How to Prepare Your Quilt For Longarm Quilting

How to Prepare Your Quilt For Longarm Quilting

Proper preparation and construction ensure the best results in the quilting process of your prized pieced top. Rest assured that we are not the quilt police and do not scrutinize the construction of your top to see if all your points match or not – our personal motto is “finished is good” – however, there are a few tips that will assist both of us to come to a favorable outcome in the finishing of your quilt. Below we show you How to Prepare Your Quilt For Longarm Quilting.

What is Needed to Prepare Your Quilt Top For Longarm Quilting:

You did it! You’ve pieced a quilt top! Congratulations!

You’ve finished your quilt and are so excited. Now it’s time to think about quilting it. Rewind…the time to think about the quilting process is before you ever take a stitch – actually before you even cut out the parts and pieces!

That’s correct – proper cutting, accurate quarter inch seams, and pressing makes all the difference in the outcome of the quilting of your latest creation. Here are a few tips to help you along the way.

Does Pressing Really Matter?

The Quilt Rambler shows you pressing tips for How to Prepare Your Quilt For Longarm Quilting
Pressing matters

Pressing is best done during the actual piecing. Not doing so can leave small pleats in the seams that may be visible after the quilting process. Pressing often during piecing can’t be emphasized enough. Discipline yourself to making pressing an important part of your quilting life.

Sometimes when pressing you have to show the fabric who is boss!

Please have all seams pressed. Also give the entire top a good overall ironing. Gentle folds due to folding to bring to the studio or to ship the top are not an issue.


What about Loose Threads?

As quilters ourselves, we recognize that in this life there will be strings – a few here and there are natural – but nothing is worse than varicose veins showing through light fabric, to be seen forever and ever, amen.

Excess threads peeking through the seams on the front are not only a visual distraction to your longarm quilter but can sometimes cause unnecessary boo-boos and hang-ups if they catch the hopping foot of the longarm during the quilting process. Again, practice the discipline of trimming threads as you piece.

Does It Really Matter if My Quilt Top Lays Flat?

In one word. Yes.

Careful cutting, piecing and pressing will assure a quilt top that lays flat

Please make sure your quilt top lays as flat as possible.

Once again, this is a piecing detail and discipline. Fullness can creep in during complex block construction, sometimes the only thing that will help a block go together nicely and lay flat is a good can of spray starch! Generally, a little fullness can be eased in during the quilting process, but it’s those wavy borders caused by improper attachment that is the real culprit.

Every effort is made to work around fullness in the quilt body as well as wavy borders by easing in the fabric, but the results are not always favorable – sometimes it is necessary to create false pleats that will need to be hand appliquéd down once the quilt is returned. Practicing good piecing habits will eliminate a lot of issues. Don’t be afraid to ask if there is something you don’t understand or haven’t accomplished yet. Quilting is a journey, not a destination – we are all somewhere on the path of learning. Again, no quilt police in The Quilt Rambler studio, we are here to serve you. That said….

A well-pressed quilt top and borders that lay flat yields a beautiful quilt

There are occasions that it may be best to reattach the borders for a more pleasant outcome. Realize, however, that once it’s on the machine, it’s either quilted out or quilted in. It’s your responsibility to make sure your quilt lays flat and is pressed well before the quilting process.

What’s All The Fuss About Wavy Borders?

Karen Overton teaching how to piece a Leymone Star Block

When you take a quilt class the teacher concentrates on teaching the technique to make the blocks or design and then sends you home to complete the quilt top. Patterns and books seem to major on the construction of the interior of a quilt and minor on the importance of piecing and applying borders.

Oh sure, they discuss the proper way to add borders by measuring the quilt top in three places, taking an average, then cutting the border to the exact length of that average, but they don’t tell you why…and isn’t it much easier to just sew on a strip then cut it off when you run out of quilt top? Sure it is, I’ve done this, more times than I’d like to admit. But….

The problem with this sort of mentality is the undesirable end result, especially if your quilt top is going to be put on a longarm frame to be quilted. These so-called “wavy borders” will result in pleats and puckers when it’s quilted.

….let me explain…

Longarm quilting differs from domestic (home) sewing machine quilting in that the components of the quilt – the back, batting, and the top – are not first basted together. Instead, they are loaded on the frame in a process that allows each to be held taunt.

Generally speaking, the backing is loaded first (see information concerning preparing your backing for important details) then the batting is basted across the top edge of the backing. Next, the quilt top is centered and basted at the top of the backing/batting combo as well as down the sides that are exposed on the surface of the frame. For this reason, do not pin or baste the three layers together or you will just spend time undoing what you’ve done.

As the quilt is advanced the sides continue to be basted down prior to quilting that area. If the quilt top is not square, then the fullness will just work its way down the quilt and you will end up with a wonky bottom and you can pretty-much-guaranteed fullness in that final border and a quilt that will not drape or hang because it is not square.

So what’s a quilter to do? Glad you asked…..

How Do I Attach Borders to Prevent Problems?

A Short Lesson in the Proper Attachment of Borders

Joining a guild or taking a class will improve your piecing skills – besides, it’s fun!

Quilting is a learning experience, that’s what I love about it! Always something new to learn, some new pattern to try, etc. Here’s the method I use on my personal quilts. Rest assured, I had my fair share of wavy borders before I became disciplined in this area.

  • First, take the center measurement of the length of the pieced top, since it may have some fullness it is best to measure in three places and take the average.
  • Using this number, cut the right side and left side borders to that exact measurement.
  • Fold the quilt top in half across the length then place a pin to mark the center. Next fold in quarters marking with pins. Do the same for both the side border, placing pins to mark the center and the quarters.
  • Next matching the pins on the border and pieced quilt top pin the two fabrics, right sides together. There may be fullness as the pieces come together, if so, ease this in at the sewing machine, with the fullness next to the feed dogs (bottom). Attach both the right and then the left side borders. Press seams.
  • Repeat the process for the other top and bottom borders by measuring the width of the quilt top in three places taking an average, then cutting the side borders to this number.
  • Mark the center with a pin and then find the quarter marks as described above.
  • Pin the border to the quilt top, right sides together. Sew, easing in any fullness.
  • Do this for both the top and bottom. Press and ta-da, you now have borders that make a square frame for your quilt top! There may be some slight fullness in the center, but this will usually quilt out. The important thing is your borders will be square and therefore your quilt should be square too!
Careful cutting, piecing, sewing, measuring and attaching borders has fabulous results in the longarm quilting process

If you have questions or concerns about border attachments or any other concerns, please contact us and we’ll be glad to give you more information. It’s our priority that you be pleased with the outcome of having your quilt professionally quilted. Together we are creating an heirloom to be enjoyed today and for future generations!





The Quilt Rambler