Tips for Preparing Your Quilt for Longarm Quilting

First off – my apologies!  I really thought I could keep up with a once a month blog – so it may be a little less often.

This week I was asked to participate in a panel of longarmers for a local guild meeting.  We had a great time swapping stories & tips with the guild members.  It also provided a topic for the blog!

Preparing Your Quilt Top
✸    Press all seams – either to one side or apart, but well-pressed.  If you wanting stitch in the ditch in your quilt, be sure all the seams are pressed the same direction.  Pressing is best done while you quilt – although with the new fangle irons that turn off after a few minutes, it can be a real pain to wait for the iron to reheat all the time.  Pressing just makes things look good.
✸    Trim all threads – stray threads will show through light fabric.  Nothing more frustrating for me when I see a dark thread between the batting & the quilt top – especially after I’ve quilted it.  I try to catch them but some still manage to slip through.  Thank heavens for really tiny crochet hooks!
✸    Stay stitch a scant 1/4″ around outside edges to keep seams from popping and to stabilize bias edges.  A few clients serge the edges – some longarmers say no – I say it’s your quilt top.  I will add that serging might stretch the edges of your quilt but so can sewing a straight stitch if you pull the fabric instead of guiding it.
✸    Square your quilt top.  It there is a problem with the top, there may be a problem with how the quilting design lays on the quilt.   For allovers – this isn’t a big issue unless the design is real square – then it might look odd at the top & bottom borders.
✸    Uneven piecing, puckers & wavy border will NOT quilt out.  You will have tucks & extra poof in spots – I do what I can to ease it all together, but I can only do so much.
✸    If you are planning curved corners, wait until longarm quilting completed to cut – I cannot quilt with backings cut with curves, so just wait.
✸    Press your quilt top,  fold neatly and then hang on the hanger in your quilt bag I return your previous quilt in!  One – you save $2 when you re-use the quilt bag and two – it keeps everything together, nice & neat.
✸    If there is a top edge, mark with a safety pin or note.

Backing
✸    Backing fabric should be same color value as quilt top.  As a rule, the top thread & bobbin thread will be the same color. Light thread on dark fabric will have too much contrast and dark bobbin thread can sometimes peek through to light colored quilt tops.
✸    For best results use 100% cotton for backing – but there are lots of options.  I’m pretty game for most anything, as long as it is not too stretchy.
✸    Please do not use sheets – skipped stitches and other irregularities will occur.  This is due to the higher thread count in sheeting.  The needle does not slip through the weave but rips it.
✸    If your quilt top fabric has been pre-washed, pre-wash the backing fabric also.
✸    Remove selvages from backing fabric before seaming.  The selvages are a tighter weave and so when you piece a backing and don’t remove the selvage – it can cause sagging between the sides & seam – which can result in tucks in your backing.
✸    Backings need to be at least 4″ to 6″ larger on ALL sides of the quilt.   I’ve allowed less  – but prefer not.  The backing is attached to the machine top & bottom with pins – lots of them.  And the sides – industrial sized clamps.  If there isn’t a buffer of space for me – it can result in broken needles or worse a bent needle bar on my machine.
✸    Square backing – not an easy task with large pieces of fabric. I’m really okay with doing it for you – but please allow extra fabric beyond the 4-6 inches. Generally squaring up a piece of fabric can result in a loss of several inches if it was cut lopsided at the fabric store.
✸    Press all seams open.
✸    If your backing is pieced, stay stitch the backing a scant 1/4″ on all sides – again your preference, I don’t require it.
✸    Press and fold neatly – see above.
✸    If there is a top edge, mark with a safety pin.
✸    If the backing is seamed, note if you want the seam vertical or horizontal.  Most longarmers prefer vertical – I’m game either way.  I will generally try to maximize the amount of extra fabric to add back to your stashes.

Batting
✸    Dream or Hobbs battings are recommended by most longarm quilters.  Some battings do not work well on the longarm quilting machines. Battings that pull apart easily, shred, or bunch are difficult to use.  Cheap battings can cause irregularities in thread tension throughout the quilt.  You don’t see it but your batting can make or break how well the quilt looks afterwards – it’s worth the extra money to purchase better battings.
✸    Battings need to be at least 6″ to 8″ larger on ALL sides of the quilt.  It is preferred that the quilt sandwich is balanced in thickness from side to side – so that as I roll it the sides don’t start drooping
✸    Piecing batting – its up to you.  It will cause bulk in spots if you overlap or zigzag.  The best methods are 1) purchase quilt batting tape.  I use Heat Press – I love it! 2) Over lap the pieces you are joining, cut down the center, throw away the waste, the edges should match, and then hand whip stitch.  Time-consuming.

Thread

✸ Lots of choices!!!  Do you want 100% cotton in your quilts?  Do you want to the quilting to show or blend? I’m always glad to give advise or suggestions on what would look best on your quilt.

Designs

✸Lots of choices!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Plug for myself – I do designs.  They are sold to other longarmers through quiltrecipes.com.  Of course I’m free to use them for my customers whenever I feel prompted to do so.  There are lots of designers out there – many have lots & lots of designs, but not necessarily good designs.   What I look for in a design is one that repeats well in a single row as well as multiple rows; that the stitching is balanced – no big empty space with lots of quilting in other spaces and one that gives the impression of having no beginning or ending.  I love when customers give me carte blanche and I can make your quilt projects come alive with the design or enhance & support your beautiful piecing.
Miscellaneous
✸    Please do NOT pin or baste quilt layers together.   Please leave them separated as they go on the machine, one at a time.

Well I think I covered most everything!  But you’re always welcome to ask questions or better yet add some of your own tips!

Happy Quilting!!!

Helen

Grandbaby #5 – Penelope arrived the end of May!

Penelope’s quilt! I had fun designing, appliqueing & quilting!

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