Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Prepping quilts for the long arm

Last week, I didn't have a lot of errands to do. This week?  I've got a ton of errands and I still have paperwork so I must budget my time carefully. There are two things that must be done today - return two books to the library as this is the absolute last day that I can have the books (Yes - I'm finished with both of them) and I have two orders that are somewhat in the same area and I'm picking them both up today - they're big and I would have paid a lot for shipping.

I had edited a bunch of photos the other day and I'm going through them one folder at a time so I don't miss anything. They are somewhat random in nature - but all quilt related.  

But first - I have to tell you about my discovery last night. I'm working on a quilt design and there was a lot of coloring to do. Click, click, click with the mouse. It was annoying. Then the lightbulb went off in my head. This new computer has a TOUCH SCREEN. I bet I can just use my finger to "paint" the quilt. Yep - before I knew it - I was FINGER PAINTING my quilt. What a slick discovery! I love it. 

OK - so here's the topic of the day - prepping your quilts for the long arm. Recently I worked on a quilt that was a wee bit of a problem. Actually three problems. Since not everyone knows this or knows the reason why, I'm going to share with you that experience. 

Here's the thing - whether you are taking your quilt to the long arm quilter or basting it yourself, the backing NEEDS to be larger than the quilt. That's just a given. This person didn't know that and I got the backing that was a bit wider than the quilt, but the length was pretty much the same length as the quilt. That's next to impossible to load on the long arm and I'm sure that other quilters would have refused the job. 

Not me - I forged ahead! I know - I'm crazy, but the customer has already been called and advised of the situation. Fortunately, there was a very large border so if need be, the quilt top could be trimmed away. 

In the photo below, you can see how skimpy that backing was. 

Skimpy backing
 And why is that a problem? You can see that I'm able to clamp the backing. Well, I also need to get the foot of the long arm right to the edge of the quilt and with that clamp in the way, that's a tad difficult to do. So you have to take extra care on where the backing gets clamped. And also with the clamp on that small of an area, the support of the clamp isn't really distributed along the edge.

The foot can't reach the edge of the quilt with the clamp in the way
Lucky there was just enough extra width so the quilt could be loaded onto the canvas leaders.

Just enough on the width to successfully load the quilt
 Now here's an example of how having extra backing is a good thing. In this case, there's a lot of extra backing. You don't need this much, but having that extra is great. There is plenty of room to place the clamp and no danger of the foot getting caught up in the clamp.

Lots of extra backing

Here's another thing that I don't like. Quilters like to buy batting in a bag. They can use a coupon to get a discount. Great, but not so great. I really don't like batting in a bag. Why?  Have a look. Keep in mind that you should open up that bag of batting and even fluff the batting in the dryer. This batting had been sitting out of the bag and unfolded for at least 24 hours before I loaded it. Do you see the problem?

The way that the batting gets folded and rolled and compressed into a bag, one section is compressed and the next section is stretched and the long arm quilter has to deal with this variation in the batting. You can't pull the stretched part out so you have to manipulate it to fit under the bar without having lumps and bumps.

Stretched sections of batting from a bag
 And you can see it even better here.  If you are taking a batting in a bag to your long arm quilter - do everyone a favor - take it out of the bag and throw it in the dryer and then just loosely fold it.

I don't normally charge for "fluffing" the batting as I don't fluff it. I just take it out of the bag 24 hours in advance and hope for the best. But I'm going to be much more adamant about this in the coming year. And so all the savings you got with your coupon will be eaten up by ME because I'll charge you for fluffing if you don't do it yourself.

I don't always get a chance to chat with the quilter before I get the quilt. Sometimes the quilts get dropped off with no discussion and if they do get dropped off, I tend not to go over the details too carefully as I trust the customer (I've no idea why!) to have done all the bits properly. You'd think I would know better by now. This quilt was dropped off without us ever seeing each other. 

Batting from a bag is very wrinkled

And this poor quilt had one more issue. The owner had faced a huge section of the main part. And it was SEWN down. So guess what - if that facing isn't EXACTLY the same size as the quilt top - you're going to have puckers.

Part of the quilt was faced!!!
These are NOT tucks - it's just the excess fabric where the facing wasn't quite the same size as the quilt. If I had a computerized machine, I could have manipulated that excess while the machine was working. 

A few puckers because the quilt was faced

Oh - here's a random photo from that other quilt. The thread color I choose for the backing was a perfect match!

Thread color was a perfect match
And in this photo, you can see how much smoother the batting is when it comes off a roll or a bolt. This is IDEAL!!!!  There isn't that much difference in price from buying batting on sale to buying it from your long arm quilter. Do yourself a favor - buy it from the long arm quilter or if you buy in a bag - fluff it. I'm going to charge for fluffing this year!!!

Batting hangs much smoother when it comes off the roll
 I should mention that the quilt with the issues - it was HUGE which compounded the problems. It is 85" by 99". What was the end result? I managed to get that thing loaded so that only a wee bit of the backing was missing along one edge. At the edge it was 1" by about 18" - you can see in the photo below. I alerted the customer and she is going to applique a piece along that edge so we didn't end up trimming anything from the quilt.

Backing was a wee bit short

All in all - it worked out OK, but not my favorite item to quilt.

If in doubt about getting your quilt ready for the long arm quilter, call your long arm quilter and ask them. How much extra fabric do they want for the backing? Will they charge you for extras - like fluffing the batting? Ironing the top or backing? I often get wide backings that have NOT been ironed. I don't iron them. If the quilter can't iron the backing, I'm certainly not going to unless asked. If I do - I charge for that!

Anyway - I had to get that off my chest and I feel a whole lot better.

I had a super day at Monday sewing yesterday. Lots of show n tell and I made great progress on one of my UFO projects. I'll be sharing that later this week as I have other photos that I edited the other day and I want to get those out of the way first.

If you're into making a teepee for your kids or grandkids for Christmas or whenever - check out this video by Laura of Sew Very Easy. She used my pattern that I wrote for Northcott. It's super cute and pretty easy to do. And here is a link to the pattern on the Northcott website. 

On that note, I'm out of here. Got more writing to do and more sewing and those two errands to do.

Have a super day!!!


1 comment:

  1. When faced with a skimpy backing fabric, I add wide muslin strips around the quilt top (like an extra border) and then load as usual. After quilting, the quilt can be trimmed, removing the muslin border at the same time. Works for me!