Displaying and hanging textile art

Displaying and hanging textile art

Subject of a recent TextileArtist.org article and co-author of ‘Connected Cloth’ (with Cas Holmes), Anne Kelly has some experience of both curating exhibitions and submitting art to galleries solo and in groups. We’re extremely grateful to Anne for sharing her expertise in this article, which presents her practical advice for hanging textile art and aims to help you display your work as successfully as possible.

Anne Kelly is an expert in hanging textile art

Waistcoat Bird Tree – Anne Kelly

Presenting,displaying and hanging your work as a textile artist has the potential to be challenging and at times confusing! There are such a variety of formats for different scales of work and media that it can be tricky to decide which one works best for you and your pieces. In our forthcoming book ‘Connected Cloth‘, Cas Holmes and I explore a range of options and some of these are documented in the section ‘Connections and Collaborations’.

A page from Connected Cloth explaining how to hang fabric art

Connected Cloth by Anne Kelly and Cas Holmes

Free-hanging textile art

Conservation plays an important part in the display of textile pieces. It is crucial to consider where your work is going to be seen and what the conditions of that location are. If your work is free hanging it will need to be securely fastened to a wall or overhead support. This can be done effectively using fishing line, which is available in a variety of strengths.

An image demonstrating how to hang textile art

Seed Bird Map (Shed Studio) – Cas Holmes

Hanging textile art can be tricky - her is how Cas Holmes did it at a recent exhibition

Red Rain (Maidstone Studios) – Cas Holmes

When hanging textile art, the line will need to be attached also to a vertical support which is suspended through your work to ensure that it hangs straight. A placket or narrow pocket running though the back of your piece can include a flat piece of wood or plastic, which can then be strung up using the fishing line.

Textile Hanging by Eszter Bornemisza at Festival of Quilts July 2013

Hanging by Eszter Bornemisza at Festival of Quilts July 2013

I’ve recently started using electrical cable housing which can be bought cheaply online, as it is flat, light, rigid and straight.

How to frame textile art

If you feel that your work would be benefit from framing, there is also a minefield of options! The most conservation friendly method is to use acid free mounts and attachments; these and the frame would have to be built by a specialist framer. This can be pricey and is not always necessary.

It is always important to stress (when framing textile art) that your work should be hung away from moisture and direct sunlight, as you would always do for any art work. The presentation of your finished work is critical to the public perception of you as a textile artist. If your work is beautifully presented, potential purchasers are more likely and able to envisage it in their own surroundings and are more able to appreciate the work itself. Here is a photo from the same installation – looking beautiful.

Eszter Bornemisza installation at Festival of Quilts

Eszter Bornemisza installation at Festival of Quilts

Mounting textile art

Another option is a compromise but one which I think works quite well. You can mount your pieces onto blank canvases which are widely available in art and craft shops and online.

Framing textile art guidelines by Anne Kelly

Domestic Mapping Series

The work needs to be measured and made to fit the canvas size, with a 4-5cm border all the way around it. The work can then be positioned on the centre of the canvas and with the canvas turned upside down and the edges of the work can be staple gunned into place. It is important to fold the edges of your work neatly, so that there are no bulges, especially with thicker fabrics.

Box framing is another pricey but effective option. Occasionally it is possible to find Box framing on the high street, and you would need to tailor make your piece to the size of the frame. The box should be deep enough to ensure that the glass does not touch the work, which can be attached to a piece of board using stitch or acid free tape. It gives a greater sense of depth and makes the work look like it is ‘floating’ if it is attached to a separate piece of card which can then be glued to the supported mounting board.

How to frame textile art and display it effective is an art within its self

Brewhouse Hotel Tunbridge Wells, Autumn 2012 charity exhibition

Displaying small pieces

Small pieces can be as challenging as larger ones to present, as the aim is to draw the viewer in for a closer look.

An untitled textile hanging by Anne Kelly

An untitled textile hanging by Anne Kelly

Suspending your work on fishing line or string, wool or thick cotton is a good option. The string will need to be sewn or tied through the work, and spacing it can be tricky, but it does look effective.

Textile hanging

Textile hanging

Check the gallery specifications

When you are displaying your work in a gallery, it is good practice to check the hanging system in advance and ensure that your work has the correct attachments before you install it. Security is a consideration and I would recommend public liability insurance for all exhibiting artists – most galleries insist on it. When exhibiting in a really large group, as in the recent small format challenge ‘Freedom, Freiheit, Liberte’, which has been touring Germany and Eastern Europe for over two years, the organiser will often take charge of the display. In this panel, Gudrun Heinz has sewn the contributions onto backing cloth in an effective arrangement.

