This post provides a few tips to ensure you and your quilt top have the best experience and results possible when searching for and hiring a longarm quilter.
Why Hire a Longarm Quilter?
The choice to hire a longarm quilter may be driven by the size of your quilt, its purpose, the type of quilting you desire, and your deadline.
The most common reasons heard by longarm quilters:
- I hate basting. Crawling on the floor with safety pins just is not my jam.
- My quilt is too big to wrestle under my machine. My arms and shoulders cannot take it.
- I do not have time to quilt it. I’m on a deadline and it will take me too long.
- I just do not enjoy the quilting. I’d rather pick fabric and piece my next project!
- The quilting design I want is beyond my skill or comfort level.
- I have no idea how to quilt this or what design to pick.
- I just want a fairy quilt mother to wave her wand and get it done!
Okay, so longarm quilters do not technically wave a magic wand to finish your quilt, but it can certainly feel magical when you get that beautiful quilt back in your hands!
If any of these sound like you, working with a longarm quilter may be a good fit.
Choosing the Right Longarm Quilter for You!
As is the case with most things, it is important you find the right person for YOU. There is a vast array of talent, styles, pricing, and requirements in the longarm world. Start your search with questions and research. When you find someone you click with, you will know.
I have a number of new quilters in the Jittery Wings community. Recently, my friend and longarm quilter, Annaliese from Pewter Acorn Quilts, shared a message with me.
Annaliese and I shared the same reaction – broken hearts! Like me, she has the same "no quilt police policy" in her studio. A quilt does not have to be pieced perfectly (or have a perfect back) to be worthy of longarm love! If you really want it longarmed, do it! Just make sure you find a longarm quilter who is a good match for your style and budget, and for where you are in your quilty journey.
We were all beginners once. We all learn something from every project if we stay curious and have fun. Your longarm quilter should be a great partner in helping you learn tricks and tips along the way to make your quilt the best it can be. There are longarm quilters who specialize in show quilts, and in that respect, they have higher expectations of the tops they receive. While there is a valuable place for this level of work in the world, they are not the only option. If you start with someone at this level, you are certain to feel the “quilt shame” that I never want for anyone in the quilt world. Remember one of my values is to “make new quilters,” and I share this post, so you know there are longarm quilters out there that share this same value.
Longarm quilters like Annaliese, won’t judge. “We’ve seen it all in regards to skill level,” she shared. “If you want feedback on where to focus on building skills – ask! I never offer unsolicited advice, but I’m always happy to help if someone wants that coaching and support.” Annaliese has the perfect attitude for any new quilter looking for a longarm quilter.
Extra backing and backing
When you are buying or piecing your backing fabric, you’ll need it to be 8-10" larger than the quilt top both in width and height. For example, an 80" quilt top would have an 88” square backing. The backing is rolled onto the longarm frame like a scroll, so it gets pinned at the top and bottom and then clamped on the sides. This margin allows for proper positioning of the “sandwich” and gives the sewhead room to maneuver around the top. Double check this requirement with your specific longarm quilter as each machine setup and frame size differs slightly.
Photo credit: https://quiltsonthecorner.com/
Press it Flat
Give your quilt top a good press all over. Using a tailor’s clapper can help with pressing bulky seams (Suzy, over at SuzyQuilts has a great post on this tool here).
Press and square your backing, especially if it’s a 108” wide backing as these will often have large creases in them if they have just been taken off the bolt.
Have you noticed little loose threads on the edges of your quilt blocks? When those threads are quilted over, they can create lumps, bumps, or even show ask pesky shadows through lighter fabric on the front. The solution? Trim those rouge threads on the back of your quilt top. This simple step makes for much smoother quilting and will help everything lay nice and flat. Go ahead, pop your favorite podcast on and get clipping. For quick and easier cleanup, keep a lint roller on standby.
Take a Victory Lap
Now, this is more of a bonus points type of tip.
Even with careful handling, the seams at the edges of the quilt top can work loose at the seams. Once the top is loaded on the frame, it is under tension, and can cause loose seams to pop open. One way to keep those edge seams secure and in place for quilting is to take what longarm quilters like to call a ‘victory lap’. Simply use a longer basting stitch and sew around your finished quilt top an 1/8” to 1/16” from the edge. This will prevent any seams from coming apart during the transport and quilting of your lovely quilt top.
This is not usually required by longarm quilters but is always appreciated! And, as an added bonus, your edges will be easier to wrangle for binding.
Which Way is Up?
You are almost ready to hand off your quilt! Double check and make sure you have noted if your backing or top are directional. A simple safety pin or piece of paper can mark the top.
Want to Hire Annaliese?
Contact her at Pewter Acorn Quilts here.