Saturday, January 6, 2018

Japanese Landscape - Setting up the Frame

Over the holidays I was very busy starting two new projects. One of those is Japanese Landscape by Mary Brown from her book Goldwork Embroidery: Designs and Projects. For this project, I decided to use slate frames. Patricia had some slate frames from the Royal School of Needlework in stock at her shop. I figured it would be an excellent project to try these on. With this project I will have tried three different frames: French, English and Japanese. I wonder if I should do a video showing the difference between them. Let me know if there is any interest in that.

To put it together, I had a get together with Natalie of Sew by Hand. Between the two of us, an RSN book and her notes from the RSN, we figured it out. I used a kit by Sarah Homfray. It's a great start up kit to set up your frame. It includes the very important bracing needle. Check out how huge that thing is. It's lethal weapon and I poked myself with it quite a few times.

Natalie took a few pictures for me, but we got a little distracted talking along the way, so there are a few steps not shown. Before coming to Natalie's I made sure to sew the muslin to the webbing on the bars. The muslin is rolled around the top and bottom bars and the nails put in (you want the fabric a little slack). With her, I attached the herringbone tape. The bracing needle is then used to lace the fabric to the side bars. It's important that the lacing be loose at this point.

Once that's done, the actual fabric for the project is attached to the muslin. Only then are the laces pulled tight to the sides and the top and bottom bars pushed apart and the nails re-positioned. That last part was very hard. I was lucky enough to have Natalie there to help, but some stitchers have had to use their feet to pry apart the bars.

Here is my frame all set up.

For good instructions on setting up a slate frame, the RSN essential guide series is excellent. But be warned the steps can be different depending on what technique you are setting up the frame for. The essentials are the same but there might be some extra steps for goldwork for example that are not necessary for crewel. I was following the goldwork book while Natalie had instructions from the crewel book and we noticed a few differences.

With my frame set up, I need trestles. Unfortunately those are far and between, not to mention expensive. Instead, I decided to see if my Japanese embroidery stand would work as a substitute.


My frame isn't quite long enough to work with it, but with some wooden slates my dad had in the tool room I was able to arrange a setup that works quite well. It's a tight fit, I really need a stitching room.

More to come on this project.


  1. It would certainly be interesting to know what differences you've identified, and which you prefer working with.

    Do you put a footstool over the crossbar at floor level to stop yourself kicking it?

  2. The fabric certainly looks very tight once you completed all the steps. Looking forward to following you as you stitch the new project. Regarding the difference in frames, I have a technical curiosity only, so wouldn't ask you to go through the work of explaining the differences. Thanks.

  3. Gosh, that needle really looks like an instrument for murder! I'm glad you only stab fabric with it.

  4. Well done Dima! Getting set up with the slate frame does get quicker and easier with practice. The differences in setting up will be due to the fabric you are using. Crewelwork only uses linen, whereas goldwork uses muslin and your top fabric, so there’s an extra step or two to account for the extra fabric. I think there are also differences in the tutors- so it’s a case of working out what works for you!