How to mount your wet felt artwork
Are you unsure how to mount your ‘wet felted’ artwork and want guidance on how to mount it, so it can be framed? This article covers all the stages of how I mount my own felted and stitched artwork, so it can be framed professionally.
Feltwork is usually much thicker and heavier than cotton or linen fabrics which are traditionally stretched and laced prior to framing. Feltwork needs a different approach when mounting. Fabrics constructed with weft and warp fibres, have a greater tendency to distort more easily. The good news is it is much easier to achieve good results than other textiles when mounting felt.
After spending so much valuable time creating a piece of felt artwork, we want it to be displayed the best we can so it can be enjoyed. There are so many ways felt and stitched art can be presented. Framing in a traditional mitred frame behind glass, on top of a mount board (known as matt for USA readers), positioned to sit underneath mount(s), i.e., single, or double, framing in open frames such as a St. Ives frame which are traditionally used for oil canvases, tray frames, stretcher frames, D-rings, rods, to name but a few! I will be covering some of these methods in a future blog post as it is a big subject.
Framing is a personal choice
Framing is a personal choice; a frame can enhance or detract from a piece of work. Over the years I have experimented with a range of different framing styles. From my experience work in good quality frames always sells first. I have a preference to frame my larger work in natural wood, yes, it is more expensive, but I feel it compliments my subject matter and the natural fibres of wool. However not all work suits the colour of a wooden frame, so each new piece of work has to be considered on its merit.
I use a ‘stringing’ method where I want my work to be framed behind glazing with top mounts or in open frames where the work can be touched. I do not use potentially damaging glue or tape. I will discuss my framing choices in more detail in a future blog post.
If you are in control of mounting your lovingly made piece of felted artwork yourself, you can ensure it is aligned just as you want it. You may decide that only a portion of the work will be framed or perhaps it is best set at an angle to show the work in its best light. The knowledge that it is securely fixed in position ensures the final presentation is as you envisage. Some framers will want to do the entire process themselves. If that is what you want, you need to be very clear about where you want the mounts and alignment of the work. It is also worth asking how they intend to secure the felted textile art within the frame before you commit to using them. Not all framers are used to framing textile art correctly or securely by the stringing method.
Why do you need to mount ‘wet felted’ artwork?
Why do I always go the extra mile and mount my felt artwork securely by stringing it on to mount board?
Let me tell you a story!
I was all set for a summer exhibition but had one more larger piece of work that was touch and go whether I would finish stitching in time. After a few long nights I did finish, but my regular framer could not turn around the framing in time for me. So, I had no choice other than to use a different framer. They seemed very helpful and said they could have the picture done and ready for me the next day. As I was in a rush it just did not occur to me to check how they would secure my work within the frame.
I collected the work the next day and it did look lovely; I was pleased with the look and finish of the framing. It would now be the focal piece for my exhibition.
The exhibition was going well, lots of visitors and compliments and conversation received about the piece of work; however, the weather was hot, and the room was even hotter! A few days into the exhibition I was chatting to a visitor in front of my work, and to my horror out of the corner of my eye I noticed the work inside the picture started to move. It started to slide off the back mount within the frame. It literally slid into a heap inside the bottom of the frame! Not a pretty sight. I had no option other than to remove the picture and take it home with me that evening.
After taking the picture apart, removing the sealing and picture fixings off the back of the work, it transpired that my felt artwork had just been stuck onto the mount backboard with tiny pieces of double-sided tape. If it hadn’t failed at the exhibition, it potentially could have ‘slid’ later in the home of a customer, which would not only have been very embarrassing but costly to ship back and forth.
So, the story has been told and the blog post written to explain why I ‘string’ my work onto a mount board to ensure nothing like this happens again!
What equipment will I need to mount felt artwork?
