Today's post isn't sexy at all.
It's boring. But necessary. Even important. But definitely not sexy.
The topic is lacing. It's what we do at the end of a project to give our needlework a finished look.
Scarlett O'Hara recognized lacing as the critical step she needed to endure in order to get that nothing of a waist into her ball gown.
But this picture of she and Mammy is the only sexy picture in this whole post. Now you've been warned so no complaining later...
Over the weekend, I laced and finished all eleven of my bead journals and submitted seven of them to the Woodlawn Needlework Show. (Yes, I decided to go for it.) And now I have the callouses and split fingers to show for it.
As I was lacing piece number 8, I finally remembered all of you....you lucky people.
And thought that maybe someone somewhere out there may need some tips on lacing. The rest of you whippersnappers can skip over this post and wait for a more sexy topic to emerge...
Warning: A high degree of patience is required for this activity. Lacing should not be attempted while consuming alcoholic beverages.
Step One: The Materials
- Finished work
- Acid-free foam core (I purchase from the framing department at Michaels or JoAnns)
- Exacto knife for cutting foam core
- Darning needle
- A photocopy of the back side of your work
- Warm and Natural batting (it's thin and 100% cotton, from JoAnns)
- Upholstery thread
- Sturdy pins
- Tekobari or other long laying tool
- Your knees
Step Two: Template and Layers
Robin Atkins taught me to take a photocopy of the back of my work. This gives a template to cut out the foam core in the exact shape of your finished piece. This was a brilliant step since most often our hand work changes sizes as we work the material. I always mark the back with a "T" for top.
Cut out the foam core with an X-acto knife using the photocopy template.
Cut Warm and Natural batting layer about a 1/2" wider than foam core.
Layer work (face down), batting and then foam core -- taking care to make sure that the tops are, indeed, all at the top...and that the edges of the foam core line up with the edges of your work.
Step Three: Summon your patience
Lacing is tedious especially when you have work that is highly three-dimensional like mine. Best to have limited distractions and lock up your children before you begin.
Step Four: Stretching and Pinning
Starting at top-center, begin pinning and stretching work working from the center out toward the edges, pushing pins into the foam core to hold the stretched fabric.
Once top and bottom are pinned, flip work to the side and pin and stretch from center working out toward edges...
When finished stretching and pinning, you will have pins all around your piece and you're ready to start lacing.
Step Five: Lacing
Using your darning needle, thread up a lot of thread -- you don't want to have to start a new thread if you don't have to. For larger pieces this is unavoidable. I used 6 yards of thread for each of these 5" x 5" pieces.
A note on the thread. I like Upholstery thread. It doesn't break and it has a twist that grabs the fabric and helps to keep your thread taut as you lace.
The goal of lacing is to certainly to have a stretched piece of needlework with even tension, without bumps and bulges. To me, the back also should have as little bumps and bulk as possible.
I lace the top/bottom first and then the two sides. Before I start, I trim the fabric at the corners to eliminate the excess bulk.
Also to reduce bulk, I use a half-hitch knot to get started. Do not knot your thread. First, I wrap my thread through the same starting hole about three times. Then, I slide my needle under the three wraps and make three half-hitch knots to secure my beginning thread.
Then I lace by slipping my needle from under the fabric, catching both the batting and the fabric, as I lace back and forth.
Notice my knees in this picture. I always hold my work between my knees as I lace so that the front of the work isn't smooshed in the process.
When I reach the end of the row, I wrap my thread around the final pin a few time just to temporarily hold it.
Then I take my laying tool, and go back over my lacing stitches, using the tool to pull the stitches tighter and my free hand to hold tension as I work my way back to the last pin.
Remove the pin and release the thread, keeping tension on thread. Holding lacing tight, I make a tacking stitch or two to hold the lacing in place before I begin lacing the sides.
Repeat for the sides. Remove all pins.
Step Six: Tack down corners
Using a sewing thread, I tack down the corners to make an even smoother backing. Sorry, no picture for that.
Step Seven: Sew on backing (optional)
If you are framing your piece, there's no need to put a cover on the back.
For my bead journals, I am having a friend make a shadow box and I plan to rotate my pieces through the frame as my mood dictates. I was trying to avoid the expense of framing them all individually.
I chose ultrasuede to cover my lacing and used the same photocopy template to cut the ultrasuede to the right size, taking care to match the tops together. Ultrasuede is expensive but is great as a backing fabric because it stretches and conforms as you stitch and the individual stitches sink nicely into the fabric and are hidden.
I then added a label to the back identifying the piece and my name and address. I should have put the date too so I'll add that when it comes back from the show.
The only other thing I did was place each journal into a box to keep them from being crushed in travel and storage. I will also put the story of each piece inside the boxes for posterity and safekeeping.
And so, to the friends who are still here after this arduous post, I wish you all the best with your lacing.
It's not sexy. But it is rewarding.
If you spend so much time working on the piece itself, it makes sense to take some care in finishing it properly.
And please. Feel free to share any tips or tricks that you may have for successful lacing. I'd love to hear them.