Tips on Preparing Your Quilt for Long Arm Quilting
Trim your threads. Stray threads can show through the finished quilt and detract from your beautiful piece. Since we care about the beauty of your quilt, we will trim threads if you don't but will have to charge extra for doing it.
Make sure your seams are pressed flat. Iron from the front, and using sizing or starch will really help and make it easier to quilt. We will be happy to press your quilt for you, but you can save yourself some money by doing this yourself.
Check your borders to see if they are flat or wavy. Sometimes a quilter can compensate for wavy borders by using puffy batting or quilting densely in the borders,but sometimes it is pretty hard to quilt out without making tucks. The best way to make flat borders is to fold the quilt in half lengthwise and measure the center of the quilt and make the side borders the same length as the center measurement. After you attach the side borders, fold the quilt in half the other way and measure the crosswise center (including the borders you just put on) and make the other borders the same length as that center measurement. Many pattern makers tell you how long to make the borders, but they don't know if your seams are a perfect 1/4 inch, so what works perfectly in a pattern may not work on your quilt.
Lay your quilt flat on a bed or floor and see if the blocks lay flat. If they don't, We can often compensate by using a puffier batting or by quilting more densely in some parts than in others. However, if you have a block that puffs up like one of the Swiss Alps, you should consider taking it apart and re-sewing it because even puffy batting probably won't help in that case.
Make sure your quilt is clean. We will wash quilts that smell like smoke or mildew prior to quilting, and that will also require ironing and more thread trimming. Be assured that if your quilt was pieced by or around a smoker, it smells like smoke, so you can save yourself some time and money by washing it before you bring it to us.
Your quilt back must be a MINIMUM of 4" bigger than your quilt top on EACH side. That means a TOTAL of 8" LONGER and 8" WIDER.That is because we will use that fabric to attach the quilt to the bars and side clamps of the quilt frame. Side edges are also used to test the tension of the machine to make sure the settings work perfectly with your quilt. Also, backs and batting tend to shrink up during the quilting process. If your back is the same size as your top, we will ask you to make it bigger or we will do it for you and charge you for the work and fabric.
If you piece your backing, which is most often the case, make sure to trim the selvages off. They will shrink unevenly when you wash the quilt and create a puckered line. Use a minimum 1/2" seam and press the seam open. That will minimize the bulk in one area as the quilt back is rolled on the frame and minimizes any resulting waves. Ideally, the quilt back can be loaded so the seam runs parallel to the bars, taking the bulk of the seam out of the equation, but that may not always be possible depending upon the kind of quilting we are doing, especially with directional pantographs.
Square up your quilt back. If it is longer on one side than the opposite side, we will have to square it up before we can attach it to the frame. You can do this by folding it in quarters and using your rotary cutter and rulers to trim it even. Just make sure the back ends up at least 8" longer and wider than the quilt top.
A word about the current wide backs available (108" - 110" wide): Some of the wide backs on the market have considerable shrinkage when washed. If you normally prewash your fabrics, this won't be a problem. However, this could be disastrous if your don't prewash any of your fabrics and the back shrinks more than the quilt top after quilting. For this reason, prewashing your wide quilt back is recommended, even if you do not prewash the fabrics used in your quilt top.
Quilt top should be free of embellishments such as buttons, charms, pins, sequins, couching, etc.
Press the back. Using starch or sizing makes it easier to handle.
We have used almost every brand of batting on the market and prefer Quilters Dream Batting, which we use in large rolls. QDB makes high quality batting that quilts and handles beautifully on our machines and holds up well to repeated washings. Low quality batting does not hold up well, and can be almost impossible to work with on a long arm machine. During the course of quilting your quilt, the batting gets rolled, unrolled, and tugged quite a bit. Most low quality battings cannot stand up to the handling and can often fall apart as we advance the quilt. Test your batting by holding it in both hands and try to pull apart. If it pulls apart or distorts easily, it is not suitable for long arm quilting. For this reason we prefer to use our own batting. However, If you want us to use your batting, please note that batting must also be a minimum of 8" longer and wider than your quilt top.
Do not use pins or spray adhesive to sandwich your quilt top with the batting and backing.We load each piece on the long arm machine separately.