Quilt Photography Tool Tutorial
General Tutorials

Quilt Photography Tool Tutorial

I am very lucky to have a tall husband (he is 6’2″ tall), with a large arm span, who is more than happy to hold up quilts for me to photograph on occasion. Sometimes he is not available to help me, and so I have had friends hold my quilts, which usually presents a tricky problem for me as very few people are as tall as my husband. And as much as I enjoy the challenge of improvising quilt photography when I am on my own, I was also wondering if there might be a way I could hold the quilts for myself and use a tripod and camera with a time delay.

All of these thoughts and more (including my own frustration with holding up quilts that I have made while my husband took the photographs) lead me to have several conversations with my husband about creating a quilt photography tool to make it easier to hold up quilts. Today, I am going to share the solution we came up with and used successfully.

Quilt Photography Tool Tutorial

Quilt Photography Tool Tutorial

As any person who has been behind a quilt holding it up for photographs can attest: quilts are heavy! The blood can run out of your hands and arms surprisingly quickly, and if you throw in the challenges of dealing with a bit of a breeze or picky photographer (yeah, guilty as charged), the patience of the quilt holder can run out before a good photograph can be taken.

Quilt Photography Tool

Quilt Photography Tool

My goal was simple: create a low cost support for the back of a quilt using items from a hardware store that fits into a hanging sleeve and allows you to keep your arms lower. As you can see in the photo above (which I took by myself using a camera and a timer), it can really extend the height a quilt can be held with ease. The particular quilt photographed above is 88 inches tall – taller than even my husband would have been comfortable holding without being on a small step ladder or hanging the end of the quilt over the edge of something outdoors like a rock or ledge.

Step 1 - Tools

Step 1 – Tools

Here are the tools you will need to create the quilt photography tool I show above:

  • (2) 2-foot long 3/4″ PVC pipe sections
  • (1) 3/4″ PVC pipe union
  • (1) 3/4″ PVC pipe T
  • Saw to cut PVC pipe T (hacksaw, fine toothed wood hand saw, or dremmel)
  • (2) Band clamps
  • (1) Screw driver to open and close the band clamps
  • (1) Broom stick cut to 2″ narrower than the width of your bound quilt top

Note that this also requires a split hanging sleeve, which leaves a gap at the center of the quilt top about 1″ wider than the PVC pipe T to allow for everything to fit.

Step 2 - Cut T Union and Find Center of Broom Stick

Step 2 – Cut PVC Pipe T and Find Center of Broom Stick

The hardest part of assembling this tool is cutting the PVC pipe T in half to create a cradle for the broom stick, as shown in the image above. Mark a horizontal line on both sizes of the T, and use a saw to cut off the top. Although not required, a vice to hold the T will keep your fingers out of danger.

Once the PVC pipe T is cut, you can slide one of the 2 foot long PVC pipes into the T and loosely place the band clamps on either side of the T.

Measure and trim a broom stick or other long dowel to be 2″ narrower than the measured width of your bound quilt top. Center the broom stick on the quilt and mark where the T cradle should rest in the center of the broom stick. I used a silver sharpie to be visible on the black broom stick I used.

Step 3 - Insert Broom Stick Through One Hanging Sleeve

Step 3 – Insert Broom Stick Through One Hanging Sleeve

As you insert the broom stick through the first hanging sleeve, pause and make sure to pass the broom stick through the band clamps and PVC cradle before inserting it into the second hanging sleeve. Loosen the band clamps as necessary to allow the broom stick to pass through.

Step 4 - Tighten Band Clamps

Step 4 – Tighten Band Clamps

Once you have the broom stick through the band clamps, keep passing it through the second hanging sleeve until the center marks align with the edge of the T cradle. Align the marks with the edges of the cradle and use your screw driver to tighten the band clamps. I used a little socket driver, but a screw driver works just as well.

Note that I rotated the band clamps to have the screw mechanism away from the back of the quilt to keep it from bulging out the front of the quilt when the quilt is being held up for the photography.

