How To Make Your Own Quilting Frames
Making your own quilting frames is not as difficult or expensive as you might think. This is what we'll end up with as a finished product: four, 1" x 3" pine boards with fabric strips attached.
We'll be making baby quilt size frames that are 5' long, but the same process is used for longer boards to quilt throw blankets (6', 7' boards), and even twin size quilts (8' boards).
(click on each picture for a larger view)
Choosing the wood.
You'll need four pine wood boards measuring 1" x 3". The most common lengths will be 8', but some stores offer shorter lengths, which eliminate having an 8' board cut to 5' in the store.
The reason we want pine wood is because it is a softer wood which allows us to staple or nail the fabric strip to the board easily. Harder woods, such as oak, birch, maple, etc., are more difficult to work with.
When choosing the right boards, look for 1) how straight they are, and 2) no knots. To find out how straight a board is, hold it up to eye level so you can look down is length both on the three-inch side and on the one-inch side, as pictured below.
(this picture is a bit blurry, but you can still see that it is a relatively straight board)
You'll probably need to pull several boards from the stack to find four boards that are straight. Knots, look for as few as possible, if any, and if there are knots, the smaller, the better. Any boards with cracks, holes, or other blemishes, however small they may seem, should be avoided. You want the most perfect boards you can find, but there are always a few flaws in any board. Just find boards that are as straight as possible, with as few knots as possible.
Next, you'll need to sand the edges and surfaces of each board. Using two grades of sand paper, 100 grit (or something close), and 240 grit, (or something close) will take off the rough edges, and then smooth them. A multi pack has several grits to choose from, so start with the 100 grit paper and sand all edges and even the ends of the boards.
Round the edges of the boards slightly to keep splinters from forming throughout continued quilting use. Then finish sanding with the 240 grit sand paper to give the boards a softer surface.
Once the boards have been sanded, use a damp cloth to wipe the sand paper dust from the boards.
The fabric strip will be added next. You'll need four strips of fabric that measure 6" wide and 5' long. I use a scrap of fabric from a sheet because 1) the weave, or thread count, is higher and will wear longer, and 2) I can get four whole strips out of it without piecing together fabric to make up the strip. (if you sew two pieces of fabric together to make up the 5' long strip, the pins may have a hard time going through those sewn layers AND the bottom fabric, batting, and top fabric when you pin them to the frame)
However, any scrap fabric that is 5' long (or even a few inches shorter) will work.
Cut four strips 6" wide and about 5' long.
Fold the strips in half so they're 3" wide and 5' long.
You can iron each strip for ease of placement on the boards.
Now fold the raw edge of the folded fabric over so the strips are now 2-1/2" wide x 5' long as pictured below.
Lay the fabric strip down on the board, raw edge down, and nail or staple about every three to four inches close to the folded edge. Trim a few inches of fabric from each end of the board, since you won't be using the fabric that close to the end of the board, anyway. The end space for each fabric strip on each board doesn't need to be exact, as pictured in the beginning picture and the end picture.
There is no need to stretch the fabric as you staple.
In the picture below, I've shown both staples and nails on the fabric strip as an example. However, you'll want to use one or the other, not both for each board. Either all staples, or all nails, to keep the boards uniform (and it looks better).
Sand, and attach the fabric strips to all four boards.
Now you have a complete set of quilting boards.
The only thing you'll need now are C-clamps to hold the frame together.
You'll need four C-clamps, at least 2", as shown above. Clamps that are 2-1/2", maybe 3", are okay, but avoid clamps bigger than 4", because 4" clamps become too bulky to work with on the 1 inch boards, not to mention the fact that they're more expensive.
Now you have a complete set of quilting frames!