How to Put a Quilt on a Quilting Frame

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Put a Quilt on a Quilting Frame
Put a Quilt on a Quilting Frame (Image: www.morguefile.com)

Finishing the piecing of a quilt top can often feel like a challenge on its own, but in reality, making a finished top is only the halfway point in making a quilt. Whether you are going to hand quilt or use a machine, you'll need to know how to put a quilt on a quilt frame. Using a frame gets your quilt up off your lap and creates an even tension to work with. Keeping a good amount of tension while you quilt is essential to how the quilt lays when it is finished.

Things You'll Need

  • Quilt top and back
  • Batting
  • Basting needle and thread, or safety pins
  • Frame
  • Pins

Lay out your quilt backing, pattern side facing down, on a flat surface or floor, and smooth away any wrinkles. Place the batting over the backing followed by the quilt top with the right side facing up. Pin or sew baste the three layers together with a stitch or pin placed at least every six inches.

Drape your quilt sandwich over the quilt frame. If your frame does not hold the entire size of the quilt, make sure to position the center of the quilt in the frame first and work your way toward the outside.

Secure the quilt to the frame depending on the type of frame you have. Usually the oval and round frames have a hoop, which clamps the quilt on. Most square frames have pins to tack the quilt backing to or have leader cloths to pin the backing to.

Check the tension on the quilt so that you have an even consistency of pull on the quilt. It should rest flat, not droop, but not so tight that it doesn't have flexibility while you quilt.

Attach any leader cloths as necessary depending on your frame manufacturer. All three rollers of the frame should have a cloth. Measure to find the exact centers of your cloths, and place a small mark on the leaders with a pen or marker along the edge of the fabric.

Pinch a slight crease into the edge of your backing fabric to mark the center point. Line up the center pinch with the mark and pin the backing to the leader cloth. Pin along the entire edge of the backing until it is fully attached to the cloth. Make sure the backing is hanging down straight with no pulling to one side or the other. Gently roll the backing up onto the roller.

Attach the batting to the top roller following the same method to secure one edge to the roller's leader cloth. Rotate the roller only about half a turn. Center the edge of the quilt top along the batting about one to two inches from the edge of the batting. Keep the top and batting centered and running horizontally even across the roller. Roll the batting and top up onto the roller.

Pull the loose end of the backing over the top of the frame, and attach its edge to the leader cloth on the front roller. Once the backing is secured, pull the top and batting over to the front roller, and pin them to the backing.

Roll the front roller until the backing, batting and quilt top lead edge is aligned with the front roller. Quilt the entire length of the quilt before rolling the three layers further onto the front roller to advance the quilt. Continue quilting in sections at a time until finished.

Tips & Warnings

  • A roller quilt frame can be extremely frustrating to load by yourself. Have a friend help you pin your quilt layers to the rollers, and roll the fabrics and batting evenly along the bars for the best end results.
  • For a smoother-laying quilt when on the rollers, use flower head pins, which can be turned to lay flat rather than create lumps and distortions on your fabric while it's rolled.
  • As with any quilt project, mark your quilting pattern on the quilt top before you baste or load onto a baste-free frame.

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