How to Frame a Silk Painting (Without Glass)

Hello loyal followers!  By popular request, this month’s blog is all about how to make a frame for your silk painting.  This particular frame design is made from wood and has no glass or plexiglass in it to cover up the silk.  Many people love this design because they can still touch the silk and fully enjoy its shine and texture.

You start out by gallery wrapping your silk painting over artist’s wooden canvas stretcher bars.  Here’s the link to that blog, right here on this website:  http://www.mysilkart.com/how-to-display-your-silk-painting-the-gallery-wrap/

You’ll need your power tools for this project, or someone with their own power tools to make your frame for you.  You could make this frame without power tools, but the chances of getting the frame to fit straight and tightly together aren’t as great.  At the very least, you’d need a hammer, a saw, and a miter box (and you’d skip making the rabbet joint).

Besides the tools, the materials we use to make our frames are:

  • 1/2-inch x 1 5/8-inch S4S (sanded on four sides) pine boards
  • 18 gauge 1-inch brads for the nail gun
  • Wood glue
  • Wood filler
  • 3/16 inch drill bit
  • Primer
  • Paint (I use black because it makes the colors pop, and all my pieces look cohesive when hung together on display.)
  • Polyurethane (satin finish is my favorite)

Buy enough wood to go around your painting two times (since there are two pieces of wood per side of the frame), plus at least six inches per side to allow for the mitered joints.

Cut your pieces at least six inches longer than each side of your gallery-wrapped painting.  Use a router to cut a notch for the basic rabbet joint down the edge of one of the wood pieces for each side.  When those pieces are connected, the silk painting will rest inside the frame on the piece without the notch, so you won’t see a seam on the visible sides of the frame.  The seam will be on the back of the frame instead.  Use wood glue down the length of each rabbet joint and nail each pair of wood pieces together using a nail gun.  Place your nails 4 to 6 inches apart.  Keep your nails a few inches away from the ends of each piece, since you’ll be cutting off the ends at a 45-degree angle for your mitered corners.

Once the glue is dry, make your miter cuts.  At the risk of stating the obvious, the shorter end of the cut will equal the length of the side of your gallery-wrapped painting.

Put your frame together by using wood glue and two nails per corner.  Clamp the frame together while the glue dries.

Fill all the nail holes and any corner gaps with wood filler and allow it to dry.

Drill four holes through the back of the frame about 4 inches from each end of the longest sides, about 1/2 inch away from the inside edge of the frame.  We used a 3/16-inch drill bit so that our #8 wood screws would fit through the holes later when we attached the painting to the frame.

Sand the entire frame.  Paint it with primer, color, and an optional top coat of polyurethane.

When the painting is dry, attach your gallery-wrapped painting.  Here are the materials for this part:

  • Wooden blocks or small books
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Ice pick or nail
  • Scissors
  • #8 flat Phillips wood screws, 1-inch (these screws should be long enough to go through the frame and into the stretcher bar, without going all the way through to the silk)
  • Screwdriver
  • Screw eyes (I used 15/16″)
  • Picture-hanging wire (I used 19 gauge)
  • Wire cutters

Drop the painting into the frame and flip it over onto your work surface.

Put some blocks or similar-sized books under just the stretcher bars of the painting and not the frame, so that the painting will be pushed into the frame from below.  Poke a sharp point (use an ice pick, a nail or a strong straight pin) through each nail hole and just a little into the stretcher bar frame below.  Now take out the painting and see where your marks ended up.  If they’re touching any of your fabric, you’ll need to trim it away from that spot.

Place the painting back into the frame, and screw in your #8 flat Phillips wood screws.

Now measure 1/3 of the way from the top of the frame and mark it on both sides. Use your sharp point (I’m using an ice pick) to make a little hole in the frame wood.  Put a screw eye in both holes.  Cut a length of picture hanging wire that’s the width of your painting plus 20 inches.  Feed about 10 inches of wire through one of the screw eyes, and twist the end of the wire a few times around the rest of the wire.

Feed the other end of the wire through the other screw eye, and pull it so that it’s not super tight but it’s not bowing out loosely from the frame either.  Wrap the remainder of the wire a few times, and cut off the excess.

Hang your silk painting away from direct sunlight to keep the colors bright for years to come.  Consider placing a spotlight on your painting, too, you’ll be amazed at the luminous effect it will have on your work!

There are other versions of this open frame, and you may come up with your own.  Hopefully this blog has given you enough ideas and input to make construction easy and inexpensive for you.  Let me know how it goes–I’d love to see pics.

Happy silk painting!

 

 

  • Terri Van Gorp

    WOW! What an amazing poppy silk painting! Thank you so much for the post on how to frame silks without glass. I appreciate the time you took to share not only how to build and paint your own frames, but also the tips you shared on how low to hang the picture wire and additional lighting to pop the colors. It will be nice to enjoy the texture of the silk painting without the glass. You truly are an amazing artist and teacher. Your silk blogs are so easy to follow. Step by step instructions. It was nice meeting your husband, Gerry in this blog.

