Do You Have a Quilting PhD?

Hey quilters! Do you:

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If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, click here to get my list of Quilter’s Abbreviations on my ‘Tips and Hints’ page. We all need a little smile on a cold, snowy Monday – so please share with your friends so they can have some fun too!

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Merry Christmas to All!!

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Thank you to all of you who have supported me this past year. May you have the Merriest of Christmases, and Health and Happiness in the New Year!

Andi

Ask the Longarmer – Thread Color

I want dark green thread on the top of my quilt, and white on the back. Why can’t you do this?

Actually, while this can be done, I usually advise against using two different colors of thread as you might not be very happy with the outcome. With a longarm quilting machine, we are moving the machine around in all directions over the quilt sandwich at a high rate of speed. As we change direction, the thread tension often changes slightly as well. Ideally the portion of a stitch where the top and bobbin thread meet will lock exactly in the center layer of the batting, but this is not always the case. Then you end up with what we longarmers call ‘pokies’ – little dots of the top thread showing on the backing, or bobbin thread showing on the top of the quilt sandwich. When you use two threads that differ widely in color or value, these ‘pokies’ are very pronounced.

Here is a design stitched with green thread on white fabric – pretty, isn’t it? (Panto is Holly Panto 3 by Donna Kleinke of One Song Needle Arts.)

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The contrast of green thread on white fabric really lets this lovely quilting design show.

What happens when we use a contrasting thread in the bobbin? Now the back of the quilt is not very attractive, right?

    Using white thread in the bobbin allows 'pokies' of the top thread to show if the tension isn't perfectly balanced.

Using contrasting white thread in the bobbin allows ‘pokies’ of the top thread to show on the back of the quilt if the tension isn’t perfectly balanced.

(Sometimes we can minimize the effect by using a thinner thread, or a high loft batting. So if you have your heart set on contrasting thread colors, choose a loftier batting.)

Normally when I explain this to a client, and show them a sample of what can happen, they agree with me to use the same color thread on top and in the bobbin. After all, if you were hand quilting your quilt, and using white thread on top, what color would you use on the back???????

Ask The Longarmer – Backing & Batting

Do you really need the quilt backing and batting to be 8″ larger than the quilt top? I don’t cut them that big if I’m hand quilting or quilting on my domestic sewing machine (DSM)!

There are several reasons why I ask for the batting and backing to be a total of 8″ wider and 8″ longer than your quilt top. When you are hand quilting or quilting on your DSM, you baste the layers together before starting. Since you lay everything out flat, it allows you to see if you are going to come up short in one area or another BEFORE you ever start the quilting process. Then you can make adjustments so you don’t run out of backing over there in the lower left corner, or wherever.

I do NOT baste your layers together before loading them on the frame. First, I load the backing on a set of rollers. The backing is attached to canvas leaders, either by pins, or a clamping system. The clamps I use take up about 1″ on both the top and the bottom edges of the backing. Since I don’t want to hit these clamps while sewing, and break my hopping foot, I need to leave a little breathing room – let’s say another inch on each end.

Now let’s take a break from quilting and go read a magazine…..what?? Bear with me, and you’ll see how it pertains to our discussion!

See how the front cover (quilt top), pages (batting) and back cover (quilt backing) are all perfectly aligned?

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Now what happens when I roll the magazine up???

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All of a sudden the back cover is much shorter than the front cover! This is exactly what happens when I roll the quilt up on the frame as I quilt my way down it – the backing ‘shrinks up’. Different thicknesses (lofts) of batting will make this phenomenon even more pronounced. (So if you DO have a quilt back that’s on the skimpy side, you should request a thin batting…….or go buy a new backing ;-). Consider an extra-wide quilt backing – it means you don’t have to piece, and it will save you money as well!) So now you know why I need several extra inches in length.

Why do I need the extra width? Well, again, I use clamps on the sides of your quilts to apply the right amount of tension to prevent pleats and puckers on the backing. Those clamps take up an inch or so……don’t want to run into them with the hopping foot…..yada, yada, yada…..oh, and it also gives me a place to test my thread tension before starting to sew on your quilt top. Different combinations of backing fabrics and battings and threads can require some ‘tweaking’ to get stitches that look pretty. I’d rather test that out on the side than on your quilt top.

It’s also important for your quilt back to be square. If you give me a backing that looks like a parallelogram, when I load each edge onto the rollers and roll it up, instead of being nice and flat and straight, it’s going to look like a hammock.

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(While hammocks are lovely for sleeping in on a warm summer day, they don’t make nice quilt backs. You will end up with pleats and puckers on the back of your quilt, I’ll be sad that I couldn’t do a nice job for you, and neither of us will be happy!)

Since many backs come to me that are NOT square, the extra inches also allow me to square your backing up without it ending up too short. Yes, that’s something that takes me extra time, and No, I do not charge a separate fee for squaring a backing (although I’ve heard that some longarmers do). But it’s just one more way that I can ensure your quilt comes out looking great in the end (and on the back)!

So now do you understand why I ask for an extra 8″? 😉

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