Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why I Like Scroll Bars

Like most of you, when I start a project one of the first things I consider (after pulling threads and picking out the canvas color, of course) is whether to mount the canvas on scroll bars or stretcher bars. There are quite a few things to consider.

How big is the project?
For small to medium projects, I like to use scroll bars. Although, small and medium projects can be easier to stitch on stretcher bars than a larger piece... For a really big canvas - painted OR counted - I waffle between scrolls and stretchers. Mostly I prefer scroll bars, because I can get closer to the work, which I REALLY like. Other times, I prefer to tack the big canvas to stretcher bars so I can see the whole design while I'm working on it...which becomes crucial if you're balancing colors and threads thruout the design.
What type of ground is it - mono canvas, Congress Cloth, or linen? I find that mono canvas is pretty darn tough and holds up well on scroll bars or stretcher bars - much better than rolling it up in your hand, that's for sure! Congress Cloth, while a bit stiff, can be easily creased if folded, so putting it on bars keeps the canvas flat and crisp. (I usually iron my piece of Congress Cloth before attaching to bars and stitching, so it starts out flat and crisp). And with linen, which I think is a pretty tough fabric as well, you may be an "in-hand" stitcher (which links you with a long tradition of stitchers stretching back thru time) or you may be a scroll bar stitcher. I have enjoyed cross-stitching in-hand, but I prefer putting my linens and other fabrics on scroll bars before I start stitching.
Will there be only flat stitches, or lots of raised, complex stitches? If you're going to be stitching lots of fancy stitches, or ones with long loose stitches, stretcher bars will be much easier on your canvas/work. That being said, I must admit that most all of my quilt designs (that use longish diagonal satin stitches) have been worked on scroll bars, and I haven't had any problems with the long threads being "rolled" on scroll bars. (On the other hand, I don't keep my quilt designs on the scroll bars very long; I usually complete the project in a few weeks or so.)
Other things to consider are:
What types of threads are you using - cottons or silks, rayons, metallic or wool?
Is it a travel project (one you'll carry around to stitch-ins or guild meetings, packing it in and out of your car)?
How quickly will you be working on it - finishing it in a week or a year (or two)?

All of the things mentioned above have to be considered. But, I have to confess: I usually go with the scroll bars. I know myself well enough to know that if I put a large piece on stretcher bars, chances are it will be more awkward to work on - and then I won't stitch on it as much. If I mount that same large piece on scroll bars, it won't seem quite so intimidating; I'm much more likely to stitch on it; and it will get finished faster (and I'm much happier as a result).

So I have a few techniques I use when I do mount a large piece of canvas (or fabric) on scroll bars. 1.) I'll cut long pieces of cotton batting and roll the hidden ends of the canvas against the batting, to protect the unstitched canvas, as well as soften and support the stitched portion of the canvas. 2.) I'll cover both rolled edges of the scrolled bars with fabric covers. Below is an illustration of how I quickly rigged up some muslin scraps (with safety pins, no less) to cover the top of a long project on white Congress Cloth:

I confess I was so eager to get started stitching, that I couldn't be bothered to stop and baste the muslin (or heaven forbid, pull out the sewing machine and sew up the edges). The lower edge has a fabric cover I sewed from scrap fabric, with a plain ribbon closure that can be pulled and tied to any width of scroll bars....You can get as fancy as you want with these scroll covers, but hey, whatever works - that's my stitching motto!


Sara Leigh said...

I prefer scroll frames for stitching on linen, and I attach the fabric to the frame so that the stitching is rolled to the inside and thus kept clean as I work my way down the piece. As a newcomer to canvaswork, I have yet to try mounting the canvas or congress cloth on a scroll frame, using stretcher bars or Evertites as a rule. I have seen many people do their hand-painted canvases on scroll frames.

Front Range Stitcher said...

Thank you for sharing your valuable insight into choosing the right canvas mounting. There's always a decision to be made and we are clearly operating within the realm of nothing's perfect here.

Lord knows I own every imaginable size of scrolls (no doubt in triplicate) and love the mini's for really small projects. Having said that, I don't take advantage of the scrolling---weird, I know, but if the design doesn't fit or closely fit in between the scroll bars, I usually use stretchers. I think I am always fearful of smashing the stitches or pilling the thread in the rolling process. Also I don't seem to be able to get the canvas taut enough to suit me. Both scrolls and stretchers are cumbersome at best especially on the larger sizes. I do, however, appreciate the newer technology of the Evertite stretchers and have converted over almost exclusively. I've heard that we should loosen the tension on our piece when not stitching. Is that something you do? I haven't.

All of your points are spot on and if I could add one element to the "mix" it would be to ask you to mention the application of either a floor or table stand, and whether they enter into your decision on which form of canvas mounting you use.

Having invested in both the System 4 floor and table models as well as the K's Creations stainless floor stand and a number of their table models, it's obvious that I keep trying to find just the right way to hold my canvas so it's comfortable, stable and easy to maneuver. I always think I must be using them incorrectly because they surely seem to me to be more trouble than they're worth. And I often end up just holding onto the side of the scroll or stretcher which totally slows down the stitching process and makes laying stitches nearly impossible.

Phew! I did run on. Thanks again. Oh, your Hollyhock House if lovely!

Anonymous said...

I have finished 2 big needlepoint tapestries over the last 40 years. My frame has more or less collapsed and I am now working on a much smaller item: 15cms (6") by 84 cms.(33")- it is designed as a bell-pull so this long narrow piece of work must be worked top to bottom. I now need an appropriate frame for it.

Having always worked with a standing frame (with the canvas stapled on to the wooden frame and wound up as I worked) from top to bottom, I am used to using both hands and I cannot bear the thought of "just holding onto the side of the scroll or stretcher which totally slows down the stitching process" as you say. So, I have looked at lap frames and floor frames and would be very grateful for any comments as to what is most likely to be comfortable.