Mounting Canvas on Stretcher Bars

Old artist stretcher bars. Notice the lacing on the right hand side. This is a great way to use bars which are larger than your canvas.

Stretcher bars greatly enhance not only the appearance of the needlework, but also the experience of creating it.  Beginners, right along with old pros, find their stitches are much more even.  When creating needlework on bars, you will be using the stabbing method.  This allows your hands to also use a laying tool to correctly place stitches on the canvas.  

The size of the stretcher bars depends upon the canvas size.  If you canvas measures 20” X 18”, then you will need a pair of bars 20” and another pair 18”.


Stretcher bars comes in various weight, thickness and sizes.  When purchasing, it is best to buy good quality ones.  Bars with splinters or split wood should be avoided.  Most bars are put together with tongue and groove.  

Measure the needlepoint canvas to determine the necessary size for the stretcher bars.

When you take them out of the wrapper, you may need to sand any splinters that may occur on the wood.


Join the four sides of the stretcher bars together.


You may need a hammer to drive together the tongue and groove.


Use a T-square to align all four sides.

To secure, you may wish to staple each corner.


Find the middle of each stretcher bar and mark the center for future reference.

Use masking tape and bind all the raw edges of your canvas.  (This prevents the stitching thread from snagging on the canvas threads.)  Note:  I use masking tape because it is inexpensive and is only on the edges of the canvas.  If you prefer, sew bias tape on the edges.


Measure the center of each stretcher bar side to find its true middle.

Using rust proof thumbtacks, attach all four sides of the needlepoint canvas at the middle of each edge on the bars, using the pencil marks.


Tack again, on either side of each of the first four tacks.

Continue to tack until you reach all four corners, where you should place the last four tacks.  Hint:  use the canvas grid to help align the projects on your boards.

A good tool to own is a floor frame which can fit stretcher bars and embroidery hoops.  Here, you will see one which adjust to any size frame.