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Monday, May 26, 2014

Hand Quilting for Beginners: Frames

This is the sixth article in a series of articles by Caron Mosey geared for the beginning hand quilter.  If you have NEVER hand quilted before or just dabbled in it with no instruction and want to know how, this is for you!

Tell me about quilt frames!

Caron1984In our last article, we talked about the different hoops available for hand quilters.  While hoops work great for some people, others prefer a frame to hold their quilt for the entire quilting process.  I love using a frame.  My frame was built by my husband around 1976-77.  Hubby is a woodworker by trade, and I adore my two-rail frame.  Most of my early quilting was done on that frame.  However, as I got older, sitting at the frame and quilting for hours caused my shoulders to ache, and I rarely use it anymore.  Such is the burden of getting older, I suppose.   In addition, the house we now live in doesn’t have space for my frame to remain set up permanently, so I’ll have to wait for the next house (if that happens) to use it.  Here’s a photo of me working on my frame… 1983, if memory serves.  Wow, was I ever young!

There are two basic design styles of quilt frames: two-rail frames and three-rail frames.  A two-rail frame requires that work be done before the quilt is put on the frame.  That work includes putting the quilt sandwich together and basting the three layers with small pins or basting thread.  I have always used small brass pins.  I could show you the process here, but here is a link to my personal blog with a good explanation.

With the two-rail system, after the quilt is basted, one end tworailframeof the quilt is attached to one rail by pinning the quilt to a fabric strip which has been stapled to the frame.  That rail is then carefully turned to roll the quilt around the rail.  The other end of the quilt is then fastened to the second rail with pins, and the quilt is tightened into place.  Once this is done, you are ready to stitch!                                                   

 Photo by FA Edmunds From Baby (48") to Full Size (96") Traditional Quilt Frame, Pinterest.

GraceFrame.3railA three-rail system has been developed for hand quilters which requires no pre-basting work.  I would love to have the three-rail Grace frame, as shown here.  It would save a lot of time, and it is a beautiful frame. Follow the link below to see how a quilt is installed on the Grace frame.



A third option for quilting frames is the Qsnap frame.  This frame is made of high impact polystyrene (PVC pipe).  It is perfect for someone who doesn’t have room to keep a frame set up all the time, is quite portable, and adjustable in size.


There is a wide variety of different frame styles available to today’s quilter.  If you are interested in a frame, I urge you to do quite  a bit of research before you invest in a frame.  Visiting a good quilt show is a great idea.  Any of the AQS or national/international shows should have several vendors who specialize in quilt frames.  Look at them, compare and try them out until you find the one that has YOUR name on it!




Have you read the previous articles for beginners?

1) Fabric  2) Needles  3) Thimbles 4) Thread 5) Hoops


  1. I appreciate this series, I am learning a lot. I have also been pinning the articles for future references.

  2. Enjoyed reading all of these posts. My main passion is hand embroidery......however, I do love to quilt. I have 3 vintage quilt tops that I need to start making into quilts and yes, I am currently looking for the right frame to work with. Love your blog!

  3. I have used the 3-roller frame and the Qsnap. I agree with your positives about both systems.

  4. No mention of using four 2" X 4" boards on the backs of chairs? Inexpensive and they work. I use boards but I also have four legs that the boards sit on. They were for sale at a quilt show and made by a quilter's hubby.


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