Hand-wrapped Fabric Mats

By Larry Neuberg

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The distinctive and upscale appearance of fabric wrapped mats adds elegance and sophistication to any framed artwork.

Hand-wrapped fabric mats have been used for many years by custom framers to enhance and present artwork. The use of fabrics especially chosen for wrapping mats allows versatility, elegance, and sophistication to custom frames and is the simplest way to increase profits and price points. The skill required is simple. You only need to begin offering fabric-wrapped mats to your customers. The fabric will sell itself, and given the choice a client will almost always choose a fabric-wrapped mat.

Fabric for Mats
Not all fabrics have a distinctive grain or weave that needs to be followed. Fabrics available from companies that serve the picture framing industry make fabrics with and without grain or weave. Fabrics with a grain direction require that you always run the grain horizontally, while you need not be concerned for fabrics without grain. There are a wide variety of fabrics being used today: linen, silk, cotton, suede, blends, and even synthetics. In addition, fabrics come in a variety of different widths, ranging from 36” to 72”. This allows fabrics to be used for the very smallest to the very largest framing projects. Fabrics like linen and silk can have natural imperfections that should be expected. Dye lots may also vary from the samples provided, but companies serving the picture framing industry should always provide this information in advance along with a risk-free, no-minimum order policy on all fabric purchases.

How Fabric Should Be Ordered
The three most important things to remember when ordering fabric is that it is always ordered in yards. Suppliers will and should accept orders for less than a yard, so you can order fractions of a yard (see the chart for more details). Second, always know the pattern name, which is typically provided, and also know the fabric color. These two things are easy to distinguish by either referring to the fabric sample book or the fabric corner sample that is provided by the supplier. All fabrics are also rolled on a tube and packed in a plastic bag for maximum protection. A fabric supplier should always ship your order in 24 hours or less.

Materials and Tools
The materials and tools needed for fabric wrapping includes the fabric, the mat, FabriMount fabric adhesive (a hot/cold water base white/clear drying fabric glue especially chosen for this type of work), the adhesive roller tray, a 3” roller applicator with handle along with reusable 3” foam roller covers, single edge razor blades along with a cutting tool, and Dahle scissors.
Working on a cutting surface made of scrap matboard or heavy paper larger than the mat being wrapped works best. Clean up is simple; just rinse with water until the adhesive is removed.

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The adhesive will soak into the cut mat, so be sure to apply a coat to the bevel first.

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Apply an even coat of adhesive to the face of the mat and then go over the bevels again.

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Place the fallout back into the opening on top of the fabric and apply firm, even pressure to adhere the fabric to the bevel and corners.

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Cut the fabric diagonally at each corner, taking great care not to cut beyond the bevel of the mat.


How to Hand Wrap Mats
Begin by cutting the matboard to include the window. A regular bevel works best, but if a fillet is to be used a reverse bevel is recommended. Remember that matboards are always white on the back side and that wrapping mats in fabric is an excellent way to take advantage of unused matboards. It is important to place a cut matboard on top of a clean surface. Place the cut board under the selected section of fabric you want to use. If a grain is present in the fabric, it is important that you line it up straight. Next, trim the fabric to about 1” from the outside edge of the matboard (see diagrams 1 and 2).

Next, pour an adequate amount of FabriMount fabric adhesive into a roller tray--enough adhesive to complete your project. Remember that set up time is critical because this is an air-dry adhesive. The formulation is perfect as is, so please do not dilute it. Diluting will reduce the adhesive quality and increase the potential for the matboard to warp.

For very thin silks, 3M Super 77 spray is recommended. Please check with your fabric supplier for specific recommendations.

Load the roller with adhesive, removing any excess. Apply a uniform coat to the matboard, making sure to include the bevel and the corners. Then take the time to remove any runs or concentrations of adhesive that might bleed through the fabric.

As soon as you have a uniform coat on the mat, remove the board and place it on a clean cutting surface. Immediately place the fabric on the cut matboard. It will not adhere until you apply light pressure, so this is the time to orient the fabric and make sure the fabric is straight, lining up any grain until you are satisfied. Then begin to apply pressure with your palms and fingertips. Start by locating the bevel and the four corners of the cut matboard. Push down on the face of the fabric, gradually increasing pressure and continuing until there is a complete bond with the entire board.

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After applying adhesive around the opening turn the flaps of fabric to the back.

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A little bit of attention on the corners will ensure clean, crisp results every time.

To remove the excess fabric around the edge, turn thA little bit of attention on the corners will ensure clean, crisp results every time.e matboard face down on the cutting surface. With a single-edge razor blade, use the outside edge of the matboard as a guide and cut away the excess fabric (see diagram 2). Next, cut the window out of the fabric, leaving about 1” of fabric to wrap around the window of the mat (see diagram 3). Throughout the process, make sure your hands are clean or consider using white cotton gloves.

The next step is to cut the fabric diagonally at each corner (see diagram 4). Make sure you do not cut beyond the bevel of the matboard. If you do, the bevel of the matboard will be exposed when you wrap the window. This is a common mistake among beginners, but it can easily be avoided by being careful.
After that, using the roller, apply a 1” band of adhesive around the back of the matboard window (see
diagram 5).

Begin the window wrapping process by starting in the middle of each side and working your way toward the corners (see diagram 6). Make sure the fabric is wrapped smoothly all along the bevel. It is not necessary to force, stretch, or pull the fabric. Just place the fabric where you want it and press down with your hands. Finish by paying extra attention to the corners. It is a good idea to add a little adhesive to the back of each corner to guarantee a good bond and to eliminate the possibility of fraying.

Larry Neuberg is president of Neuberg & Neuberg Importers Group, Inc., a family-owned group of companies located in Los Angeles, CA. The companies include Framing Fabrics, Easy Leaf Products, Gold Leaf and Metallic Powders, and Euro Linens West. Larry joined the firm in 1979 after working in hospitality management, and is responsible for customer relations, marketing, product development, manufacturing, and production of all product lines.

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