Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tips for Frame Quilters

I am taking a few minutes for a mental break.  I haven't done any quilting with my machine and frame for a bit and I am having to adjust again.  I forgot my 'before starting' checklist: needle threaded correctly, foot down, quilt secure, and ended up with a nasty snarl of thread.  It took a while to get it cleared out and, as the bobbin area was already disassembled, I cleaned and oiled.  I am now ready to go-I think.
If you are a frame quilter (sometimes referred to as long arm quilting), I have a couple of hints for you.  There are a lot of add-ons to make quilting easier and more versatile but often are pricey.  Even if they aren't, there are times when spending  extra dollars on something can mean a missed bill payment or going short on an item of food.  And, even if none of those situations exist, it is always nice to save money.
There are a lot of ways to attach your quilt to the frame rods that are effective.  I have found one that is effective and cheap.  I would suggest if you try this that you do it only on smaller quilts.
You will need a shower curtain rod cover which is available at most department stores.  They are plastic, come in a variety of colours and are under $5.00.  They are made for covering a less than attractive rod.  I don't know who goes around looking at shower curtain rods but I am not exactly Molly Maid.
Leave the backing of your quilt longer at the top and the bottom.  Remove the leaders and whatever else you may have on the frame rods. (This is important as you don't want anything to extra to get sewn to your quilt.  Ask me how I know) Drape the backing over the take up rod.  You might want to secure it in a couple of places with tape to make the next step easier.  Open the rod cover and click it over the frame rod.  Gently turn the frame rod at least one rotation and secure in the usual manner. You might find it easier to start at one end and work to the other.  Repeat the process at the bottom end of the quilt.  Finish by attaching the batting and top as you would normally.  If desired, you can attach leader fabric to the top of the quilt top and install it and the backing at the same time on the take up rod.  Install bottom of backing, drape batting between the layers and continue. 
Tip number two:  I have just started doing ruler work on my quilt.  I have the foot attachment (a simple one that is easily removable and cost $12.00) but not a ruler.  I discovered for small sections that a CD case works perfectly.  Use the case that you get when you buy a simple blank disc.  Great for shadow quilting, stitch in the ditch or cross hatching.  If you want a longer ruler or one with curves, cut one from plastic corrugated cardboard (available in dollar stores).  It is the right thickness and easy to cut.
I hope some of these ideas will add to you quilting fun.
One final tip:  I bought interlocking foam tiles (also at dollar stores) to put anywhere I stand for an extended period of time-cutting table, machine frame.
Now back to the frame.


  1. Can I adopt you? I think we think alike enough to be sisters even. I spent the bucks though and put the Red Snappers on my frame. They are the same concept as the shower curtain rods, but you put a small plastic rod into a pocket on your leaders, then snap a cover strip over the fabric.
    I bought the foam mats too - I thought I'd have a better go of it than on the carpet - but that one backfired. You see, I quilt sitting down on a rolling chair. And a rolling chair, with someone "robust" as me doesn't do well on soft foam.
    So, keep the tips coming! Anything to save time and money and frustration is a good thing in my book.

  2. Hi Anna,
    Would you post pictures using the shower curtain thingy? I'm not yet at the stage of using my HandiQuilter frame, but I'm sure collecting ideas. Maybe if I was using it, I'd know what you mean without a picture.