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Floor Frame Instructions - Revised
Ever think about building (or quilting at) a floor frame? Well, it's much easier
(and cheaper) to make your own than you ever thought possible! All you
need are two wooden sawhorses (preferably the folding kind) and two hardwood
poles (1"x2", 2"x2" or 2"x3" - depending on the length).
You'll also need about 3 yards of heavy duty muslin (painter's cloth) and
some cotton strapping (like the kind they use in shipping, making belts or for
tote bag handles - sometimes called webbing or belting). Strapping and muslin
should be natural colored (unbleached white or off-white) cotton.
To make the frame:
- Cut your poles to be as long as you need them (quilt width plus 12" or
so). You can make several sets of poles in different lengths, if desired.
However, small quilts will almost always fit on long poles - so, err on the
long side if in doubt. Example: For a king-sized quilt, you would need 120"
plus 12" or 132" or 11' - this would work with all but the smallest quilts.
NOTE: The longer the poles, the thicker you will need the poles to be to keep
them from bowing.
- If you elect to make your own sawhorses from readily available sawhorse
bracket kits and 2x4's, make the top bar of your sawhorse 3' to 4' long to
enable people on both sides of the frame to reach comfortably to the center.
- Trim the legs of the sawhorses at an appropriate angle so they stand about
28" to 30" high at the top (or whatever is most comfortable). Make sure they
stand level and steady when fully set up (especially if they fold).
- Cut out a square notch (2" to 3" wide - depending on the width of
your poles), about 3" to 4" from each end, in the top bar of each sawhorse to
fit the poles into. NOTE: Notches should be loose enough for the poles to
go into easily, but should not allow the square poles to spin.
- Cut two 13" wide strips of muslin to be 8" to 12" shorter than the poles,
after finishing the ends by hemming or serging. Fold each strip in half
lengthwise, matching raw edges, and press. Fold under the raw edges, center
and staple this edge along one long side of each pole to about 4" to 6" from
each end. NOTE: Folding raw edges under and stapling this folded edge to
the pole gives added strength at the stapled edge. For maximum strength, set
staples parallel to the pole and about as far apart as the staples are wide.
Muslin strips should be about 6" wide after stapling.
- Cut two pieces of cotton strapping the length of your sawhorse top bar
times 4 (or more). Example: If your sawhorse has a 4' long top bar, cut the
strapping 16' long or more. Optional: To keep the cotton straps handy, attach
one end of each to one end of each sawhorse with washers and a screw (it
should be able to turn). NOTE: In a pinch, muslin could be used here, as
well. You can make your own strapping by folding long strips of muslin in
thirds lengthwise and stitching lengthwise down the center.
- If desired, drill holes near the ends of your sawhorses to hold swing-arm
lamps. Alternatively, clamp a flexible (bendable) task light onto the top bar
of each sawhorse, aimed at the work surface.
To frame up your quilt:
- Layer and baste your quilt with doubled white thread (use cheap, regular
thread, not quilting thread) about a handswidth (4" to 6") apart, widthwise
and lengthwise from center out to each edge. There is no need to baste
diagonally. NOTE: I do not recommend pin basting for frame quilting - pins
leave marks and come undone in the tightly rolled quilt.
- Center and baste both short ends of the basted quilt sandwich to the
muslin on the poles as evenly as possible. NOTE: Use strong thread for
- Set your sawhorses as wide apart as necessary to accommodate the width of
your quilt plus about 12" to 18" to allow room for side pinning. Example: For
a quilt that is 4' wide, set your sawhorses about 5' to 5-1/2' apart. This
will allow the rest of the poles to hang over to the outside of the frame.
NOTE: If you don't like the pole ends hanging out, make several poles of
different lengths and use one that better suits the width of your quilt.
- Place one pole in the front notches. Stand behind the frame (it helps to
have some help here), roll the quilt tightly around the other pole (roll
downwards) and place it into the back notches, taughtening by rolling a bit
more, if necessary. NOTE: Don't roll too tight, but a quarter should
bounce. Experience will tell you how tight to roll your quilts.
- Attach the cotton strapping to the side edge of the quilt with a large
safety pin (through all layers) and wind once around the top bar of the
sawhorse (not the pole). Pin to the side edge of the quilt again (about 5" to
6" away from the last pin) and wind again, etc., until you have it pinned in
about six places along the entire side edge of the quilt. The strapping is
meant to loop over the sawhorse and back to the quilt, over the sawhorse and
back to the quilt, etc. This is very difficult to illustrate or explain, but
this strapping wraps around the sawhorse, not the poles, to hold the sides of
the quilt taught (or at least straight) while you quilt, so you don't get a
wavy edge along the sides.
There is a special technique for quilting in a frame. No, your stitches don't
have to be different (or even made differently). It is a matter of planning your
stitches so that you are always quilting toward yourself. For example, if you
are quilting a square, you would quilt across the top and down one side. Then
break off (or travel) your thread and quilt down the other side and across the
This way, you are always quilting in a comfortable direction. Soon, you will
get used to restarting lines of stitching rather than turning a hoop. You may
even develop a talent for quilting in other directions ( I knew a lady who could
quilt directly away from herself, which is pretty amazing IMHO).
NOTE: When quilting in a floor frame, you quilt from one end of the quilt
to the other as you unroll one side and roll the other, You do not quilt from
the center out as you would if quilting in a hoop.
Floor frames are great for quilting alone or with a group and really seem to
speed the work. The result is a lovely, flat, perfectly straight quilt with
never a pucker. The quilting goes so much faster, especially when you have
company, as well as turning the work into a social occasion and women's support
group. This frame is perfect for group quilting, as it allows people (up to 10
on very large quilts) to work equally comfortably all along both sides of the
frame. Why not get a cooperative group together and work on each other's quilts?
The rewards are amazing!
For further information, contact:
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