Monday, January 23, 2012

Long Arm Quilting, Again

Last week I long arm quilted Julie's quilt top at our local dealer/rental place.  It is a fun quilt with a fun pinwheel like design in 1930's reproduction fabrics.  I got it loaded on the rack without too many problems, but after the first time across with the long arm, I realized there was a problem.  I tried to be more careful basting on the second round of quilting, but no dice.  The quilt top was shifting and I had quilted in 3 small puckers.  Augh!!!!  I wanted to pull my hair out!!!  I felt so bad that Julie had trusted me with her quilt!

The third time across I decided that the top edge of the quilt that "floats" at the top of the quilt hadn't been held tight enough as I basted it to the backing.  So I pulled the sides out as far as I could on the 4th pass - I even held them tight with the side clamps while I basted - a real no no, I guess.  But it seemed to work and by the 5th pass things were looking good.  I was quilting with meanders, loops and flowers and my flowers got soooo much better as I went along.  I can't wait to quilt some flowers again!  I mixed my new and improved 5 petaled daisies in with my basic 4 petaled flowers so the quilting didn't change too much from the top to the bottom of the quilt.

 Here it is all done.  Isn't it cute?  Julie didn't even understand why I was going on and on about the puckers and out-of-control-weird-shaped quilting in parts.  I was soooo relieved.  If she is happy, then I am happy.  :)

But I have some questions for you long arm quilters out there:
  1. Are there any tricks I should know about when basting the top of a quilt?  Obviously I did something wrong.
  2. How tight do you pull the top and bottom?  I was pulling everything really tight -very paranoid about more puckers.  But the more I pulled, the more the seams along the edges would start to pull apart.  Is there a happy medium?  How do you handle pulled apart edges?
  3. On a related note, when I took the quilt off, it got a pretty crinkly look right away.  I think this is because the backing and front were pulled taut, but the batting was more loose.  I think it is a great look for this quilt, but what if I want a more flat look?  Again, how tight do you pull the top and bottom?
  4. How do you learn new skills and designs?  I want to try out new things, but am scared of messing up quilts.  Please, tell all!
I can't wait to try again!  Even though it is nerve wracking, it is so much fun.  Weird, huh?


  1. WEll, I'm not a LAQ, but I dropped my quilt off today and was shown the machine. The lady I went too has hers computerized! It's awesome. I'm praying my quilt top turns out nicely. She was very sweet.

    I hope you're able to get some answers.

  2. You can't worry too much when LAQ! I am a newbie at this, but to get started with the right technique go to this site and click on free
    Here you can watch some videos on how to load and baste. I think there is even a few videos on how to use some tools. I watched all these free ones before I got started. I was told the top should be firm but not tight. I learn new skills by loading a practice piece and just playing. I don't want to ruin a beautiful quilt trying something too hard for the first time. I recently tried some free motion. You can look at pictures on my blog.
    I have been looking for books with some quilting patterns, but haven't found much yet. I did buy some block patterns and pantographs though. Good luck with your quilting!

  3. If you need some help one of the best places i have been able to find is everyone is willing to help out, doesn't matter if you are just starting out or have been quilting for years!

    I personally do not over tighten, i tend to get get more puckers and waves in the backing when i do. i was taught back when i first got my machine that you should be able to take two fingers and press them down into the quilt sandwich and the fabric should go down about three inches before it starts to fight you back. Your best bet is to just pin in some fabric (or a charity quilt) and try different tightness on your layers, but do your best to keep the tightness the same on both the backing and the quilt top!

  4. I was taught that you don't make it tight. If you tighten it too much with the side clamps you will get distortion. I was also told that if the quilt is too tight you will find it difficult to get your tension right but that may differ with machine. I have a HQ and am just starting my long arm journey.

  5. is a good resource. Also Linda Taylor's book is a great resource as well. "Ultimate Guide to Longarm Machine Quilting".

    Linda teaches to pin the backing and batting on the take up leader at the same time. If using red snappers, then just the backing, then baste across the top the batting onto the backing using the horizontal channel lock which gives you a nice straight line.

    Then baste the top to the batting/backing sandwich across the top. Then down the sides without any clamps on still, just to where you can't quilt (towards you) any more. If you're doing an allover, add your side clamps, and then you can then quilt the section, then move the quilt forward, baste each side, add you clamps and then quilt the section, move forward again, repeat.

    NOT tight, but snuggish, just be sure the side clamps get put onto the backing and batting only AFTER basting the top to them along the sides.

    crinkly probably because it was pulled so tight. You might get some of it out if you now 'block' it. Wet it, and pin it to a cork board to straighten it out while it dries.

    doodle every day! Get a sketch pad and doodle!!!!

  6. Love the quilt! I just started LAQ too and have been having the same problems. I know what you mean about wanting to try more, but not wanting to mess up a quilt! Someone suggested to me making some whole cloth baby quilts to practice.

  7. I am still learning on my LA (HandiQuilter) and they have some great tutorials online on how to load a quilt on Youtube. I use pins like they suggested without any difficulty.

    I have learned that too tight is a no-no!

  8. I haven't done many quilts yet. I'm a new owner of a long arm. I stitch my batting and then quilt top to the backing fabric which is pinned to the leaders. I have tried floating the quilt top completely (not connected at the bottom), or pinning it to the other leader, and much prefer it pinned. I just purchased the Red Snappers and hop to put them on this week once my current project is off the frame.

    I don't pull it too tight, although find I need to pull it a little tighter for ruler/template work, then free motion or panto work.

    One tip I've read is to baste around the outside of the quilt top, about 1/8" from the edge. I don't know how many people do that, but it might solve your problem.

    I have been working on an online course - still building the quilt top, but soon it will be on my longarm. Its from I also received a number of DVDs with my machine and have watched most of those more than once.

  9. I showed this post to Aaron and he said, "Wow, that's a pretty quilt." Then a few seconds later, "Hey, that's your quilt!" I think it looks so fancy too! I'm sorry it stressed you out but I just love it and while I could see the flaws when you pointed them out it's not what I see when I look at it. I'm in love! Now if only I could finish the binding.