Slate Frames for Hand Embroidery

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Slate Frames for Hand Embroidery

We receive questions about slate frames for hand embroidery regularly. Slate frames are a bit of a mystery to many people, but to those who love doing fine hand embroidery, slate frames are an essential tool. And we all know that using the right tools leads to beautiful finished results.

So what exactly is a slate frame? A slate frame is usually made of wood. In the example below, there are 2 main parts shown for the slate frame. The horizontal pieces are called the bars.

Wooden Slate Frame by Ecclesiastical Sewing

The bars have a piece of twill tape centered and stapled to the wood. The center part of the bar also has rounded edges. The ends of the bars are square and form a kind of block shape. This helps the frame to sit or rest evenly on a surface such as a table. The block ends also have oblong holes cut in them. The holes are large enough to allow for the arms to be inserted.

Wooden Slate Frame with Holes

The second part of the slate frame is the cribbage arms. These arms have lots of small holes drilled into the wood. This allows for positioning and tightening of the frame when it is dressed.

Slate embroidery frame Hand embroidery crewel work embroidery frame goldwork embroidery frame silk shading embroidery frame ecclesiastical sewing

The Slate Frame Sizes

We get many questions about the sizes of slate frames and what might be a good size for a particular project. The size of a slate frame is determined by the width or length of the till tape that has been stapled to the bars. A tape measure is placed at one end of the twill tape and is run along with the tape to the opposite end. The measurement of the twill tape determines the size of the frame. If the twill tape measures 18″, the frame would be an 18″ slate frame. Our website offers a list of standard slate frame sizes. Custom sizes are available upon request.

Available Slate frame sizes:

    • 12-inch slate frame
    • 18-inch slate frame
    • 24-inch slate frame
    • 30-inch slate frame
    • 36-inch slate frame

The above sizes are based on the length of the twill tape. The actual bar and arm sizes are 8″ longer than the listed size. 

    • 44-inch slate frame
    • 48-inch slate frame
    • 68-inch slate frame with 32″ arms Custom order – please email for more information
    • 72-inch slate frame with 32″ arms Custom order – please email for more information (for use with Muncaster Bedspread Project from The Crewel Work Company)

But how does this 18″ size as noted above translate to which frame will work for your project? An 18″ wide slate frame will allow for a piece of linen, canvas, or other material to be stitched to the bar. If the project is wider than the width of the twill tape, it will extend past the tape and it will not stretch properly on the frame. A wider Slate frame would be needed.

While the width of the twill tape is 18″, the overall length of the bars will be 8″ longer or 26″ overall in size.

Slate Frames Parts

The Slate Frame Parts

And the next question will be about those arms with the holes.  In our studio, we call those the “cribbage arms” because all of the little holes look like the holes found on a cribbage board. For most frames that are under 40″ in size, the cribbage arms will be the same length as the bars . For this frame, the cribbage arms are 26″ long.

And how long of a project could be framed with 26″ cribbage arms? The theory the frame could accommodate almost any length of the project, but the project might need to be rolled on the bars to fit. The frame could take almost any project up to around 16 to 18″ long to fit the frame without rolling excess fabric on the bars. If the project were longer, it might need to be rolled. This means that only a portion of the project workspace will be visible for stitching. Once stitching is complete in that area, the size lacing could be loosened and the project could be rolled on the bars to allow for the remaining surface to be visible for stitching.

Optimizing Frame Size for Comfortable Stitching

The project in the photo below is 68″ wide and over 50″ Long. The slate frame used for this project is 68″ long It has 30″ long arms. When this project was placed on the frame, the top edge of the project was left exposed in the working field, and the rest of the project was rolled on the lower bar. As the project progresses, the side lacing will be loosened and the side twill tape will be removed. The project will be unrolled from the bottom edge, and the completed work will be rolled on the top bar. The side twill tape will be replaced the sides will be replaced and the stitching will continue until the project is complete.

Slate frames Embroidery Trestle stands

Now you may be asking, why not get a frame large enough so that the project doesn’t need to be rolled and unrolled on the bars.

Stitching goldwork with flower embroidery

When stitching with a slate frame, we have to easily be able to reach the center of the frame without straining. It’s always better to frame projects for a comfortable reach. After all, a project like this will require hours of patience and devotion. And it is easier to keep stitching neat and tidy when we keep our posture comfortable while stitching.

Trestle stand and Slate frame for hand embroidery with Chair

It is our hope that this helps those with questions about slate frames and sizes.

Improving Hand Embroidery Experience

For those interested in hand embroidery seeking to enhance their stitching and final results, consider investing in a quality slate frame. Slate frames allow you to keep your stitching project laced and tight while embroidering. Slate frames keep a project neat and tidy and prevent wrinkles and hoop marks that will require work and effort to remove. They prevent the stitching from being crushed by the hoop, too.

And don’t forget about the other supplies that are needed when using a slate frame. Those include lacing string and twill tape for the sides, and a bracing needle, too. And trestle stands are perfect for holding your slate frame while stitching. The Trestle Stands are adjustable for different stitching heights. You can adjust the Trestle stands to have your stitching surface flat or at a slight angle, as shown in the above photo.

We hope this helps clear up some of the mystery surrounding slate frames.

Soli Deo Gloria

If you are interested in purchasing a larger slate frame or wooden trestle stands for your embroidery project please visit our website

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