Ready to take on Stretcher Bars?

This Julie Mar canvas is mounted on a stretcher bar frame.


Is your needlepoint canvas all wonky when you finish stitching it? Do you struggle with blocking? Are you having a hard time making your decorative stitches look like the pictures you see on Facebook? It might be time for stretcher bars!

Just about every single day, stitchers (of all skill levels!) ask me… 

if I always use a needlepoint frame. And the answer is, “Almost always, YES!”😀 

In fact, it’s a very rare occasion that I DON’T use one. So, today we’re gonna chat a little bit about stretcher bar frames.


First, let’s talk about just exactly what stretcher bars are…

Simply put, they are lightweight wood frames for your needlepoint canvas that keep it straight and taut as you stitch. 

Stretcher bars come in pairs and you need two pairs to make yourself a frame. 

The pieces fit together with a simple dovetail joint. Sometimes they slide into place quite easily – and other times I need to use my trusty hammer to get them nice and tight. 😉

I use stretcher bars on all of my smaller projects.

You can find them at your LNS (Local Needlework Shop) or their websites, and even on Amazon. 

There are two types of stretcher bars… 

Mini stretcher bars are ½ inch thick. I use them on smaller projects that you can hold in your hand. 

Regular stretcher bars are ¾ inch thick. I prefer to use the regular size bars for larger canvases since they’re a wee bit sturdier. 

Stretcher bars come in an assortment of lengths. Minis range in size from 5” all the way up to 18”. And regular bars are available in lengths from 5” up to 28”. (The length of both kinds increases in 1” increments.) 

Both types of stretcher bars will fit in needlework stand clamps like those you’ll find on the Needlework System 4 Tabletop and Floor Stands and the Lowery Work Stand

I’ll bet you’re wondering how to choose which size of stretcher bars to use, aren’t you? 

First, you’ll need to measure your canvas along the outer edges to determine the width and the height of the piece.

(If your canvas ends up measuring an “odd” size, don’t worry. We’ll talk about that next week. 🙂 )

Now, let’s look at a couple of examples… 

If your design is a 4-inch round ornament and your canvas measures 6”x6”, you will need two sets of 6-inch stretcher bars (remember – you need a total of 4 bars 😀).

And if your canvas measures 8” x10”, then you’ll need a set of 8 inch bars and a set of 10 inch bars.

Make sense? Terrific!!

Now – you’re ready to assemble the bars into a frame! 

So head on over and watch this episode of Needlepoint TV™ where I’ll show you how to put a stretcher bar frame together.

But before you go, I’m curious…

Do you use a frame when you’re stitching? 

Tell me in the comments below – I L-O-V-E hearing from you and I read every single note you leave for me.

Alrighty – that’s all for now, my friend.

Until next time, happy stitching…

Stitch with a smile!



PS: Be sure to check out our Needlepoint TV™ episode that’s all about putting a stretcher bar frame together.

6 thoughts on “Ready to take on Stretcher Bars?”

  1. I always use a frame. I usually am doing specialty stitches, but even if I am doing something small and simple, I use a frame. It keeps my needlepoint squared up and I find it easier to hold.

    • Hi Robin!
      That’s a terrific question. It’s much easier to use a stand to hold the frame instead of trying to hold it in your hand. I have a couple of videos over on my YouTube Channel that you might want to check out. Click HERE for a video about the Lowery Work Stand and click HERE for a video about the Needlework System 4 floor stand. I hope this helps – and let me know if you have any more questions. I’m happy to help!
      Ellen 🙂

  2. Hi Ellen ,

    I need your expert help!

    I have a Dimensions Crewel Embroidery fabric Size 30 x 20 inch.
    I’m finding it extremely difficult to find the Stretch Bars or the hand held scrolling Stretcher for my Embroidery Fabric. I’ve searched the internet high & low but this particular size evades me!

    Please help me.

    P.s. I prefer the handheld Stretchers

    Thank you
    Best wishes

    • Hi Sherry
      I’ll do my best to help…
      My experience has been that you can’t find stretcher bars longer than 28″ very easily. If your project is such that you could trim the fabric down – or fold it under – then you might be able to make that work. The 20″ stretcher bars will be easier to locate. My best suggestion is to check with a needlework shop in your area. If they don’t have those sizes in stock, they should be able to order them for you. 🙂
      A scroll frame would be my preference, though, because it will be very difficult to manage a stretcher bar frame that is 28″ x 20″ without a stand. The same holds true for finding a scroll frame. A local needlework shop should be able to assist you. If you don’t live near a local needlework shop, let me know where you’re located and I’ll be glad to try and make some recommendations.
      Have a terrific rest of your day and happy stitching!


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Serendipity Needleworks

Hi, I’m Ellen. A needlepoint teacher and author dedicated to helping motivated but overwhelmed stitchers at every stage find exactly what they need to stitch with confidence. Whether you’re just dipping your toe into the needlepoint world or you’re ready to take your skills to the next level, I’ve fine-tuned a learning experience just for you.

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