My first quilting book was a Christmas gift. By the time I finished reading it, I had found my true love: hand quilting. One phrase in the book stuck with me: for fine hand quilting, you need a frame. Now I know that’s untrue, but as an impressionable beginner I took it as gospel.
When I found out my first frame had arrived, I shouted so loud people thought I’d won the lottery. I literally had a rich uncle leave me the money for it – a teensy tiny slice of his estate, just enough for a Hinterberg QX2000. We slapped some stain on it, and I loaded my first quilt on it.
I put in my first line of stitches, quilting towards myself just like I’d always done in the hoop. But then I got to the end of the line. Uh oh. I could turn the hoop, but there is no way to turn the frame. I ended up knotting off and starting someplace else. What was supposed to make my life easier was totally harder to deal with!
Eventually I figured it all out. All I needed was to learn to quilt away from myself. I found that a tailors thimble would work on my thumb, and within a few days I was quilting away like a pro.
Here’s what I know now, that I didn’t know then:
A quilt frame is the size of a living room couch. It’s a great way to quilt if you can adapt your quilting style to using your thumb as well as your middle finger to quilt. You’ll also need to move your body a bit more. It’s great having everything all set and ready to go, though.
I try not to do too much at any one time. I start in the middle and work to the left, then go back to the middle and quilt to the right. I usually do a swath about 6 inches wide, then advance the frame – that’s always very exciting!
Quilting with a cat on the frame is really sweet. Until you realize the cat’s weight is making it hard to quilt. And when your quilt comes back from a show with the comment “Sadly, work is stretched in spots,” it is time to kick the cat off the frame. Lucy did not handle eviction terribly well. We ended up buying a new frame, just because it tilted up when not in use. No more kitty hammock, no more claw marks, no more stretched spots.
So is it better than using a hoop? I’ve managed to hand quilt queen sized quilts in a hoop and managed just fine. It helps to have air conditioning in the summer, though. I can quilt in a frame all summer long with just a fan blowing on me. Marking as I go along is easier in a frame, although I do have to work on keeping parallel lines from going wonky.
Some quilters love that a hoop is portable. However, having an impaired housekeeping gene, I’d just as soon keep the quilt in a frame so it doesn’t get dirty. I also find that I get a better product from the frame. The quilt is flatter and hangs straighter.