How to build your own machine quilting frame

How to build your own machine quilting frame

Quilting is a wonderful hobby that is rich with tradition. Homemakers of past generations developed the method of patchwork as an art form that was also practical in that it used up small scraps of fabric that otherwise went to waste. To make the patchwork piece into a quilt, they would sandwich cotton batting, an old blanket, or whatever suitable materials they had on hand (even dried leaves!) between the patched piece and an old sheet, and place the three layers on a frame.

The frame was designed to keep the three layers of the quilt taut while they could be stitched or tied together. Tying can be done on the floor, or on a bed, but for stitching, a frame is needed.

There are beautifully crafted hardwood quilting frames available. One of these can serve as a lovely decorator accent when in use. But they are large and quite expensive. Since quilts are made as a money saver – using up those scraps can’t one make an inexpensive frame on which to quilt them? Yes, they can.

The first thing one needs to make a quilting frame are two strong boards which are longer than the width of the quilt you wish to make. Two by fours will work, but narrower boards, which will be lighter to pick up, are nicer to use, as long as they are strong. Two by twos of a hardwood, such as oak, would be ideal.

These two boards need to have a length of strong fabric stapled to them or sewn around them. This fabric might be old blue jean legs, or heavy cotton cut and sewn into a loose tube to cover the boards. This material must fit loosely, so that you have a flap of material to which you can attach each end of the quilt. Use strong staples to keep this material attached firmly to the boards.

You will now need two other boards of the same length, 24 to 36 inches long. These too can be made of 2 by 4’s or something smaller. These will form the sides of the frame. To hold it all together you will need 4 large C-clamps. It will be necessary to have something to set the frame on at about lap height for easy stitching, so you will need sawhorses, chairs, or something else about the right height.

To use a simple quilting frame like this, first lay out the quilt sandwich on a large table or floor and baste them together with large stitches. Now attach each end of the quilt to the long fabric-covered boards. This can be done by basting or using large strong safety pins.

When the quilt is attached to the end board, roll the quilt on the board until you are within two feet of the center. Do the same with the other end. Now attach the sideboards with the C-clamps. You should have a rectangle of the quilt, rolled up on each end, and held taut in the middle. Some quilters like to take a needle threaded with a strong thread and lace the sides of the quilt to the side frames. This step makes the quilt even tauter for sewing.

It is now ready to stitch. The quilt in its frame can be laid across two dining room chairs, saw horses, or other furniture items.

When the center area is stitched, take the frame apart by removing the C-clamps, and roll that portion of the quilt toward one of the ends. Now you can begin quilting in the new area. Repeat until finished quilting. This frame can also be used to hold the quilt tight for tying, which is a somewhat less time-consuming way to finish a quilt, although it is not as durable.

This type of frame takes up less space than a frame on its own stand, and can be slipped into an out of the way spot when the quilt is not being worked on.

If the lack of an expensive frame has caused you to put off making a homemade quilt, try these plans. A homemade quilt is an artistic expression which is good for the environment (recycling fabric) and good for the family budget. And chances are, your creation will become a family heirloom!

If the lack of an expensive

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