The time you take to prepare your quilt for quilting is well spent to achieve the best result:
Preparing your quilt top
Your quilt top must be square and flat to be loaded and quilted successfully. There are some great tutorials out there to show how to correctly add borders. If you did not add borders or have done so incorrectly, this could cause problems as fullness that is pieced into the quilt may not be able to be quilted out. Measure across your quilt at the top, middle and the bottom to see how closely they match. If the opposite sides are off by more than 1-2", you MUST correct this before sending it to be quilted. If your quilt is wonky to begin with, most likely it will come back that way as well.
Press your top flat, from the back, so you can direct the seams correctly.
Trim any loose threads, especially those that may show under lighter areas of your blocks.
Inspect your quilt top for any seams which have come loose, and repair them. A long arm goes at high speeds, and any holes or open seams can catch in the machine’s foot and rip the quilt. I would be devastated if that happened to your quilt!
Stay-stitch seams that are on the edge of your quilt. Stay-stitching is simply adding 3-4 stitches across the seam, about 1/8″ from the edge, to keep the seams from pulling apart. If your top does not have a border or the border is completely pieced, you could also baste around the entire perimeter of the quilt. Your quilt top will be stretched and rolled when it is loaded on the machine, and you don’t want those seams coming apart in the process.
If your quilt top has embroidery, applique, or folded fabric techniques such as prairie points or pleats, be sure to let your quilter know whether it is OK to quilt over them when you discuss the quilt design.
DO NOT layer your quilt top, batting, andbacking together or baste them in any way. The quilt gets loaded on three separate roller bars, and we cannot load the quilt if it is already basted, especially if it has been basted with pins.
If you want to embellish your quilt top with beads, buttons, or other objects, wait until the quilt comes back from the quilter. We cannot quilt through these items and they prevent us from loading the quilt so that it is flat & square.
Please press your quilt top well and prepare your backing so it is at least 8" wider and 10" than the quilt top (so an extra 4"/10cm on either side). This allows the clamps to hold the quilt in place on the frame. It is far better to have too much than not enough!
If you choose to provide wadding/batting, it should be at least 4" wider than the quilt top all round.
If in doubt, leave it bigger and I will trim it to size.
If you are providing your own batting, please ensure there are no bulky seams. It is suggested that the edges needing joining be abutted and zig zagged together or that a batting tape is utilised.
Your choice of backing is very important. A weight similar to your top produces the best results. Many backing fabrics are now available as “widebacks” ranging from 90" to 110" wide. All excess will be returned to you.
No matter what, your backing must be 4-6″ larger than your quilt top, on ALL sides. So if your quilt top measures 50″ x 50″, your backing must be at least 58″ x 58″. The extra backing is needed because of the loading process, for the quilter to perform thread tension testing, and also to insure the machine doesn’t bump into the side clamps that are supporting your quilt. The larger the quilt, the larger this allowance should be.
Your backing MUST BE SQUARE. I need to have straight edges in order to attach the backing onto the rollers. If you have a selvage edge on the outside, we can use that as a straight line, but please don’t leave any jagged edges. If the backing is not square, you may end up with pleats in your backing.
Try not to make backings that have to be center-matched with the center of the quilt top. On a home machine, you typically quilt from the center out, but on a long arm, we quilt from top to bottom. Trying to perfectly match a quilt top with the backing takes extra time & skill, and depending on the type of quilt and design, it may not even be possible.
If you are piecing your backing, horizontal seams are better than vertical seams, because of how the quilt is loaded on the rollers. Try not to have a vertical seam running right down the center of the quilt. Off-set this seam to one side, or better yet, piece the backing so that you have extra on both sides and a larger piece in the center.
Remove selvage edges before piecing (unless the selvages are on the outside edge). Selvages are the tightest weave of the fabric without any give, and leaving them on can create puckers and inconsistent seams. They can also cause pulled threads in that area if the needle hits them in the wrong place.
Use a 1/2″ seam allowance when using large sections of fabric. However, if your backing is scrappy, normal 1/4″ quilt seams are fine.
Press seams open whenever possible. The extra bulk created when you press seams to the side can cause skipped stitches and also hinder the quilt from rolling on to the frame evenly.
Press your backing flat, from the back, so you can direct the seams correctly.
Backing Colour & Pattern
Keep in mind that the thread choice for the quilt top will be the same for the bottom thread. Small busy prints will `hide’ the quilting on the back of the quilt. All over patterns can look great on a plainer fabric making a `reversible’ effect on the quilt.
Other Handy Tips
When you do a quilt without borders, you end up with exposed seams along the outside of the quilt. Your quilt edges get handled a lot more when long arm quilting, and they are also loaded under tension. This can cause edges to stretch and seams to unravel. So if you have a quilt without borders, (or borders with seams along the edge) you should “stay stitch” around the perimeter, across the seams. A “stay stitch” is simply a line of stitching, about 1/8″ from the edge, that stabilizes the fibers & keeps them from stretching.
If you have a directional quilt (or a preference for which way is up), always remember to make a note of it on your take in form and mark it on your top (a safety pin is fine). However, doing so doesn’t mean that the quilter is going to LOAD the quilt that way! Technically, a long arm quilter doesn’t need as much fabric along the top and bottom as what is needed on the side, but since you can’t guarantee which way the quilt will be loaded, it’s better to just provide enough fabric & batting in the first place, to give me the flexibility to choose.