Ask Jo: Framing Cross Stitch Pieces

Every so often questions and comments come from readers that I think others would like to hear my response to.  That’s when I feature them on the blog.  This is one of those days.

Kathryn asked:
The end result was beautiful and it is really a perfect piece that sums up so much. I am interested in your thoughts on Total Framing vs. a local framer. I have quite a few unframed pieces and I find myself paralyzed over what to do with them. While I do think that professionally framing yields a beautiful result it is costly. Was there a dramatic difference in the pricing between your local framer and Total Framing that made you surrender your piece for 6 months?

First off I want to remind everyone that I’m kind of new to cross-stitch.  I like many of you was a stitcher back in the 80s and early 90s.  I  stitched some of the little ornaments in the gold ornament-shaped frame.  I didn’t stitch a few Sunbonnet Sues.  I did the cheesy kits of the times.

In November of 2013 two of my daughters, Kelli and Kayla, and I went to Spring Green, WI to Country Sampler.  It’s an amazing quilt shop but what I didn’t know is that it’s a cross-stitch shop too.  You can read about our adventures HERE.

I ended up buying this…

Kelli ended up buying this…

I was scared to try.  I had only stitched on Aida and this was linen.  Kelli took to it like a duck to water…me, not so much.  I lamented over it and never did finish it.

Then in November of 2016, there was a Lizzie Kate piece I happen to stumble across and I wanted to stitch it.  I looked on the Lizzie Kate blog and found out that there was a cross-stitch shop about an hour from my house, The Stitchery Nook.  I asked Kelli if she wanted to go…and we went.  The gals there, Sherry and Liz were great to us.  I told them how scared I was to try.  They assured me this was a good beginner project to stitch on line.  They talked to me about magnifiers and were just so encouraging.  I tried again.  You can read about that in THIS blog post.

With the help of a good magnifier, I stitched this…

I had my husband cut down a thrift store frame for me and I was content with that.

I went on stitching small pieces.  Mostly Lizzie Kate pieces.  I finished them myself because by now, my daughter Kayla had told me about floss tube, Priscilla and Chelsea, and how some people were finishing things non-traditionally.

I was a casual stitcher at this point.  Stitching on 28, 30, or 32 count.

Then my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2020.  We were constantly at appointments, in the hospital, or in the emergency room.  I was there with him all of the time and my cross stitch project, Sheep Virtues, was with me.  This was more challenging for me.

I loved having them with me to stitch.  There was one for every month.  My husband passed away but through his sickness I found stitching to be a solace for me.  I stitched on.

After watching so many floss tube videos, I decided that I was interested in stitching some things that were more than “just cute”.  I love all the things I’ve shown you so far, but I really wanted to dig and make something that was more of a legacy piece.  I wanted to make something larger.  I wanted to make something that had more meaning to it.  I wanted to stitch a sampler.  I was so scared to try.  Samplers are stitched on 40 count fabric.  It’s hard to see.  The work is a little more precise.

I ended up trying something small.  Kelli and I went together to buy a piece of 40 count linen as she was going to try it too.  I tried it with this pattern…
Heartstring Samplery Pins & Orts image 0
I was so THRILLED when I found out I could do this.  I’m so happy that I took the dive and gave it a try.  This was a small design.  I didn’t have a lot invested in case I failed.  It was a great project to start with for 40 count stitching.

From there, I finished this piece, Seeking Refuge.  It was designed by Scarlett House.  This was a big stretch for me.  I’d never made anything so big.

It was my Covid stitch.  I started it in March 2020.  The words seemed so appropriate.  This was not as big as a huge sampler…but it was bigger than the previous piece I stitched…and I was set with the newfound confidence that I could stitch on 40 count.

I decided to try the thrift store framing option.  I had done it with small pieces, why not this?  This was my attempt.  It was okay.  Luckily the spacing worked as I no longer had my husband around to cut frames down.  Still, it didn’t have glass, I’d have liked the fit a little tighter…it was okay but not AMAZING.

