Keeping needlework taut on scroll frames is a never-ending problem for stitchers of all kinds. Another problem is attaching the canvas or fabric to the bars.
FA Edmunds has addressed both these problems with their Ratchet Scroll Frames. They come in complete sets, with rods in three sizes: 12″, 18″, and 24″. Other rods cannot be used with these sides. They can be used for fabrics, evenweave fabrics, or needlepoint canvas.
The entire frame is made from lightweight plastic. When assembled it still has a bit of give. Although it might seem that this would make it too flimsy for needlepoint, I found that it held up well in my tests.
The give in the frame seems to allow the canvas to flex, much as it would on stretcher bars while still keeping the canvas tight enough to stitch.
The product comes in a plastic bag with instructions. The two side sections are pre-assembled for you. One of these sides just has the ratchets. You can tell them because the inside of the nuts has teeth. These teeth are the key to how the scroll frames work. They allow you to tighten the canvas to the next hole and keep the canvas there with only a small amount of give. Traditional stretcher bars because they do no have teeth, can slip a great deal, loosening the canvas. A button on the outside is designed to let you unlock the ratchet to allow adjustment.
Using the Frame
I was able to adjust my canvas easily, although the buttons didn’t work for me. It was easy enough to move the lock from the inside of the sides.
Rolling and unrolling uses the same process, loosen one ratchet and unroll the canvas. Loosen the other ratchet and roll the canvas on the other end.
I certainly found it as effective as most stretcher bars. I liked that it was both light and thick. Stitchers with poor hand strength may find these frames much easier to use.
The main faults I found with these frames were in assembly. The rods are in two pieces that fit together. The canvas or fabric is placed between them.
The two parts of the rods do not lock together in any way, so you need to hold them in place when inserting them into the holes in the sides. They like to slip apart, so this isn’t easy.
The instructions suggest that you roll up at least 1″ of fabric around the rods. That would help keep the rod’s parts together, but needlepoint canvas rarely has that kind of margin. You will find it easier to hold together if you do it anyway and then make adjustments by unrolling the canvas after you insert it into the sides.
Inserting the rods into the sides required some strength and was not easy. I needed to have someone do this for me.
For many stitchers assembling the frame with needlepoint may be enough of a problem to make these frames unusable.
Making the Frame Work for Needlepoint
Although the frame is marked and marketed as being suitable for needlepoint, it will only work for needlepoint of certain kinds. To use this your canvas must:
- Have canvas margins of at least 2″ (more is better). The frame needs those 2″ to roll and for you to be able to get to the edges of the worked area.
- Be close to the length of the bars.
- At least 4″ longer than the length of the sides.
These frames will allow lacing of smaller canvases, but the ratchet mechanism will mean that lacing might need to be adjusted often. I was not able to test the frames on smaller canvas because I had no canvases that met the size requirements.
I was surprised at how effective and easy to use these Ratchet Scroll Bars were. I’m enjoying using them on my current piece and I’m looking forward to using them again.