You’ve got your top finished and you’re thinking “How will I have it quilted?” You could hand or machine quilt it yourself or send it to a Longarm Machine Quilter. I’ve prepared some guidelines that will help you get your quilt ready to be quilted by a Longarmer and possibly prevent delays getting your quilt back from them. If there are problems with your project it could be returned to you to correct and this could delay getting it back to be completed.
First of all make sure you ask your quilter what their recommendations are before giving them your quilt. They may have other requirements besides the ones we mention.
Preparing Your Quilt for the
Longarm Machine Quilter
Note: Each layer of the quilt is loaded separately. Each layer is centered before it’s loaded on the machine. If you have made a fancy backing such as with borders - please don’t expect the top and back to line up exactly all around. It’s impossible to center the quilt vertically and horizontally with the backing.
Decide how you want your quilt quilted - either Pantograph (an allover edge to edge design) or Custom (freehand). If you say “Do whatever you want” then be prepared to like “ whatever” is done. This is a good time to communicate how much you want to spend.
I have a book of Pantograph patterns to choose from starting at .01 per square inch (psi). Custom prices start at .02 psi. We have minimum fee of $30.00 on quilts using a pantograph and $60.00 for a custom. These are my prices so consult your quilter for theirs.
To get the total square inches of your quilt multiply the width of the quilt by the length. Example: 40” wide x 60” long = 2400 square inches. Then multiply the total square inches by the psi amount charged. Example: 2400 square inches x .015 = $36.00.
Tips From Your Quilter:
- Before finishing your quilt top make sure there are no wavy borders. If there is excess in your borders you could get puckers and pleats. If your borders are too tight it can cause bubbling on the top itself. One way to prevent this is to measure the quilt top from the centers horizontally and vertically before you cut your borders. Measure twice - cut once. Then pin the borders to the quilt before sewing them on. Pin at the ends first, then the middle, and then quarterly. You’ll be able to work in bias edges (when your squares are on point and you have setting triangles) this way. Those who try too hard not to have wavy borders can get them too small. This could cause on-point and straight set blocks to bulge out in their centers. The old saying “Don’t worry it will quilt out” does not apply here. It will not quilt out.
- If possible cut borders from the length of the yardage not the width. They won’t stretch as bad and won’t get wavy.
- If you put more than one border on make sure that they don’t get stretched as you go around and around.
- If your borders are pieced you can secure the seams with a 1/8” stay stitch around the quilt edges to prevent them from coming apart. This also works for bias edges. I’m sorry but I can’t take the time to secure each seam coming apart. This could get expensive for you. We charge a fee for each repair.
- To keep bias edges from stretching cut setting triangles with the straight of grain for the edge of the top.
- Make sure all seams are sewn with adequate seam allowances.
- Clip the stray threads, front and back. Best advice is to clip them as you piece the quilt. Once the quilt is loaded on the machine it’s sometimes impossible to remove the threads. You don’t want a thread spider showing when it’s finished.
- All fabric is NOT created equal. If it’s stiff you could wash and soak it in fabric softener before cutting and making your quilt top and back. Although I have heard – “never use fabric softener on your quilt material”. This is up to you.
- Remove selvage edges before using your fabric.
- Wait until your quilt has been quilted if you plan on adding embellishments such as beads, etc. This will prevent broken needles and possible damage to my machine.
- I prefer using the same thread in the bobbin as on the top. If two different thread colors are used, dotting can occur. This is when the top thread doesn’t pull the bobbin thread to the middle and vise versa. When variegated thread is used I like to use a complimentary solid color in the bobbin for the back. There is an extra charge for variegated thread but not for the solid colors.
- Pressing the top makes for a much prettier completed quilt. Press the seams either open or to one side.
The 6-6 Rule =this means to make the backing no less than 6” wider and 6” longer than the top. I need this much excess for my clamps. The loaded quilt is secured with these clamps.
- The most common problem quilters have is that the back isn’t big enough and it’s not squared up. This means all 4 edges have to be straight. The back MUST be squared up BEFORE it is loaded on the machine.
- To square up the back you can cut a straight edge or tear across the top then measure the length you’ll need and cut/tear at the bottom. Do the same for the sides. Test your fabric to see if it will tear on a scrap piece before you try this. It doesn’t work on all fabrics.
- The quilt back must be at least 6” wider and 6” longer (6-6 rule) but only if it has been squared up. If the backing hasn’t been squared up I will be glad to do it for you but please make sure you have enough extra fabric for me to do so. There have been a few instances where after I squared up the backing it was too short (or not wide enough) for the top. I need this extra fabric on the sides for my clamps. If the back was loaded on the machine without squaring it up there will be bubbles and pleats after it’s finished.
- If you have pieced the backing make sure your seams are pressed. And, if the back has seams make sure you have sewn them on the grain of the fabric to prevent it from sagging in areas. We don’t mind the selvage being on the sides of the back but don’t use them in the seams. They will cause the back to not lay flat. If you do use them cut about every 2 inches to ease up on the stress.
- Batting must be at least 6” wider and 6” longer. (6-6 rule)
- If you have more than 1 quilt please make sure you have the right batting that belongs with the right quilt.
- Although it’s rarely done, some quilt makers use the back for the binding instead of making a separate binding. They just fold over the back to the front. If you choose to do this make sure you let your quilter know. When pantographs (all over designs) are chosen quilters stitch over the edge of the top onto the excess backing and batting (this is what we do). You don’t want the stitching to show on the finished binding. The quilter can stop the stitching as close to the quilt top edge as possible.
We hope these guidelines are helpful to you when you begin your next quilt project. Remember to check with your uilter before you give your quilt to her. They might have different requirements.
Also, if you’ve made an appointment with your quilter to drop off or pick up but can’t make it please call and let them know.
P. S. Don’t forget to sign or make a label for your quilt!
Checklist for taking your quilt to a long arm quilter ...
- Top and backing is pressed and clean.
- Top and backing are accurately squared.
- Backing and batting are at least 6" larger than the top.
- Top edges of quilt top and backing are marked.
- Call ahead to schedule the quilting services.
- Consider designs and patterns for the quilting for your quilt.
- Decide on threads and batting. Discuss these with the quilter.
- Clearly communicate any ideas or thoughts you have with the quilter.
The more planning you do, the happier you'll be with the finished project!