Which Cross Stitch Frame Is Best?

Scroll Frames of Various Sizes (source: ebay.com)

One of the first things any cross stitcher gets is a frame, and as they develop their craft, they start looking at other options. We show the best frames out there, with detailed pros and cons so you can pick the right frame for your project, if you’re looking for a way to cross stitch faster or finish your project in a frame.

Embroidery Hoops

Embroidery hoops are probably the first types of frame any stitcher gets. They come in multiple sizes, they’re cheap, and they can be left in the hoop for as long as you like (even for framing). However, the very fact that you’re reading this post probably suggest you don’t want to stick with one. They’re a bit clunky, hard to hold, and can’t accommodate large stitches.
However, before we move on, there are loads of types of hoops that might help. Whilst most start with wooden hoops, that can be quite heavy, plastic ones are far lighter, and whilst not as strong, are much easier on the wrist.
embroidery hoops
Can finish the piece in one
Come in varying sizes
Hard to hold
Need to keep buying different sizes
Cannot use for medium/large pieces

Spring Tension Hoops

Basically a standard embroidery hoop, but instead of an internal wooden ring, they have a wire you slot in. They have a nice and easy install, however they don’t have as strong of a pull than the wooden kind. They also tend to come in a little more expensive too.
spring tension embroidery hoops
Mostly cheap
Super easy to set up
Come in varying sizes
Hard to hold
Need to keep buying different sizes
Cannot use for medium/large pieces

Scroll Frames

And so scroll frames were invented! Solving all the problems an embroidery hoop has (even if they cause some others) scroll frames are the go to frame type for anyone moving on from a hoop. They allow you to sew/tape/staple in your aida and you can stitch to your hearts content. There are a few draw backs though; they’re heavy, really heavy, however you can attach them onto holders so you don’t have to hold them. In addition they’re quite expensive, and due to having to sew in your projects, wear quite quick. You also need to loosen the frame when you’re not stitching to stop it pulling unevenly. And finally, you have to attach them to the frame, either by stitching them on, tape or stapling, which pulls at the edges of the aida and takes forever to set up.
embroidery hoops
Come in hundreds of sizes
Perfect for large/extra large pieces
Quite expensive
Cannot “hold” stitch

Easy Clip Frames

So if you read the above review, the main issue with scroll frames comes from the fact that you have to stitch them in. However with an easy clip frame you instead clip the aida in, solving all these problems. Sure, scroll frames, even easy clip are heavy, but they hold the aida tight when not stitching, they don’t wear, and they’re just as versatile. Most serious cross stitchers move onto an easy clip frame sooner or later, they’re the best long term investment.
As an update to my original post, you can now get plastic easy clip frames that are much lighter.
embroidery hoops
Come in hundreds of sizes
Perfect for large/extra large pieces
Best long term price investment

Bar Frames

Speaking of long term investments, bar frames are sold as exactly that. They’re sold in 4 to 6 inch bars which clip together to allow you to extend the size of your stitching area. It means that instead of having to buy progressively larger and larger frames, you can just add a few cheap bars. However, this does come with a few draw backs. Firstly, they’re not light, although still lighter than scroll frames (although the plastic ones are lighter). Secondly they’re really bad at holding large pieces, the plastic variety is even worse at this. Thirdly, you can’t hold your aida in one when not stitching, they warp the shape due to being square frames; which is a real problem baring in mind you have to staple your aida in.
embroidery hoops
Much cheaper long term than other frames
Quite heavy
Cannot “hold” stitch
Cannot use for very large pieces


This is a new type of frame, made to try and combine all the above frames into one super frame. I’ve tried them a few times, and whilst they do live up to a bit of the hype, I still find myself going back to a easy clip frame. They’re made up in a similar way to a bar frame, but made of a special interlocking rigid plastic so it holds large pieces better. In addition you then clip in spikes to the edges to hold the aida. You’re meant to wet the aida pull it across and it holds the aida perfectly, which does work VERY well, especially the tension it holds, however it requires at least 30 minutes of building, then getting your aida all wet before you can put it together, and then a further 4-8 hours to let your aida dry completely before you can use it. They also have a “Grip-n-Frame” product too, which allows for fantastic framing of finished pieces.
embroidery hoops
Perfect for small/medium pieces
Cannot “hold” stitch
Can be uncomfortable to hold
Takes hours to set up each time

Universal Craft Frame

Unlike the rest of the reviewed frames, this one you can create at home. Simply put, its a series of PVC pipes. You can buy kits to make your job slightly easier, however its adaptability is the real seller here. You can swap out lengths for shorter or longer pieces depending on what you’re stitching, and you can very easily put your project into the frame. They tend to loose their hold so you need to put them back in each time you stitch, however it takes seconds. They don’t pucker or flatten the area stitched areas, and they’re lightweight. The only one downside is as the projects get larger, it can get a little unwieldy.
universal craft frame
Perfect for small/medium pieces
Cannot “hold” stitch
Not suitable for larger projects

How to frame cross stitch

Self framed cross stitch (source: plasticlittlecovers.com)

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 habedashery 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.
how to frame cross stitch what you need

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.