These are the tools you will need
1. Self-healing cutting mat (placed under the mount board to protect your table).
3. Heavy gauge nail
4. Awl or bradawl (optional, I don’t have one, so I use a nail and hammer instead)
5. Set square with 90-degree angle.
7. Thin upholstery thread. Colour to blend with work.
8. Sewing needle (needs to be able to pass through the hole that you make with the nail or awl)
9. Conservation board
10. Strong craft knife, to cut conservation board to size.
11. Metal rule. I use a thick metal rule as a guide when cutting the board.
12. Artist gummed tape (or sticky brown paper tape).
Most equipment can be found around the home. I do not own an awl, so I improvise with a nail and a hammer instead. The self-healing cutting mat and set square can be purchased at stationery shops. Conservation board can be purchased online, try Lion, and cut to size, alternatively ask at your high street framer. They are often happy to sell you large pieces that you can cut down to size as and when you need them. Upholstery thread can be obtained from a good haberdashery shop. UK readers could try online at Empress Mills.
The mounting process
Start by measuring your felt artwork and make a note of the measurements. Then cut the conservation board to size allowing extra mount board all around the work, 10cm extra on each side of your work is a suggestion. (Note the conservation board I have used for illustration purposes is smaller than I would normally use). If your work is going to have mount(s) positioned on top of the work (as in photo 1) the size of the mount board does not need to be cut to the exact inside measurement of the frame. If you are mounting the work on a more decorative coloured or textured backing mount you need to discuss colour options with the framer first and purchase the specific-coloured mount board from them if they are unable to string the textile work. Place the work on top of the piece of cut mount board and centralise.
Hold in position and make pencil marks on the board along the top, bottom, left and right edges.
Using the set square and pencil, mark out every few centimetres to create an even grid across the board keeping within the guidelines that you made. These will be the marks for the punch the holes. I drew a nine square grid (see photos 4, 5 & 6) as my work was relatively small and was going to be top mounted with a square opening close to the edge of my stitching. I had already considered my ‘mount opening’ size at onset before stitching.
Photos 4, 5 & 6 show the pencil marks where the holes will be made, note also the pencil lines used to align the top and bottom of the work.
Place the work back on top of the mount and check the alignment lines are correct.
Set work aside. Using an awl or the nail and hammer, punch a hole through each of the pencil marks on the card. Make sure you work on the self-healing cutting mat or a suitable surface so as not to damage your table.
Using the strong upholstery thread, remove a long length and thread a needle. You want to have a continuous piece of thread as you will tighten the thread as you work.
Start in a top corner and carefully skim a few stitches on the reverse of the work. Try to position these stitches roughly where the first hole will be. Make sure the needle does not penetrate through to the front of the work. Once the thread is secure to the back of the work, position the felt artwork back on top of the mount board, and thread the needle through the first hole, I worked top left hole first then worked clockwise.
Check the work is positioned correctly by aligning on the top and bottom pencil marks and insert the needle through the next hole. Do not pull the thread all the way through to the front of the work. We want to skim stitch just under the surface of the felt, make a couple more stitches, then pass the needle and thread back through the same hole, pulling taut as you do so. Check the front of the work to make sure your stitches are ‘hidden’, and you are not puckering the felt by pulling too tightly. Keep working clockwise, skim stitching and threading each hole in turn.
When all holes have been completed, secure the thread by knotting a few times on the reverse.
Finish off by sticking artist tape or sticky paper tape over the thread on the back of the board. This acts as additional protection to stop the thread untangling.
Photo 16 shows the work now secured on the conservation board ready for framing.
Photo 17, shows my felt and stitched artwork entitled ‘Lichen study I. Framed in a natural oak frame. This was the first of three studies based on a series of photographs I took in the Highlands of Scotland where the lichens grow prolifically by the sides of a sea loch.
So, my advice is, when you have spent hours of enjoyment working on a piece of textile art, spend a little more time and mount your felt artwork correctly by stringing it!
I hope this blog post has been helpful. Just one of the many behind the scenes jobs at UpandDownDale art studio.
I will be writing another article about different kinds of framing which may be of interest to you, so keep checking back. Or you can sign up to my newsletters by sending me an email