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!


Sweet Sixteen and those handy clamps…

In August of 2010 I shared with you the system I learned from Caryl Bryer Fallert that takes the weight of the quilt off of you and the table as you machine quilt. I would not willingly machine quilt without my clamps!

I get requests for a link back to that post often enough that I've finally added a section on the right with the header 'Pages Often Asked For'. You can see my first post showing the system with my Bernina. Read that post first for more details.

I'm pretty sure I showed the same system set up for my Sweet Sixteen but darned if I can find that post! (If any of you find, please let me know. Better yet, send me the URL.) So I am reposting the photos today.


Because the Sweet Sixteen is oriented front to back (rather than side to side like a home machine) you need a clamp on each side, 8"-12" back from the needle. 

This is what it looks like from the front:

SweetSixteen-02 copy

When I am not quilting anything big enough to require use of the clamps I pull the cord so that the clamps are near the ceiling. I coil the cord and clamp it in place.


When I want the clamps I release the clamp mechanism, drop the cord, pinch the toggle, and move the clamp down to a useful level.

PS – I must start using tags to make finding things easier. Today. I'll start today.