Sunday, January 6, 2013

Framing hand-knitted wedding veil

A couple of years ago, I knitted a wedding or bridal veil. I posted about it at the time, and provided photos of it in the wedding. However, as much as my memory dims with time, I hardly expect a casual blog reader to remember it well. I'll begin with a refresher, a photo of the finished veil worn by the bride.

To add to the background information, I have included links to the earlier posts and to my Ravelry project page after the next photo. They will answer most questions about the intricacies of knitting a wedding veil.  If, however, you can imagine the effort and anxiety that went into the knitting of this veil, you won't be surprised to hear that after it was completed, worn, and being packed away, K said to me: "You should frame it."

I passed his suggestion on to the bride once she began showing me the wedding photos. I envisioned using the veil as a background for a photo or two. Since she liked the suggestion, I decided the first step would be to bring the veil to her so that she could take it and some photos to a frame shop.  The distance between us and the question of whether it was wise to trust the veil to shipping led me to postpone this step until last July when I brought the veil to her.  We took it to a frame shop and selected the mat and frame. Then we went through the wedding photos and picked out several likely ones to include in the piece. The end result is below, followed by an explanation of why it took six months to achieve it.

I like it well enough, but it has diverged from my original vision, altered by the input of  the bride and groom, the frame shop, and the veil itself.  First, the couple wanted to include several small photos instead of a few larger ones.  Second, the employees of the frame shop simply refused to frame it as I originally imagined.  Finally, the the shape of the veil didn't adapt to the rectangle of the frame.  These incidents combined in a complex process that ended with the veil being much more the object of attention than the photos.

It is what they wanted--the veil, preserved as an art object and a memento of their wedding.  It is a lot bigger and more complicated than I thought it would be, as was the entire project.  What follows is a detailed account of the problems I encountered.  I hope they will help someone else who might consider taking on the task of framing knitting that wasn't knit to be framed.

For those who are just interested in the veil, click here: my original post and my Ravelry project page.

Once I had delivered the veil and spent an hour and a half in the frame shop discussing the process with the framer, I returned home and left it to them.  Pessimist that I am, I really wasn't surprised to hear that weeks later, nothing had been accomplished.  My experience with frame shops has taught me that the framing always takes longer than I think it should.  Often, I suspect that no work is done on anything I've left to be framed at various shops until I call and insist that they complete it.  Then, it appears that whoever is responsible drops their other projects and takes an hour or two to complete mine.  It is usually done the next day after I call, whether they have had it ordered for days, weeks or months.  This one was no different.  After the bride complained, the shop produced this:

Upon seeing this cell phone photo, my first question was about all the excess mat visible around the veil. I was told it was going to be trimmed. Since I could see that the veil was unevenly placed, I assumed that it would be stretched out in a less casual fashion and opened up similar to the way I had laid it out when I visited the shop a couple of months before.  What a bad assumption that was.  I was ignoring the fact that my original visit was so long ago that the framer could not remember anything I said. At least, that is the most generous explanation I can give for the next photo I received.

This is where things took a turn from bad to worse. The bride knew it looked wrong, but she didn't know enough about knitting to be sure it was wrong. She paid for it, then told me she didn't like it, couldn't get it in her car, and had left it at the shop. I agreed that it didn't look right but that I needed to see it to figure out what was wrong with it, other than the odd shape. Since I wouldn't be in the area for several weeks, I called the frame shop and told them to hold it until I could see it. Although I was hoping that I would like it better when I saw it, I came prepared, packing my blocking wires, board and pins. I was afraid I'd have to reblock the veil to restore its original shape. When I arrived at the shop, fingers crossed, ready to be stunned by loveliness, it only took me 5 seconds to see the problem. The darn thing was wrong side out!

The veil was placed sideways on the rectangular mat and folded over to fit, exposing the wrong side of the knitting.  At this point, I realized I was working with a framer who knew very little about knitting, one who couldn't tell the purl side from the knit side.  The bride knew it "looked strange" but the framer didn't see the problem.  I told her that even though it was arranged in an attractive fashion, I couldn't leave it as it was.  I explained that the knit side must be the most visible side and that they would have to take it apart and reframe it.