    • pglose

      Thanks, Terri! Glad you enjoyed the blog.

  • Pamela you are a goddess! You just saved me extra expense…..but my husband is not too happy (“I need what tool”?) We’re off to local hardware store!

    • pglose

      Just remind him of all the money you’ll be saving by making all your own frames! Just warning you ahead of time… soon I’ll be doing another framing blog, but this one will be about how to frame your silks under plexiglass! Let me know how it goes.

  • Diane

    Thanks so much for this video and a new way to frame my silk pieces. Wish I knew how to use all the tools you used to build the frames. I have a few canvas floater frames and they look similar to the ones you and your husband created. Do you think these would work?

    • pglose

      Hi Diane, they should work as long as you don’t have to put any screws through the silk.

  • Denise ellison

    Hi there just to let you know I have enjoyed watching your videos here in Australia I am very interested in all that you have to say . One question how do you keep your silk clean when you frame them without glass. I would find that a worry by for now

    • pglose

      Hi Denise! For the open-framed silks, you’ll need to hang them in a place that stays clean (just keep them out of the kitchen in reach of spaghetti-flinging babies). I’ve had some for 18 years and have never had a problem. If they do get dirty, you can always un-frame, wash, and then frame again. A bit of a pain, but do-able in case of spaghetti emergencies.

      • Denise ellison

        Thank you for your advice Pamela I wasn’t sure if you would get my question I’m not very tech minded this is all new to me. There is another question. I have tried to download your ebook from iTunes but cannot get it in Australia only in America but I don’t have an account with the us iTunes also I don’t have an iPad only an old iPod so is there any other way I can get this book by for now denise

        • pglose

          Hello again Denise! All of my ebooks are about to become available in 50 countries, including Australia. They are currently being processed by the Apple team, so it should be any day now. Unfortunately, they can only be viewed on an iOS device (iPad) or a Mac OS computer. They won’t work on your iPod. I’ve rewritten my ebooks in a new format to try to publish them with other companies so they can be read on other ereader devices, but have had problems due to their high video content. Technology has not caught up yet, but I will keep trying!

          • Denise ellison

            Thank you Pamela I look forward to that my husband says I can have an iPad so by the time I get one Australia iTunes should have your ebook by for now denise

          • pglose

            Wow Denise, how great is that! You will wonder how you ever lived without an iPad–you’re going to love it!

          • pglose

            You might want to check again, it looks like all my ebooks are now available in Australia. Let me know when you find it! :)

  • Denise ellison

    Hi there Pamela sorry it took so long to reply but been busy.
    Yes your ebook is now in the australian iTunes Store and I have down loaded it onto
    My computer but as yet haven’t been able to watch it as I still haven’t got my new iPad but I’m very excited and cannot wait I will let you know as soon as this happens by for now denise

    • pglose

      Thanks for buying the book, Denise, I think you must be the first person in Australia to get it! :)

  • Hi Pamela, I have a 20×20″ silk to frame. I have not steamed it. Do I really need to? It was painted with Tinfix and Dupont dyes. KR

    • pglose

      Hi Karren–Steam it to be safe. That way, you’ll not only punch up the colors but it will be safe from damage indefinitely. My advice is, “If you like it, steam it.”

  • Patricia Pope

    I love the idea of the open frame, or mounting of silk paintings…I really like long ones hung free for movement..but I am concerned about protection of the pieces.
    Do you use any king of protection when not using glass?
    Thank-you so much for all your help. I enjoyed seeing Terry on your blog, also..he would be fun to look at…you two make a very handsome couple.

    • Hi Patricia, I don’t protect the silks when putting them into open frames. Spraying anything on them could leave splatter marks or change the hand of the silk. I just hang them in areas where they won’t get spaghetti sauce, etc. splashed on them, and keep them out of direct sunlight. The worst thing that could happen is they get dirty, then you would just un-frame, wash, and re-frame. Thanks for the nice compliment to my husband, I will pass it along!

  • Meech Harrigan

    Hi there Pam! I was wondering if you still prefer to frame your work w/o glass or if you just do that when framing your beautiful layered works? Thanks again so much for sharing your heart for silk painting & fabulous video instruction!!!

    • pglose

      Hi Meech! My favorite way to “frame” silk is still the gallery wrap. But when framing double-layered silk paintings, always put it under some type of glazing (glass or acrylic). Watch for a video on how to frame your silks under glass/acrylic, coming soon!

      • Meech Harrigan

        Thanks so much, Pam! I’m so glad my husband is so handy (like yours). I look forward to seeing your upcoming video. Have a fab wknd!!!