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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 😉
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!
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.