I can’t tell you how happy I was when I finished this…just thrilled.  I was so proud of myself because I also did a tiny bit of one over stitching in the words near the top.

With baby steps, I was moving forward.

From there I tried stitching this…

It was a fail.

I was so sad.  This was a piece I REALLY wanted to stitch.  I had set my heart on being able to stitch samplers.  I had put a lot of money into linen and patterns thinking I would be able to stitch big projects.  FAIL.

I couldn’t get the border to meet.

I gave up.  I went to a new project.  I went back to the linen I used for the Pins and Orts stitch which was my first 40 count project.  I stitched this and had absolutely no problems with it at all…

This is Take Heart from Beth Twist of Heartstring Samplery.  I did do some changes.  The design at the bottom is the same red using for the top flowers.  I did my initials in the same color as the letters of the bible verse…I changed that but sadly can’t remember what color I changed it to.   I stitched this on 40 count Mello linen by Picture This Plus.

About then it dawned on me that maybe the problem was the linen.  Maybe the other linen was hard to work with and that’s why I couldn’t get the Newcastle Bouquet project to work for me.  I ended up deciding to purchase some linen that was the same linen as I used in the Seeking Refuge project and started Newcastle Bouquet all over again…

It worked…

and on I stitched.

I had no problems at all.  I ended up finishing this…This was going to get professionally framed.

At this point, I had no idea about framing.  I am not someone who had anything professionally framed EVER.  I didn’t know where to go.  I didn’t know what to do.  All I knew is that people who I watched on floss tube and really liked their style sent their pieces to Total Framing.

I decided to try it.  I knew it would be expensive but at this point, I didn’t care.  I had put all the time into this piece, I wanted it done right.  I very much admire the framing that Brenda of Brenda and the Serial Starter on floss tube has done so I wanted to try something similar to her.

I opted for museum glass.  I opted for some cool frames.  This is what Total Framing did.  I was SUPER happy with it…everything was great except the wait time…6 months.

From there I stitched this piece.  All Joys for Thine by Blackbird Designs.  Judy at Patchwork Times suggested Custom Frame Solutions.  Here you order the frame.  It comes and you frame it yourself.  I tried it to see if I might like this.  Here is my frame.  (Sorry about the glare in the picture)

I loved this and was super happy with it.  I don’t especially love lacing and framing but it was okay and I was happy to do it to save some money.  I decided quickly that anything that measures under 10″ I’m okay to do but larger, I’d prefer to send them out.  Custom Frame Solutions has a good variety of frames but it does take a little imagination to decide if the frame is good for your piece.  You don’t see them laid side by side.  The wait for the frame was only a couple of weeks.  This is a quick option to get something framed but again, the actual lacing and framing you do on your own.

By now I had been to The Stitchery Nook and saw that they too did framing.  I decided that I didn’t want to wait so long with my Anniversaries of Heart.  6 months is so long to wait.  I decided to give The Stitchery Nook a try.

They did a wonderful job.  I’ve very happy with their work.  I loved getting the piece back in 6 weeks vs six months.  The downfall with getting things done at The Stitchery Nook is that I will likely run out of frames that I love.  They have a good selection but they don’t have a ton.

As far as pricing goes, they are comparable.  I don’t have to pay for shipping with The Stitchery Nook…but I have an hour’s drive to get there.

I put museum glass on my big sampler pieces and definitely will continue that.  I like that they are protected and seriously, you can’t even tell that there is glass on the pieces. It’s worth the extra dollars to me.

There are many others who don’t put any glass on their pieces.  Carol from Saltbox Stitcher floss tube is another stitcher I admire and she does not use glass.

I think everyone has their own preference and their own budget that they have to work with.  I far prefer not over buying charts and spending the on high-quality framing.

