Smooth Quilting

I have since the beginning liked my quilt frame. It is the Gracie king model from the Grace company. I made my purchase based on price without much experience with a machine quilting frame. Finding a dealer anywhere local here in rural central Virginia to actually do a hands on comparison of a quilting machine much less a frame is like looking for that needle in a hay stack. For now I have this frame and it is the one I have to use and sometimes I get so frustrated I am even liable to tell you that I am ‘stuck with it’ until I can save up, sell this one, and get something else.

Well, that may have just changed. I am finding that suddenly the Gracie frame is not as evil as it had become in the past. The main problem with it beyond the constant need to tighten screws and work with the temperature and humidity to keep it level is those awful black plastic tracks that come with the frame. It is clear from the moment you begin putting the frame together that something is going to go downhill sooner or later and you can pretty much count on it being sooner. The plastic tracks are the rails that the steel carriage wheels roll on when you move the long arm during the quilting process. Plastic rails under the pressure of the weight of a machine moving back and forth over it tells you almost instantly that the steel carriage wheels are going to chew into that plastic and wear it down quicker than you expect.

On my frame I have a Tin Lizzie 18×8 manual model long arm machine. The weight of the machine is about 50 pounds. It is the highest weight recommended for the Grace wooden frame. Somewhere in process of quilting a 10th or 11th king size quilt I began feeling the slightest little bumps and dips which throws the quilting off into wibbles and not so smooth sewing lines. Running your fingers over the plastic the places where the steel wheels have chewed into the plastic is readily noticeable. Cleaning the plastic rails with renaissance wax the soft cloth always ended up covered with black dust which is a clear indication of the carriage wearing away the rails bit by bit.

The only way to fix it is to go online at the Grace website and order a new set of plastic tracks. The tracks for the king length cost $28.00. Then you get a bit of a shock because the company charges nearly $25 for the ‘shipping and handling’. When the flat box comes in the mail feeling lighter than air you begin to question the validity of the shipping charges. When you go through this same scenario three times in one year you start to get angry. Not only do the plastic tracks wear down but you are rolling along just fine and suddenly they split right down the length and you can’t quilt another thing until you replace the tracks. Fortunately you always keep an extra set on hand for such an event but after a couple years it becomes more than just frustrating it makes you hate your quilt frame and the company that makes it.

Let me tell you something else. Getting someone from the Grace Company to actually reply to an email or to contact them by phone is like sitting in the middle of the ocean with a cane pole waiting to catch fish. Chances are, it ain’t happening. They have an 800 number but I have NEVER spoken to a real person on the other end of the line. This, as much as the plastic tracks has made me not want to ever use another Grace product. There has to be a better way of dealing with a company and of keeping the long arm moving with having to constantly spend money. Quilting is an expensive hobby. Buying a long arm is expensive. The constant upkeep and repairs of broken plastic pieces and parts is like watching your money run through a sieve. The frustration really builds and the joy of quilting becomes tedious and no longer a joy.

Unless you figure out another way.

The resolution to the problem was so inexpensive and simple it almost seems like it was too good to be true. I had been reading on a couple quilting groups where a few women had said their husband had replaced the tracks on their frames with steel rods. A million questions later from people who did not give up details or their secrets too easily I finally had what I hoped would be the solution to my problems.

I called the local machine and welding shop. I asked if they had cold one-quarter inch stainless steel rods 132 inches long. The nice gentle man said it was a standard item in a welding shop, it comes cold rolled (meaning very smooth) or hot rolled (meaning unsmooth) and quoted me a price of forty cents per foot. To replace both tracks with steel rods would cost $8.80. You read that correctly. Eight dollars and eight cents plus tax. To also replace the two short lengths of plastic on the carriage itself was $1.77. I spent the total of $11.19 to replace the plastic tracks that were costing me $52.70 every few months because they cracked too easily.

This baby rides on these rails smoothly and evenly. The machine glides like a dream!

If you are having the same problems I did try replacing those black plastic tracks with the proper length of cold rolled stainless steel 1/4 inch rods easily found in the shop of your local machine and welding company. Double measure or even take one of the black tracks with you. You want the rods to be long enough that you have to bend them just a bit to slip them into the grooves on either end of the frame and lay flat in the lip of the raised aluminum frame track beds to be held securely in place. Same for the rods on the carriage. They need to be long enough that they sit securely under each end cap on the machine carriage.

It took me 15 minutes to move the machine, remove the tracks, slip in the rods, put the machine back in place. I cleaned and polished everything with renaissance wax and this baby corners like she is a high speed train on rails.

I am now, once again, in love with my quilting frame.

Find me on Facebook at HomeGrown

14 Responses to “Smooth Quilting”

  • Ozarkhen says:

    Angie you never cease to amaze me. I’ve never known you to not solve a problem. Between you & your husband- you make your family proud! God Bless

  • Susan says:

    thank you so much!!!!! I thought I made a terrible mistake in buying my frame – I sure hope these rails give me what I need!!!!!

  • Carolyn Southam says:

    Hi Angie – appreciate you sharing your experiences. I am setting up a Grace Inspira frame (2008 model), and have already replaced broken tracks. Would like to be able to switch to the stainless steel rods, but the carriage wheels are straight sided. May need to see if the wheels or the carriage can be swapped, eventually.

