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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Another Winner!

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Thanks to everyone who participated in the second way you could win a FREE wide quilt back – by purchasing a back during March either online or in the Studio. I drew a name out yesterday from all the entries, and the winner is……someone who purchased this lovely batik backing. Like how I keep you in suspense??? Those of you who bought this piece are wondering, is it me? IS IT ME?????? Well, to find out, just scroll down below the photo……

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Kathy G. of SD! Kathy will be getting a check for the full purchase price of $56.70! Congratulations, Kathy! (And I only had one Kathy G. from SD participate, a local customer, so yes, it is YOU!)

Win a FREE Queen-Sized Wide Quilt Back!

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Would you like to win a free quilt back? I now carry almost 40 different wide fabrics on my Website and in my Studio.

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I’m so excited to have such an extensive selection, that I thought I needed to celebrate. And what better way to celebrate than to have a giveaway!

There are actually TWO ways you can win!

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Leave a comment below, telling me WHY you quilt? Quilting began as a way to keep warm by making practical bed covers from scraps of leftover or previously used fabric. But most of us no longer NEED to keep warm in this way. It would be much faster, not to mention less expensive, to purchase a ready made blanket or comforter. So WHY do you participate in this ‘crazy’ hobby of taking perfectly good, brand new fabric, cutting it up into tiny pieces, and then sewing it back together again?? 😉 What is it about quilting that calls to you?

Leave your comment by Sat. March 16, and I’ll draw one name at random. That person will win 2-3/4 yards (99″ x 108″) of THEIR CHOICE of any of my COTTON quilt backs (sorry, Batiks and Flannels are excluded from the giveaway). While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog on the left side of this page (or below if you’re reading on a mobile device). That way you won’t miss any of my upcoming posts on choosing quilting designs for your quilt tops (see the first article here).

No2

Purchase a wide quilt back from my Online Store or in the Studio any time during March. Each time you purchase a 2 yard or larger cut of one fabric, your name and the value of that particular backing will go into a drawing. (If you buy 6 backs, you get 6 chances!) At the end of the month, I’ll draw out one name, and I will reimburse you for the price you paid for the back!! So if you bought a 3 yard piece at $16.99/yd., I’ll write you a check for $50.97 (plus sales tax and/or shipping if applicable)! How cool is that???

Be sure and visit the Website to see all of the wide backs I’ve recently added. And check out the Clearance section for some great buys on notions, patterns and Paintstiks and accessories!

And since it will be lots of fun to read why people quilt, please share this with your quilting friends, on your Facebook page, or Tweet about it, etc. Thanks, and Good luck!!

Why to Tear Wide Backs Instead of Cutting

When fabric is rolled on a bolt, it often goes on crooked. You may have noticed this if you cut strips from your fabric and they form a “V” instead of being nice and straight. Due to the extra width, and being folded an extra time, wide backs are more susceptible to this.

Here is a wide back I received recently. When it’s unrolled it from the bolt, it seems fine, doesn’t it?

But look what happens when I align it so the selvages are even:

That’s almost a 4 inch difference!! By the time the backing was squared up, there might not be enough left for your longarm quilter to load it on the frame.

Tearing allows for straight edges on both sides of the yardage, and those edges will be at a 90 degree angle to the selvages. A square back means I can quilt your top without pleats or puckers on the back – something that will make both of us happy!

Visit my website to shop for a wide backing that will be torn so you’re sure you’re getting the right amount!


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