Slate Frames – How to Determine Size

Trestle stand and Slate frame for hand embroidery

Slate frames have been used for countless years (or may we centuries) as a way of mounting fabric for working hand embroidery. There are many advantages to using a slate frame. Slate frames apply even tension to the fabric width and length and allow the fabric to be stretched drum-tight when working the embroidery.

Slate frames allow the embroidery to be covered for areas not currently being stitches to keep the fabric clean. Larger projects may be rolled on the frame and the frame may be repositioned as the work progresses.


Hand embroidery slate frame embroidery frame embroidery hoop trestle stand Ecclesiastical Sewing

How to determine the size of a slate frame?

Slate frames are a bit of a mystery when one is first beginning to work with them. There are often all kinds of sizes listed, but how does one know what size to order? What do all of those numbers mean? It is really simple if you remember one thing:

Frame size is determined by the length of the twill tape!

measuring slate frames slate frame sizes embroidery slate frames hand embroidery Ecclesiastical Sewing

Each slate frame comes with two parts. The bars are the parts that have linen twill tape stapled to them. They also have a large hole on each end. The arms are the part that has all of the cribbage holes. The arms are inserted into the large holes of the bars.

To determine the size of the frame, we measure the twill tape. In the above phote, the twill tape measures 18 inches long, so this is an 18-inch slate frame. This slate frame may have a piece of fabric that is up to 18-inches wide sewn to the twill tape. The fabric may be as long as is needed. Once the fabric ends have been stitched to bars, any extra fabric may be rolled up on the bars. As the work progresses, the frame is loosened, the fabric is rolled and repositioned, and work continues until the piece is finished.

Slate embroidery frame Hand embroidery crewl work embriodery frame goldwork embroidery frame silk shading embroidery frame ecclesistical sewing

The twill tape on the above frame measures 18 inches long, but the frame extends an extra 4 inches on either end beyond the length of the twill. The overall length of the 18″ frame measures 26 inches. For this frame, the arms are the same length as the bars.

For all slate frames that are 36-inches (measurement of the twill tape) and smaller, the arms and bars have the same measurements.

When longer bars are needed for larger projects, the arms are always a smaller or shorter length. It is recommended that the arms are never longer than 44″ as a finished length. When we work hand embroidery, we can only reach so far on a project comfortably before the reach is too far. If the arms are too long, it becomes difficult to reach the center of a project.

There has also been a great deal of interest regarding the very large size frames that have been created for those interested in working the Glasgow Bedspread project and other large-scale projects that have been created by the Crewel Work Company. For those not familiar with these projects, please head over to the Crewel Work Company and check out their beautiful and historic Crewel Work Embroidery Designs.

These pieces have been created using a great deal of care. They are all carefully researched. The designs have been through many stitch trials and a rigorous editing process to ensure that the finished pieces are a delight and joy to stitch.

The largest piece currently in the Collection of the Crewel Work Company is the Glasgow Bedspread. The piece of linen used for the project measures 56″ x 70″. The design has been drawn on a piece of linen Twill that is 60″ wide. A slate frame is very helpful for those interested in working the project. We have created a large size frame that works well for this project. It is currently sized at 68″ long (the measurement of the twill tape). The overall length of the bars is the 68″ plus 8″ for the bar ends for a total measurement of 76″. The frame is listed online with the 32″ finished length for the cribbage arms. Once the slate frame is dressed, it would have a comfortable open working space of approximately 24″ in depth by the full width of the Glasgow Bed Spread.

Slate frames Embroidery Trestle stands

The above photo gives an idea of how the visible working space looks for the project. The arms used on this frame were a bit shorter as the embroiderer has a smaller space in which to work.

The sizes of the slate frames may be adjusted as needed for specific projects. And the slate frames are available for international shipping. Orders have been shipped to Germany, The Netherlands, and Canada, as well as all over the US.

Slate Frame packaging hand embroidery Goldwork Slate Frame Crewel Work Slate Frame, Ecclesiastical Sewing

And one final thing to keep in mind. Please check your packaging when opening the slate frames. The pins used for the frames will be wrapped in near one end of the frame. There are always 4 pins included with each shipment. If the pins are ever lost, they may easily be replaced by visiting your local hardware store. We will also try to carry additional pins in the future.

I hope this takes some of the mystery out determining the sizes of slate frames. For those interested in using a slate frame, please head over to our website.



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