How to frame cross stitch

A freshly washed cross stitch is great, but unless you want to store your stitch you’ll want to show off your gorgeous piece? Well, good news for you, as Lauren of Plastic Little Covers has you covered with this perfect little guide on how best to frame cross stitch. You can also pick up the pattern used for this guide on her Etsy store.

Here’s a quick cross stitch framing tutorial for you all!

Before I start with this no doubt subpar tutorial, let me preface it with the fact that I am in no way precious about the way in which I finish a project. There are definitely neater ways to do it, so if you’re a perfectionist this mightn’t be for you! I also took the photos during the grim winter months here in the North East of England. To quote Florence & the Machine “no light, no light…”

Having said that, on the rare occasion I go all out with a frame this is the method that works for me, so here it is:

Things you’ll need:

Your ironed cross stitch with at least two inches of excess material around all edges of the design.
A photo frame
Acid-free foam board (sometimes labelled as foam core mount board). Make sure you get a colour that coordinates with your fabric, white for white etc.
Needle and strong thread (the thread in the photo was as weak as my tutorial game, so make sure you’ve got something strong enough to pull taut without snapping. I actually ended up using Anchor embroidery floss, which wasn’t ideal but just about did the job.)
Scissors (pictured are my tiny embroidery scissors, but you’d be better off using a pair of sharp haberdashery scissors for trimming your cross stitch and kitchen scissors or something similar for the mount board) It’s even better to use a proper cutter for the board, but alas! I don’t have one.

Items needed to self frame your cross stitch (source:

Step one:

First off you need to cut your foam board down to a suitable size for the inside of your frame. My frame was 6 x 4 inches, so I cut it to a few millimetres shy of that. You’ll want it to fit inside the frame but still have a little bit of wiggle room at the edges for when the cross stitch fabric is eventually folded around it. Check you’ve got that gap by trying the foam board in the frame, it shouldn’t be too snug or be wedged in there.

Placing pins in a cross stitch for self framing (source:

Step two:

Now that you have your expertly measured foam board at the ready, it’s time to pick up that lovely cross stitch of yours. Position it over the foam board, making sure that the design is central and level, and begin by folding the top side down. Find the middle of your design and push a pin into the foam centre of the board right on the top edge. Repeat at the bottom.

Placing a cross stitch over foam board for self framing (source:

Step three:

Repeat Step Two, this time at the centre of the left and right sides. As you do this try to make sure that the fabric is as flat as it can be, and pulled fairly evenly across the board.

Finding the center of a completed cross stitch (source:

Step four:

Start working your way out from the centre, placing pins diagonally opposite each other, a couple at a time on each side. As you do this check that your design is still central and that the fabric is laying flat and taut. Continue all the way around.

Pinned down cross stitch (source:

Step five:

Now that you’ve finished pinning flip the whole thing over. This is where my shambolic tutorial skills once again show themselves. For reasons unknown, I’m holding the whole thing the wrong way round in the photo below. S0 what looks like top to bottom is actually side to side. * Sighs*

First layer of lattice back of a self framed cross stitch (source:

What you need to do is fold your sides inwards, and lace them together. I found doing the sides first is best for a flatter overall finish. For the lacing, you’re going to need a really long length of your thread, as you can see I underestimated and had to do a shoddy retying job in the middle. For my lacing, I started at about 1cm from the edge (you can go in closer to the edge than that if you want) and stitched backwards and forwards between the two sides. Pull it tight as you go, but make sure you’re not warping the board.

Step six:

If you’re still with me here then not only are you some kind of modern hero, but the end is also in sight!

At this stage fold over the top and bottom edges and lace those too.

Lattice back of a self framed cross stitch (source:

As you can see my back isn’t the tidiest, but I left far more than two inches of excess around the piece and didn’t pull very tight with my stitches, so it’s all a bit bulkier than usual.

There are neater ways to finish a piece (there’s a snazzy method of folding your corners down and sewing them, which gives the whole thing a lovely finish), which I’d be happy to point you in the direction of if you’ d like to try them!

After you’ve done all of that you should find that the surface of your cross stitch is pulled nice and taut across the board and that the edges are smooth.

Step seven:

Rejoice and remove those pins!

Front of self framed cross stitch (source:

Step eight:

Because you left that little bit of wiggle room at the start you should find that your cross stitch fits into the frame nice and snugly now.

Self framed cross stitch (source:


This is just one of many ways to finish a cross stitch piece. There’s also the option of embroidery hoops and professional framing. Ultimately it’s all about personal preference and budget! If you have any questions feel free to get in touch!

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Sarah

    The “snazzy method of folding your corners down and sewing them, which gives the whole thing a lovely finish” is kinda making me drool with anticipation. Please do elaborate on this method.

