Quilting frames have been used for centuries and are still the best way to hand quilt today. For hand quilting, a quilt frame is a necessity to create the correct amount of tension on the quilt and allow your hands to manage the quantity of fabric and batting that can otherwise get in the way. While setting the quilt in the frame seems like a simple task, there are some rules to follow to be sure you end up with a flat and square quilt.
Prepare the quilt top by marking your quilting design before basting the layers together. Sandwich your quilt top with the batting and backing with safety pins or with basting stitches.
Take the outer hoop off of the quilting frame and unscrew the bolt as far as it will go to give room for the thickness of your quilt.
Lay your quilt, right side up, over the inner hoop, either with a handheld hoop resting on a clean floo, or over your free-standing frame. Place the center of the quilt in the center of the hoop to begin.
Smooth the top and back of the quilt to eliminate creases or folds from the fabric.
Set the outer hoop on top of the quilt and press the frame directly down to secure the quilt between the hoops. Gently squeeze the notches of the outer hoop together and tighten the bolt.
Recheck the top and bottom fabric for creases and press the center of the quilt down lightly. The quilt should not be tight like a drum or overly loose and drooping in the center. Let the quilt lie flat, but when touched, the quilt will give to a rocking needle and working fingers.
Quilt every area within the hoop. When this area is complete, loosen and remove the outer hoop to reposition the quilt to the next adjacent area. Continue to work out from the center until the entire surface has been quilted.
Add wide strips of fabric along border areas when quilting them to give something for the hoop to grip and maintain the tension on the quilt. A hand quilting stand is much easier to use to secure your quilt and allows you to stay off the floor where managing the backing fabric is more difficult.
Do not let your quilt sit longer than a day or two in the frame. The tightness of the hoop could stretch the fabric. Quilting will correct this in most cases but don’t chance it. If you baste the quilt sandwich with safety pins, be careful not to catch your pins between the hoops or the pin holes may pull the fabric or possibly rip it.