Freedom Installation of mounted textile art

Freedom Installation

It is important to measure up and visit your venue frequently before exhibiting as a site specific piece can be effective, as in this installation by Cas Holmes at Farnham Maltings gallery, as part of our joint exhibition ‘Natural Histories’.

An example of textile art hung in a gallery

Imperfect Plant – Cas Holmes

Often a variety of formats can also be effective, as shown at our later joint exhibition ‘Domestic Mapping’ at Maidstone Library Gallery, sadly no longer in use.

A gallery of fabric and fiber art

Anne Kelly and Cas Holmes, Maidstone Library Gallery

This mixed presentation was also effective and worked well at an artists open house ‘Polish and Pin’ in Hove.

Framed textile art by Cas Holmes

Polish and Pin – Cas Holmes

Displaying your work on a blank background or neutral cloth can be useful for photographing it and getting a sense of how you wish to present it.

A studio installation of textiles

Studio Installation – Anne Kelly

In this short piece, I have tried to share some observations from experience. There are many more ways of presenting your work and I hope this article will act as a forum for further discussion of the topic.

Hanging textile art is an art in itself

Summer Holiday Quilt – Anne Kelly

There will be a feature on Anne and Cas’ new book coming soon on TextileArtist.org.

Connected Cloth
Connected Cloth by textile artists Anne Kelly and Cas Holmes Respected textile artists Cas Holmes and Anne Kelly have enjoyed a productive and inspirational collaboration for many years, and have a wealth of experience in devising and running community textile art events and gallery exhibitions, as a pair and separately. Connected Cloth acts as a guide to set up artistic groups, sourcing venues, working to a unified vision (including setting ground rules and working practices), producing group exhibits. This fascinating book will encourage you to connect with other practitioners as well as take your own work to a new and exciting place.


More products mentioned in this article
Fishing line 100m £2.91 on Amazon UK 100m $2.99 on Amazon USA
Mounts Range of colours -Amazon UK
Canvases Range of sizes – Amazon UK Range of sizes – Amazon USA
Staple gun £10.99 on Amazon UK $12.50 on Amazon USA
Box frames
Wide range – Amazon UK Wide range – Amazon USA

Which methods do you prefer when hanging and displaying textile art? Let us and our readers know in the comments below.

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About the author

Joseph Pitcher is the son of textile artist Sue Stone. He is an actor and voice-over artist and has worked at the RSC, the National Theatre, West End theatres and several other leading regional venues across the UK. Find Joe on Google

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12 Comments on “Displaying and hanging textile art

  • Good article Anne. Thanks for sharing CC and images. I would add, check that the venue has no limitations on how they want you to hang your work as this could impact on the way your display the piece. ie in protected buildings etc.

    all best Cas

  • I loved looking at the seductive quality of the work displayed here. Thank you for the informative, thought provoking article. It has made me realise that I should be planning how and where to hang the piece in tandem to the overall choice of fabric, design elements, and execution.

    One of my favorite textile books is Cas Holmes ‘The Found Object In Textile Art’. Now I’m going to order Connected Cloth.

  • Framing is so difficult. I tend to use blank canvases but cover them with an off white calico first then stitch the piece on through the back. I like the deep ones but if you use the thinner ones then a buyer could feasibly have it framed later. People seem to want to be able to frame things to ‘keep them clean’. I was once sitting in a cafe /gallery where I was exhibiting with a group. A couple of women walked along looking at them all until they got to some framed pieces. They said ‘You see these are alright because they’re behind glass’.

  • Thank you so much for sharing your expertise – it’s a very helpful article.
    Hanging large scale works straight is really challenging! I have a series of banners that are 3’x12′ and the only way I’ve been able to get them to hang straight and flat is to wrap the banner around layers of canvas and flannel. I tried fishing line and wooden sticks, but it still twisted and warped – even when the fabric is cut on grain.
    Anyone come up with other ways to do this?

  • Ellen, Anne mentioned electrical trunking in the article. You can get it in d.i.y/hardware stores in differing thicknesses very cheaply. As stated, it is strong and rigid despite its lightness. Getting one length to experiment, running fishing line through it is a viable cost.

    Great article, thanks, Anne.


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