Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lacing and professional framing or....not so much?

I had an experience this past week regarding professional framing of my pieces and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it.  I have always had my finished pieces professionally framed.  It's just my preference.  Also, I have always used Hobby Lobby.  I've never had cause to have a complaint over their work.
Now, sidetrack with me a moment so I can say that I have always assumed that when I get a stitched piece framed that they lace the back.  I thought this was industry standard and I know a lot of other stitchers think the same thing.
But I learned this week that those of us who think that may very well be wrong in almost any given circumstance.
It all started because I went in to pick up the two pieces I had put in for framing a while back.  I put in two items.  One I had stitched many moons ago but never framed and my large I Am A Stitcher piece that I did with a SAL this past summer.
So I get to Hobby Lobby only to be told that my smaller piece is framed but they couldn't finish the I Am A Stitcher piece because the frame I had chosen was on back order.  First of all, no one had called to tell me that.  Secondly, they had no clue when my chosen frame would come in - it could be in two days or two years, they had no idea.  So in order to get my piece, I had to choose a different frame.  Ugh, but ok.
Then they brought my piece out to me to show me they already had the mat attached.  And then this is what I saw.
 This is the back - that I had assumed would be laced.  As you can see, it's simply taped.  Then on the sides, there were probably well over 100 pins put in.
The white part that you see under the pinned material is the side of the mat. 
I was shocked to say the least.  I told the lady that I assumed it would be laced and asked why it was not.  She replied that all of their training was to lace, but lacing is so much trouble and feel that they can get it as tight as lacing with the pins.  Then she said, "I don't know what that taping is about.  I've never seen that done before." 
Have mercy.
She also said that if someone wants lacing done, they can still have it, but they have to specifically ask for by name.  She kind of rolled her eyes like she thought anyone asking for that is a royal pain in the tush.
I was just flabbergasted.  For years I've assumed that lacing is the norm for needlework.  And to see my piece pinned and taped...I didn't like it.  So I came home and got in touch with one of my very well respected local needlework shops that has it's own framing department.  I told the owner there what had happened and fully expected her to be as aghast as I was.  But quite the opposite happened.  She told me that their practice is the same as Hobby Lobby's.  They tape and pin but will lace if someone specifically asks for it.  But my question is, if someone asks for and are told they will then lace, how does the customer know for sure it was done?  When you pick it up the back is fully covered.  And if the employees obviously have a bad attitude about lacing, can you be assured that they are telling the truth when they say they laced it?
So I decided to search further and contacted a professional frame shop in Nashville.  They are not a big box store like Hobby Lobby and they are not in a needlework store.  But a 100% framing shop and that is all they do.  I spoke to the owner and asked lots of questions and she was gracious and spent her time helping me understand and explaining what the current industry standards are.  She also said I was doing the right thing by asking questions to find out what should and should not be done.
She said there was a lady (can't remember her name, sorry) that passed away two years ago and she was the person that set a lot of the industry standards for framing.  She apparently is the person who brought the pinning of needlework to the table.  The pins are stainless steel and are now set as much of an industry standard as lacing is. I could tell the store owner was very meticulous about doing a proper job and she did feel that the pins do a fine job.  But she also had no issue at all with lacing, if that is what someone wants.  And even went further to say that she would look at each piece individually to see which method would be better to be done to that piece - pinning or lacing.
As for the tape, she was horrified.  She said that she knows of no tape used on fabric as an industry standard within the world of framing.  She was also very concerned about any chemical in the tape that could compromise the fabric over time - I have to agree.
She also questioned if the mat that my piece is pinned to is acid free.  I'm not sure, but I do intend to find out.  She told me to get the mat # from the workers at H.L. and she will find out for me.  So basically at this point, my plan is to take my piece, as it is with pins and tape, to her shop and let her look at it and we will decide the best course of action and go from there.  But we both agree that the tape has to go ASAP. 
So there you have it.  What I've learned:
* Lacing no longer stands alone as industry standard of needlework pieces but has the stainless steel pins standing on equal ground with it.
* And it may be a good idea to stay away from the big box framing stores as well as shop around and ask questions.  The lady I spoke with told me she knows people who work in those shops who have told her they are given 30 minutes per piece and have to have it done in that time frame - and that there is no way to do a quality framing job, especially with fabric, in 30 minutes.
  * Find a framer who will work with you, explain their process - both the hows and the whys.
*Also find one who does not hold lacing in disdain because it is more time intensive, but one who still sees it as a good quality method that they will be happy to use.
This has definitely been a learning experience for me.  But I'm glad that I seem to have found a frame shop that is willing to openly and honestly explain their process, will willingly lace if that's what I want or if that's what is best for my individual piece and who truly wants to provide the best quality job they can. 
Moral of the story ~ ask a lot of questions when getting your work framed and never make assumptions as to what the framers are and are not going to do to your work.  You just might be surprised at what is under that nicely covered back of your framed piece.


  1. I feel your pain. The last two pieces I had done at a local shop was so disappointing. I dare not check to see if they are laced, but the framer covered up some of the stitching with the frame and/or mat. I was just sick. I am going to learn to do my own framing I think. Just what I need, another hobby!

  2. I would die if they covered part of my work. I've been kind of disheartened from this whole experience. I don't really want to learn framing on my list of things to do, lol. I do like the framer I spoke to today, but I live in the middle of nowhere and it's a two hour drive to her. So I'm just kind of like - ugh. I probably will go see her though the next time I go into the city.