To Stretch Bar or Not to Stretch Bar

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.

Stretch Bar

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.

Stretch Bar

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.

Stretch Bar

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!…

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3 Tips For Switching Thread Dye Lots Mid-Project

Whether you miscalculated how much thread you needed for a project or lost some of it (story of my life), the end result is the same: You’re out of thread. When you go to buy more, there no more in that dye lot. We’ve all been there at least once, just enough to never make the mistake again.

Luckily for you, I’ve made that mistake a time or two so I have some foolproof fixes that only the most sharp needlepoint critics would notice should this happen to you in the future!

Switching Dye Lots

A few years ago I made a wedding gift for my friend Emily. Halfway through the project, I realized that I was not going to have enough thread to cover the entire background. Less than ideal. After a momentary panic, I pulled out the thread on the bottom half of the background and used the state of Virginia to divide the two background colors. The two different threads touched at so few spots it perfectly hid the imperfection.

So, next time you run out of colors, find ways to use the other elements in the project to break up the two different dye lots. Can you tell that the top and bottom of the door hanger are the same color but in different dye lots?

I’m a realist so I know that there are times when you might not have a giant element to help divide the two thread dye lots. In those cases, soften the transition between the two colors by doing one row of one dye lot, and one row of the other, repeating for as much space as you can. Depending on how much thread you have left, how big the project is or how many other elements are on the canvas, this could go on for a few stitches or a few inches. You be the judge of what will look best!

The first two solutions help you hide the transition between two dye lots but it’s possible that you want to take your project in an entirely different direction. Instead of continuing with the same color, change up your project plans by either going with a shade slightly darker or lighter than the original color for extra shading, or going with something completely different to make a bold statement.

Next time you run out of thread and can’t find more in the same dye lot, don’t panic! Take a few deep breaths and think through which of these solutions will work best with your project.

Speaking of projects, I’m just over midway through the aquatic animal belt for my brother and I’m realizing that I’m out of the green background. Not ideal but luckily I’ve got some solutions to get through the rest of them (see above).

Do you have another go-to solution for when you run out of …

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