Preparing a Slate Frame

You will need:

  • A slate frame wide enough to fit the fabric without folding over side edges and with the centre points marked on the webbing (see Tips below).
  • Strong sewing thread such as button thread
  • Cotton webbing - 50mm (2") wide or thereabouts
  • String for tensioning the sides
  • Bracing needle or bodkin with an eye large enough to hold the string

Before you start
Gently iron the fabric to remove any creases, being careful not to stretch it. Turn over 1.5cm (0.5") on the top and bottom edges along the grain, and finger press or lightly iron in place. Find the centre point of each turned edge of the fabric and mark with a pin.

Dressing the frame

Click on an image to see a larger version.

a slate frame in pieces

Step 1

Line up the centre points of the folded edges with the marked centres of the roller bars. Working from the centre out to each end, pin the edges of the webbing and the fabric together.

attaching the fabric

Step 2

Using button thread, oversew the fabric to the webbing, removing the pins as you work. Start from the centre and work out to minimise twist.

fabric attached

Step 3

Repeat step 2 to attach the second roller bar. Roll excess fabric around the bars until the design sits comfortably in the centre.

side bars inserted and fabric tensioned

Step 4

Insert side bars. Under the top roller, add a peg to the same hole in each side bar. Secure the second roller in the same way with the last 2 pegs. Moving each set of pegs in turn, and one hole at a time, gradually adjust the fabric's tension until it is tight.

add webbing to each side

Step 5

Cut 2 pieces of webbing to fit between the roller bars. Pin along the fabric edges so that half sits on the fabric and half hangs off. With button thread, sew into place using horizontal stitches, 2.5cm (1") apart.

stringing first side

Step 6

Thread the bracing needle with string straight from the ball. Starting 2.5cm (1") from the end, take the needle down through the overhanging webbing and up around the side bar at 2.5cm (1") intervals. Cut the string leaving a 30cm (12") long tail at each end. Repeat on other side.

stringing second side

Step 7

Starting with the centre loop, pull each loop tight and hold while you pull the next loop. At the edge, hold the string tight, wrap it round the end of the roller and side bars and tie with a slip knot. Go back to the centre, and repeat for the other half. Tighten the second side in the same way.

dressed slate frame

Step 8

Stand the slate frame upright on the floor and use your foot to move each side of the bottom roller down one hole at a time until the fabric is drum tight. Keep the pegs level. Finally, tighten the side strings in the same way as before.


  • When preparing your fabric, if creases are difficult to remove by gentle ironing, and it is washable, soak it in water and gently iron it dry. Spraying just the creases with water may also work but is more likely to leave watermarks, so experiment on a spare piece of the fabric first.
  • At the start of each stitching session, check the tension of your fabric and tighten the side strings if necessary. The tension on the fabric will ease as you work on your project, especially at the start when new string, webbing and material stretch naturally.
  • If your slate frame's side bars are held with tapered wooden pegs which loosen as you work, try replacing them with split pins. We find 50mm (2") long pins work well.
  • To help centre your fabric when you are framing up, mark the centre of the 2 roller bars. To do this, measure the width of the bars between the inside edges of the holes where the side bars sit and mark the centre point on the webbing in permanent ink.