,000 quilts on exhibition and over 200 vendors. We gawked (and spent all of our allotted budget) for 3 whole days, barely noticing our fatigue and sore footies.

There are several intriguing subjects to cover, inspired by our experiences there. Today's post is about traditional applique and machine quilting.

quilt, Inspired by Alice, Marilyn Lidstom Larson
Inspired by Alice, by Marilyn Lidstrom Larson of Willow City, ND
photo credit (for this photo only): Road 2 CA

quilt, Inspired by Alice, Marilyn Lidstom Larson, detail of maching quilting
Inspired by Alice, by Marilyn Lidstrom Larson, detail showing back

quilt, Inspired by Alice, Marilyn Lidstom Larson, detail of applique
Inspired by Alice, by Marilyn Lidstrom Larson, detail of center

quilt, Inspired by Alice, Marilyn Lidstom Larson, detail of maching quilting
Inspired by Alice, by Marilyn Lidstrom Larson, detail of center quilting
Inspired by Alice, shown in the photos above, won the first prize of $1,000 in the Traditional, Wall, Applique category of the main (judged) exhibit! Take a moment to study the pictures, click on them to enlarge them, notice the way the applique and machine quilting compliment each other. Also think about what this might have looked like if the maker, Marilyn Lidstrom Larson, had hand-quilted her work the way Alice, her grandmother (and inspiration for the central portion of the quilt), would have done. I love this quilt, totally love it, and believe it deserved the award it received.

At the same time, it saddens me that in all the juried/judged shows I've seen (and entered) recently, there is no category specifically for hand sewn quilts... quilts which are hand-pieced, hand-appliqued, hand-embroidered, and/or hand-embellished, and finished with hand-quilting. Nope, hand-sewn quilts are judged right along with machine-sewn quilts. In my observation, machine-quilted pieces are the ones that win almost all the prizes, even in the traditional categories. Why is that? Is hand-quilting considered passe, a thing of our grandmothers' time? Is it because machine-quilting has more pizzazz in the viewers' and makers' eyes? Is it because the machine manufacturers are huge financial supporters of these shows and providers of much of the prize money? Is it because the machine manufacturers run the training programs for judges?

OK, let's look into this subject a bit more. Later, I'll tackle the subject of the influence of the machine manufacturers. For now let's consider this question:

Does machine-quilting enhance quilts that are otherwise hand-sewn?

Interestingly, at Road to California this year, there was a small exhibit of hand-sewn quilt tops, made long ago (most of them in the early 1900s) that were not quilted or layered with back and batting by the maker. These tops were given to modern machine quilters to finish, and the results were displayed. Studying them gave me a greater perspective on the above question.

I found myself looking at them through the imagined eyes of the original maker. Would she have been pleased with the finished quilt?  As you look at some of the quilts below (and in a few cases, detail shots), ask yourself, if you had hand-sewn the top, would you have liked the way it looks today? Does the machine quilting enhance the work of the original maker? I've numbered the quilts (in no particular order), so you can respond (regarding specific quilts) in the comments if you wish. As always, you can click on the photos to enlarge them.
vintage quilt top, modern machine quilted, exhibited at Road to California 2016
#1 - Vintage Top with Modern Machine Quilting

vintage quilt top, modern machine quilted, exhibited at Road to California 2016
#1 - Vintage Top with Modern Machine Quilting, detail

vintage quilt top, modern machine quilted, exhibited at Road to California 2016
#2 - Vintage Top with Modern Machine Quilting

vintage quilt top, modern machine quilted, exhibited at Road to California 2016
#3 - Vintage Top with Modern Machine Quilting

vintage quilt top, modern machine quilted, exhibited at Road to California 2016
#3 - Vintage Top with Modern Machine Quilting, detail

vintage quilt top, modern machine quilted, exhibited at Road to California 2016
#3 - Vintage Top with Modern Machine Quilting, detail

vintage quilt top, modern machine quilted, exhibited at Road to California 2016
#4 - Vintage Top with Modern Machine Quilting

vintage quilt top, modern machine quilted, exhibited at Road to California 2016
#5 - Vintage Top with Modern Machine Quilting

vintage quilt top, modern machine quilted, exhibited at Road to California 2016
#5 - Vintage Top with Modern Machine Quilting, detail
What do you think of these? Which tops are enhanced by the machine quilting? Are there any that don't look right to you? If so, why not?

