Getting Started with a Quilting Frame

If you’ve wondered about or have just invested in a quilting frame like Amanda from Stressed to the Max, here’s some tips for how to get started. I have to say it takes away the chore of fighting with the weight of big quilts and saves time because you don’t have to put in all those pins or tacking to hold the sandwich together. So here’s how to get started with your new frame…

Build the Frame.

  • First of all you need to get your frame set up. Hopefully you’ve got some instructions with your new toy unless, like me, you bought it second hand and got to guess what went where (see my post ‘Danger fingers and needles!’ to see what I mean).

Planning your quilting

  • Organise to sew the quilting in rows or block no wider than the width between the two main poles (unless you can stop the pattern part way, unroll the quilt and then keep going which can be a bit tricky). This may take some forethought but is do-able for most things.
  • Pick a simple quilt and an all over pattern to start. I tried stitching in the ditch and a crazy star pattern on a charity quilt to start – black thread on pink and black fabrics so it blended in. You can see my first attempt in the pictures in my QFO4 and QFO5 posts. I have to say I still find the stitching in the ditch a bit of a challenge to keep neat with the frame.

Attach the Quilt.

  • Hopefully your frame instructions explain how to attach the quilt top, wadding and backing.
  • If you can’t make head nor tail of the instructions or cannot visualize how it works try this video: How to set up your machine . Thanks to Vicki Hoth and HQ sixteen for a good explanation and demonstration. I referred to this video before I pinned on the first few sewed on the quilt frame. I risked doing it without the video for the first time in the last few weeks and felt like I’d grown up and achieved something. 🙂
  • Use the side clips. My frame has clips to hold the side of the fabric (the floppy bit between the two rollers) I find if I don’t use the clips then the stitching and tension of the quilt is not as neat. While the clips may look funny they are there for a reason.

Before you start sewing a new project

  • Make sure you have cleaned your machine, wound new bobbins etc (see my post getting ready to quilt for a quick checklist)
  • If it is a large quilt, get a wheely office chair to make it easy to move up and down the length of the frame (I got mine from a furniture recycler for $10 and it’s worth the investment to be comfortable when you sew).

When you get sewing

  • Get comfortable on your chair. Remember the health and safety warnings about posture and time being sedentary – you will need to get up and move around regularly and if part of you starts hurting then you probably need to adjust how you are sitting.
  • Do a couple of test rows or patterns off the edge of the quilt (ie where you have just the wadding and the backing but not the top) to check that you are comfortable with the movement.
  • Check the tension is right on your practice patterns as well. Checking the tension does require folding yourself in half to look under the back of the frame but it’s worth doing or you might get ‘freckles’ on the wrong side.
  • Watch the needle and where it is sewing, not where the foot is. This way your sewing line ends up where you want it to be.
  • Go at a moderate pace. I find that moving slow or fast resulting in messy quilting.
  • Don’t lean on the table or your quilting frame – it puts straight lines and angles in your lovely curves or feathers.
  • Much like regular machine quilting, don’t try to move the machine beyond directly in front of you – quilt the section in front of you, stop with the needle down, scoot your chair along the frame, then restart once you are comfortable again. You’ll be working in an area of roughly one foot at a time. Any more than that and the stitching gets more wonky the further away from you the machine gets.

More generally, expect quilting with a quilting frame to feel a bit odd at first. Quilting on a frame feels more like drawing with a pencil in your fist at the start because you are moving the machine rather than the fabric. If you’ve done machine quilting before this may take a little getting used to, so persevere because like most skills it’s easy once it becomes normal for you.

The moral of the story is practice, practice, practice and don’t hurry and you will enjoy quilting without having to fight the weight of the quilt.

Now that the sun’s come out it must be time to get out in the garden again so here I go…




About bertcollections

I began quilting, with the help of some friends, in 2005, and have been quilting ever since. In that time, I’ve completed several projects in a variety of styles and colour combinations. My approach to quilting generally doesn’t involve using a particular pattern. I tend to have a concept I want to bring to life, or find a fabric on sale somewhere that looks like it could be turned into something fun. As the photos in the 'Introductions' post show, my quilts cross a range of styles, but generally use some strong colours and shapes.
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2 Responses to Getting Started with a Quilting Frame

  1. Amanda says:

    Thank you for posting this! I can’t wait to try out my new frame!

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