Time to talk about stretch bars. And no, this isn’t some strange workout fad I’m trying to get y’all into for 2018. I’m talking about the contraptions that we use to hold our needlepoint projects in place!
What are stretch bars?
Stretch bars are literally bars, usually made of wood or plastic, that hold your needlepoint canvas in place while you’re stitching. Sounds useful right? It is!
I have a few sizes of wooden stretch bars that many of my canvases fit on to. I can break them down and store them when I’m not using them.
Do I really need to use them?
Yes….and no. Honestly it’s going to depend on the type of project you are doing. For example, I stitch belts on a fairly regular basis. Just last month I wrapped up this shark-eating-a-fish belt for my middle brother. Thin projects like belts don’t need stretch bars because if they do get pulled out of shape, they’ll be added to leather and fixed at that point.
When working a larger canvas however, having stretch bars to hold it in place can be so helpful to prevent the project from getting stretched out. Not sure you need them? Think about the needlepoint bag I made for my mom. It was a square canvas that once stitched, was supposed to fit perfectly on the pocket of a canvas bag. I forgot to use stretch bars so the canvas wasn’t a rectangle at all by the end. It could have been worse but I will always know when I look at it that it is slightly diagonal. And now I suppose so will all of you.
How do I use stretch bars?
Alright, so I’ve convinced you that you need stretch bars. Now what? Find a size that works for your canvas! If you’re going to sketch designs, I would recommend doing it before putting the canvas on bars. I often use mugs for example, to outline Christmas ornaments. I do this on a flat surface before adding the canvas to stretch bars.
When you’re ready to mount the canvas, connect the four corners of the stretch bars. Many are made in such a way so that they easily fit securely together. Align the canvas on the bars and use metal tacks to secure it. Don’t do one side at a time. To ensure that it stays even on the bars, start with the four corners and then do one tack per side, making your way around until you feel like your canvas is secure.
When you’re done with your canvas, all you need to do is remove the tacks, put away the stretch bars and get your project finished!