Archive for the ‘Quilting Preparation’ Category


Shrek on quilting

July 18, 2011

Like ogres (and onions) quilts are made up of layers. Putting the layers together for quilting can be a daunting task…especially if it’s lap sized or bigger. I know many quilters who spread everything out on the floor but, as I age, that is harder and harder on my back and knees. My favorite way to layer a larger quilt sandwich (up to king size) is on a simple frame. I learned how to do this way back when I first learned to quilt and continue to use that original system. So, whether you’re going to baste your quilt together with safety pins or thread, or even if you want to tie it “comforter” style, this frame will work

The first problem we usually encounter is where to set up the frame because of the size. I find it best to set up the frame outdoors if the weather is nice or in the garage (sans cars) if it isn’t.

The supplies are quite easy:

Four 10 foot 2 x 2 boards (these tend to be straighter if you buy two 2 x 4 boards and have the lumber yard rip them lengthwise)

Four “C” clamps or bar clamps (I use to borrow my husband’s “C” clamps, but found the sliding bar clamps to work much better and I splurged on 4, which I now share with him :-)

Four high back chairs

large head thumb tacks

Place the chairs as 4 corners on a square with the seats facing out and place 2 of the boards parallel across the chairs:

Place the remaining boards on top of the first 2 and parallel to each other:

Quilt Backing – I prefer to tear my quilt back so that the edges are straight and square. Then I mark the center of all 4 sides with safety pins. I have a pencil mark at center on each of the boards so I can line up the center pin with the center mark and thumb tack the backing – WRONG SIDE UP – to the 4 boards (notice that the edge of the backing is even with the outside edge of the board):

Next I tack the backing along each board at 8″ intervals, leaving the corners untacked:


Now comes the tricky part: beginning at any corner, pull the boards into a right angle on top of one of the chairs, keeping the edges of the fabric even with the outer edges of the boards. Clamp both boards and the corner of the backing fabric together (I like to have the long part of the clamp pointing up for easier adjusting):

Repeat for all 4 corners so that the backing is stretched square and taut:

Lay the batt on top of the back and smooth it with your hands. Then lay the quilt top evenly on the batt. For the next step it’s nice to have help, so invite a friend (thanks, Ida!). Stand, centered, at opposite sides of the quilt and “tug” the top so that there are no wrinkles between the 2 of you. Be sure the center of the quilt is lined up with the pencil marks on the frame and pin along the edge:

Work across from each other, placing pins at 8″ intervals (approx.) until those 2 sides are done and then repeat for the remaining 2 sides.

Once the quilt is completely pinned into the frame you may safety pin baste it, thread baste it or tie it! The great thing about this frame is that when you can no longer reach areas comfortably, it can be rolled. To roll the frame:

Along one of the “top” boards remove both corner clamps (while standing inside the “bottom” boards and keeping your hips against them so they don’t move in and lose the side tension). Also remove the first few thumb tacks along the side (bottom) boards only, so they don’t impede the rolling:

Now roll the “top” board so that the quilt edge rolls around the outside of the board, while pulling on the board just a bit to keep the “front to back” tension even. Continue to roll until the unpinned area reaches the board and then reclamp both corners:

Repeat for the opposite side and pin away! On larger quilts you may need to roll more than once. It’s better to roll and pin comfortably than to reach and strain, and possibly knock the whole kaboodle off the chairs!

Once the basting/tying is done: remove the clamps, unroll the quilt and take out the tacks.

It’s just that easy :-).

Next week I’ll have some tips for pinning, storing the frame and enticing others to help.