What do I need to do to finish my own quilts?
Finishing your quilts should be an easy task, but because there is a lot of misinformation abounding in quilt shops, and on the internet, the process of finding a quilting frame or hoop, then quilting your quilt, and finally binding it so you can use it or give it away has become a whole lot harder. This page is designed to simplify the process of finding a quilting frame, giving you the basics of getting started, and finally finishing your quilt.
Let's Get Started
Will be hand or machine quilting?
There are many people that feel that if you are not hand quilting your quilt that it isn't really quilting. While hand quilting has its place so does machine quilting. There are many people that just can't hand quilt because of physical limitations. You can finish quilts much quicker machine quilting than you can hand quilting, if you need to finish quilts fast then consider a machine frame. If you plan on using the quilt on a bed or as a throw, a machine quilted quilt will last longer and stand up to the abuse. If you have an antique hand pieced quilt you might want to hand quilt it. If you are new to quilting, machine quilting will be easier to learn than hand quilting. Whether one method is really better than another doesn't really matter, what does matter is finding a method you enjoy. After you have made your choice you can if you want at machine frame, or a hand quilting frame or quilting hoop.
How large of a frame or hoop do I need?
If you are talking about machine quilting we recommend the largest frame you can fit in your quilting space. It is always easier to if you don't push your frame to its capacity every time you pin on a quilt. If your quilt is longer than it is wide you can load the quilt on with the long edge pinned to the frame rail and you will have a longer row that you can quilt before needing to roll your quilt. This really helps on machine frames because you will have less quilt rolled up inside the arm of your sewing machine.
With a hand quilting frame the same is true as with the machine quilting frame. Get the largest size frame that will fit in your quilting room. There is always some room at the end of the quilting frame that is taken up by the side tension clamps that you will not be able to use for your quilt work area. The Bungee Clamps take up about five inches on either side of your frame so when figuring the maximum size quilt you might ever do add 10 inches and that will be about the size you need.
Quilting in a Hoop is a little different because you have to baste your quilt together before you hoop it. You aren't limited by the size quilt, but as a general rule bigger isn't always better. The Grace Hoop2s come in 14, 18, and 24 inch size hoops. Very few people can really use a 24 properly. The way to know what size hoop to purchase is to measure from the bend in your arm to the tip of your middle finger. Mine measures 16 inches so the largest hoop I really should get would be the 18 inch. Basically you need to be able to reach to the center of the hoop.
What is your quilt frame budget?
Years of experience has shown that very few people have unlimited funds to spend on a quilting frame or hoop. The good news is that the Grace Company has the best quality, most quilter friendly, quilting frames you can buy. They have lower cost frames that might not be as fancy and their high end ones but they work just about as well and you wouldn't be able to tell which frame your quilt was quilted on so any Grace Frame will do a great job.
Steel or wooden quilting frame?
There are Grace Dealers that will tell you that only the steel frames are strong enough to do any serious quilting. The Grace Company was built on wooden quilting frames so they have them down to a science. Wooden Grace frames are every bit as good as the aluminum or steel ones are. If your budget dictates that you can only a Gracie Queen or King then you can rest assured that your frame will work every bit as good as the Majestic.
Can I use my own sewing machine?
When the first home machine quilting frames came out they tried to make is so people could use a regular home sewing machine. Over the years we have found that sewing machines like the Juki TL-2010Q work better than regular home sewing machines. When you are quilting on a frame if you don't have enough throat space, (throat length is the area to the right of the needle), then you will not have very much forward and back movement if you are near the end of your quilt. Eight and a half inch throat machines are the shortest we recommend. The Juki TL-2010Q stitches at 1500 stitches per minute which sounds like a lot but it is just about the minimum speed that we recommend when machine quilting. The Grace machine frames come with a speed control so you can turn the sewing machine on and off with a button on the handle of your machine frame. This control or the stitch length regulator, SureStitch, are only compatible with certain sewing machines so before purchasing a sewing machine that some sales person says is the best thing since sliced bread make sure it is compatible. Just because a sewing machine has the word quilting edition included doesn't mean that it is compatible.
What accessories do I need?
The way we sell the Grace frames you usually have the bare essentials but you should have a working quilting system. Like the cloth leaders, none of the other Grace dealers include leaders that are ready to use right out of the package.
Lamp and Bulb - Our number one recommended accessory. If you can't see what you are working on then it will be a lot harder to enjoy quilting. We offer two lamp and bulb combos. The Grace Hoop2 and Z44 Pro use the Grace Swing Arm Lamp, we offer it with a Brite White Bulb because what good is a lamp without a bulb? The Grace Gooseneck Lamp and Bulb is for machine quilting frames. I really like the Gooseneck Lamp for machine quilting because many times your thread matches the quilt top so much that you can't see what you are quilting on so you turn off the over head lights in the room and move the lamp head down by the needle so it will cast a shadow across your quilt. Simple process but Kathy does this all the time. She loves her Grace Gooseneck Lamp and Bulb.
Gracie Laser - We really like freehand quilting for most of our quilting but every now and again someone wants their quilting done as cheaply as possible. That is when Kathy will do an over all pattern. The Linda Taylor pantograph patterns Kathy uses are more complicated than most peoples freehand quilting so the quilts still turn out great. So it is good to be able to follow a pantograph pattern. The Gracie Laser is the tool of choice. This is our second most recommended accessory.
Stitch Regulator - One of the hardest things about machine quilting is knowing how fast to move the carriage to get the desired stitch length. If you move the carriage too fast and the sewing machine is running slowly you can get huge stitches. The opposite is also true that if the machine is running too fast and you aren't quilting fast enough you will get way tiny stitches. With a stitch length regulator, like the Grace Company SureStitch, as you move the carriage it the SureStitch senses the movement and will speed up your sewing machine or if you slow down then your sewing machine will slow down. Not having to worry about how your stitches are going to look you can focus more on what you are quilting and not how many stitches per inch you are doing. The downside to adding a stitch regulator is the cost, usually around $500 on top of what your machine frame and sewing machine will cost. You can use a speed control but you will need a lot of practice to get even stitches. We recommend the Grace SureStitch if you can fit into your budget, if not save up for it and add it later.
Plastic Pattern Perfect - The Plastic Pattern Perfect is a template guide system that allows you to follow a pattern with a special stylus that tracks through the pattern. It really is like bicycle training wheels for your Grace machine frame. This method of following patterns is easier than following pantograph patterns. Pantograph patterns are usually printed on a roll of paper and you follow a the red dot from a laser. Since you have to move the carriage of the frame with your hands, you are the one that has to keep the laser on the line of the pantograph pattern. It is harder than it sounds. With the Pattern Perfect you have the aid of the stylus riding in the groove of the pattern to keep you on track.
Quilt CAD - Quilt CAD is software that is designed for your Windows based computer that allows you to design how you would quilt your quilt before even taking a stitch. You can even print out your own pantograph patterns that you create. If you like playing on the computer and designing patterns, Quilt CAD can be a very useful tool.
QuiltMotion - Now for the coolest accessory of all! QuiltMotion is a way you can hook your computer up to your Grace machine frame and have it stitch designs out over and over again. You can record a design you would like to do, make some modifications on the computer then save it in your pattern library. You can stitch that design you created over and over. There is a new addition to QuiltMotion that looks like an iPad called the Quilter's Creative Touch. It is a touch screen that extends the capabilities of QuiltMotion and makes it so you don't need to supply a computer to use QuiltMotion. QuiltMotion is cost prohibitive for most people but there are those that have the means to invest in the $4,500 for QuiltMotion and $2,000 for the Creative Touch.