The following tips to prepare a quilt for the longarmer will save the longarmer time and thus, the customer money.
- When asked, the number one issue reported by longarm quilters is borders that are not attached properly. Usually, wavy borders are applied by new quilters who have not learned all the proper techniques, but also by hurried quilters. What you DO NOT want to do is cut the length of the border longer than you need without measuring; sew the border on from one edge to the other, and then just trim off the extra. If so, there is a good chance the borders will be wavy.
- For the best results, “square up” your pieces as you go and then square up the quilt top when you have completed the piecing. Ideally, the two sides of the quilt, and the measurement through the center from top to bottom, will be the same. If so, congratulations!
- If not, add the three measurements (right side, left side and lengthwise center), divide by three for the average, and cut your side borders to that length. Fold the quilt top to find the side center and quarters and mark with pins. Do the same with the two cut, side border pieces. Match the pins, and pin the quilt top and the border pieces together. Note that you may have slight ease between the pins. If so, place the eased side against the machine when stitching. Press the side borders seams out.
- Now measure the top, bottom and crosswise center, including the side borders that you just attached. If they are the same, pat yourself on the back! If not, proceed as you did for the lengthwise borders.
- When all the borders are attached, check again to make sure the top is square. You may ask if that is really necessary, but the top can get out of square at each step by stretching, pulling, pressing or by stitching irregular seams. The extra time taken to square it up makes for smooth sailing later.
- Make sure the backing is also square. The backing and batting needs to be at least six inches larger than the quilt top. For example, if the quilt measures 60 x 80, the backing and batting needs to be at least 66 x 86, an extra three inches on each side. The backing, batting, and the quilt top, are loaded onto the longarm frame with a straight edge along the top and bottom rails. When everything is straight and square to begin with, the process goes very smoothly and produces the best results.
- It is not necessary to baste or pin the layers together as they are loaded separately on the longarm frame.
- If there is a definite top to the quilt, be sure to tell the quilter or mark it with a safety pin. The same is true for the backing especially if it is pieced or a directional design.
- Do not attach embellishments such as beads, buttons or ribbons until after the quilting is complete.
- Tell your quilter any specific directions regarding your borders. For example, if you applied 8-inch borders, but know that you want to trim them back to 6 inches, be sure to convey that to your quilter so he/she quilts the design accordingly. You would not want to partially trim off a lovely feathered border.
- When finished, many longarmers will trim the backing and batting even with the quilt top. Be sure to tell your quilter if you would rather trim the quilt yourself, perhaps because you want to use a rolled-back binding.
- Finally, most quilters that I know, have spent countless hours working at their craft and developing a good reputation. They strive to give you the best product possible. They love to see that look of excited anticipation when you come to pickup your quilt. If you ever feel that there is a problem with the quilting, please give your quilter the courtesy of letting him/her know first. It is disheartening to have a dissatisfied customer tell her circle of friends or quilt guild members about her dissatisfaction. Give your quilter a chance to address the issue first. Most reasonable requests will be gladly corrected.
Ideally, you will develop a wonderful working relationship with your longarm quilter. Most quilters willingly guide you through the process and provide tips to achieve the best results such as the ones listed above. If you are new to quilting, or are still having a problem, consult your quilter, learn from her expertise, and strive to make your next quilt top even better than the one before. Just don’t get discouraged. You will find that quilters are a wonderfully supportive community. If you still need help, most longarm quilters offer additional services such as pressing, seaming backs, or even repairing wonky borders, but usually at an additional cost.
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