I’m sharing my new DIY picture rail quilt hanger which is a versatile and beautiful solution with many benefits. Find out how to install it, and where to find the components.
I’ve been quilting for about a decade now, and I’ve taken photographs of every quilt I’ve completed. However, most of those photos are not great. This is due to a whole variety of factors such as space constraints, poor light, poor camera equipment, limited knowledge of taking good photos, not having a willing helper, and winter weather for far too much of the year.
Many of my old photos are incredibly dark, and were taken in the evening or whenever I finished the quilt. And for the most part, that’s fine. The photos serve as a memory of the quilt (though I still have almost all of them) and that’s enough.
When I started trying to take daylight photos outside, I did get some better results. Of course, this works best when you have a fairly clean surface to lay it on like plush grass. There’s so much of the year that the ground is covered in snow, damp from rain, or muddy. But laying it on the ground means you’re always taking a photo of the quilt from an angle (or end up with a dog thinking it’s for him).
Again, taking quilt photos from an angle is fine for most purposes. I’ve seen many cute photos of quilts where someone is holding it in front of them, or it’s draped over a fence. I don’t often have someone available who’s willing to go on an excursion during daylight hours to find a suitable backdrop and either hold the quilt, or take the photos. Plus, it’s still difficult with quilts on the larger side.
Therefore I always muddle through with the best photos I can take independently – outside if at all possible, or inside if I must.
Quilt Hanging Rail Needed
Now that I’m designing quilt patterns and needing to photograph finished quilts for pattern covers, blog posts, etc., I need to be able to photograph quilts from straight on. Since I’m not going to dangle from the ceiling, that means hanging the quilts on a wall.
This is also preferable because I can get more of a blank canvas than our wood floors behind the quilt. And luckily, my craft room has white walls and gets natural light.
Recently I shared about my multi-purpose craft room/office and all the different needs it fulfills such as a sewing space, art studio, photography studio, full time office, and much more. While I have some furniture and items that can move around, there isn’t a lot of empty space or any full blank walls.
I’ve got a peg rail/shelf planned for my office desk/art wall so a quilt rail won’t work for that wall. That leaves the wall with my sewing table and bookshelf. On the few occasions that I need to photograph a quilt, I can simply move that furniture out the way without too much effort and have the whole wall to work with.
Considerations for My Quilt Hanging Rail
I did a lot of research about potential options and gave a lot of thought to how I wanted to hang quilts. Here are some of my requirements and considerations:
I knew I needed to be able to take photos of quilts a handful of times each year if I continue as a quilt pattern designer. But I have no intention of hanging a quilt across the whole wall for long periods for display. Therefore, the quilt rail will only see occasional use.
Minimal and Cohesive
Because I only need to use the quilt rail occasionally, I really wanted something that looks minimal and is cohesive with my decor when it’s not in use. I’d love for the rail to blend in and look architectural and purposeful, rather than utilitarian or like an eyesore. There are plenty of pretty handmade and vintage items I’d rather draw attention to than the quilt hanging rail when it’s not in use.
Therefore, I ruled out something like a curtain rod that would look out of place when nothing is hanging from it. As well, there are plastic and metal picture hanging systems with wires and hooks, but I also dismissed those as too utilitarian and something that would look bulky and stand out too much.
Maximizes the Use of the Space
I wanted to make full use of the height of the walls as much as possible, especially considering our ceilings are only 8ft. This meant I wanted my rail as close to the ceiling as possible.
Many compression quilt hangers, or quilts hung on a dowel through a sleeve on the back not very versatile. They will only hold quilts that are a certain size, or you need to have properly prepared in advance to hang the quilt by attaching a sleeve for a dowel.
I wanted to be able to hang any size of quilt, or even multiple quilts at a time. As well, I wanted to have the ability to be spontaneous and hang any quilt I pick up, whether that’s one I finished long ago, or a quilt top that’s not even finished yet.
Therefore, I ruled out compression hangers, or anything with dowels or requiring prep work on the quilt backs.
Ability to Use it Without Help
Finally, I’m often working away while my husband is working at his job, and I don’t always have the option to interrupt him for help when I want to take advantage of good light. Therefore, I wanted the quilt hanging rail to be something that I could use safely on my own. I need to be able to swap out quilts without any help when the light is good.
