I have clamps!

No. NOT cramps. CLAMPS!

My long-arm quilting system consists of the machine and frame. When a quilt is loaded on the frame, the layers are stretched between the take-up roller at the back and the “belly” bar at the front. Those provide even tension at the back and front of the frame. However, to get a smooth quilting surface, I also need to apply tension on the sides.

The system came with two clamps per side, and they have quite a grip! The mouth of each is about 1″ across and coated with orange vinyl, giving a smooth texture that doesn’t snag.

I wondered, though, if I’d have better results with wider-mouthed clamps. A wider mouth would distribute the tension more smoothly.

There a few clamping systems out there. One that seemed simple is similar in nature to what I have, but with a broader grip. The Grip-Lite brand has a 6″ mouth. It’s sold in-house by my long-arm dealer, as well as at retailers. It’s also $27 per pair (and can be found elsewhere for somewhat less.) That’s $54 for 4, which is the number I would need.

It’s no secret: I am frugal. If I can pay less for something, I’m glad to do so. I looked around, looked at other methods and tools. I looked at the hardware store and the office supply store.

Ultimately, I bought chip clips. You read that right. Chip clips. They have a 6″ mouth and cost $4. For 4 of them. Yep, that’s it. A dollar each.

The original clamp on the right. The chip clip (held by the original) on the left.

As far as I can tell, the Grip-Lite’s main advantage over this is there is no more need for the original clamps, as they come with their own Velcro strap. Other than that, they’re the same.

So why pay $50 more? I didn’t. I won’t.

I have clamps, which distribute the layer tension better than I had before. And they cost me $4.

What great, cheap solutions have you found to some of our quilting problems? I’d love to hear your stories.


8 thoughts on “I have clamps!

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      Interesting. I think I’d have to see it in action to get a sense for it, as I’ve never seen the red snappers, either.

      I mentioned in another comment that I really don’t mind pinning, but if there were a simpler way, I wouldn’t be against it!


  1. farmquilter

    I bought some Seal-A-Bag things from seal-a-bag.com instead of Red Snappers – mine were like fifty cents a piece – and found that I’m not good at getting my backings straight that way so I quit the clips and went back to pins. But I found that these 15″ long sealers were absolutely perfect for attaching to the backings on both sides (I then clamp onto them with my single clamp per side). They make the perfect tension from side to side across the quilt. I’ve given pairs to a couple of friends who have larger longarms (both equipped with IQ) and they find them helpful too. Love them and the “cheap” fix they give me!!

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      Awesome! I don’t mind pinning the back at all, though I know it’s a problem for some. I love that you were able to use the seal-clamps for the side tension. We really did think through a lot of different things, including the “binding” edges that high school kids use with plastic covers, when they turn in reports at school. (Does that description even make sense?)

    1. Melanie in IA Post author

      Thanks. You’re the one who spotted them on the rack, if I remember correctly. We puzzled through that for a lot of different potential solutions, but kept coming back to chip clips as the most likely. They work.

  2. shoreacres

    Back in my ebay selling days, I had on offer four clamps that I thought were fancy C-clamps. They were iron, wtih fancy finials. In the course of the auction I learned they were antique quilt frame clamps. They sold to a fellow in New York, and there’s quite a story to that. Thanks for reminding me of it. It’s been near the bottom of my drafts file. I may move it up.


Thanks for your comments. I don't check them often. Please email me if you have questions.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.