Step 5 - Check Broom Stick Center

Step 5 – Check Broom Stick Center

It’s always a good idea to double check the width of the broom stick and positioning of the broom stick within the hanging sleeve at this point. The goal is to have the broom stick inside the hanging sleeve but not protruding past the edge of the quilt and for the holding stick, the vertical PVC pipe, to be centered on the quilt.

Step 6 - Extending the Holding Rod (PVC Pipe)

Step 6 – Extending the Holding Rod (PVC Pipe)

It is very likely that a single 2 foot long piece of PVC pipe will not be long enough to hold your quilt up. I suggest dry fitting/pressing a PVC union and adding a second 2 foot long piece of PVC pipe as necessary. I recommend 2 foot sections of pipe as they are easily transportable and disassembled. Taking a 4 foot long piece of pipe connected to a 5 foot wide rod can be a challenge. 😉

Step 7 - Assemble and Enjoy Using!

Step 7 – Assemble and Enjoy Using!

I also wanted to share this final photograph to illustrate that adding another broom stick to the bottom of the quilt might help weigh down the bottom edge of the quilt and keep it square if you intend to be outdoors for your photography shoot. Note that the quilt can still flap with the rod on the bottom and that winds should be light at best for any kind of photoshoot using these tools because your quilt holder will be effectively holding on to a sail! Safety first!

Quilt Photography Tool

Quilt Photography Tool

I hope this tool is as helpful for you as it has been for me and encourages you to consider trying new photography options with your quilts.

I am excited for the upcoming Tips and Tutorials Festival (starting on June 11th) that I am co-hosting with Cheryl from Meadow Mist Designs.

48 thoughts on “Quilt Photography Tool Tutorial

  1. Mary says:

    Great idea! Thanks for sharing.

  2. kaholly says:

    You’re a genius!

  3. Cindy Pieters says:

    What a terrific idea!! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I’ve often thought about doing something like this but never took the time to figure it out. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Patty says:

    Great idea! I will need to take a try at this!

  6. This is a great solution, Yvonne. I assume you can have various sizes of broomsticks/dowels with the length marked on them. Really clever idea!

  7. That’s such a neat idea! Thanks for doing the hard work and sharing the measurements with us. Will share it with my newsletter!

  8. Sally says:

    Very, very cool! Thank you for all you do!

  9. Jayne says:

    You and your husband come up with the best ideas! Could you invent a robot for me that will be my holder…I never seem to have anyone around when I need them! What I love about your idea is that it’s pretty portable and doesn’t require a ton of set up. Except for the sleeves. However, you could pin the sleeves across the top and reuse them for all quilts. Some people have used frames for their photos, which can sometimes blow away. Your method would eliminate that problem! Great job!

  10. Liz W. says:

    Wow, that’s genius!

  11. Angela B says:

    You and your husband are real macgyvers! I love your creativity and ingenuity in solving problems.

  12. Sarah Goer says:

    What a creative solution! And the weight at the bottom is a great idea too.

  13. sheri says:

    Thanks Yvonne for sharing! I think Jason may need to make me one of these!

  14. What a great idea! It is so fun to see the creative things you come up with to solve a problem – engineer minds are so awesome!

  15. Merel van Looi says:

    I Love you! Except for the use of pvc, but you are forgiven. I’ll try something alike definately. Also had a little laugh at your massive 6’2″ lengthy husband, where that is a just above average length here for a guy. My beau is 6’6″ I like em long

  16. Joan says:

    Oh my gosh…that is genius! Thanks for sharing this with us!

  17. Julie Vogel says:

    Very clever! We might use this idea to hang some banners at church as well!

  18. springleafstudios says:

    I’ve been using something similar for a few years to photograph my quilts and have been meaning to blog about it. You beat me to the punch! I think it’s a great idea. The main difference is I don’t use clamps. I have a T connection on one end of a section of PVC pipe and simply slide the hanging rod which is smaller in diameter through the T. I also have a couple of hanging sleeve sections that I can pin in place with safety pins for those quilts that I otherwise wouldn’t put a sleeve on. I do love the idea of adding extra weight to the bottom as wind can definitely be an issue at times. Glad you posted about this.