Using Picture Rail Moulding to Hang Quilts
After much research, I decided that I wanted to use picture rail moulding and hooks. By using moulding and hanging it very close to the ceiling, it would look very much like crown moulding. Painting it the same white as the wall colour, rather than the glossier trim paint, would help it blend into the wall as much as possible.
What is Picture Rail Moulding?
Picture rail moulding is a thin moulding with a rounded profile at the top. It was traditionally installed in formal rooms, a number of inches below and running parallel with the crown moulding. Hooks can be used to wrap around the top edge of the trim and hang art from wires. This provides great flexibility to move art around and swap it out without creating a lot of holes in the wall.
Where to Buy Picture Rail Moulding and Hooks
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I set out to find picture rail moulding and the hooks I needed, but I found them very challenging to find, particularly in Canada.
To hang a quilt from a picture rail, you need three components, the picture rail moulding, picture rail hooks, and curtain rod clips to clip onto the quilt. Let’s look at where to find each component.
Picture Rail Moulding
As it turns out, picture rail moulding is a bit specialized and hard to find at typical building stores. After striking out at Home Depot and Lowes I did a lot of online searching.
I found a company called STAS that makes a variety of picture rail hanging systems. They sell a wood picture rail that comes in 47″ lengths. Because I needed 9 ft, I would have needed 3 lengths. You can order directly from their website, but shipping to Canada really increased the price.
You can also order STAS products on Amazon in Canada, including the wood picture rail. (I could not find it available in the US on Amazon) There are still shipping charges, but they are slightly less.
However, I kept searching. I contacted a few companies around my city to try to track down picture rail locally. I found one place outside of town that mills their own moulding. They had the correct profile with the rounded top listed as plate rail, and they had some made up.
I also found a person who installs moulding who happened to have two 8 ft lengths of picture rail, which is what I ended up purchasing. It was exactly what I was looking for, and happily, it was made of real wood and not MDF.
Suggestions to Find Picture Rail Moulding
Remember: Make sure you are buying something with a rounded top profile to hold a hook!
- Do check your local building stores because you never know!
- Look for places that mill their own moulding
- Call more specialized stores selling mouldings, trim, doors and windows
- Contact companies that install trim and mouldings to see if they have any extra
- Check out the STAS website
- The House of Antique Hardware in the US has some really lovely options including some different styles – but they don’t ship to Canada unfortunately.
- STAS picture rail on Amazon in Canada
Picture Hail Hooks
There are a wide variety of hooks available in different colours and metals to suit your decor. While I love vintage brass and black hardware for many things, I wanted all my hooks to be white to again blend seamlessly with the wall and make the quilt the star.
After much searching, I could not find picture rail hooks sold anywhere in Canada except Amazon, and even those came from outside of the country. I ended up ordering a set of 10 Taskar hooks from Amazon as they were the cheapest we could find that seemed like the right thing and the best shape. They did not have size information, but luckily they fit perfectly!
Tip: Make sure you pay attention to any size information given and measure the diameter of the rounded profile of your moulding. If the hooks don’t fit around that rounded edge, they won’t work. If you buy STAS moulding, STAS hooks are a safe bet.
Suggestions to Find Picture Rail Hooks
Sometimes picture rail hooks are also called moulding hooks or picture moulding hooks.
- STAS hooks on the STAS website
- STAS hooks from Amazon.ca
- The white Taskar hooks that I bought from Amazon, also available in other colours
- Other picture rail hooks from Amazon
- The House of Antique Hardware has some truly beautiful, vintage-style hooks if you’re in the US. If I was hanging art from a picture rail in a formal room, I’d absolutely choose those!
Curtain Rod Clips
The last component that you need are clips to hold the quilt. I found that using curtain rod clips is the least expensive and easiest way to achieve this result and not damage the quilts. The curtain rod rings easily slip over the picture rail hooks.
Suggestions to Find Curtain Rod Clips
- I chose these inexpensive SYRLIG curtain rod clips from IKEA. There are two different ring sizes – I chose the smaller 1 inch rings, in white. They’re very reasonable at $4 for 10 in Canada, $4.99 in the US.
