Preparing Your Quilt for Mailing
What do you need to do to prepare to have your quilt top longarm quilted? I have many customers call me with this question. These are my preferences and answers to common questions.
How large does my backing material need to be?
Measure the length and wide of your quilt top and then add 8″ to 10″ to the measurements. Example: If your quilt top measures 75″ x 90″ – your backing should be no smaller than 83″ x 98″.
Reason: I cannot long arm quilt a quilt top if the bottom is the exact same size as the top or barely larger. This is because I need fabric to attach to the top and bottom leaders and some on the sides to grab onto with my side clamps to secure them and still be far away enough from the quilt top so that I not run into the clamps with the long arm machine when I am sewing there.
How much backing material should I buy?
The easiest backing to use is 108-120″ wide backing fabric. Because it is so wide, you just have to buy the width of the quilt and you are all set. I recommend purchasing up to 12 more inches than the measurement I need. Example: In the example above the backing size needed is 83″ x 98″, purchase at least 95″ x 108″.
Reason: Because wide backing material is folded in half and in half again on before it is wound onto the bolt, it is often far off grain when cut at the store. It is essential that I long arm quilt with a backing that is on the straight of grain or it winds crooked as it is advanced through the rollers. Sometimes when I have straightened wide backing fabric, I have had to sacrifice 4 – 6 inches on both sides to get it straight. Consequently, the resulting piece is 8 – 12″ shorter than I started and was too small! So, buy extra! Whatever is left over can always be used in another quilt and I’d rather have a few inches left over than have to go back to the store to buy an entire new backing.
*What if I buy 42″ – 44″ fabric because I can’t find a wide backing fabric that I like for my quilt top?
Many quilters prefer to purchase regular width fabric for the backing for a number of reasons. This is 100% fine, but it will have to be pieced together to obtain be the required size – 8 to 10″ – larger than your quilt top. You can sew two or three strips together to get the desired size. Once again, I recommend having extra fabric to allow for straightening the entire back once it is constructed.
Following are illustrations on how you can construct this type of back.
Sew two strips together for quilts needing less than 80″ in width.
The fabric is approximately 42″ wide. Remove the selvage edge on only the edges that will be sewn together.
Example 65″ X 78″ quilt top: Make quilt backing at least 73″ x 86″. Purchase 12″ more than that to allow for straightening = 86+12 = 98″ X 2 strips to sew together, which is 196″ or 5 1/2 yards.
Sew three strips together for quilts needing more than 80″ in width.
Depending on how much width needed, you can sew two equal widths to either side of the center strip. Usually vertical strips work better than horizontal seams because it is easier to center them on the long arm machine.
Example 88 x 98″ quit top: Make quilt backing at least 96″ x 106″. Purchase 12″ more than that to allow for straightening = 96+12 = 108″ X 3 strips to sew together, which is 196″ or 9 yards.
Should I pre-wash my backing fabric?
I recommend you pre-wash all of your fabric before you start sewing.
Click on the above underlined sentence to learn more reasons for pre-washing. Some quilters leave it unwashed. The manufacturer of my longarm machine advised me to request customers wash fabrics because the sizing and chemicals in the fabric tends to “gum” up the machine. If that will happen to my longarm machine, it only stands to reason that this same problem would happen to my home sewing machine as well. So, please wash first to save your sewing machine.
Other reasons to pre-wash all your fabrics before sewing:
*Fabrics will shrink at different percentages. One fabric you sew into your quilt might shrink differently than the one next to it. Pre-washing and drying will shrink the fabric before you sew it.
*Dyes may run into lighter colors – wash the first time separately – just in case. I now use “Shout” brand color catcher sheets in the washer and dryer. It is amazing how colored these sheets are when done! Once that pretty white is sewn next to a bright red and washed you never know if any excess dye will end up discoloring your white. I don’t like to take that chance
If, however, you have your quilt top sewn and you are reading this in order to bring your quilt to me, it would probably be best not to wash your backing at this time, but after so it is all washed together.
Do I need to send/bring batting?
I have high quality batting products here to use – so it is up to you – either purchase mine or purchase some from a quilt store.
Reason: If you do purchase your own batting, I strongly suggest you purchase that batting from a quilt store – you will get a much better product. Chain stores offer inexpensive and “cheap” products – remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for.” After you have spent all that time and effort on your quilt, it deserves a quality batting that hold up for many years.
Do I pin the quilt layers together?
NO – I load each of the three layers separately from each other. First I load the batting and wind it up on the rollers. Then, I place the batting on the backing and stitch that down across the top with horizontal hold to establish a registration line. Then, I put the quilt top on and stitch it down straight across my registration line. So, please do not pin together – I’d just have to take the entire thing all apart.
How much time do you need to have in order to complete the longarm quilting for me?
The answer to this question will vary depending on how much work I have. Sometimes I can get it done in about two weeks and sometimes I might have four to six or more weeks out there before I can get your quilt done. Plan on the longer option.
If you need a quilt by a certain date, plan on getting it to me as early as possible so as not to rush yourself or me. I always say, “Haste makes waste is truer in quilting than anywhere else!”
Always feel free to contact me with any additional questions.
My Very First Happy Customer – Thanks Joanne! You made a beautiful quilt.