To Prepare Your Pieced Top for Quilting
Seams should be pressed neatly. Seams that are lumpy and going every which direction can cause broken needles, skipped stitches, or, worse, timing problems with the machine.
Backstitch all seams that come to the edge of the quilt top. Stay-stitch bias edges along the perimeter of the quilt with a 1/8 inch seam so your seams don't come undone when tension is put on the quilt as it is loaded onto the frame.
Do not baste quilt by stitching, pinning, etc. Keep each layer separate.
Quilt must be clean and free of any odor, especially cigarette smoke, as there are some in our family who have asthma and/or allergies.
Do not embellish your quilts with buttons or ribbons or suchlike until after they have been quilted.
Mark the top edge of the quilt, if it is directional, so I will know in which direction it should be quilted.
Make sure there are no loose threads on the back; they can show through or catch on the machine.
Pin your name, phone number, and email address to your quilt top, backing, and batting, all three.
A common problem encountered by machine quilters are 'friendly' borders. They 'wave', because of extra fullness, and will not lay flat. During quilting, these areas of excess fullness wind up with tucks or pleats.
Edges can stretch, especially if there are any bias pieces on the edge. Measuring only the edges of the top to get the length for the borders will often give you borders that are too long. Some fullness can be eased in, but I promise no miracles.
Here is a good way to measure for borders:
- Measure your quilt in three places lengthwise: left, right, and center; then average those measurements.
- Cut the two side borders to this measurement, pin border to quilt at each end and center, ease to fit, and pin to distribute any fullness. Sew and press.
- Repeat this process widthwise for top and bottom borders.
- Repeat process for any additional borders.
Batting and Backing
Mark top edge of backing fabric if directional.
For small to full-sized quilts, cut the backing and batting (if providing your own) 4-6 inches larger than your top on all sides, and trim so that the fabric is square. This will allow the backing to be attached evenly to the canvas leaders, and gives room to quilt all the way to the edge of the top without running into the side clamps. For queen- and king-sized quilts, cut backing and batting 8 inches larger.
The backing must be square, so it can be attached to the leaders on the longarm frame. If the backing isn’t square, it won’t roll properly.
Remove all selvages if you have to seam the back, both from seams and along the edges. Selvages have a tighter weave and can cause puckering of the quilt, especially when washed. It is better for seams to be horizontal than vertical.
Printed backings will help hide any starts and stops necessary when changing threads and bobbins.
If you pre-washed the fabrics in your quilt top, then also pre-wash your backing.