Since there is quite a difference looking at the photos as opposed to seeing the actual quits, my responses to these questions might be different than yours. To my eyes, #1 offers a believable connection and balance between the quilting and the original applique or piecing. It felt like the original maker would have done something very similar, only by hand.

I didn't want the quilting to overpower the original as it does in #3 and #5. Both of these were so stiff from the dense quilting, that it would be like sleeping under a piece of cardboard. Both of them made me feel disjointed. The lovely charm and grace of the original work seemed lost. I'm not sure why, but the background color created by machine quilting with colored thread in #5 seems almost weird... maybe because it's such an unlikely choice for the period.

Number 4 has the look of a chenille bedspread, both pretty and more-or-less "of the period." It works for me, even though the quilting is dense. The same is true for #2.

More from Road to California coming soon...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How to Frame Bead Embroidery



During the past 28 years of stitching beads on cloth, I've veered away from making necklaces, bracelets, and bags or purses, mostly producing wall art pieces. Thus, I've had lots of opportunities to experiment with various methods of finishing and framing my work, making it suitable for display.


I always leave ample fabric margins surrounding the actual beaded area, giving me lots of options for finishing or framing.  One simple finishing method is to wrap the extra fabric around the sides of a manufactured painting-canvas (over stretcher-bars), and lace the fabric snugly across the back, as in the photo below.

how to frame bead embroidery - lacing diagram

But the problem with this method, of course, is that the surface of the beading is exposed to dust and air-borne grime, which over the years may spoil the fresh look of the beading, aging the piece prematurely. So we look to frames and glass to protect our work.

Among the various methods for covering (and protecting) beadwork with glass, the following is the one I use most frequently, and like the best.  It's not very expensive, or particularly difficult, although it does take a bit of time. Even if you already know about frames, please take a look at the section called Preparing Your Bead Embroidery for Framing in the Tutorial below.

Tutorial: How to Frame bead Embroidery

Choosing a Frame

This tutorial assumes the beaded work has straight sides, and will be framed in a square or rectangular frame. The frame size, color, and style are important considerations.

Wanting viewers to look at my beading and not be distracted by an overly fancy, gaudy, or large frame, I generally select a plain, narrow frame in a color that compliments my beading without competing for the viewer's attention. Sometimes I choose a stained, wooden frame if it seems to fit the theme of my beadwork better than a metal frame. Depending on the size of my beadwork, I generally size my frame at 2-3 inches more on each side than the beadwork.

Frame: Often I use a painted, metal frame with a cross section similar to this.

how to frame bead embroidery, cross-section of metal frame, rabbet

I either buy it as a kit (pre-cut pieces and required assembly hardware), assembling it myself, or buy it from a frame shop. The advantage of buying from a framer is that you will be able to see samples. Also, the framer can cut an accurate mat, foam core insert, and backing board for you, and can supply the needed risers. If you decide to work with a framer, I suggest you print this post (to show the framer how you will be preparing your work for the frame), or take the prepared bead embroidery with you to the frame shop.

Glass: I believe in using the highest quality glass, even though it is a lot more expensive than ordinary glass. The UV resistance is good, but the primary reason for using premium glass is its clarity, which allows the viewer to see the details of your work without any distortions or color shift, as if there were no glass at all.  Note: do not use non-glare glass. It only works if it lies directly on the surface of the art. You will be putting risers under the glass so it sits above the uneven surface of your bead embroidery, not touching any of the beads; even at this slight distance from the beadwork, non-glare glass will look frosted and obscure the details of your work.

