Making and Assembling an Adjustable Silk Painting Frame

Before I discovered these adjustable silk painting frames, I used to use canvas stretcher bars.  I had four in every size… and a pile of “mayhem” in the corner of my studio closet (ugh!).  Now I just have a few of these slim adjustable strips that fit neatly into my silk painting bench (see my March 2014 video blog, “The Silk Painting Studio Storage”), and they’ll hold just about any size silk I choose to paint (for really large pieces, there are other stretching methods… but that’s another blog for another month!).

Homemade Adjustable Silk Painting Frame

Homemade Adjustable Silk Painting Frame

If you are an experienced wood worker (or you know someone who is), you can make these adjustable stretcher bars.  My cute husband made mine, so I invented the dimensions according to my needs.  I buy 45-inch wide bolts of silk and usually like to paint large peices.  If you want to try making yours a different size, go for it.

These are the three sizes of the stretcher bars I have:

Stretcher Bar Diagram and Dimensions

Stretcher Bar Diagram and Dimensions

You’ll need to buy pine wood trim that’s about 9/16 (or about 1/2 inch) x 2 inches.  You want soft wood so you can easily push pins into it.  The lengths you buy depends on how long you’d like your stretcher bars to be.

Cut a long 1/4-inch groove or slot all the way through the wood, at both ends of each bar.  Stop cutting about 2 inches from the ends.  Leave enough uncut space in the center of the bar to give it stability.  You can use a router with a 1/4-inch bit or a 1/4-inch dado blade on a table saw to cut your grooves.  Sand the ends and any other rough spots.

For the hardware, you’ll need a machine bolt that will fit into your 1/4 inch groove.  the bolt should be about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches long (or however long it needs to be to go through two of your stretcher bars and have some length left over to attach a wing nut).

Each bolt needs to have two fender washers (the big kind) and a wing nut to fit it.

Bolt, Fender Washers, and Wing Nut Hardware

Bolt, Fender Washers, and Wing Nut Hardware


It’s nice to have a corner square to make sure your frame is square once you put it together.  Use a screwdriver to hold the bolt secure while you tighten the wing nuts onto the bolts.

Once your silk is stretched into your frame, Use scrap wood pieces or large jar lids under the corners of the frame to raise it from your work surface.

  • Mary Netherton

    Bravo! Sound, professional, practical instruction &advice. I especially enjoyed the “blooper” finale! Thanks, you are great!

  • Hykue

    Thank you so much for this! I just ordered a bunch of silk painting supplies to get started, but didn’t want to spend the money for a stretcher. You saved my bacon! Mine aren’t as pretty as yours, as this was only my second project using the router, but it’s functional. As an additional tip to anyone reading this: I found my wood was too hard to push pins into, so I drilled holes in the frame and stuck tiny nails (brads) in them for the elastics to hook on. It seems to be working really well. I angled the holes so that the nails angle away from the silk to make a better hook.