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Picture Framing and Art Preservation/attaching flimsy textile to mat board


QUESTION: How should I attach a delicate, flimsy linen handkerchief to a mat board without having it eventually (or immediately) bag above hand stitched tack points? I am not sure that the one-inch grid pattern that you recommended for someone's small quilt would be sufficient for such a flimsy cloth also considering that it has some holes, the largest being about nickel sized. I am concerned that using spray starch would be detrimental to the textile over time.

ANSWER: First, no matter how you decide to mount the handkerchief, I would not recommend starching it. As the starch ages it can discolor the fabric. It can also attract insects such as silverfish.

There are three possible mounting methods that should work well for the handkerchief:

1. A pressure mount. With this method the handkerchief would be placed on a padded, fabric-covered board. Then acrylic glazing (NOT glass) is placed on top and everything is fit into the frame. This holds it in place with very gentle overall pressure with no sewing.

Start with a sturdy mounting board covered with a thin layer of polyester quilt batting. Cover that with a layer of fabric, preferably natural cotton muslin, washed multiple times in water only to remove starch and sizing. Wrap extra fabric around to the back of the board and secure it with acrylic gel medium used as an adhesive. You'll have a cushioned board. Then place the handkerchief, place the acrylic on top and fit into the frame as usual.

2. A fabric overlay: This combines a cushioned mounting board as described above with a very sheer fabric on top of the handkerchief. It also gives very gentle support but with more flexibility in glazing choices since it will not be in contact with the handkerchief.

Start as above to create the cushioned mounting board. Then cut a piece of Stabilitex or Crepeline* slightly oversized. Then place the handkerchief and put the Stabilitex or Crepeline on top of it. Carefully flip the whole assembly over and put a small weight on it to slightly compress the batting. Then wrap the extra fabric around to the back of the board and secure with acrylic gel medium.

Then frame as usual. If you wish to use mats around it you can place the mounted handkerchief in a sink mount.

3. A fabric overlay on matboard: This option allows you to mount the handkerchief on a matboard just slightly larger than the handkerchief. Then you can mount the matboard and handkerchief in a frame along with photos or other objects very easily.

First cut a piece of matboard about 1/8" larger than the handkerchief with a reverse bevel. Smooth the cut edges and corners with an emery board. A cotton matboard is ideal, and its "toothed" surface will help hold the handkerchief in place without it slipping about.

Next cut a piece of Stabilitex or Crepeline slightly larger than the board and place it over the handkerchief and board. Flip it all over and secure the fabric to the back as in options 1 or 2. Then you can simply glue the whole assembly to the background mat, perhaps along with photos or related objects. If you cut a board slightly smaller than the mounted handkerchief, you could use it as a platform to lift the whole thing off the background mat to give it some nice dimension.

I hope this is helpful and that one of these options will work well for you.

Available from Talas,, in a number of colors.

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QUESTION: Can you give me some sample brand names for an acrylic gel medium so that I have a better idea of what to look for?

Sure! Liquitex, Golden and Grumbacher are three very commonly available brands, and some art supply stores have their own "house brands" as well. You'll be able to find them in the acrylic paint aisle in any good craft or art supply store.

Acrylic gel medium is water based, so there's no nasty chemicals to worry about, as you would have with something like silicone adhesive. Once it dries it is simply acrylic and is very chemically stable.

One more thing I should mention: Once it dries it becomes a heat-activated adhesive. So with this project in your original question, you can brush it on the board and let it dry for about five minutes. Then you can use a tacking iron and a piece of release paper to attach the fabric. It's great stuff.  

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David Lantrip, MCPF, GCF


I can answer questions about all aspects of framing, with special emphasis on preservation framing. Categories of artwork include works of art on paper, needlework, textiles, paintings on canvas and three-dimensional objects. Components of framing includes frames, glass/glazing, mats, mounting, their features and how to select them.


I have been a professional picture framer and educator in the field since 1994, including framing education for a major franchisor encompassing three brands and the Professional Picture Framers Association, and writing and teaching for DECOR Magazine.

Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA) > Board member, PPFA > Member, Certification Board > Member, Chapter relations Committee National Society, Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR)

DECOR Magazine, 2005 - 2010 PPFA For Members Only newsletter Member of the PPFA Guidelines task force, assisted in writing PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Paper and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Canvas, and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Textiles and Needlework. Picture Framing Magazine, 2012

Georgia State University, many classes as a student and educator through the Professional Picture Framers Association and DECOR Magazine. Current member of the PPFA guidelines task force and certification board.

Awards and Honors
Earned Certified Picture Framer (CPF) designation in 1996, Master Certified Picture Framer (MCPF) designation in 2004 and Guild Commended Framer (GCF) status in 2008.

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