Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Setting Up a Quilt Frame





About 25 years ago, my mom took me to meet some Amish quilt makers in Lancaster Pennsylvania.  She has never quilted, but I was already hooked and she did her best to nourish and encourage my passion.  I didn’t know any hand quilters and was struggling to figure out how it worked.  So, we went to Lancaster, where my mom had a connection to some kind women and we chatted with them about their quilts.  While we were chatting with one quilt maker, her husband came home and somehow we decided that I needed a quilt frame.  The husband asked us to come back in the morning and when we did he had a miniature quilt frame that he had built during the night.  I remember him saying that we couldn’t bring a full size frame back with us on the plane, but we could take the model and show it to a carpenter who could make it for me.  And that is what we did.  

When I got it, I set it up and used it a bit.  But then I put it away in favor of hand held frames and it stayed in my mom’s garage until I moved back to California a few years ago.  Since then it has lived in my garage.  But a few months ago I took it out and put it in my living room.  It has held many quilt tops since then, but more as a hanger, as I thought about setting up the frame.


The problem is that I forgot how to get a quilt onto it.  I remembered bits and pieces of the process, but not all of it.  I tried looking online, but there is nothing that quite matches the frame I have, especially since it is not a commercial frame.  Anyway, here is what I’ve done.



We started with a bare frame.  Then we attached scrap pieces of canvas that were cut to the size of the poles and stapled them to the frame, allowing a little overhang to try to make it easier to pin a quilt to it later.


Once that was done we had to measure the quilt we wanted to put on the frame.  Then we adjusted the bottom of the frame to be the same size as the quilt top.  That was difficult because the holes don't seem to match up well to many different sizes.  After working at it for a bit we were able to get it close enough to attach the quilt on the top.  


We needed to pin both long sides of the frame to the quilt so that we could turn the quilt and access the middle.  This was a pretty big pain and I would worry more on a quilt that wasn't already partially quilted and basted.  Once we got it attached, we clamped one side down and had some of our kids hold the frame (it's on wheels, which is great for moving it, but not handy when you are manipulating the quilt onto the frame) while we pulled tight the other end and then rolled the quilt toward the middle.  Once we had it close enough we clamped it down and I gave it a try.  It was pretty good, but in the end, we rolled both sides a bit more so that I could actually reach the middle of the quilt.  It is really hard to quilt and reach and I feel like it would get painful, so it works best to be able to easily reach to the middle or the edge of the quilted section.  

After setting it up, both of my daughters gave it a try and we had fun working for a little while.  Then we tilted the quilt up and pushed it against the wall so that we could have dinner.  


We did this a couple of days ago and I have been enjoying it and using it throughout the day.  I do love how it can be moved around the room and stowed against the wall when not in use.  I think it helps to protect the quilt and also is really practical with a busy family in the house.  

Here is a list of adjustments we plan to make and questions I have about getting it on the frame...
-I'd like to be able to hold it steady while quilting.  We are going to add a peg to the sides to accomplish this.  
-We also need brakes on the wheels to keep it from moving unintentionally.
-I'd like to get more positions drilled into the bottom of the frame so that it is easier to adjust it to the correct size for the quilt I need.
-We are getting some different clamps to make it easier to attach the frame at the corners and also some clamps that will help hold the quilt onto the sides instead of pinning there.  It is difficult to get the pins in because of the width of the wood.  

-My biggest question is about adding the quilt to the frame.  I don't think I need to baste it in the future, but I'm not sure.  Also, I'm wondering how to keep all the layers smooth while the turning happens.  I think there is probably a way to do this, but right now I think I will have to lay everything on the floor, flat, attach the layers together to the side of the frame and start turning.  I'm not sure if this will work though, because I think it may bunch up the bottom at the middle.