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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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 this.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 bottom:

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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