The quilt pulley system…

I’ve written before about the system I use to help me manage the weight of a quilt as I machine quilt. I should have shown more details in that first post. I know that because I had requests for more information. Here is a more complete DIY guide.

I first got the idea from Caryl Fallert-Gentry. Here she is at her machine:

QuiltPulley-01 copy

The idea is to use two quick-release clamps suspended from the ceiling to hold the weight of the quilt off of the table while you work. Her studio ceiling is very high so she added two metal poles with hooks on either end. I have 8′ ceilings so did not need the poles.

Here are the supplies you need:

  • 2 quick-release ratcheting clamps. Don’t get regular clamps with springs only—hey are hard on your hands.
  • 2 jacket-toggles—that’s what those yellow things are
  • Several yards of nylon cord—the kind you would use in a Roman shade (not shown) 
  • 2 big, eye-bolts for the ceiling (not shown). It’s a lot easier if you can screw them through the sheet rock, into wood. Otherwise you are going to need to look for something with a toggle.


QuiltPulley-02 copy

Here is what one eye-bolt looks like in my ceiling. This one measures about 7/8″ across.


I have a Sweet Sixteen. It sits in a table, front to back, not side-to-side like a home machine. My eye-bolts are positioned in the ceilling about 30″ apart, centered over the machine—one on one side, one on the other. They sit back from the front of the table about 12″.

If you machine quilt on a home machine, position one bolt (in the ceiling) behind the needle, about 12″. Position the other one 14″-16″ to the left of the needle (in the ceiling). 

Cut a length of nylon cord twice the length from your tabletop to the ceiling. That will be too long, but you can cut off the excess later.

Squeeze a jacket toggle open and run one end of the nylon cord through it and then up through the eye-bolt in the ceiling. Run it back through the squeezed-open toggle.

QuiltPulley-06 copy

Tie one end of the nylon cord to one handle of a quick-release clamp. My clamps came with holes that were perfect for this. You might have to drill a hole.

To raise or lower the clamp, squeeze the toggle and pull the other end of the cord. As you use the clamps, you will figure out how much of the excess nylon cord you want to cut off. I like to be able to reach it from a sitting position.

QuiltPulley-09 copy

In the photo below I don’t have the clamps attached to the quilt. The weight of the quilt is on the table and hanging ove the edge. It is harder to manage.

SweetSixteen-01 copy

In the next photo I have portions of the quilt clamped and held up off the table. Somtimes my quilts look this tidy on the table but mostly they don’t. I don’t always clamp the outer edges of the quilt. On big quilts I have to clamp areas more in the center of the quilt.

SS-WithClamps copy

I change the position of the clamps often as I have to as I move and turn the quilt. It’s easy and fast. The more you work with them, the easier it is to know where best to clamp the quilt.

When I’m not using the clamps, I pull them up to the ceiling and clamp the coiled excess cord.


So there you have it! This is an inexpensive and simple way to control your quilt as you machine quilt. I hope you have as much success with this as I have!


5 thoughts on “The quilt pulley system…

  1. My husband and I did this today, I did not see this yet! We put bolts in the ceiling, hung bungee cords, and put spring clamps on the ends. The spring clamps are not hard to open and the surface inside them is “grippy.” We drilled holes in the clamps and just put them on the bungee cord hook end. I can adjust the bungee cords, and this seems to be perfect, and very cheap!! I have trouble pushing the quilt around due to neck pain and this is going to help me tremendously. I may put up 2 more towards the back edge of the table, because my hubby said there is a stud in the ceiling there. With 4 hooks, I will have so much versatility.


  2. Hi Becky, thanks for posting this! It is a great idea and might be just what I need, I have shoulder issues and have been struggling recently with my quilting, so will definitely see if I can organise my husband to help set it up over my HQ Sweet Sixteen table! I hope it’s ok I have shared your post on my blog ( so my friends can see how to do it also. Many thanks again!


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