Saturday, September 13, 2014

Period Quilting Frames Part 2

Last week I showed pictures of traditional quilt frames and how they were propped up parallel to the ground. The four boards that support the quilt were not permanently joined together.

The simplest way to hold the boards together may
be C Clamps as in the above photo from Canada about 1900.

C Clamps are adjustable hardware that looks like the letter C.
They can be manufactured as the metal antique above

or handmade as in these wooden clamps.

In this more recent picture manufactured metal clamps
seem to be holding the boards together. We can see by the
borders that the quilt is extended out as far as it goes.

The frame can be propped up in the back of the church
basement when not in use. Here the Methodist quilters
in Wheatland Texas pose with a Trip Around the World
quilt in a C clamped frame.

Cheyenne women using a frame supported by
sawhorses and C clamps in 1961. The frame
is clamped so a smaller area of the quilt
shows. Quilters usually begin in the center and work
out to the edges.

Here's a frame positioned to take up
the least amount of space. If working alone
or with one or two others, this is a good
solution to the space problem, a smaller footprint as we'd say today.

C-clamp upside down in
Saginaw, Michigan, perhaps about 1950. 
Does anybody quilt standing up? 
These women need
ladder-back chairs so they can lower the frame.
I wonder about the authenticity of this staged photo.

The history of manufactured C-clamps is as vague to me as the history of sawhorses. You might want to do a little hardware study to see what the typical C-clamp looked like in 1863.

The frame in Kimmel's 1813 painting is lashed together
with the same string or strips that fix the quilt to the frame.
This might be a good solution if you don't have 4 period C-clamps.

I also see regularly spaced holes in the boards above.

Similar to what's depicted in this quilting scene from Harper's Weekly
in 1863.

I have an old frame like this with holes down the middle of the boards.

LRStitched blogged about a pierced board she inherited
from her great-grandmother.

Those holes could serve several uses. One could thread the quilt to the frame using them, or hang the
frame from the ceiling with rope through the holes. The holes might intended for pegs. You'd line up the holes and peg them together as you rolled the quilt up.

H W. Pierce's "A Quilting Bee in the Olden Time," a nostalgic
print from 1876,  shows "colonial ladies" at a frame held together with pegs
and holes. He probably knew little about how 18th-century quilters
constructed frames, but this seems like an accurate representation
of a 19th-century frame.

The frame is held together perhaps with
pegs through the holes, resting on a middle
rung in a ladder back chair. Is that a reticule
(purse) hanging from the chair?

In this 1990 photograph from Florida Memory
Alma Bailey is quilting on a frame with what look to be home-made
wooden pegs holding the frame together. The holes in the frame are also used
to attach the sides of the quilt to the frame. The left-over string hanging down
will be laced to the frame and the quilt as the frame is extended and re-pegged.
See the photo here:

Again in Florida, women peg a frame together.
The Florida Memory site has dozens of
pictures from about 1990 showing quilting groups using
a variety of traditional quilting frames. Search for "Quilt" on their site.

Another way to roll the quilt up on the frame
is the cogwheel. See a discussion here:

The other board that LRStitched inherited is also full
of holes, but they don't pierce through the board and
the holes are very irregular.

Library of Congress
These smaller holes are probably made by tacks that
held the fabric that held the quilt to the frame.

You wouldn't want to tack the actual quilt or backing to the frame, but you'd tack a sturdy piece of fabric like the ticking in the above mid-20th century of quilters in Lititz, Pennsylvania. The quilt is pinned or basted to the striped ticking.

The Canadian women have wound strips to the frame
to support the quilt, rather than tacking the sturdy cloth to the frame.

These early 20th-century women have tied the
sides of the quilt to the frame with string. It doesn't look too stable,
but they are tying or tacking the piece rather than quilting it.

If I were looking for Civil-War-era accuracy, I'd stick with
home-made solutions rather than factory-built hardware
and frames.

Woman in White Springs, Florida
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

And don't even think about a hoop. It's a 20th-century idea.


Chantal said...

Oh my, that was a walk down memory lane. I remember my great grandmother's frame with the holes in the wooden frame and she would change the peg position as she was quilting. She did tack it too with little black nails. I've asked her why did she hammered down those funny looking nails and she said "So the quit will behave". Boy! didn't that put a rod in my back and I was on my best behavior for the rest of the day LOL. She passed away in 1975, she was 92 years old. Thanks for the research.

Cynthia's Creating Ark said...

This is very interesting. I have never hand quilted in a group setting on one quilt, so I find all this very interesting how they frame the quilts up compared to me just using my hoop.

WoolenSails said...

It is interesting how they kept the frames together with clamps, would be nice to have wood that you could change out for different sizes. I have seem threaded frames, you see them a lot with canadian rug hooking.


allstontowers said...

Lilian Hedley (famous for traditional north country quilting) still uses one of those wooden frames with the pegs for keeping the rolled part of the quilt from unrolling as she works. When she moves on to the next part of the quilt, the pegs come out, the quilt is rolled on and the pegs go back in the next appropriate set of holes. I have photos if you would like to see them

Linda Christianson said...

Thanks for this very interesting post. The board with all the fine holes could be bugs holes. There should be a book on the history of quilting and frames. I can see why my mother add leaders to her already leaders on the frames to her quilt. Only you have to be straight as you roll the quilt or the quilt can have problems. The added leader piece on the side helps with longarm quilting. I forget to do it. I do do it I pin each time the leader to the edge and then clamp the clamp and Velcro string to the edge of my HQ16 frames.

Anonymous said...

I inherited my grandmother's frame like those pictured and still use it! Mom couldn't find the wooden pegs when we cleaned out the old house, so I use C-clamps that my other grandmother used on the corners now. Mom said they did actually tack the lining (backing) fabric to the frame pulling out the tacks as they rolled what had been quilted. AND when using a frame like, those pictured, quilters started at one side and worked toward its opposite, NOT from the center outward. One starts in the middle when using a hoop in the lap. I do have several different lengths so I can do baby quilts with ease or a large quilt.

Anonymous said...

Merci de ce beau reportage trés interessant,j'ai beaucoup aimé,surtout que j'ai reconnu
mon métier a quilter dans ces anciens modéles,métier fabriqué il y a deux ans
excatement pareil comme ceux çi!
Trés charmant reportage.Merci

Judy said...

I have my grandmother's quilt frame from the 1940s or earlier. The boards are nothing special, but the clamps seem to be home-made. See a picture on my blog:

daisywaite said...

I have some old c-clamps !

Unknown said...

It was very helpful would like to get up dates on this

Anonymous said...

My mother-in-law used to have a lg frame Come days when the families are to gather she would unroll her gram and we gathered chairs around and quilt the blanket she had a very of design from little dolls to wedding rings it was fun