A quilting frame is a structure that holds the fabrics and batting of a quilt in place while the person or people working on the quilt stitch it together. While quilting frames are traditionally used in hand quilting, certain types of quilting frame are used for machine quilting, where a sewing machine stitches the fabric and batting together.
Usually, the frame is made of wood. The size of the frame can vary, ranging from smaller frames for lap or throw quilts to large frames for queen or king size quilts. Often a person may be able to purchase a quilting frame that can be adjusted based on the size of the current project. The large size of many frames means a quilter can work alone or with a group of other quilters to stitch the quilt top. During quilting bees, women used to gather around the sides of a frame to quilt together.
To use a quilt frame, the quilter inserts the bottom fabric of the quilt, the batting, and the top fabric into the slats on the four sides of the frame, The idea of the frame is similar to that of an embroidery or quilting hoop. The four slats hold the fabrics and batting taut, so that the quilter can make quilting stitches that will not pucker or be too loose when she takes the quilt out of the frame. Placing a quilt in a frame will also prevent the batting or fabric from bunching up while the quilter works. Usually, the entire quilt is laid flat in the frame, so that the quilter will not have to undo the frame and reposition the quilt as she works, which she would have to do with a quilting hoop.
When working on a quilting frame, a quilter usually starts on one side of the quilt and works her way left or right. If she were quilting using a hoop, she would start in the center of the quilt. It is also often important that a quilter stitch towards herself when using a frame. For instance, if a quilter wanted to stitch a square, she should start at the top left corner, work across to the right and then down the other side of the square, back to herself. She should then start a new thread at the top left corner, work down the left side of the square and then over to the right.