education, Machine Quilting frames, Tools of the Trade

Our oh-so-clever larger poles and tracks!


8 foot frame

Our Machine Quilter frames come in 6, 8 and 10 foot sizes. While the 6 foot frame comes ready to use, the 8  and 10 foot  fabric poles and tracks require some minor putting together. In order to fit in your car, and/or the couriers van, we needed to design the larger poles and tracks so that they could be easily taken apart for transport and then easily re-assembled. We ship the poles and tracks in two pieces so they’ll fit in your car. This post shows you how to put them together again. I promise it will take you less time to put them together than it did to write this post!

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We’ll tackle the fabric poles first. The fabric poles come with a beautifully engineered ratchet ends on the right. The ratchets enable the frame to tension the fabric layers. They also come with leader fabric already attached. The leader fabric holds your quilt layers far enough away from the fabric poles so that you can quilt all the way to the end of your quilt. The leaders are overlocked and marked with a blue stitched centre line and a blue stitched line that runs along the edge of the leader. The centre marking helps you match the centre of your quilt to the centre of your leader. The line of stitching helps you to align your quilt layers while you’re pinning them on the leaders.

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The leaders are made from a strong painters canvas that will hold it’s shape and they are riveted to the fabric poles, straight and square. This will help you to load your quilt straight and square on the frame. Many other frames require you to find or make your own leaders. We think it’s convenient to have ours come already attached and ready to go.

Our challenge with these larger poles was  to have the pole come apart and STILL have the leader fabric attached. Here’s how Paul, our genius designer solved the challenge.  Below is an abbreviated fabric pole that we use for demonstrations. When you came for your free workshop Martha used this to show you how to extend the fabric poles for the larger quilt frames. These fabric poles have been cut short for demonstration purposes, so you’ll need to imagine the ends extending out to 4 or 5 feet.

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Here you can see the two pieces of the fabric pole split apart and laying side by side. Notice that the leader fabric IS attached to both poles everywhere but the area of the middle join. Look closely and you’ll see a long thin cut out in the pole. This cut out has a screw that lets you move an inside bar back and forth.

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Here in the next photo, I’ve butted the two ends of the pole together and I’m about to slide the screw which moves an inside connecting bar to join the two poles. This bridges the join on the inside of the poles and holds them together nice and snugly.

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Here’s a nice close up showing the screw that will slide the inside bar across the join.

Petwood and Table Assembly 059 And here it is sliding across. You can now see the inside bar peeking through the screw hole on the left. Once they’re together, you can hold them in place with the 3 screws provided. All you need is a screw driver.

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This was a long explanation of a very simple process that just takes a few seconds.

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Now the two parts of the fabric pole are attached and you can drop it into your frame. The ratchets are numbered 1, 2 & 3. Pole number one goes in the slot closest to you, it’s the pole that will go under the arm of your sewing machine. Pole number two slots into the middle and pole number three fits into the side arm slots that are farthest away from you as you stand in front of the frame. That should be the fabric poles sorted. Please don’t hesitate to ring Martha with any questions.

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Let’s move onto the track.

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Here is a photo of our old track extender system at the top of the photo with the new track, labelled ‘B’ underneath. I’m going to tell you a story about how we came up with the new track. Our original tracking system was an innovation at the time because they were amazingly smooth! The tracks were also continuous at the 6 foot size and extendable to 8 and 10 feet. But with the extensions, there was a bump at the join. Paul, our innovative genius designer, likes to get things right and he wasn’t happy about the bump!
Paul uses wood for the tracks because the wood helps to absorb the vibration of the sewing machine. Metal tracks magnify the vibrations and the vibrations of the metal carriage wheels make small marks in the metal tracks, especially a light weight metal like aluminium. Over time, these indentations affect the smoothness of the carriage as it rides over the tracks. The natural elasticity of wood absorbs the vibrations. Over time the wooden track actually becomes smoother. So Paul definitely wanted to continue using wood. The challenge was how to create a seamless join, so the tracks could be extendible and portable.
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Sometimes the answer to a puzzle is so simple you just wonder why you didn’t think of it sooner. Paul’s friend Phil, on the right of the photo, suggested cutting the join at angle! A simple brilliant solution! The diagonal cut meant that there would always be part of the wheel that was not on the join.
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 Wow, what a difference! You can hardly feel the join when you run your finger over it. And with the carriage it’s practically seamless. Well done Paul and Phil! Now the track can be extended to any size we like, and we won’t feel the join while we’re quilting. Not even a little bump!
Each track has been made to fit perfectly to it’s other half; so be sure to join like to like. Some tracks are labeled with letters as in these photos, so join A to A and B to B. Other newer tracks are labeled with numbers so be sure to join 1 to 1 and 2 to 2.
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 Paul developed a self-aligning fixture in the bottom of the track joint that ensures that the two sections are always exactly level with each other. This very clever feature is the most fragile part of the frame. So when you’re setting up the larger 8 and 10 foot frames, always begin with by joining the track together on your empty table surface. The joins need to gently slide into each other with A joining to A and B to B. The best way to join the track pieces is to slide them together on the table surface, don’t try to join them in the air. Once the tracks are joined you can go ahead and add the end pieces, carriages and fabric poles that make up the frames. 
There you have it! The poles and tracks  of our larger frames come in two pieces so they’ll fit in your car. Then they come back together easily too, so that you can set them up and get quilting.