Saturday, July 2, 2016

DIY Rolling Quilt Frame

This frame is an improvement on the free motion quilting frame. I decided to use another pipe for the batting and place both the batting and backing pipes below the frame. Furniture grade pvc or wooden dowels are better than Charlotte pipe for this project, but I wanted to see if it was feasible before upgrading. This frame is not adaptable with Charlotte pipe because it isn't rigid enough. Pieces will come apart if you try to connect them with couplers. It can be narrowed or widened to fit your throat space. However, 18" is the minimum depth to prevent the quilt from dragging on the machine. The legs can be adapted to the height of your sewing machine + 2" to prevent drag. You can sit or stand while using it.

(6) 48" lengths 1" I.D. Charlotte pipe
(4) 18" lengths 1" I.D. Charlotte pipe
(10) 2" lengths 1" I.D. Charlotte pipe
(2) 22" lengths 1" I.D. Charlotte pipe (front legs)
(2) 24" lengths 1" I.D. Charlotte pipe (back legs)
(2) 1" Couplers
(4) 1" 3-way 90 degree outlets
(4) 1" 4-way tees
(8) 1" 2-way tees
(4) 1" End caps
(10) 1" Plugs
(10 3/8" dia. 3" L. Carriage bolts
(24) 3/8" dia. Hex nuts
(10) 3/8" dia. Wing nuts
(44) 3/8" dia. Washers
(6) 1 x 4" PVC Clamps or (3) 1" x 4' from
(4) 2" Locking casters
PVC glue
3/8" drill bit
Ratchet and 3/8" deep socket
Dremel with reinforced cut off wheel or hacksaw
Tape measure
Painter's tape

Hold the end caps steady on a hard surface and drill a 3/8" hole for the casters. It's best to use a drill press or a lathe for this, if you have one. Drill holes through the center of the plugs, tees, and outlets as well. Using a dremel, cut smaller pieces from one of the 24" pipes. The easiest way to keep your cuts straight is to wrap painter's tape around the pipe just above the mark. Double check pieces cut by a lumber yard. Most of mine were up to a 1/2" too long and one was 1/4" too short. 

Slip a washer onto each carriage bolt and slip a carriage bolt through each plug. Slip another washer onto each bolt. Screw on a hex nut and tighten. Swirl a bit of glue inside all of the 48" pipes and slide in the plugs. Let the glue cure.


Slide two outlets onto a 48" pipe, making sure the bolt comes out the other end. Slide a washer onto the bolt and screw on a wing nut.

Slip the two 18" lengths of pipe into the 3-way outlets.

Slip another 48" pipe into the other 3-way outlet, making sure the bolt comes out the other end. Slide a washer onto the bolt and screw on a wing nut. Slide the 3-way outlet onto the 18" pipe. This makes the top of the frame.

Slide tees onto the 22" pipe. Slip a 48" pipe into the tees, making sure the bolt comes out the other end. Slide a washer onto the bolt and screw on a wing nut.

Slip 2" lengths of pipe into the tees.

Slide tees onto the 2" pipe. Slip a 48" pipe into the tees, making sure the bolt comes out the other end. Slide a washer onto the bolt and screw on a wing nut. Slide the 2" lengths of pipe into the tees. This completes the front of the frame.
Slide a caster into the hole of an end cap. Slide a washer onto the bolt. Screw on the hex nut and tighten with the ratchet. Repeat with the other three casters.

Slide 2" pipes into the end caps. Slide 4-way tees onto the 2" pipes. Slide 22" pipes into the tees. This is the front of the frame.

The back legs need a coupler added to the 24" pipe and a 2" length of pipe added to the coupler. Slide 18" pipes into the tees connecting the front and back legs. Slide 48" pipes into the 4-way outlets front and back, making sure the bolt comes out the other end. Slide a washer onto the bolt and screw on a wing nut.

Slide the legs into the 3-way outlets. 
The frame is finished. Attach clamps.
The backing is rolled onto the bottom pipe. The batting is rolled onto the middle pipe. The top is rolled onto the first pipe. The finished quilting is rolled onto the back pipe. The pipes don't move. The layers wrap easily around the pipes with the clamps. This is a major improvement on the original frame.


It works better than the free motion frame and it functions best on a smooth floor. It's still best suited for narrow continuous line quilting. The narrow throat space on my machine is the problem.


  1. Thank you for sharing your ideas posting the instructions in such detail. This is a great idea, and I can't wait to make one of my own and start quilting!

    My sewing machine also has a narrow throat space. I'm thinking of adding a crank handle to the PVC to allow me to wind/unwind the fabric and do deeper quilting. Of course, I'd be thrilled if you did it first so I could copy you!

    1. I wanted to do that, but I couldn't find those ratcheting sprockets anywhere. I'll keep looking!

    2. How long apart should the holes be

    3. There is only one hole per plug and outlet. The bolts keep the frame together while allowing it to be disassembled. I ended up removing the bolts from mine because I didn't get the holes perfectly aligned. This is the reason I recommend a drill press.

  2. You are an engineer! What a great solution to an expensive problem! Thank you for the very specific instructions and for sharing your very hard work.

    1. You're quite welcome. Thank you for commenting.

  3. Thank you for sharing this idea. Question. Would it be easier to quilt if the 3 layers were parallel to the floor rather than at an angle? Could this be solved by having the pipes that hold each (top, batting, and backing) level? Or at least the top and the batting with the back going over another pole (so all are level)?
    I've been trying hard to engineer a setup similar to this (but with a flynn frame and modifying it).

  4. You can use only one rail on the top for all three layers. I used three rails to wind the individual layers without wrinkling. I attempted a diy version of the Flynn frame and it was terrible.
    DIY Free Motion Frame