If you have worked with longarm quilter's before, you know that they all have a couple of requests of you. But what I wanted to talk about today are those little things that make it harder for your longarmer to do a good job on your quilt. I started thinking that it could be a really good thing for both the maker of the quilt and the longarm quilter if we talked about these few things.
- Your backing should be 4 - 6 inches larger than your top on all four sides. This means if your quilt is 60 x 70, your backing should be 68 x 78 (at least). This is because we need the extra so we can load it on the frame. If the backing isn't large enough, we can't quilt the whole top because we start running into the clamps on the side and the leaders on the top and bottom. This being said, if you give us too much backing, it becomes difficult to avoid puckers because all of that extra fabric is hard to control.
- If your backing is pieced, the best case scenario is a horizontal seam. This allows us to run the seam parallel to the poles on the frame. When you run the seam vertically, it creates tension just at the seam between the poles and we have to work much harder to avoid pleats in the backing. There are many 108-110" wide fabrics specifically for quilt backs. These are great if you are just ready to get the quilt to the quilter and don't want to spend more time piecing a backing.
- If your backing is pieced, try to go for an asymmetrical design. It is near impossible to center a quilt top on a backing when it is loaded on the frame. Once the top and back are loaded on the poles of the frame, the longarmer is essentially blind as the batting lays over the pole with the quilt back.
- Press your seams as you sew your quilt top. There are so many reasons to do this - I could do a whole blog post on this alone! When you don't, you have those little "folds" at the seams and when we try to press the tops before loading, there is no where for that extra fabric to go! If the folds are big enough, the hopper foot of the machine can sometimes get caught in them.
- From the back side of your quilt, check that all seams are intact. Sometimes, as you work with a quilt, if the seam allowance has slipped and wasn't a full 1/4", you can have an actual hole in the seam allowance. We try to check for this before quilting, but if we miss it, the hopper foot will surely find it for us and you don't even want to know what kind of a mess this creates!
- Borders - ah....borders....another topic that really deserves an entire blog post dedicated to it. When you add borders to a quilt - our typical method is to cut a long strip of fabric, sew it onto our quilt and chop off any extra hanging off the end. Noooooo...what this does is allow the edges of your quilt to flare out and if there are multiple borders, it continues to fan out to the point that you can have as much as 3-4 inches of extra fabric on your borders. When we load this onto the longarm frame, that extra fabric creates a nightmare. This can make it almost impossible to avoid pleats and puckers in your quilt.
- If your quilt does not have a border, it is really helpful to “stay stitch” the outer edge of your quilt. All this means is to stitch a straight line all the way around the quilt about 1/8” from the edge. This prevents the seams from popping open while we are loading the quilt.
If you follow these bits of advice, it makes for a much more "seamless" process for both you and your longarm quilter.