Stretcher Bars

Tags: stretcher bars

This mini-lesson on constructing stretcher bars was provided
by Marjie McWilliams.

There are many ways to make or buy what you will need for stretching your fabric.

A minimum size for your stretcher bars should be about 14" x 20".  A maximum expansion size should be approximately 36" x 36" or 45" x 45".  If you need to have bigger bars later, you can always unpin your fabric, move it along, and do your resist work in sections.

Wing nut assembly with close up insert
Wing nut assembly with close up insert
Notch assembly with close up insert
Notch assembly with close up insert

My favorite set of stretcher bars are made from varnished 1"x 2" pine slats held together with "C" clamps at each corner.  This is a fast and easy way to make a frame that can be adjusted to any size you want depending on how long the slats are cut.

Alternative Ideas

* Use an old wooden picture or window frame.

* Build your own using four pieces of 1" x 2" pine with 1/2 notches made every inch or so along the edges so that the bars fit into each other.

* From my student Suzanne: "In a fit of creative pique I hit the garage, found 4 pieces of lattice, drilled holes through all four at once at 1" intervals, found four screws and wing-nuts, and, VOILÁ, a homemade version of adjustable stretcher bars,  40 x 48. Free!"

Note:  Make sure you paint, varnish, or wrap the bars with packaging tape or duct tape to seal off the wood.  Dyes will penetrate the wooden slats and come back to re-stain your next project.

*Michael’s has wooden premeasured stretcher bars for use in making canvasses that also work well for our classes.  Each package has TWO wooden sides so you will need to buy TWO packages to make the four sides.

* You can easily use a cardboard box with a large opening.  Securely tape the fabric over the open end with duct or packaging tape.  As the fabric stretches with the dyes, re-tape as you go.

* Another idea is to use an old drawer in the same fashion as the card board box.

* Some students use quilting hoops which work great, too.

*A very easy stretcher bar solution is to use wood strips held together with "C" clamps at each corner.  It‘s fast, easy and user friendly.  Be sure to paint or varnish the wood before use.  Fabric dyes will stain the wood causing the dyes to back stain future projects.  You can also simply wrap the wood in packing tape to keep the wood free from dye.

* If you have an easel, you can make an art-style set of bars as shown below.  Below is an example of an art frame that can be purchased online in many of the online stores mentioned.  It’s a good investment.

arty frame on stand   arty frame
Arty pins


Each blue elbow can be a stopper or a slider.

 1)  Take a short arm and place a Stopper on the right side with the letter “A” at the top of the elbow.

arty instructions step 1

 2)  Put a Slider on the left with the letter “B” facing up at the top of the elbow.   Angles will face IN toward each other.

arty instructions step 2

 3)  Repeat with the other short arm.

4) Take a long arm and stick it into the “A” slot of the Stopper and slide through a bit.  Put the end of the other long arm through the “B” slot so that the short arm slides through on the left.

arty instructions step 3

 5) Repeat on the other side with the other long arm.  See how all four sides can slide to make the frame smaller or larger?

arty instructions step 4

 6) Put a white peg in the loop of each blue corner to hold them in place.

© Copyright 2003  Marjie McWilliams

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© Copyright 2003- Arbee Designs. All Rights Reserved. This content is copyrighted by the respective teachers or authors of articles or lessons presented on this page. Unless otherwise indicated, all other content is the property of Arbee Designs. Copies of the material for others may not be made without the permission of Arbee Designs.

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