I offered to take the veil and reblock it to fit the mat and cover more of the blank area.  They agreed to this, but cautioned me that any additional work would incur additional charges since the bride had accepted it as it was.  The veil was sewn to the mat, and had to be cut away.  I had to leave it at the shop and return several days later for it.  When I picked it up, it was sandwiched between two 32" x 40" foam-core boards.  I took a couple of days to wet block the veil, trying to stretch it out to to the dimensions of the foam-core boards.  It was close, but didn't quite cover the 32" vertically.  Horizontally, it was wider than 40". 

 Once I had it pinned to one of the foam-core boards, I took it back to the shop and transferred it to the mat.  It was a better fit, but still did not come near to covering the larger mat vertically.  Since the veil was now wider than the mat, I asked the framers to fold the excess on each side to the back.  They refused.  Either it was physically impossible in some way or they were worried about damaging the fabric, I'm not sure which.  Also, they insisted that nothing touch the edges of the mat, explaining that they needed at least a half-inch of bare mat on which to place the spacers that would elevate the glass above the mat, leaving an air space above the photos and the veil.  Since it had been difficult to convince them that they did not need to leave three inches of mat exposed on all four sides, I took the half-inch as a victory.  I left the veil there with instructions to place it evenly on the mat and call me when they had it ready.

Several days and many phone calls later, they called me to approve the position of the veil on the mat before it was sewn back down.  When I arrived at the shop, I saw the veil was on the mat unevenly with a lot of mat exposed at the top and bottom.  I tried to adjust it, but eventually became so frustrated with the process that I gave up. 

It was at that point that I asked the framer to trim the mat board.  It was 8-10" too long vertically, one reason that the size of the frame was too large for the bride's car.  Reluctantly, he trimmed 6" off, making it the same size as the foam-core boards.  His reluctance had two sources:  first, once smaller, it couldn't be made larger if I changed my mind, and second, making it smaller would force him to trim the frame.  The shop owner told me trimming the frame was not a problem, but the employee that actually had to trim it didn't agree. 

Once the mat was trimmed, I took the mat and both foam core boards back to pin the veil in place on the mat.  I reasoned that the only way to get the veil centered was to place it directly on the mat myself.  That was when I realized the mat board would not hold the pins.  They slipped out.  Worse yet, the mat board was flexible and bent easily.  I had to place one foam core board underneath to support it.  Then I placed the veil on the mat and secured it by putting the second foam-core board on top and taping all three boards together across the edges, making a sandwich that held the veil in place.

I transported the sandwich to the shop and told them to sew the veil onto the mat as it was.  I won't go into the time this took, since I expected the framer to sew it immediately.  I didn't want to risk the veil being put aside where it would slip out of place.  It took weeks for our schedules to mesh.  Even once we were both there, the sewing didn't happen immediately.  In the end, it took a couple of weeks.

The project was finally completed in late November, costing only a little more than originally quoted.  At one point, they had lowered the price by 10 percent as a concession to the time it was taking to complete it.  The additional cost was a little over this 10 percent discount. In spite of the time it took and the struggle I had with the project, I can't say the price wasn't fair.

The one lesson I can take away from this experience is that these framers don't understand knitting.  And, to be fair, I don't understand framing.  Actually, they used the recommended method for framing lace.  The fault was in the way they applied this method to this project.  Besides not being able to tell which side should be exposed, they didn't use enough stitches when they sewed the veil to the mat.  You can see the way the veil has stretched away from the few points of stitching at the top.  It will likely stretch more over time as the piece hangs.  Also, not every point at the bottom edge of the veil was stitched down, even though we suggested it. As a result, the points stand up away from the mat the way they fell when the piece was turned upside down for the frame to be hammered together.

Is there another way to fix the veil in place?  If the entire piece was smaller and the veil the background, it would be laid across the mat and wrapped around to the back.  The wrapping would have held it in place.  Failing that, I can only recommended a lot of stitches or some sort of glue. 

And, now, you know (not that should have been any doubt) that I am a very picky person.  I'll bet this pickiness somehow enhances my enjoyment of knitting.