I’ve Been Framed – Tip the Fifth.

9 Jan

I finally bit the bullet and used my quilting frame. If you have been following the blogs you may have gathered that I bought a Grace frame and Brother mid-arm some years ago but have used them very little.  A combination of disappointment at the results and a very low ceiling  and narrow room finished my enthusiasm. I struggled to move round the frame and as I could not raise it high for fear of hitting the beams, I couldn’t even see what I was stitching unless I sat down. Also hitting my head on the sloping ceiling was a given and speeding up and down the frame on a wheeled chair was not really to be recommended. Funnily enough, when I went on a course to learn the tricks and tips, I found I was the only one having that difficulty. Was it a coincidence or are all quilters petite? If so this could be why I failed – genetics.

To be perfectly honest the designs it is possible to produce on this frame are also a bit limited. If you are quilting a large quilt the throat space will gradually reduce as it rolls round the top rail until, if it is large enough it will be impossible to do anything. Luckily I don’t do anything too large, although even the single bed size I have on the frame at the moment may yet prove to be a challenge. The secret is to choose a pattern that does not require a large area at once or break up the pattern into thinner segments. I dare say that eventually I will come to know how big a pattern is possible on a particular size of quilt.

Anyway, as I said, I finally got back to quilting on the frame. The first thing to do was move it to a bigger area. The ceiling is slightly higher and flat which helps and so I can raise the legs to the highest setting.

There is no doubt about it you need a lot of room.

I struggle a bit with the start and finish and not getting a knot underneath and it does not seem to matter whether I let the machine start on its own or pull up the bobbin thread myself, I still get knots. Planning the stitching helps so that as many starts and stops as possible are hidden in the side seam when the quilt is finished. There are still places this cannot be done though so I shall just have to keep working on it. Methinks I need to develop some cunning

I think I may actually enjoy the quilting and the finished quilt so maybe I will work out some of the idiosyncracies and conquer all.

Here is a picture of a bit of the first practice quilt I did. I gave a whole load of unfinished tops to Project Linus but I kept a few back to practise on and will pass those on later.

As you can see, a lot of random meandering. Random meandering is about the safest thing to tackle but it looks pretty. I would usually stitch in the ditch for a quilt like this, mainly because I have no chance of hoiking a large quilt under the throat of my machine and quilting it successfully. The frame gets over this problem although stitch in the ditch could be a challenge.

The other problem I had originally was that the needle  was still controlled from a foot pedal. This was mounted on a platform on the top of the carriage carrying the machine. There was a levered contraption that pressed on the pedal when the lever was squeezed. Even before my right hand started protesting about overuse this was very difficult to control. Now I wouldn’t even be able to squeeze the handle.

The pedal would be on top at the back with a lever going along the handle line.

When I went on a course at The Cotton Patch I was introduced to the stitch regulator. This is a clever little gizmo that allows control of the meandering purely by movement. The needle is controlled from a switch box for choosing stitch length and turning on and off. Do not be fooled, unlike a sewing machine  the bigger the number the smaller the stitch. This is not stitch length so much as stitches per inch. It is not exactly that as it depends on your machine but that is the idea.


This is wired into a control box that does the clever stuff. There are two controllers, one on the top carriage and one on the bottom. These monitor the speed and movement and are supposed to regulate stitch length. They do to a certain extent but at the moment it is not foolproof. I suspect even travel at the same speed over the quilt is the secret. I am hoping that will come with time.

The Control Box

Don’t be put off by the amount of wiring. One day I will tidy it all up and make it neat.

The Big Cheese tells me it is a very clever piece of kit. That would be when I was bemoaning the price. However, I did save a bit by discovering I didn’t need to upgrade to a newer carriage as I had thought. The new one is probably lighter but then considering the main weight is the sewing machine, this is not too relevant.

I have progressed to all-over meandering on a larger quilt. How exciting is that.

Here is a picture of the quilt attached to the machine. This is another future Linus I think.

Meandering Big Time.

One of the suggestions on the course was to stitch down each side as you go, so holding the sandwich in place. I have decided not to do that as quilting moves layers and I can see it could become a problem and cause puckering.

If you want trouble free quilting you might do better to stick to the thinner waddings too. ‘Dream Blend’ was recommended on the course and it seems better in use than the thicker ‘Dream Puff’ I tried to use at first. Experiment. experiment as with all my tips I recommend you  try out ways of doing things, practise and see what suits you best.

All in all I think I may enjoy getting back to the quilting. To be honest I should get good at it as I can’t do much else until I have cleared the pile of tops so that I can move the frame. Where to I am not at the moment sure. If you have a frame in the cupboard get it out and try it. You may have to rent an industrial space to use it but  it’s not as scary as it looks.


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