  • Joy says:

    This article interested me because I have just switched out the tracks in my carriage and have ordered the long steel rods for my Grace Queen frame. I could relate with everything you said about the shortcomings of this frame! Have the steel rods also solved your issues with keeping the frame level? I can’t believe how much level changes from one day to the next. I adjust it to get it perfect and by the next day my machine is wandering again.

  • Charlotte weathers says:

    I am trying to find the steel rods. I too ordered the rails from the Grace company. I emailed them to question the cost of shipping. Their reply was it cost more to mail the track when it is coiled. It weighs more in that condition. ???? I paid the cost once but now I am trying to find a different solution. Thanks for the info.

  • Joy says:

    I have been looking forward to an answer about whether or not the wooden Grace frame is still having issues with level. I changed out my plastic tracks with steel and it is way better, however, it is still out of level on a daily basis. I know when the machine starts lurching and vibrating and I have to stop and level it again. I really regret this purchase and wish I have purchased a more expensive steel frame. Wondering if I’m the only one with this issue.

  • Joy says:

    P.S. charlotte Weathers …. Google your zip code for welding shops. Call them and see is they have 1/4″ round cold rolled stainless steel rods. Got mine locally VERY cheaply. I took the plastic tracks with me to the shop and they cut the rods to the exact length!

  • Valerie says:

    Great idea. I will have to source some metal rods locally for the used Gracie frame I just purchased,

    What do you do to keep your wheels clean and rolling freely?

  • Tammera Beverage says:

    Just changed mine out and what a difference. Thanks for sharing the fix.

  • I have been having a problem with the tracks on my grace pinnacle frame. this is a metal frame. I spent today looking for place to order the tracks and ran across the metal rod information. I know where the tracks on the frame is,but what plastic track is on the carriage. mine appear to be metal
    now that you all have used awhile are you still happy with the metal rods.

  • Janeen Smith says:

    Wow! Sounds like you are singing my song here! Lost my queen size black rail in our move. Have looked everywhere. So glad I found this info! My hubby will be super happy to replace them with the metal rods.

  • Claude Short says:

    My wife has an 8 foot Bradley Ultra-Quilter table with a Nolting MAQ 14 mounted on it. Your idea of using 1/4 inch rods is genius! However, you don’t show any pictures. How do you mount the rods to the table? Will the 1/4 inch rods work with her carriage? Looking forward to your reply!

  • I have what I believe is a Grace Original wooden quilting frame, when I contacted the Grace Co they said they couldn’t help me with replacement tracks. I have the one inch wide plastic track, how can I put the metal rods on it so it will glide smoothly. The frame is level but it’s bumpy in spots and about to drive me crazy.

  • michael clinch says:

    My wife has a Gracie wooden frame with metal sides, and we would like to use the 1/4 inch stainless steel rods for the tracks but we are unsure on how to fix the rods in the tracks. could you write back and give us directions on installing the rods.

Leave a Reply

Contact Me
bigredcouch [at] gmail [dot] com
Thayer House Farm
Come Visit My Farm Store on Etsy.

Thayer House Farm

Downton Abbey
Swamp People
The Walking Dead
American Idol
My Gadgets
Canon Digital Rebel XTi 10.1MP
Photobucket ebooks for your Blackberry.

You don't need a Kindle or a Sony reader if you have a Blackberry.

Upgrade to a 16GB micro SD card for more storage options.
Steve: Mom broke the Internet.

Gracie: On My Machine too?!?

Steve: No, your copy of the internet is still working on your machine.

Giveaways & Prizes
Disclaimer: All items have been collected by me or made by me for the purpose of any give away. No item is sponsored or donated by a third party.
I Write!
Join me in November for National Novel Writing Month. Add me to your buddy list!

Helping Hands
Thank you for your generous donations to the rescue fund for Jack and Diana. Both of these wonderful Percheron horses were saved from the kill pens of slaughter auctions.

Jack is recovering from a severe leg injury and has many more months to go before his wounds are healed.

Diana could barely walk on her broken hooves. With extensive and expensive farrier work she is now standing tall and without pain.

She has at least a year ahead of her before her broken hooves will grow out to become healthy new feet to stand on. Her treatment will require ongoing farrier work expected to total into the thousands of dollars.

Jack and Diana both need a few hundred pounds on their bodies to be back in good health.

Through your generous donations and support Jack and Diana can expect a full return to their good health and sound footing.


My daughter's senior trip donation fund is now open. Thank you for contributing to her trip to visit England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Donation accepted through paypal.

Burger King
J.C. Penney
Cracker Barrel
Contributor at the Homestead Bloggers Network

Homesteading Webloggers
Powered By Ringsurf

Quilting Bloggers Logo
Become a Fan
HomeGrown on Facebook
I heart Missouri Star Quilt Co
Put some chickens in your backyard.

CookEatShare Featured Author
Everything on this website belongs to me. Please do not take things from me.

If you would like something please ask first. Otherwise you are a theif.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Copyright Angie and 1999 - 2009