<how to frame cross stitch foam board 2

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.

how to frame cross stitch foam board

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.

how to frame cross stitch find the center

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 round.

how to frame cross stitch pin down

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*

how to frame cross stitch sew the back

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.

how to frame cross stitch sew the back 2

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!

how to frame cross stitch remove pins

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.

framed cross stitch


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!

Washing, Drying & Ironing

Washing cross stitch (source: peacockandfig.com)

Having mastered the art of cross stitch you’re now looking to display it, however there is often an over looked step.
When you’ve been stitching a while you’ll find out exactly why washing is important. But even I would admit I never really gave it credit when I started, and I’ve seen the problems first hand.

Its all about finger juice. Yeh, you heard me. More specifically the thin layer of oil around your fingers to help you grip things. This oil is fairly innocuous, and doesn’t do any damage on its own, however it bonds with the thread. When it bonds the thread takes on the same characteristics and can grip to things. Specifically dirt.
To make things worse, if you leave your thread out in the sun it will brown (quite considerably). Even worse if you’ve ironed without washing!

Unless you have yourself a house trained raccoon, you have to do the washing yourself. And its not obvious as you might think, but don’t worry, its easy. So lets jump in.
how to wash cross stitch


The problem with washing cross stitch is that the threads and aida aren’t treated dyes like your clothes. As a result they bleed heavily. In addition if you use special threads like metalics or glow in the dark threads they have metals or plastics in them which react differently. But there is a tried and tested way you can clean ANY cross stitch. This is even what you need to do if you’ve got dirt on your ironed piece.

There are two things you need. Ones a bowl, big enough to hold your piece (it can be rolled to fit, but don’t fold it). The second can be slightly harder to find; non-colored, non-bleached, non-abrasive dish soap. This is actually easy to find, but its always in an obscure place to see in the super market, so you might have to nose around a little bit.

Once you have everything, fill the bowl with water. COLD water. The colder the better in fact. This is the thing that stops the threads loosing their color.
Add 1 drop of dish soap per 5 liters (a normal washing up bowl is about 10). Then very slowly pass your hand through the bowl to mix it, making sure no bubbles form.
Then place the cross stitch on top and let it sink. Wait 15 minutes.


That was washing. Simple as letting it sit for 15 minutes. All it does it wash the oils through so they are more dilute so won’t bond to the thread. As a result you don’t need to rub it off the cross stitch.
However all that water has left the threads weak, and the aida very pliable. Drying the correct way is the only way to make sure the finished piece is flat. You often pull the aida out of shape slightly when stitching, and the washing will release all of that stretch, leaving your piece warped. As a result we dry in two stages.

Firstly, its VERY wet, so we need to take the bulk of water off. Get a towel large enough to place the cross stitch on, and roll from one edge to the other. Leave this for 5-15 minutes depending on the size of the piece (the larger pieces need longer, but if you’ve used plastic canvas it needs at least 20 minutes).


Once the time is up unroll. This stage could have a whole entry devoted to itself, there are a lot of different ways to do it, and people have come up with some creative ideas. However I’ll tell you two ways. The idea here is to stretch the canvas out again.

Most people call this pinning as, you guessed it, there are pins involved. The first way does involve pins, but if you don’t have any to hand, move to the second option. You want to have a flat surface you can pin. I know that might be unlikely in some houses, so you can also use a flat bit of aida left over (or even a bed sheet). If your backing is fabric, stretch that out first to make sure its flat. Then take your cross stitch and place it on top. Put a pin in a corner. Then in the opposite corner pull it as far as possible, and pin it. Do this all they way around the cross stitch. You should put a pin every inch/2 cm around the edge. Then let it dry some more! It’s likely to take about 2 days to dry fully.

No pins? No problem. Get two pegs and roll your project on its longest side. Do it tightly so there is 1 cm gap in the center. Then pin the edges down so the roll holds. This method uses the aida against itself, meaning it can’t warp. But it also means it takes AGES to dry. I would give it at least a week before you unroll. I would also make sure you put it somewhere dry and breezy instead of damp and humid.


So its washed, great. Now it won’t get dirty in the sun. However what happens if you accidentally spill something on it? If its something like fruit juice it will stain. However there is a super easy way to stop this. Ironing. Basically it heats the threads up enough that they secrete their own natural oils, which seal the threads (this is how sheep stay dry if you’ve ever wondered). But if you throw the iron on top of your cross stitch its going to flatten it, so lets go about this the right way.

Get a towel and dampen it slightly. You could do this under the tap, but make sure its not dripping if you pull it taught. Its only meant to be JUST damp. I tend to iron before the washing is fully dry, so I use a towel in the washing. Heat the iron up to the highest level, and remove the steam.
Cross stitch face up on the ironing board, towel on top. Then iron, using a large amount of pressure.

Remember I was talking about getting dirt on your finished piece? Well now any dirt should just wash away!
Not too hard, was it? Just need to frame it now or if you have too many like me; you’ll need to store it somewhere.