Other Framing Materials You Will Need

Mat: Choose a simple, acid-free, neutral-colored mat, either warm or cool white, depending on the emotional message and colors in your work. All those beautiful colors in the framer's palette are appealing, but for most bead embroidery, there is color and texture enough in the beads, and no value in adding more with your mat choice. If you do not have a mat cutter, a framer can cut your mat. Although I have not ever used a double mat (because I find them distracting, bringing my eyes away from the beadwork to the edges), it could be a way to gain a little more space for the glass above the beadwork.


how to frame bead embroidery, risers on glass to prevent it touching the beads

Risers: Dense plastic rods, risers are 1/8th inch square in cross-section, with an adhesive surface on one side. Use a wire nipper to cut the rods to fit along the outer edge of the glass; remove the paper strips covering the adhesive from the the risers, adhering them to the glass along the edges, as shown above. They prevent the glass from touching your beadwork, by resting on the outer edge of the mat, thus holding the glass above the beaded surface. If the surface height of your beadwork is greater, you can adhere two rods together, making a quarter-inch of space. If the depth is more than a quarter-inch, you might want to consider mounting your work in a shadowbox frame (see this post for a good example and instructions).

3/16th Inch Foam Core Board: Since your beadwork will be mounted directly into this foam core board, be sure to use the white, acid-free, buffered, slightly more expensive variety. You can buy it at art supply or frame shops, in person or on line. You will need a piece at least 3 inches larger than your bead embroidery on each side.

 Preparing Your Bead Embroidery for Framing 

how to frame bead embroidery, framed beadwork by Robin Atkins 
The piece above is the example used in the the steps which follow. It's a small piece of bead embroidery, measuring only 1-3/4 inches wide by 2-1/4 inches high. The mat is 2 inches larger on each side. Numerous folks have surprised me with high offers to buy this piece (which is not for sale), illustrating that nicely framed bead embroidery can be sold at a favorable price.

Mounting your bead embroidery in foam core board 

As per the recommendations in the frame section above, draw the frame size (which will always be designated by the inside dimensions, the size of the artwork) on a piece of 3/16th inch foam core. Use a mat knife and ruler to accurately cut out this shape.

Then, measuring carefully, making sure it is exactly centered, draw lines to indicate the outline of your bead embroidery, adding 1/2 inch on each side. For example, if your beaded area was 2 inches wide, you would draw your lines 3 inches apart (2" for the beadwork plus 1/2 inch on each side). Designate one edge as the top, and mark. Draw a vertical arrow from the top through part of the center through part of the outside margin. With a mat knife, cut out the center, being careful not to damage it or the outside frame. The cut out center will eventually be placed back in the hole by aligning the arrow segments drawn on the back.

how to frame bead embroidery, foam core board cut for beadwork
For the next step, you will need at least a 1.5 inch margin of un-beaded fabric all around your beadwork. If you have less than a 1.5 inch margin, cut strips of any cotton fabric (re-purposed sheet or shirt fabric is fine). Using a zig-zag stitch on the sewing machine, and placing the strips under the margin of the beaded fabric (wrong side), stitch the strips to the margins, extending them to a total of 1.5 inch from the edges of your beadwork on the top, bottom, and both sides.

Center your beadwork on the cut-out piece of foam core board. Hold in place using map or sewing pins, pushed straight through the beading down into the board. Wrap the fabric snugly around the board and pin from the back. Remove the pins from the front. Check to make sure the work is still centered accurately. Re-pin if necessary. Using a sewing needle and beading thread, stitch from side to side, lacing the fabric around the foam core, as in the example below. Start with the longer sides. Knot when finished. Then do the same on the shorter sides.

Tip: I like to rest the beaded side face down on a thick, folded, bath towel while I am lacing the back.

how to frame bead embroidery, beadwork laced around foam core board

This is how mine looks on the front after being laced around the foam core board on the back. If I had not wanted to frame this piece, I could have used double-sided, archival tape to adhere a heavy paper backing over the laced area on the back; it could then be displayed on a small stand similar to the one in the second photo from the top of this post.

how to frame bead embroidery, beadwork laced around foam core board

This is how it looks on the back, when it is placed back in the original hole cut into the foam core board. Notice how the arrows match up, insuring a perfect fit.

