Hand Embroidery Classes
Many of us have enjoyed taking classes with the Royal School of Needlework and Hand and Lock in recent years. The Royal School of Needlework and Hand and Lock have been traveling to the United States for the past few years offering courses at the Williamsburg School of Needlework and other places here in the US.
One of the best parts about attending classes from these world-class schools is learning to use professional equipment such as slate frames and trestle stands.
Following my return from a series of classes a few years back, I asked a carpenter friend to help create a set of trestle stands and slate frames for us to use in our Studio and to offer for sale at Ecclesiastical Sewing because the sizes I needed were not readily available. And I also know the carpenter and his work. Whatever he would create would be simply wonderful!
Slate frames for hand embroidery
When doing hand embroidery, there is nothing else like using a slate frame. Sure, they do take a bit of time to stitch and lace up, but once you have done this a few times it becomes a bit faster with practice. I actually enjoy taking the time needed to frame up a project on a slate frame. It is reminiscent of a warm-up exercise before the embroidery work actually begins. I use this time to think about my upcoming project and to contemplate different design aspects.
In class, there is a group of 6 to 8 ladies or gentlemen, and we have our linen or calico mounted to our slate frame. We are all sitting nicely at our workstations with our little side tables of fancy pins, scissors, needles, and threads. The framing up process begins in a civil enough manner. We have the top edges of our fabric stitched to the twill, the sides are laced with string and then – IT’S WORKOUT TIME! We actually have to get physical! It takes a bit of muscle and strength to finish framing a piece of fabric on a slate frame. And it helps to have two people. Down the frames go to the floor. One person is usually on their knees. They have but one mission: to pull the pin out and place is in a new hole as far down the length of the slate frame arm as possible.
The other helper’s job is to hold the frame and do the stepping. This requires balance. Bending, stepping, holding, and not falling over! They step down on the side arm of the frame just enough to have the pin puller remove the pin. It’s precision teamwork at this point. Once the pin is out, the holder steps down on the arm more time forcing the fabric to stretch to its limits and the pin setter replaces the pin in a new spot as far down the line of cribbage holes as possible. After a brief pause, while everyone catches their breath and breathes a sigh of relief. It’s time to flip the frame. The entire process is repeated on the opposite side. When the final pin is set, cheers and congratulations stream forth! Another frame is successfully laced and ready for beautiful embroidery!
Now, this may sound a bit daunting, but it really isn’t that bad. It is kind of the fun part and everyone looks forward to this because when this is done, the embroidery is ready for pricking and pouncing and the stitching can commence!
How to determine the size of a slate frame?
A question that frequently comes up when people are ordering slate frames is how does one determine the size of a slate frame?
The size of a slate frame is determined by the measurement of the twill tape attached to the frame. A 24″ slate frame will have a 24″ piece of twill tape stapled in the center of the frame. With the addition of the ends, the overall size of the slate frame bars would be around 30 to 32″ in length. The arms (the parts with the cribbage holes) are usually the same length as the bars.
If you have multiple slate frame sizes, the arms and bars (from the same manufacturer) should be interchangeable. So if you have a large project that requires a 36″ frame but wish to use the 18″ arms, that should work fine.
The key to the type of fine hand embroidery we work at the Royal School of Needlework and hand and Lock classes and for our own special projects is to have and use good tools. I am honored to say that some of our trestle stands are currently in use by the Williamsburg School of Needlework for their classes. (There are also stands from another company currently in use too). The students who use our trestle stands find them to be sturdy and stable. The wood is sanded satin smooth. The hardware makes it easy to adjust the rail height. The hardware also locks so the rails will never come crashing down in mid stitching.
The trestle stands and frames found on our website at Ecclesiastical Sewing are made from beech wood. You may see oak listed as a wood selection for a few of the slate frame. We have a few oak frames still available and they have been wonderful. But all of our frames in future will be made using beech. Beech is a hardwood, but the grain is finer and that works so beautifully for these products.
It’s also easy to order custom sizes in the slate frames. Just contact us by email for the size that is needed. While we stock a few basic sizes, many of the slate frames and trestle stands are made to order. Please allow on average 3 to 4 week for order lead time. If something is needed sooner, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate.
Soli Deo Gloria
Please visit our web site at EcclesiasticalSewing.com to learn more about our Slate frames and embroidery trestle stands.