    1. LordLibidan

      Don’t worry, we’re putting together a series of posts about framing soon, and one will be that fancy way of doing it! 😀

  2. Melissa

    Yeah, it’s a bit weird, but has to do with the differing production methods for the UV protection. Sometimes it is a film applied on after, sometimes it is throughout the entire media (like with acrylic). It’s rare for people to come in for UV glass to install on their own, but it does happen so it’s good to be aware of, just in case, though 99% of the time the framer will warn you!

  3. Melissa

    Something to keep in mind – Acid Free really only means it was acid free at the time of manufacture. If your acid free foam core has been stored in a cardboard box for months, how much acid has leached into it? How acid free is it actually?

    If you don’t have enough fabric, sew on a strip of scrap – it’ll be wrapped around the mounting/stretching board anyway, so you won’t see it! As for foam core, some Framers carry a cotton rag faced acid free foam core. However, it is even more expensive than the “regular” acid free foam core, and for a truly heirloom piece I wouldn’t personally stretch on that as my first choice. Instead I would use solid cotton rag mat board – 8 ply or thicker, depending on the size (I usually use two pieces of 4 ply, and glue them together using an archival adhesive but leaving about 1″ of unglued material at the edges – that’s a space for your pins!). I’d add to LordLibidan’s response above that a UV protected glazing is recommended – there are many available now and most framers offer it. You still need to keep it out of direct light, it isn’t a fountain of youth or anything! If doing it yourself, confirm with the framer you buy the glazing from whether it needs to be installed in a specific direction (some do, some don’t). UV protected glass options will be less, but Acrylic/Plexi is actually safer for fabric – it transmits heat differently than glass and is less prone to condensation issues as a result. LordLibidan is right on the money about the mat board – it lifts the glass away from your stitching which is a good idea for several reasons.

    A note about the types of matting: The largest and most respected brands (at least in North America) of mat board are Bainbridge and Crescent and most framers will offer at least one of them. “Museum” quality matting is solid cotton rag (coloured through the entire board), but the colours are very limited. These are made by several companies, including those above. Right below that and basically as good is Cotton rag matting with a white core and only the top surface paper is coloured – Crescent’s Rag line is basically the only game left, but it does have a good range of colours. After that you have what most people would call “Archival” or Conservation Grade mat board, which is available in a huge variety of colours and textures – suede, silk, linen, metallics, etc. This grade is made from virgin, specially treated cellulose. These mats are perfectly fine for most items, and honestly, I usually use this grade for both stretching and mounting my personal cross stitches (unless I the piece is using silk threads or I magically happen to have some scrap rag matting). If you don’t want matting, there is a cheat – they are called spacers. They are often made of an inert plastic and go inside the lip of the frame against the glass to lift it away. You don’t even notice them. If you’re framing yourself at home, you can simply cut very skinny strips of mat board to put there instead, but you’ll need to attach them to the glass so they don’t move around (again, use an an archival adhesive). Ideally if you aren’t using matting, you will seal the frame from the other materials to prevent the wood from leaching acid and lignin into the mats, backing, and fabric. You can do this by applying framer’s tape just barely over the front of the glass (1/16″) and wrapping it down the side and around the back, all around the entire package. It’s a bit of a bother – another good reason to use mats!

    1. LordLibidan

      Amazing advice, thanks Melissa!
      Also, I never knew UV glazing sometimes had to be installed a specific way around (obvious now I think about it though!)

  4. Devra

    Having just cleaned a small cross-stitch turned yellow from being framed using a sticky-board, I now need to frame a rather large piece stitched on black aida. hoping my son will display it for the next 40+ years, i want to frame it right at the outset. Will today’s acid-free foam-core hold up, or will it break down over time? I there another backing board that can be used instead? The frame came with a sturdy back, but I don’t know it’s composition. Please advise!

    1. LordLibidan

      40 years is a long time, so you’ll need to do a lot that you wouldn’t normally.
      Firstly, foam core deteriorates, and when it does, it releases gasses and turns yellow. Not what you what. BUT there is a solution. Archival foam board. Essentially it’s a foam specifically made not to break down, and it’s used in museums. It’s maybe 6 times more expensive than normal foam core though, so just be aware.
      You’ll then want to cover the foam core so your work doesn’t directly touch it. A museum-quality backing card will do, however thick.
      You will also definitely need to use a museum-quality matting board so your work doesn’t touch the glass.
      Finally, when you frame your work, do it inside your home, and leave the work for a week post framing. Then, go back and tape up the back with framers tape. This makes an air-tight seal so the work inside won’t get damaged by damp, etc (regular damp, not bathroom levels of damp!).
      Essentially, get the best possible matting board, backing board and archival foam core, and it should last that long (although educate your son on sun damage)!

  5. Andi

    Thanks so much for making this guide! I just used it to frame a cross-stitch for my sister and it was really helpful in getting a nice finish, even though I had less than an inch excess fabric on one side!