how to frame bead embroidery, beadwork laced around foam core board

This is how it looks on the front. Note: the hole in the mat will be cut exactly to the size of the beadwork, so that when it is framed, you will not see any of the fabric around the outside edge of the beaded area.

how to frame bead embroidery, beadwork laced around foam core board

Assembling a Bead Embroidery Sandwich


Now it's time to make a sandwich with the foam core board between two pieces of acid-free mat board, one which has a beveled hole cut in the center, the other which is solid and goes on the back.

how to frame bead embroidery, mat measured, hole for beadwork cut

To cut my own mats, I first measure and draw the exact outline of my bead embroidery centered on the wrong side of the mat. I always mark the top, because sometimes the work is not precisely square or rectangular. Of course you can give the dimensions to a frame shop, and have a professionally-cut mat made for your beadwork.

Tip: One way to get an exact measurement of the beaded area is to make a 100% copy of it on a scanner or copy machine. Cut out the copy with a ruler and mat knife, test it by holding it over your beadwork. If it is exact, use it as a template to mark the hole on the mat board. If the mat is hand-cut, the hole does not have to be precisely square or rectangular.

how to frame bead embroidery, mat measured, hole for beadwork cut

Using a special, beveled, mat-cutting tool, I then cut away the center, where the beading will show.

how to frame bead embroidery, mat placed over beadwork

Here is how the top and middle of the sandwich looks, with the mat placed on top of the foam core board and beadwork.

how to frame bead embroidery, mat placed over beadwork and backing cut

The photo above shows a piece of mat board cut for the sandwich back (on the right). Note that I've drawn around the laced beadwork, and cut away a layer of the mat board to make space for the laced fabric in the sandwich. Do this by gently cutting along the drawn lines, being careful not to cut very deeply into the mat. Then, use a knife to lift one corner of the inside area and peel it back creating a shallow empty space.

how to frame bead embroidery, beadwork between mat and backing

This is what the completed sandwich looks like. The beading is supported well between two pieces of mat board, and can't shift when hung. No glue or tape (to later fail or chemically alter the mat or beading) is necessary in this process. And it looks so neat and professional!

Assemble the Frame

With the more challenging steps already completed, the final assembly goes very quickly !

how to frame bead embroidery, assembling metal frame

Assemble the bottom and sides of the frame by inserting the metal corner plates, and tightening the tension screws. Insert and tighten the corner plates into the top of the frame. Make a double-decker sandwich by putting the glass with the attached risers on top of the mat. Be sure the glass is clean and clear of any finger prints. Slide the complete d-d-sandwich into the obvious slot in the bottom part of the frame. The hanging wire can be added now or later.

how to frame bead embroidery, assembling metal frame

Slip the corner plates at the top of the frame into the slots on the sides, and tighten the tension screws. You should have gotten metal spring strips with your frame kit. Lay them out on the back, spaced evenly around. Push down on the center of a spring and slide it under the edge of the frame, between the backing mat and the frame. Do the same with each of the springs. If you haven't already, add a hanging wire. Add a felt or rubber wall-bumper to each of the lower corners.

how to frame bead embroidery, back of framed beadwork

That's it! You are finished... your bead embroidery is ready to hang on your wall!  For those who would like a little more detailed step-by-step explanation of how to assemble this type of frame, this is a good one or if you prefer videos, this one is pretty complete.

Tip: Whether using a metal or wooden frame, the depth of the frame is an important consideration because the d-d-sandwich will be thicker than a photograph or most paintings. The measurement of the depth, or space inside the frame structure to accommodate the thickness of the artwork, is called the rabbet. The rabbet measurement on the above metal frame is 9/16th of an inch, which is adequate with a single riser under the glass. But it's a tight fit, the springs having to be nearly flat when inserted. If I had used a double riser, I would need a frame with a deeper rabbet. I've found it rather difficult to find small, narrow, simple, plain, wooden frames with a deep enough rabbet.

Here is a link for downloading this post as a printable PDF. It's a free, and slightly expanded version of what you've seen above. Free Download: How to Frame Bead Embroidery by Robin Atkins