Helpful hints and a few steps you can take to keep your cost down and help ensure a finished quilt that you will be pleased with :)
Quilt top: Check to make sure seams are secure. To prevent seams from pulling apart with handling, back stitch final border seams or for a pieced top without borders stay stitch the perimeter 1/4 inch or less from the edge.
If your top and/or backing are directional, use a safety pin to mark the top.
Clip threads. Once quilted, those pesky dark threads will be trapped and may show thru light fabrics after your top is quilted.
A square quilt top lays flat. To check for square, measure across the top, middle and bottom of your quilt top. These measurements should be the same. If not, contact me, we can fix that! I have a great tute for perfect borders.
- Backing: Backing has to measure 4 inches larger than your quilt top on all 4 sides. Example: if your quilt top is 50 x 50 your backing should be about 58 x 58. My longarm frame uses clamps and leaders with Red Snappers to hold your quilt by all 4 edges of the backing and needs that extra fabric to clamp onto. Backing, if left too big, will be cut to size for a minimal fee. Note: If you come up short on backing, you can always add strips of scrap fabric to the edges, beyond the finished size of the quilt top. Once quilted, those edges will be cut away.
Custom quilts with any ruler work require 6 inches added on all 4 sides. In order to use rulers on a longarm machine, a ruler plate is added to the base of the machine. The additional length is needed to avoid the plate catching on the red snappers or side leaders resulting in wonky stitches.
Squared backing will load on a longarm frame flat. With a $10 charge, I would be happy to square your backing on my big worktable.
- Batting: Use the best quality batting that you can afford. Bargain battings are thin and folded out of shape. Wool battings are wonderful and have allot of loft. Cottons are good, expect shrinkage. There are several good cotton/poly blends. For 100% polyester, Quilter's Dream Puff Poly is the best that I have worked with, lots of loft.
- All seams should be pressed flat, top and backing. Use your preferred method. Be sure to remove all selvedges in your top and all backing seams.
- Basting is not needed! Bring your quilt top, batting and backing in separate layers.
- Add embellishments after quilting. As with any sewing machine, even a longarm will not sew thru a bead or a button :0)
- Batik fabrics, especially for a backing should be washed for several reasons. Dyes, if not treated can still discharge and run into other fabrics. In quilting, batiks high thread count combined with the extra dye and wax residues make it a challenge to bring up the bobbin thread into the batting, leaving the bottom thread laying on the surface of the fabric. Home decorating fabrics can have the same effect.
Here is a link to a very good post by Lisa Sipes, an award winning longarmer (a guest post on Melissa's blog Lilac Lane). Great photos along with do's and don'ts on getting a quilt top ready for a longarm quilter.
Borders are the most frequent culprit of an unruly quilt top! Yes, longarmers can be picky, for good reason. If they are not, they may not be the longarmer for you!