Stitching LARGE fabric

Terry Hart cpf

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Sep 23, 2003
Excelsior, MN
I have a large (approx. 10'x3') African woven fabric, similar to burlap, to stitch to a stretched fabric backround. I base my charge on the number of stitches I estimate it will take to secure the piece which is based on experience and "feel". This piece is so big though that this becomes a little more difficult. Anyone out there, a conservator perhaps, that uses a little more scientific approach? Maybe based on the weight of the fabric or possibly stitches per square foot? What do you think the best way to determine this is so as to, ideally, not do too much or too little? Thanks, Terry
Terry I think your request for a conservatots's help is a good idea. I had a simialr job but the fabric was already mounted ( unfortuneately ) by an interior Decorator who adhered it down ( Groan). what it sounds like you are discribeing ois Raffia Cloth. It is a fabric made by African tribesman from GRASS.
My remeberances is that it is very course and BRITTLE.I do think it is strong however and probaly will withstand hand sewing.But a Textile conservator will give you Much better advise and you'll need it.
After you have talked to a concervator. . .

If you think you can do the work in a day, charge for 10 hours and you might not get killed on this one.... hope so anyway.


I so wish there was a scientific way of estimating how long these things will take!

I gather you are thinking you are stitching it to a fabric (washed muslin or some such) covered strainer? One thing that may help are curved needles.

You can get some really wonderful curved needles from Fine Science Tools (they are easily Googled). The biggest size are the easiest to work with. They are thin, which makes for easy stitching.

Think about whether you need to stitch perimeter only, or if you need to stitch in the body of the textile.

Range estimates are often helpful - estimate low and high - and be honest. It may be high, it may be low. Like Mr. Rogers says "Everybody (read thing) is different."

Good luck!

Rebecca, I bought my curved needles at the fabric store where they were called 'upholstry needles'. You're right about them making the job easier. They were designed for sewing projects where you don't have access to both sides of the fabric.

Terry, jobs like that are killers, they just gobble up shop time and space. Not only do they take forever but nothing else can get done while that job is in progress because it takes up the entire shop.

I usually estimate how long I think it will take me to do the sewing then double it.

Maybe in the future, I'll suggest that customers take their giant fabric projects up to Excelsior. It's a nice drive.

I'll definetly need to stitch the interior. I'm thinking of an average of 3 stitches per square ft. over the entire expance. It's a med. wt. fairly loose weave textile with applicae design. I'm guessing in a museum setting it would be a science as to how many stithces per sq. ft. it would take to hold a fabric of a given weight and weave so as to hold it securely but still not be invasive by over stitching it. But maybe not. Maybe it's still an "art". If I can "guess" the number of stitches I can price that part of the job just fine. Anyway, it's not so much the pricing as trying to do it right. Like I said, not too much or too little but juuust right. I'm just trying to minimize the guesswork.
Sure Kit send 'em on up. But then you have the real experts at stitching things up down there.
By the way you couldn't be the same Kit that had a shop up here in Wayzata could you?
Terry, if you use a textured fabric for your underlay, the friction between the textiles will cut down on the stitching you'll need to do. Without seeing the piece, I'd think 3 stitches/sq. foot is not enough - it would put a lot of stress on just a few points.

I'd be more inclined to do a running or zig zag stitch with a curved needle (maybe 2 stitches/inch) around the perimeter, and in some sort of grid (possibly following the pattern) in the interior. This will distribute the stress more evenly.

If you can tilt the mount out at the bottom this will reduce the stress too, and cut down on the amount of stitching needed.

Kit, the upholstery needles I've come across are pretty thick. The Fine Science Tool needles are surgical, so very nice and thin. Easier to use.

I think you're right about the perimeter needing more stitches. for the interior I was thinking of a square foot as being a box with stitches athe four coners and one in the middle but I guess that would really be a zig zag of about 3 per foot. I don't want to poke more holes than neccesary. Thanks for the tip on the needles. I'll check it out.
Or would that be 3 per 1/2ft.? I guess thats why I have a pencil in the shop.