A heavy-duty quilting frame

Some time ago my wife Sandy shared with readers of the blog the transformation to the sewing room. We both hope that the new location will last a while, or we will start running out of room altogether — does anyone remember the story told by George Carlin about filling a home with “stuff”, and then having to move to a new home so that they could get more “stuff” to put in it?

Wikipedia defines Quilting as follows:

Quilting is a sewing method done to join two or more layers of material together to make a thicker padded material. A quilter is the name given to someone who works at quilting. Quilting can be done by hand, by sewing machine, or by a specialist longarm quilting system.

Sewing is the key word. Sandy sewed together a pattern, and shared it with us in her Guest Author post. Here it is is, on the layout board hanging on the North wall — the small triangles in the top two rows are already sewn together:

Layout board.

Once all the rows are sewn together into what will become the show face of the quilt, it must be assembled together with a padding layer, and a backing layer. This assembly can be done on the quilter’s lap, or using a quilting frame to stretch all the materials and allow the quilter to do the work off her/his lap.

A bit of history about quilting

Once again, from Wikipedia, quilting comes from the Latin culcita, meaning a padded and tied mattress. Its origins date to around the first century B.C. Techniques moved into Europe around the 12th century, likely as a result of trade and the return of Crusaders from far away lands.

An interesting document from WKU (Western Kentucky University) is The History of Quilting, which begins with settlers arriving in North America. Quilting frames were used mostly by groups, although individuals may have also used them. Meeting in groups eventually (and inevitably?) led to the popular quilting bee; the group sat around a quilting frame that allowed as many as seven quilters, plus the hostess. The frames were hung from the ceiling when not in use, and were lowered for use by the group. From this document comes this wonderful image:

The quilting bee, image courtesy WKU.

The following image from Wikipedia, taken in 2005, shows that quilting bees are still quite popular – notice the huge frame in use:

Women from Gee’s Bend work on a quilt during the 2005 ONB Magic City Art Connection in Birmingham, Alabama’s Linn Park. Courtesy Wikipedia.

I built a sturdy 3-roller quilting frame

NOTE: I edited the following paragraph on May 22, 2015, because I continued to receive inquiries about the original Hinberberg kit I used to build the frame. You can buy the full kit directly from Hinterberg, at the following link:


Forward to the present. I built an eight-foot long, sturdy 3-roller quilting frame for Sandy to use. She has at least eight quilts to make, in various sizes. I made the frame large enough to cover all the quilt sizes she will make. I must emphasize that while this frame is very sturdy, it is also portable. It is portable because it can be broken down into the main component pieces, and relocated to another room, or to a new city if need be.

A good quilting frame must be capable of applying tension to the various layers that make up the quilt. Rather than machining critical parts, I bought a kit that provided the 3 ratchet wheels, and the pawls and clamps to secure the poles. It is available with all the screws needed to make the frame: The following image is linked to the Sandal Woods Store — if you decide to purchase the kit, you will also support my work (I get a small commission)

The kit includes excellent plans, ratchet wheels, pawls, clamps, and all the screws; you provide the lumber.

You will find the kit as the second image of the store link above. If you would rather click only once, click here to go directly to the kit at Amazon.com (I still get a small commission).

It is possible to also buy the kit as a PLUS kit, meaning they will send all the lumber required; all you will need to buy is the 1-½” conduit to use as rollers, and the 8-inch wide trestle . As I mentioned earlier, I bought the basic kit, and provided all the lumber for the project. I used 2-inch thick walnut, planed to 1-7/8 thick for the feet, and 1-½ inch thick for the uprights.

During construction I chuckled a bit when I assembled the top piece to the upright. The assembly reminded me of Bullwinkle:

Right side, unfinished.

What do you think?


I drawbored the feet to the uprights using ¼-inch dowels, but without glue. The tenon and mortise joint (made with the Leigh FMT!) is tightly secured with the dowels:

Used drawboring to attach the feet – unfinished.

I applied two layers of  Waterlox varnish to the walnut and let it cure overnight. Then I assembled the frame in our living room, in front of the sliding doors:

Front view of finished frame.

Some additional details of this frame follow.

The next photo shows the frame ready to accept the cloths that will be used to stretch the quilt on the frame — the finish on the walnut is Waterlox varnish:

View of quilting frame from right side.

This next photo shows the center and rear ratchets and pawls; note the pipe clamps in the recess of the ratchets:

Ratchets and pawls installed on left side.

To dress up the pipe ends, the kit includes turned end caps:

The end caps are included in the kit.

At last, the frame is loaded with the first quilt — a present for someone very special to us:

First quilt loaded.

Sandy is happy with this frame; I think (hope!) it will last her a long time.

Please note: If you are unable to build one, I will be glad to build a quilting frame for you. Contact me by clicking on my signature below, or call me on N/A. Note: I no longer build this frame, but encourage my readers to build their own, using the Hinterberg kit. It will be a LOT cheaper if you do it, using the kit!

Al Navas


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