It has been some time since I talked about the process of long arm quilting. Today’s discussion is all about how to show some love to your favorite Long Arm Quilter!

Happy Quilter

Sew Your Quilt

So many people would think that this is a given, but it isn’t. Taking care to sew your quilt can make a great deal of difference in the finished product. In today’s world of scant 1/4″ seams, it can be easy to get too lean. This results in open seam areas of the quilt.

Sew properly
Seams were not fully sewn so intersections left holes


Open seams can get caught during the quilting process. this can cause damage not only to your top but to the expensive long arm machine as well. Creating a quality quilt top is a great way to love your long arm quilter.

Sewing mistakes
Vintage top that should have been inspected before being sent for quilting


This advice relates to piecing blocks and connecting them to create your quilt top. You do not have to back stitch at each beginning and end, but it is important to complete all sections.

 

Pressing

Proper pressing is one of the most neglected elements of quilt making. Pressing your quilt (and each block) as well as the finished front and back are important.
Also, you can avoid paying your long arm quilter to do this for you if you take the time yourself.

 

Press to the Dark Side

Yes, this is a thing and in most situations, it is the proper way to press your project as you go. Pressing seams to the side helps to seal all elements of your top for generations to come.

 

Press – do not Iron

So many of us already know this, but it is difficult to keep to the process. When you push the iron around the surface of a quilt top, the motion pushes blocks and other elements out of square.

Whenever possible, I use a T-shirt press to set my blocks as I go. I find that, especially with paper pieced blocks, this works very well.
Proper pressing can also reduce bulk. Follow specific pressing guidelines for blocks like stars to reduce that bulk.

Heat Press
Pressing blocks with a T-Shirt Press keeps things straight

Press the backing too!

Many people think that the minute a quilt goes on a long arm machine, it is perfect. Not true! We avoid stretching your quilt top and backing whenever possible. Because of this, if you have wrinkles, they may become puckers during the process.

 

Have you ever looked at a quilt loaded on a long arm machine? Next time you have the opportunity, look at the backing. Long arm quilters are not contortionists – at least this one isn’t! I do check the backing at each advance, but during quilting, my attention is on the top.

This is a view from beneath the quilt on the long arm. A quilter almost needs a service garage crawler to get a proper view!

Backing Fabric

Choosing Backing Fabric

Most quilters use the same color thread on the front and back of your quilt. Knowing this will help you get the finished product you will love.
If you do not want the quilting to show on the back, choose a busy pattern.

 

Sizing your Backing Fabric

This is a very important element when ensureing you have a happy long arm quilter.

It is imperative that you include an extra 3-5″ on ALL SIDES of our backing fabric. This allows the machine to have something to grip on the left and right side.

long arm quilting
This is the proper amount of extra fabric on the side of a quilt. Notice that I load the quilt as tight to the top as I can so I don’t run out at the end.

The top and bottom of your backing also need that extra 3-5″. I do start every quilt as close to the top as possible. That extra fabric is required for affixing the quilt and backing on top and bottom. For other ways to love your long arm quilter, check the website for more information on how to prepare your quilt.

Long arm don'ts
I purposely set this up to show what happens when you have too little fabric on the sides. Notice how the machine now bumps into the leads?

Pieced Backs

If you need to piece your backing, the best way is to make the seam run horizontal. A vertical seam skews the backing as it goes down the quilt. Rolling the quilt on the bars will amplify that seam. The goal is to keep all elements flat as we quilt your project.

backing fabric mistakes
Be kind to your long arm quilter and make the backing square just as you do the top!

When piecing your backing, don’t get lazy and leave huge amounts of fabric flapping around. This causes bulk and can end up with skipped stitches.

 

INSPECT!

I cannot stress this process enough. You have touched every inch of this quilt, so be sure that it is ready to go. Check for the following:

  • Open Seams
  • Stray Threads
  • Animal Hair
  • Wonky Borders
  • Large seams (extra fabric)
  • Loose embelishments
  • Applique that is not sealed (please sew down your applique)
quilt top threads
Just one section of threads cut from the top of a vintage quilt. Please do this at home.

Talk to Your Long Arm Quilter

At the end of the day, we have pretty much seen it all and can be your best advocate for a beautiful finished quilt. Take the time to talk to us and let us know your concerns. If you have any questions, ask! It is not hard to love your long arm quilter.

 

Not every quilt is perfect – most of mine are not. This does not mean that we won’t quilt them. There has only been one quilt that I refused to put on my machine. It was one of a series of inherited quits. The piecing was so bad that the circular elements acted more like baskets when laid on the machine. There was no room for easing seams or making this top flat.


In the end, I recommended that they make each block into a pillow. The roundness could be filled instead of muscled into a flat top.

Poor Piecing
This is as flat as it gets!