Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hang it up

Discussion this week on the SAQA list about what kind of hanging devices people use for quilts.  Having tried every method known to mankind, I felt qualified to chime in, but it occurs to me that such discussions are always better when illustrated.  So here's my exhaustive list of hanging rods.

When I started out, I used dowels because that was all I could think of.  And as a newbie, I couldn't think of anything to do with them other than to have them longer than the quilt, and have them rest on two nails in the wall.  This presentation is a bit amateurish, and the visible rod is a bit 1970s, but it allows me to switch quilts around easily, and I still have several of these rods in my house.

I also have a permanent installation with a curtain rod that allows me to display different quilts in my prime viewing spot, over the stairwell.  After several years of use it's starting to get a little saggy in the middle; it may be time to buy a replacement.

The first step up in sophistication is to cut the rod to size, just a bit shorter than the quilt so it will be invisible.  Now you need a new rod for every quilt, unless you happen to have a couple that are the same width.  Unfortunately, finding one of the right length is like hide-and-seek, even if they're labeled.

The problem with dowels is that wider quilts are so heavy that they will make the rod sag.  And the dowels only come 48 inches long.  So I use slats for wider quilts.  Arguably slats, being thinner than dowels, allow the quilt to lie flatter against the wall, although I still use dowels a lot.  In either case, I  put in eyehooks, which can be hung onto nails or threaded with fishing line to hang from the ceiling.  This is the standard presentation for sending quilts to a gallery or museum; they can choose the hanging method they like.

But slats, too, can bend under the weight of a large quilt.  Unlike dowels, which simply sag downward, slats will bow out from the wall, which looks really terrible.  For very large quilts I've been known to tape two slats together for strength, or buy fatter and wider slats.

The problem with all these wooden rods is their length.  If you have to ship a wide quilt to a show, you need a really long box to hold the hanging device as well as the quilt, thus increasing your hassle and shipping cost.  So the last time I had to ship a wide but short quilt, I went shopping for an expandable rod.  Found it in the drapery department -- it's metal, sturdy, flat, and has nice holes at the ends for hanging.  I was sorry I had to pay for the heavy mounting brackets, which went immediately into the recycling bin, but even so it only cost about $13.

I was able to roll the quilt the short way, collapse the rod, and fit everything into a smaller box.  And best of all, I'll be able to use the rod again for almost any of my wider quilts.  Will I dispose of my huge stockpile of dowels and slats?  Of course not; even if the metal rod becomes my default device, there will be times when more than one quilt has to be out in public at the same time.  At $13 apiece, I don't know how many of these lovely little things I'll want to keep on hand.

But one last thing:  for tiny quilts, those less than eight or nine inches square, I make plastic slats from old mini-blinds.  I cut the blind slat to the right length with scissors, round the edges, then punch hanging holes in each end.  Each little quilt gets its own slat for all time.  Best of all, the slats are free -- I rescued two sets of blinds from the neighbors' trash pickup several years ago and I think I have a lifetime supply.


  1. I mostly make small pieces, for almost everything I use tubes - fibreglass (kite shop..) for the small pieces, powder-coated steel (IKEA curtain poles)for the heavy ones. These can be cut to size exactly and fit in the sleeves without too much bulk.
    I run a polyester cord through the tube (matching colour) and use this to hang the quilt for display in the shop, and when I do talks - these cannot be lost in transit.
    If a customer wants a system that will fix invisibly, I make a slat with screw-holes that fits the quilt and is concealed.. I have found that these do not sag if they are pretty tight on the wall


  2. I always read your blog. I find it interesting and informative. Thanks for being such a common and reasonable voice on the net. Great ideas for hanging.

  3. Thanks Kathy,
    I have heard people go on about several of these methods, but having you show them has Really helped.
    At the present, I am still at the first stage - dowel with eye hook. but until you showed it, I didn't realise this was what was being described on lists as acceptable for galleries. Takes a weight off my mind as my pieces are not too heavy at this point. I may go bigger in the future.
    I think our dowels at the DIY shop are about 6ft long. I can just get them into the car.
    Thanks again,
    Sandy in the UK

  4. Never heard of the collapsible flat drapery rod or the mini-blind--great--thanks so much!

  5. Well, common sense is not too common. Now who has old blinds that they would donate? Maybe a thrift store.

  6. Hi, Kathleen. This is a good informative post. Also appreciated the previous post about snobbery. Ahh the foibles of human nature!
    best, nadia