So back to Kathryn’s question:  As you can see, I’m kind of new to framing and knowing what to do with a piece.  I am just trying and experimenting and that’s what I suggest you do.  If you have something small, maybe try Custom Frame Solutions and lace and finish it yourself.  If you have something larger, send one to Total Framing and take one locally.  See what you think…or try The Stitchery Nook.  They might mail pieces.

I have no idea what you have locally or what their pricing is so I don’t feel I can speak to that.  I also have no idea what their selection of skills as a needlework framer is.

I have heard people have good luck with Hobby Lobby and Micheals.  I have also heard bad stories from them.  I think it matters if you have someone in the back that specializes in working with stitched pieces.

I think, like me, everyone needs to experiment and see what is right for them.  Maybe your Hobby Lobby has an excellent person working that knows everything about framing stitched pieces.  Maybe you have a local person that takes six months to finish framing.  Everyone’s circumstances are unique to their area and their preferrences.

Whatever you do, I would frame your finished pieces and not let them sit in a drawer.  They are so much more appreciated if they are on your walls.  Every time I walk past my wall of stitched pieces, I smile.  I just love it.

24 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Framing Cross Stitch Pieces”

  1. Thanks for such a complete discussion on the merits and information about framing. Even though I no longer do cross stitch I have some pieces family members have done and I enjoy having them hanging on the wall. You mentioned smiling when you see your stitchery wall. Please include a picture for us to admire!

  2. Beautiful work on all your cross stitch pieces. I’m glad you are enjoying it.
    I would like to know where I could buy the pattern for the quilt you recently gave Georgia. Thanks

  3. You are getting a great collection of stitched pieces! I love your Anniversaries of the Heart in the frame! Great work!!

  4. Jo, when you get your pieces framed with glass, do you have a mat between the cross stitched piece and the glass? I like the idea of glass to protect from dust and dirt, but I heard years ago that being against glass would flatten the stitches and maybe damage the piece. I heard the same about art against glass also. I’ve just started cross stitching again and plan to do the stitch along with you and Judy. This will be my first attempt at stitching on linen.

  5. Jo,
    I have used Hobby Lobby several times and have been satisfied with their work. I took my son’s diploma from pharmacy school and a plaster cast of my deceased Labrador’s paw for them to frame, 5hey asked the value and told them they were invaluable and couldn’t replace them. They understood and took very good care of them. As for price, they were comparable to a local framing shop with a lot less time frame of returning my items.

  6. Cindy Gordineer

    Jo, what kind of linen did you use for Seeking Refuge that you are also now using for Newcastle Bouquet? I always admire the linen in your pictures and would love to know what it is. I also like hearing that it seems easier to stitch on because that’s always a challenge for me! Thank you.

  7. Stephani in N. TX

    I love that you gambled a bit on framing the Teresa Kogut piece. The finish is beautiful as is your work. Additionally, you got to know the different ways, prices, and timing for different ways of framing. I did a lot of XS in the 80’s and early 90’s. I had some bigger pieces framed with padding over the backing so my XS piece is not covered with glass but is somewhat puffed out giving a different dimension. Since I had a lot of holiday XS, I am just now seeing that some of my XS finished that way, now 30 years old, has a little “used” look to them. Not as perfect as if they were framed with glass although I have some of that too. I don’t know that they will last forever, but considering I’ve enjoyed them for the first 30 years, that is paramount to me. My husband has also passed, I moved to be closer to children, so my life is not the same. However, it gives me a lot of peace to enjoy the fruits of my hobby before I started quilting.

  8. Kathryn Travers

    Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed reply; and the comments from everyone certainly enriched the conversation. Like most people I ebb and flow between my needlework hobbies. Recently one of my girlfriends asked me if I would teach her how to cross stitch and I logically easily slipped back into the craft and the next thing I knew I was sitting with several newly finished pieces. Then one day I went to clean out a chest I had been meaning to get to and what to my wondering eyes should appear but 19 projects that I had long forgotten about. I have cleaned all of them and now they are suspended from hangers just waiting in the wings. Lots of good advice and now I need to get motivated to slowly attack the finishing end of things.

