Think of stretcher bars like a good bra - you can probably get by without one, but many of us appreciate the support it provides!
Needlepoint stretcher bars, or any other type of needlepoint frame, will hold your needlepoint canvas smooth, flat, and tight for easier stitching.
Born To Be Wild needlepoint design on stretcher bars
They are inexpensive in the overall scheme of needlepoint supplies. And, you can re-use them.
Mounting your needlepoint canvas onto a frame or stretcher bars holds it taut, so it's easier to get smooth, even stitches, especially if you're a novice.
I Had My Patience Tested needlepoint kit mounted on stretcher bars
Plus, you get a better "view" of the entire canvas, which is helpful if you're learning a new stitch. A needlepoint frame helps to keep decorative stitches of various lengths and directions nice and even.
A needlepoint frame helps prevent your canvas from distorting into a parallelogram. This may mean you won't have to block it as aggressively - a run-over with an iron on steam setting (over a damp cloth) while tugging it back into shape should do the trick. A professional needlepoint finisher will always block your canvas, but if you're framing or sewing a stitched piece at home, not having to block it multiple times can be a real bonus.
The Klimatet needlepoint kit (below) uses a decorative Noboku stitch on the background. It was stitched on a frame that was built using two pairs of 8" stretcher bars and it didn't need any blocking.
[ Pssst: Find more great background stitches like the Nobuku on our blog post, Three Go-Anywhere Needlepoint Background Stitches. ]
You will handle the canvas less if it is mounted on a frame, which is good for keeping your work clean. It's no secret we like to stitch with wine, or coffee, or, you know...snacks.
These are all great reasons for using needlepoint stretcher bars. Are there any down-sides?
Stitching a larger design means having to hold a larger frame - unless you want to get into frame stands, but that's for another day. It's more cumbersome to travel with or hold a large frame in your lap.
Also, as you stitch, your hand moves from the front of the canvas to the back. If your needlepoint canvas is on a frame held in your hand, this work-around can be cumbersome. Conversely, if your stitching technique is one where you weave the needle across the top of the canvas, (rather than poke the needle in and pull it through from behind), you will need a hand-held canvas as a frame holds the canvas too tight.
What does all this mean? Simply that there's no "right" way to think about this. Whether you use a needlepoint frame is a matter of preference. This is your art and your relaxation time, so do what feels most enjoyable and gives you the result you need.
If you want to try needlepoint stretcher bars you can pick some up here. The description on each of our kits will tell you what size you need - or simply drop us a line and ask.
Remember, you are making a frame from four bars, so you will need to buy two sets (pairs) of stretcher bars.
We hope this 5 Minute Needlepoint tip was helpful. Add your name to our sign-up form if you want to read future 5 minute pearls of wisdom!