I have been having problems with RSI in my hands and arms for a while now completely stopping me doing any sewing for a month earlier this year (well, apart from the odd sneaky bit, but don't tell my husband!). I am great at getting quilt tops done, but getting them past that point always seems to get delayed.

My quilting on a sewing machine is getting better and better, but causes too much pain in my hands and shoulders for bed quilts, so I needed a new solution.

I actually dreamt one night that someone had built another room on the house (where, I have no idea, there isn't anywhere!) and in it was a lovely, huge quilting frame and big, sewing machine, with lots of lovely storage. Don't we all dream about that sort of thing from time to time?

However, back in the real world, I had to think of something else. I came across John Flynn and his Multi-Frame Quilting System. Looked interesting. At first, I thought my Dad might be able to make something similar, but we decided that maybe it was a bit too technical to make when there was already something that did the job perfectly. So after much debate (here on the PP website and at home), I took the plunge and ordered it.

You can order a whole Multi-frame system for $130 (approx £80), including everything you need, but shipping it to the UK is prohibitive, so they conveniently sell a smaller version that can be shipped to the UK - a Multi-frame Kit for $110, including postage (approx £67). It includes most of the things you need to get your quilting frame up and running. However, there are a few bits you'll need to buy once you get it.
  

It arrived in three weeks, having spent one of those weeks in customs in this country! (They send you a tracking number so you can see exactly where it is). That was a frustrating time, just waiting - seeing it sitting there on the screen. It drove me up the wall (and quite likely my family too).

I finally got a letter from Parcel Force saying that they had the parcel waiting for me with customs charges to pay - £18.67. I've had things stopped before, so was expecting it - but watch out, customs and excise try and stop everything that comes through with a value greater than £18. The tax isn't always that bad and I have no objection to paying that, but there is an £8 handling charge applied (I thought that was what you paid shipping costs for, but what do I know?).

I could have paid it online and waited for it to be delivered, but I was far too excited. I went straight back out to the depot to pick it up. I opened it in the car, read the little leaflet and went home via B&Q to get some plastic tubes to use on the frame. Then when I got home, I read further and it said plastic wasn't rigid enough. So they went back. (Note to self: calm down and read ALL the instructions first).

The kit required electrical metal conduit, which sounds flash, but it's just a metal pipe, about an inch in diameter. However, you can't get it anywhere other than electrical wholesalers. So I found one near by, and they had them, but only in 3.7 metre lengths and galvanised steel, so was quite heavy. The very nice man there cut it in half for me so that I could get it in the car.

My lovely husband trimmed it up so that they were the same length. At this point, I was honestly so frustrated, I nearly cried. The conduit was so heavy at 5 foot long, and I didn't see that it could be easy to use at that weight, especially once I attached the quilt. I persevered, attaching the tape and the muslin to the pipes, but it wasn't long enough for the quilt I had ready. At this point I was ready to throw it all out of the window.

Then I emailed John Flynn from the website (not expecting him to reply himself), asking him where I could get the fibreglass poles he uses, as I couldn't find them anywhere in this country. John personally emailed back that day, and after a couple of email exchanges he suggested the 'awning department' at the DIY store. Hmm, what awning department would that be then?
 

So I went to Homebase and told the girl what I wanted, lightweight pipes/tubes 1 inch in diameter, that you would use in tents/awnings. I thought I had looked all over the store already, but straight away she suggested the wardrobe building section for metal hanging poles. Hooray! They were perfect and available in lots of lengths, and nice and light.

Once I had the quilt onto the frame (and scratched the new television screen in the process - oops), I was so pleased. I had to take over the kitchen for a few days and had to add the spare table at the end to lengthen the workspace.

Now came the scary bit, or what my son refers to as 'mad sewing'. I actually had to quilt the quilt! The only bit I had forgotten to get was the drain pipes used to support the frame as I was sewing, so used Tupperware boxes, not quite the same, but it did the job, even though the biscuits in them were completely smashed by the time they dropped on the floor 10 times as the frame moved along.

There isn't a huge width of the quilt that you can quilt on for a normal sewing machine, about 5 inches at the start, and 4 inches as you wind the quilt around and it gets fatter. You do need to bear that in mind when deciding on what pattern you are going to quilt. I was worried that because I was quilting in strips, the quilt would bend more along those lines, but it doesn't.
  

It took me 4 hours to quilt a 6 x 6 foot quilt in a random medium size stippling, though that did include stopping to make the tea. It was as easy as I hoped it would be. You just hold the frame really lightly, and guide it through your sewing machine. It was interesting sewing with the machine turned round, on its end, but I got used to it quickly. I did think it might be a technique to use on another occasion when not using the frame it allows for much more room.

I know it sounds like it has been a real hassle, but once I knew what it was I really needed, it was straightforward. The DVD video that came with the frame was excellent, and the after sales service was great too. I just want a new sewing machine with a bigger throat now!

Costs

  • £67 Multi-frame kit
  • £18 customs charge
  • £6 permanent adhesive floor Duck tape
  • £30 wardrobe hanging poles
  • £3 muslin

Total cost - £124