Frame quilting is the traditional way to finish quilting the top of your quilt. Frame quilting involves using a large frame or hoop to hold the layers of your quilt in place while you quilt the top, either by machine or by hand.
Why Finish A Quilt Top?
For many quilters, the piecing of the quilt is the most fun. Quilting the top can be very stressful because all of your mistakes show. Even if you're just stitching in the ditch (the term for quilting lines that fall in the stitching lines made by piecing the quilt top) if your stitching line goes astray it will be easy to see.
Finishing a quilt top is not only important for aesthetic reasons; it's also vital to keeping the quilt together. When a quilt top isn't finished, the batting can shift, making the quilt uneven and lumpy.
Quilt tops can be finished by machine or by hand. Stitching by hand allows for more artistry, but the newer sewing machines made specifically for quilters can allow you to make beautiful designs in your quilt top much more quickly than you could do by hand.
It mostly comes down to personal preference and skill whether you want to quilt by hand or machine. The important part is that you do it!
A big question for beginning quilters is how much quilting is enough to make the quilt top stable. A good way to test is to make a loose fist with your hand and place it on the quit top. The stitching lines should be no farther apart than the width of your hand.
Hoop Versus Frame Quilting
Once you have decided whether to finish your quilt by hand or by machine, the next consideration is whether to use a quilting frame or a hoop. If you aren't familiar with frame quilting, here is a page with a variety of frames on it.
Frames are basically like large rectangular hoops that are mounted to legs, so the quilt frame becomes like a table. You pull your chair up to the frame and do your stitching. Similar frames can be purchased for use with sewing machines, where the machine is positioned on the frame.
Hoops are round and come in various sizes. They are attached to the quilt and held in your lap while you quilt.
Both hoops and frames have advantages and disadvantages. Frames are expensive and take up a lot of room, but you can get more quilting done without repositioning the frame than you can with a hoop, and they are a little more stable.
Hoops are less expensive and a portable, but they have to be moved a lot in order to quilt your whole top. They also require you to hold the quilt in your lap while you are working, which can get hot and heavy. The decision is ultimately dependent on your needs and the project you are working on.
Using A Quilt Frame
If you have never used a quilting frame before, it can be difficult to know exactly how to put your quilt onto the frame. If at all possible, go to a local sewing shop to buy your frame and have someone at the store show you how to use it. This is much easier than trying to follow written instructions, and it will ensure that you are doing the right thing for your particular frame.
Quilt frames include ratcheting systems that hold the fabric tight and out of the way of your quilting. The fabric must be threaded through the system and the method is slightly different for each frame. Basically the quilt is attached to a piece of cloth that is permanently fixed to the frame. It can be pinned, stapled, basted or even glued to the rollers, depending on whether your rollers are made of metal or wood.
The quilt top and batting will be attached to the front roller, while the backing is attached to the middle roller and all three layers are attached to the back roller. Tension is completely adjustable and often the height of the frame is adjustable as well so you can make it a comfortable height for your chair, or even quilt standing up if you like.