- Amazon has a wide variety of inexpensive curtain rod clips in a range of colours.
- You can likely also find them at Target or Walmart.
Materials Needed to Install a DIY Picture Rail Quilt Hanger
Beyond the picture rail moulding, picture rail hooks, and curtain rod clips, there are some other tools and materials you will need to install your picture rail quilt hanger.
- Tape measure
- Ruler/square to draw straight lines
- Mitre saw – power or manual
- Sandpaper/sanding block/sander
- Laser level is also helpful
- Stud finder
- Electric nailer and nails, or a hammer and finishing nails
- Nail set and a hammer to countersink nails
- Wood filler
- Paintable caulking
- Wet wipes
- Optional: Painter’s tape
How to Install a DIY Picture Rail Quilt Hanger
A few of the steps to install the picture rail moulding are best done with two people and two sets of hands. As well, these instructions are suited to installing the moulding on only one wall for hanging quilts, but it could be adapted to run around a room to hang art.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get as many photos of the installation as I had hoped.
Step 1 – Measure and cut pieces of moulding
They say a picture is worth a 1000 words, so hopefully a diagram is just as good! Following the diagram, I explain again with more detail.
First, with another person and a tape measure, measure the length of the wall where you want to hang the moulding – at the height you intend to hang the moulding. None of our walls were straight and it narrows slightly into the corners at the ceiling. Make a note of the measurement.
If your wall is shorter than the length of moulding – great! You can simply make a straight cut to length.
If your wall is longer than one length of moulding, you will need to create a join with 45 degree angles between picture rail lengths with a mitre saw. We have a power mitre saw, but you could use a manual one as well.
For all your cuts, air on the side of a tiny fraction bigger as you can always cut a sliver off or sand it to fit. But you can’t make it bigger unless you have enough extra to cut another piece.
Start with one full moulding length. Set the mitre saw and cut a 45 degree mitre on the left end. Measure the length of the back of that piece of moulding and subtract it from the total needed. For example, we needed 107.75 inches. The first moulding length was 96 inches. 107.75-96 inches = 11.75 inches still needed.
Then measure from the left most edge of the next piece of moulding, along the back, the remaining measurement and mark a line. Without moving the saw blade, line it up so the blade is lined up with the pencil line at the back. Cut a 45 degree angle away beyond the line, creating the mitred edge that will overlap the first piece.
Do a test fit at the correct height on the wall. Will you be able to get a good join at the mitred edges? Is the smaller length too long? Make any adjustments by cutting off any small slivers or sanding the edges until you have a better fit. Any small gaps between the moulding and the side walls can be filled with caulking later.
When you’re done, you should have two pieces with mitred edges. (Note, my pieces were already primed and painted when I took these photos).
They should join up quite nicely when you place the edges together.
Step 2 – Prime and Paint the Moulding
Now, you have the option of waiting to paint the picture rail after it’s installed on the wall. And you’ll need to do touch-ups anyway. But I thought it would be easier to get the base coats done with it on the floor.
I applied one coat of Bulls Eye 1-2-3 primer, and then 2 coats of Behr Premium Plus Falling Snow (PPU18-7), which is what we used to paint the walls in my sewing room. I used a paintbrush to get it into the grooves of the moulding.
Let it fully dry between coats and before installation.
Step 3 – Plan The Placement
To plan the placement of the picture rail moulding, we held it up near the ceiling to see how close we could get it and still leave clearance for the hooks. We tested this with hooks until we were satisfied, and then marked under the bottom edge of the moulding with pencil in a couple of places.
After setting the moulding down, we used a laser level to line up with those pencil lines and shine a level line the whole length of the wall. We made more pencils marks along the laser line every foot or so.
Next, we used a magnetic stud finder to find the studs along that wall section. They were every 16 inches or so and there were only about 5 of them. We marked little vertical pencil lines at each stud, just below the horizontal level lines so that they wouldn’t be covered up once the moulding was placed again.
Step 4 – Nail the Picture Rail Moulding in Place
If you do not have an electric nail gun, you can use a hammer and finishing nails to install the picture rail moulding. You will definitely need extra hands to support the moulding.