    1. Between my daughter and myself we have had items framed in 4 states. One area that I didn’t see covered is using the local framer. Always use a coupon if it is a chain store. It brings the cost down to what we consider “normal.” Ask a lot of questions. The person you’re speaking with may or may not do the project and may not know much about the process. Ask when you can speak to the person that will be doing the project. Ask to see examples of finished fabric projects. Ask if the framing is done in house or sent out or does someone come on a regular schedule to that store to do fabric items. I’ve had all 3 occur. Ask if they sew the back of the fabric, crossing to the other side or use adhesive tape. What process do you want? Ask if they wash the project or do you need to do that before bringing it in to the framers. If you’re not comfortable with the answers go elsewhere. A good framer will answer all your questions, ask a few of you and select a few frames for you to perhaps choose from.

      The other thing I’ve found is to make pillows out of some of the finished pieces. The pillows go on guest beds (but disappear when guests come) or a spare, seldom used chair in the livingroom (out of the sun).

      The best framer we used, now retired, had her business in her home. She was reasonable and took great care with our projects as she knew the time involved in producing them.

      Tell your family you want framing gift certificates from a certain store for your birthday or Christmas. That will help with the cost! Enjoy!

  9. Your cross stitching is beautiful! I’m almost ready to give it a try but then I look at my applique and hand quilting and say no to myself. You are wise to have glass put on the stitchery. My mother did a lot of cross stitching but framed most of them herself. After she died, I took a large beautiful stitchery she stitched and removed it from the frame. She had used 2 stick on boards and no glass. I carefully soaked the stitchery in oxyclean water and removed all the grim from past years.. Then I gently washed it, rolled it in bathtowels to remove the excess water and let it dry. After drying I gently pressed it then took it to Michael’s. The lady who did the framing did a wonderful job! I was so pleased with the results. It did cost me $200 but this is a family treasure to pass onto my children and grandchildren.

  10. Good Morning Jo, hope you are feeling a little better each day. I love the cross stitch “ Peace to all who enter here. I can’t find the pattern, any idea where I can buy it. Thanks for any help. Love your work. Mary

  11. I’m an estate sale shopper, and I beg all of you embroiderers to frame with spacers or mats and use non-glare glass for your largest pieces. Dust and grime are terrible for the pieces you’ve spent hours and hours finishing. I found 8 or 10 quite nice Halloween pieces at a yard sale (one was 12×18 blackwork!!), and the creator had used Elmer’s Glue and masking tape to frame them. There’s no way to clean and preserve a piece framed that way. And PS please embroider your name and date on anything you do that’s taken a long time. I have one that my mother did when she was 10 — “Muriel 1931” makes it precious to me.

    1. What Jean said! Jo, I don’t know that I have seen the framed Anniversaries piece yet. It looks fantastic!! My local LNS quit doing custom framing, so I now drive 3 hours to my sister’s LNS for my framing. They do a superb job. Plus, it gives me the opportunity to shop and visit with my sister. Win win!
      Some fabrics, especially the over-dyeds, shrink a bit during the dyeing process. I’ve been stitching for 30+ years and haven’t worked my way up to 40 ct. So far, 36 is my max, but 32 is my sweet spot. However, if it’s an overdyed 32 count, I call it a tight-32. It makes a difference. The Vintage Country Mocha has the same effect as over-dyed, but it’s spray-dyed or something, as it’s only mottled on one side and isn’t shrunk. I think it’s a lovely fabric to stitch on.

  12. Judith Fairchild

    I remember reading your blogs about the linen that failed in your trying a bigger piece of cross stitching and deciding to switch to a different linen and the joy I. Your blog when you discovered that you hadn’t failed in your stitching but the linen had been wro.g for the chart. Your cross stitching is beautiful. I’m goi.g to get the pattern for blessed and sew with you. I have linen and thread already at hand. So here’s to learning to do cross stitching right

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