  19. Wow! Such a cool tool! Does this mean you sew sleeves on all of your quilts? Or do you pin the sleeve sometimes?

  20. Lindsay says:

    This is brilliant! Thanks for sharing the very detailed instructions.

  21. Great creation!!! Thanks for sharing.

  22. Tish says:

    This is actually kind of life changing if you are someone who photographs quilts 🙂 So glad you shared this! Instead of sewing sleeves to the back, do you think it would be possible to just pin them?

  23. Sylvia says:

    The rod at the bottom is particularly clever!

  24. Noreen says:

    Brilliant! Thanks for sharing the process of making one.

  25. Anne Boundy says:

    Necessity really is the mother of invention! This looks great. I would love to make something that would be similar, but not require a hanging sleeve (I never put these on my quilts)… must put my thinking cap on one day!

  26. Lisa says:

    This is awesome Yvonne.

  27. Brenda Ackerman says:

    Hello Yvonne; This is such a brilliant idea that the two of you came up with! I know that I am going to share it with my Husband and hopefully before long we will have made one for me. So often, when I am ready to take a picture he is busy with something else and I can be impatient. So, I end up taking bad pictures. Hopefully, with this great device, I can take much better pictures and try taking them in a variety of places instead of just laying over the bed. LOL. Thank you so much for sharing! Have a fabulous day!

  28. What a great idea, Yvonne!

  29. aquilterstable says:

    SO clever! Hubby’s been wanting to figure out something like this so I think I’ll share your post with him. 😉

  30. I also think it’s a brilliant idea, and like your other commenters, I’d probably prefer to pin rather than handsew the sleeves on. Take care, Mary.

  31. That’s absolutely ingenious! Thank you so much for sharing! I’m off to make it!

  32. Lorna Jones says:

    Great idea!

  33. Ben says:

    Great ideas! I wonder if there is an adjustable rod that could be used in place of the broom handle?

  34. Tu-Na Quilts says:

    Very clever! But I have a question: Do you have any brooms left in your house?

  35. lacefaerie says:

    Ingenious! Thank you for sharing!

  36. Ingenious! You give the most amazing tips.

  37. quilterpt says:

    This makes so much sense when you show it, but it’s something I’m not sure I would have ever thought of on my own. Thanks for sharing!!

  38. This is a simple yet effective invention. Kudos. Thanks for sharing.

  39. Julie C. says:

    This is a great idea, Yvonne! I recently bought an adjustable quilt rack (frame) to hold larger quilts while I photograph them, but it requires some adjustments in Photoshop to remove the rack from the picture. I’m going to try your invention!

  40. Barbara Butchart says:

    So it does take a rocket scientist to figure this stuff out … thank you, Yvonne

  41. Sue S. says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this great idea!

  42. Kaja says:

    I have been known to say that if I were ever to marry again height would be one of the first things I would be looking for but this seems a much easier solution than replacing a husband. Thanks for using your clever engineer brain to work this sort of stuff out for the rest of us!

  43. Great tool and tutorial! I really like the addition of the rod on the bottom of the quilt to make sure that the bottom is nice and flat and straight.

  44. sue7oaks says:

    What a brilliant idea Yvonne! I’ve tried taking photos with a self timer before but struggle to work out if I’m getting all the quilt in the shot. Any hints on how you do that or is it just trial and error?

  45. Thank you, thank you, Yvonne! I love making quilts and writing blog posts. I do not love photographing my work. This tutorial may be the game changer I need.

  46. helen says:

    brilliant idea Yvonne, and the simplest ideas are always the best. When I say simple, I mean simpler than trying to trade in my husband for a younger model with longer arms and stronger biceps!

  47. Jasmine @ Quilt Kisses says:

    Wow! You are so clever. No wonder why your photos are so spectacular.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)