Apr 10 07

The Ongoing Debate of Frame System vs. Traditional Push-Through Quilting

Almost daily, I hear someone raise the question of whether or not he/she could free motion quilt better if using a longarm or midarm machine on a frame system. I think a lot of people believe that a frame system will relieve them of having to work on and develop good free motion skills…this is a misunderstanding! A frame system will require you to learn a whole new set of skills-these skills will be easier for some people and harder for others. So, the question of whether to move to a frame is a very individual one and because it is an expensive and time consuming venture, (remember, it will take you time to learn these new long arm skills), this is a question to consider thoughtfully before making a move.
I would like to propose another option that most people don’t realize exists. Check out the picture below to see a 3rd alternative:


This is an HQ16, (mid-arm machine with a 16 inch extension from the throat of the machine), that is not set up in a frame system but rather, has a Plexiglas extension table, (this measures 24 in x 48 in), that fits right up against the throat of the machine, thereby giving me a nice, large, level surface on which to push around my quilt. It cost under $45 to build the table and this compares to several thousands of dollars to purchase a frame system. You could do this for any mid-arm machine or long-arm machine. What I want you to see is that in addition to the extended area from the throat of the machine, notice how HIGH that space is…can you see how much additional room there is in which to cram a quilt? I can easily move a king sized quilt through this area WITH EASE. For me, a frame system just doesn’t seem right. As silly as it sounds, I always felt too far away from the quilt and I really missed the intimacy of being close to my quilt and moving it around. Each person needs to make a decision on this for him/herself, but if you enjoy push-through free motion work and are frustrated by having to cram your quilt through a small space, you may want to consider a system like this.
One more thing…if you’re interested in trying to make a system like this, I believe that you can buy an extension table like this commercially for your machine, but if you can’t find one or want to save even more money, my husband has a step-by-step tutorial on how to build one that is on the 3rd DVD, which should be available in the next 3-4 weeks. (It’s at the replicator now!)


  1. she-quilts Says:

    I just found your website via your posts on The Quilt Show! Wow!! I’m happy to have found you and will return for some DVDs when I can. Super!!

    I do all my quilting on my home machine. I like your idea about using the HG16 w/o a frame. Sounds doable and feasible in the financial realm as well.

    Thanks!! Joyce

    Thanks, Joyce!

  2. Helen Says:

    I think the reason people like the idea of a quilting fame and machine is that they don’t like to baste quilts. What they don’t realise is that it takes as much time to set up the top, batting and backing on the rollers as it does to baste. And an ordinary domestic machine on a frame is not very useful because of the small width – and the fact that if you have only one machine you need to keep swapping it. I like your quilting set up. I wish these HQ 16 machines were available in New Zealand. I have seen them advertised in the American magazines. The Handi Quilter distributer here only imports the frames, not the machines. At the moment I do my free motion quilting on my old Singer 201P. It sews really fast and has twice as much room under the arm as my Elna 6005. But, of course, it is not computerised and so does not have needle up/needle down, which I would find very useful. Does the HQ16 have this feature? Is it computerised? Can I ask you what the cost of it is? I looked on their website once but couldn’t find any prices.

    The HQ16 is computerized and is VERY fast. I should say that it has the capability of stitching very fast, but you have various settings and you can program it to control the speed. It DOES have needle up/down feature. I can’t really say anything bad about it. I ordered mine a few years back before they were actually available and it came to just under $3000 at that time. I was at a show last month and the dealer was offering the demo model at a special price, (there wasn’t anything wrong w/it, she just didn’t want to lug it back to her shop), and she was selling the machine for around $5000. I think this came with some extra stuff, it wasn’t just the machine. My understanding is that the frame is now several thousand dollars. If you’re interested in trying to buy one, you might want to join the yahoo HQ16 chatgroup, because every once in awhile someone will post a machine for sale if they’re moving and downsizing or changing to a true long-arm system. You probably could get the HandiQuilter company to sell to you directly as well since you don’t have a dealer near you. Back when I bought mine, there were no dealers so we all bought directly from them and they were nice people to deal with.

  3. the wandering quilter Says:

    Patsy, this is a great setup. Before we went fulltime in our RV, I had an HQ16 on the PPF frame. I loved the HQ16, didn’t much care for quilting on a frame. To me, it was far more work to set the frame up, rotate the quilt, etc, than it is to pin or spray baste.

    When we are done RV’ing, this is exactly the setup I’d choose. The HQ16 is a sweet machine, and being able to use it on a table is just the cat’s meow!

  4. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks for this review…I’m totally with you. I’d rather SIT to quilt and get up close and see what I’m doing. Like you, I love to quilt and think the thread brings the quilt to life.
    Cheers, Sarah

  5. Judi S Says:

    Patsy, thanks for answering my question about a sit down/push through mid arm machine.As you can see I found you and your website. I am leaning very stongly towrads getting the sit down HQ-16.
    I love your website. The leaves you posted May 28 are amazing. I posted a link to your site to one of my sewing groups that I belong to. I hope that was OK.

  6. Frab Wessel Says:

    Hi Patsy, If I’m seeing this right, you are sitting at the S16 in the same way you do a domestic machine. In other words you are not sitting head-on as HQ has designed the machine. As it is set-up, the machine is set dead center in the table designed for it. That makes it a bit of a stretch to guide the fabric. But a table made for it to be in the other direction sounds really sensible to me. Reaching the wheel would be much easier too.

  7. Fran Wessel Says:

    Yikes, I can’t type. Name is Fran