How I finish my stretched quilts

I have been asked by Deborah Boschert and Janis Douchette to do a tutorial on how I finish my stretched quilts so here it is. It’s really very easy and I have to credit Leah Higgins for giving me the idea to find a way to do this. The photos below are shot with a relatively small piece but this works with much larger canvases too. Just make sure you buy canvases which are braced with cross bars across the back. The equipment I use is as follows:

(A) Canvases. I use normal artists stretched canvases sold for painting on. I don’t fuss about the quality of the canvas because I am covering it up. I buy mine from Jacksons in the UK, usually their own brand because they have the sizes I like at a good price but I have also used Gerstaeker canvases from Great Art. I use standard width canvas and buy in bulk or in the sale sometimes to save money. I guess you could use stretcher bars but I have never done that.

(B) A heavyweight staple gun and staples from a DIY store.

(C) Painters tape – mine is from Jacksons again.

(D) D rings and screws and picture hanging cord ( or you can use wire ) bought in bulk from Lord of the Frames on eBay.

(E). Small cordless electric screwdriver.

(F) a thin nail ( the kind that comes with picture hooks) and a claw hammer.

I take the following steps:

  1. Some of my art is a quit with top and wadding ( batting) inly. the more recent works are comprised of a based of white cotton with painted cotton collaged on the top.  You could easily do this with a one layer work or back with another material. I work to a size at least one inch, usually a little larger than the canvas I plan to use to allow for some shrinkage and trimming
  2. I then need to trim the top to the size of the canvas plus a quarter inch all around for seam allowance. This is where I first needed to apply some thought because the canvases are in centimetres and I quilt in inches. So I first trim two sides of the top to create a right angle of trimmed edges.
  3. I then lay the canvas up against that right edge so the bottom and left hand side are aligned. I then slip a quilting ruler under the canvas leaving a half inch plus a smidgen showing. A smidgen is an imprecise about of roughly an eighth of an inch but adding this tiny amount over the half inch makes this go easier later as you will see. I then trim the quilt following the ruler to give seam allowance.
Trimming the top to size
Trimming the top to size

4. Then, I turn the quilt 90 degrees and do the same again. (If you like you can do it four times using a quarter inch plus a smidgen each time, but it’s more work!)

5. Now I have a perfectly sized quilt I add the fabric I am going to stretch over the sides of the canvas. I usually cut strips of fabric 2 1/2 inches wide but check your canvas. You want a strip that allows for quarters of an inch seam plus the width of the side of the canvas plus a decent amount to go over the back. If you are using deep edge canvases you would need to adjust that measurement. I then sew the strips to each side of the quilt just like a sashing on a traditional quilt block using a strict 1/4 inch seam ( using the foot that came with the machine for that purpose).

sew sashing
Sewing sashing strips to each edge

6. I do tend to snip the corners outside the seam allowance to just reduce bulk on the corners a little but sometimes I forget and it’s not fatal.

7. Next, I lay the quilt face down and place the canvas over it. You can see where it goes because the bobbin thread from the sashing is just a smidgen bigger than the canvas all around.

Laying the canvas in the right place over the art using the sashing seam lines as a guide
Laying the canvas in the right place over the art using the sashing seam lines as a guide

8. I then start one side ( out of habit usually the bottom of the piece) and starting in the middle, hold the canvas steady with my left hand and pull the sashing strip tight up over the canvas frame with my right hand the swap hands, hold in place with the left and staple it down with the right. I am looking to ensure that as I stretch I can just – but only just- see the stitching line between quilt top and sashing strip on the side of the canvas. That’s why I leave that smidgen. It allows just enough extra to ensure that the stitching line is on the side (just!) and not on the front of the piece). I continue that action all along that side.


stapleing side 1

9. Then I work on the opposite side. I often tip the quilt up on its side to make it easier to really stretch it, again making sure the stitch lines just end up on the side of the canvas. I pull the sashing over the edge and staple again.

tip up to stretch10. The piece then looks like a half wrapped parcel. I fold the corners of the unstretched ends in just as if I were wrapping a gift, making sure the fold is as smooth as I can make it. I find it is easiest to staple the first corner then staple to the middle of the sashing. Then I do the other corner and staple from that end to the middle. I repeat for the final side.

First step in folding the corners
First step in folding the corners
Completing the corners
Completing the corners

11. Sometimes the corners remain a little bumpy. The very technical process of bashing them on the table a bit tends to flatten them down sufficiently for my tastes!

12. On some pieces I then use the painters tape to cover the edges of the fabric and just make it look neater. The tape is quite costly compared with other materials so I might not do that in pieces I am pricing a little cheaper.

13. Then it’s time to attach the hanging mechanism. I lay the piece face down, making sure the top of the piece is at the top, if that makes sense. With a ruler I make a tiny mark a third of the way down each side. I take the D ring and place it on the canvas over that mark and using the hammer and thin nail bash a guide hole in. Don’t skip the guide hole or you will have real difficulty getting the screw to go in fully. (Thanks to my Dad for that tip after I rang him in frustration!) I use the claw of the hammer to remove the nail, replace it with a screw and use the electric screwdriver to screw it in. That is repeated on the other side. Then I thread picture cord through the D rings, cut and tie the cord and it’s done.

Threading cord through D rings
Threading cord through D rings

14. Finally I sign and label the back of the canvas.

There are times when textiles look best and behave the most like textiles when they are finished to hang freely on a batten or other method so I am not saying this is the best or only way to finish a mixed media textile piece. However, I am liking this method for many of my works now because it’s a crisp finish that is familiar to potential buyers and is very easy to hang in a home.


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