Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stretch Your Own Canvas (How To)

The long awaited tutorial has finally materialized! You will need: a small stretcher frame (mine is a 10 cents thrift store find used for stretching embroidery), a piece of heavy weight muslin or linen (unwashed, so it will shrink a little as it dries), staple gun (1/4" staples- this is a light duty project), gesso and a cheap brush.
Trim your cloth so there is enough frabic to pull and stretch over your frame (stretcher bars).

Put a staple in the middle of one side, then on the opposite side, with your fingers, pull tightly and staple in the middle again. Repeat. Now the center of your canvas will be nice and tight.

Now, from one of your center staples, pull and staple to the right (I am right handed so I naturally start to the right), all the way to the end. I place my staples about 1/2" apart. Rotate your canvas and repeat on the opposite side you started from. ie: If you started on a long side, you will go to the other long side to pull and staple next, each time stapling to the right. This insures that your cloth is stretched tightly on the diagonal as well as from side to side. You will have staples running from the middle of each side, to one corner. Go all the way into the corner- it will make folding the corner easier later on.

You will finish stretching by starting at the middle staple, going to the left. Again, long side, long side, short , short side. I cannot stress enough that you must pull the cloth as taut as possible. My first attempt netted a saggy canvas as I started to gesso it, so I tore the wet cloth off and started again. Learn from my mistakes! ;)

I chose to fold my corners so that the fold showed on the long sides. Then I just tucked it as neatly as I could so the cloth caused as little lumpiness on the back as possible.

One staple should do it.

This is my canvas after I trimmed the excess cloth away (I used dull scissors, my nice sharp fabric cutting scissors being buried in my sewing machine's cabinet)

The relaxing, easy part- paint with gesso! I use the gesso watered down- one part water to two parts gesso (an approximation). Let the first coat dry, then paint again. This is called priming your canvas. If you are a stickler for beautifully smooth work surfaces, by all means sand the first coat before applying the second.
Don't forget to paint the sides of your canvas too!

Voila! A stretched, primed canvas ready for painting or collage.


Anna said...

cool! I am printing this one off for my idea book - I did not know you actually made them from scratch! Nor did I know you could make it from muslin! WOW! Thanks for the tutorial - you are awesome :)

beth said...

I'm so lazy with stuff like this...I wait for the 40% off coupon at michaels and then just buy my canvas there...

but HUGE kuddos to you for doing what you did AND showing a tutorial on it !!!

Erica said...

Amazing! I didn't know you could make your how stupid does that sound once I actually put it into words. you have any ideas for altering a lamp shade? Can I do that and not make a fire hazard?

Nathalie Thompson said...

hahaha! Erica, Kind of like going to the store and buying meat already plastic wrapped on a foam tray- you don't think about butchering your own cow!

YES, you can ABSOLUTELY alter a lamp shade! I haven't done one recently, but surely a Google search would turn something up.

Christine said...

You have been busy since I last had a chance to stop by. Love the canvas idea and I too never considered creating my own. Do you suppose I could do something similar with the cloth and gesso over a hardbound book instead of on a frame?

And I love love love the soap wrapper idea.

Happy Happy! Spring is almost here!

Margaret said...

How very clever you are! not your first I reckon, real profi finish, great tutorial! now can we just have another one on altering the canvas!

Linda said...

We are never satisfied, are we? rofl We always want MORE!!!! I hope my hands are strong enough to stretch that baby! I'm not what I once was! I'll have to call Virginia over. She's an OT you know!!!!

Donna said...

Great idea!! Do you Know how much money this saves??? Lots!! Happy day sweetie!hughugs