We have an electric nail gun and compressor and used brad nails to install the trim. This is a noisy, but efficient wait to install the trim.
Starting with the longest piece of trim, hold it up, flush against the wall, and even with the level horizontal pencil lines underneath the bottom edge. You’ll need someone else to hold the moulding while you nail it, or vice versa.
Start by nailing into the trim at the first stud, two nails, one above the other in the flattest section of the picture rail moulding.
Nail the trim as close to the corner of the wall as you can get the nail gun, again using two nails, one above the other. Continue on, nailing into each stud and in between studs, with two nails vertically each time. After you’ve done a foot or two, use a level along the bottom edge to make sure the rest of the piece is level.
Pay attention to where the trim is bowing away from the wall with a gap. Suck it back flush with the wall with nails in those places. Continue nailing along the first length until you’ve nailed a couple inches away from the mitred edge.
Next, test fit the second piece again. Make any final size adjustments by sanding or trimming if needed. Then install it in the same manner, nailing into studs, at the corner, and in between. Align the join of the mitred edges as best as you can, and make sure the bottom edge is level. Don’t nail through the mitred edges as they may split.
Our small piece didn’t have any studs to nail into, but that’s ok. Because it’s tucked into the corner, the full weight of a quilt is unlikely to be hanging from it.
Step 5 – Do Touch-ups
First, countersink any nail heads by using a nail set tool and a hammer to tap each nail head below the surface of the moulding.
Next, fill any nail holes with wood filler. You can also smear on a little wood filler at the join of the mitred joint. Let that dry, and then sand all spots smooth with sandpaper.
Use paintable caulking and smear a little caulking in the gaps between the moulding and the side walls, as well as where the bottom edge of the picture rail meets the wall. Use a wet wipe over your finger to wipe away any excess. Let that fully dry.
Finally, touch up any paint with the same paint you used for the trim. Erase any pencil lines that are visible with a white eraser, or paint over them.
How to Hang a Quilt on a DIY Picture Rail Hanger
To hang a quilt on the DIY picture rail quilt hanger, it’s very simple. Unless you’re exceptionally tall, you’ll need a ladder or a stepladder. Start by hooking the picture rail hooks over the picture rail moulding, spaced apart.
Then clip your curtain rod hooks onto the edge of your quilt, also spaced apart.
Once you have curtain rod clips every 6-12″ or so, climb back up the ladder and loop each curtain rod ring over each picture rail hook, sliding the picture rail hooks as necessary to match the spacing of the curtain rod clips on the quilt.
You may need to do part of the width of a quilt, and then reposition the ladder to reach the rest. Simply support the weight of the unattached width of the quilt while you do that. Another person does come in helpful, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
Then step back, remove the ladder and admire your beautiful quilt!
Why I Love My DIY Picture Rail Quilt Hanger
I could not be happier with my new quilt hanging rail. I love how it looks like crown moulding because it’s installed close to the ceiling. And because it blends in with the wall colour, it’s not odd that it doesn’t continue around the room. Nor does it stand out when it’s not in use.
The white walls, white trim, and white hooks fade away to a blank canvas when a bright coloured quilt is hanging, which I love.
I also really love the versatility of the picture rail for hanging quilts. I can simply move the desk to hang one quilt, or move the bookshelf too to hang a larger quilt. As well, I can fit multiple quilts side by side, or even partially overlap them. Finally, I can adjust where the quilt hangs across the wall to get it into the best light as there are shadows in the corner by the window.
I feel that I have maximized the space because I’m only losing about 5 inches from the height. Therefore I could probably hang a quilt that was close to 90 inches tall. (The one on the wall above is 72 inches).
And finally, while it’s helpful to have an extra set of hands when hanging the quilts, I can also easily hang them myself when help is not available.
Now that I have my DIY picture rail quilt hanger all ready to go, I can start taking some straight-on shots of my quilts for my upcoming quilt pattern. And I’m excited for the possibilities it will provide for taking pictures when the weather’s not suitable for outdoor shots.
I want to hear from you. Do you hang quilts for display or for photographing? What method/style of hanger do you prefer? Would you find a picture rail quilt hanger useful? Let me know in the comments below.
All the best,