Monday, March 9, 2015

A little about longarm quilting, and fun on a Sunday

Today, I read on a blog I follow, a lengthy article on what the longarmer did that wasn't right. It was very interesting to me and included photos of the things that irritated the customer, as well as many comments from other readers with their own horror stories about longarmers. Well, I felt I had to defend longarm quilting in general, but agreed with a few of her complaints, too. Here is the skinny on what to expect from a longarm quilter, in my opinion.

1. You should expect to either discuss in person with your quilter what your vision for the quilting is, or have a written 'wish list' for her to follow. Is this going to be a utility quilt, a family heirloom, or a show quilt? This will help determine what kind of quilting you need and how much it will cost. Simple meandering, pantograph (edge to edge pattern) or custom quilting to enhance the piecing or applique. I have hundreds of patterns and threads to choose from, so I am  always able to find something pleasing to my customers.

2. What color thread do you see? Light will always look good on all values of fabrics, but dark thread generally looks bad and shows every wobble and hesitation in the stitching. This is really evident on the back. I know, because I just spent a week picking out a massive amount of dark thread from a light back, and re-quilting it.
If you have a mixed value quilt top and use a light backing, you should expect to see light thread both front and back. Some people want one color on the front and another on the back. Don't do this! There will surely be places where the tiny dots of the opposing color will show. This is distracting and just doesn't look good.
Predominantly red on the top, But I chose a creamy colored thread

Red thread on the back would not have looked as nice as the cream color does.

3. Don't expect the quilter to be able to fix your piecing mistakes. If your quilt top doesn't lie flat for you, it won't be easy to keep flat or square for the quilter, either. We can work in some of the fullness, but we are not miracle workers."It will quilt out" is not what you should be thinking. Be as accurate as possible. 1.8 inch off on each seam adds an inch off over just eight seams! Multiply that over a 100 x 100 inch quilt, and you have a big discrepancy when you go to square up the quilt.
I try to keep the quilt as straight and square as possible as I go along, and there have been some challenges! Measure the quilt before you add the borders, and cut your borders to fit. Wavy borders are the most common problem for longarm quilters. It takes longer to ease in all that fullness without getting a tuck or pleat. A necessary skill the longarm quilter learns early on.

Part of the seam wasn't sewn shut!
Border wasn't the same length as the center, creating excess bulk in the quilt. A tuck waiting to happen!
Extra fabric pinned and ready to ease in

I stopped quilting and hand sewed this applique down, too.

In the end, it was a beautiful, flat, square quilt without tucks or open seams...but it also took a week to custom quilt!
4. Give us enough backing to mount the quilt to the leaders and to be able to use our clamps on the sides. I require at least 3 inches on all four sides to do this. The batting, also, has to be at least an inch bigger on all sides, preferably more, to allow for the quilting pulling in the fabric a bit to give you the lovely definition you look for in a quilt. The puffier the batting, the more the quilt shrinks during the quilting process. The backing should be straight and square, too.
Quilt with ample backing and batting for the machine quilting

5. Some quilters don't trim the quilt after quilting. My standard trim is 1/2 inch. I will do more, or none, if the customer asks for it. It is your job to get the quilt squared up after quilting. I leave the 1/2 inch in case you need to block the quilt or leave some batting to fill a wider binding. I sew my binding lined up with the edge of the quilt top and leave a scant quarter inch of batt to be folded into the binding with the hand sewing. If you are using a 2 1/2 inch binding, you may want to leave the 1/2 inch trim to fill your binding. I never cut anything off the quilt top. I figure that is how you want it to look, so I leave it.
finished quilting with the 1/2 inch trim

6. Please try to trim off all those errant threads that are stuck in the seams and poking out the front of the top. I go over each row of quilting area, trimming and lint rolling to get the top as neat as possible. Dawn Cavanaugh (one of my quilting icons) said once in a class I was taking, that she stopped doing this for her customers. She figures they must want those threads there, or they would have trimmed them before the quilt came to her. Wow! After 8 years of quilting, I am starting to see why she said that. Sending a quilt that is covered with threads or pet pet hair, that is all wrinkly from being stuffed in a bag is a downer for your quilter. I have started charging $5 to press quilt tops and back for this reason: time is money! My time is worth just as much as your time, so keep that in mind when preparing your quilt for the quilter. I want your quilt to look wonderful when I am done.

Okay, I have ranted enough. I hope you aren't offended and maybe see how it is from the longarmer's perspective. I love my customers and I want them to be pleased with my work. It is a stressful job to quilt your projects after you have worked on them forever . When I have a problem, it weighs on me heavily and I will do anything to make it right. Some quilters may be less than honest or caring, and that makes it harder for those of us doing our best to please you. Keep in mind, if you were able to do the quilting like we do, you would. You have given us your quilt top for a reason, and it is up to us to make your dream a reality.

Meanwhile, Mr Wazoo and I took an afternoon off (gasp!) and drove up to McCaysville to a nursery there, recommended by a quilting friend. What a find it was! Mr Wazoo was like a kid in a candy store looking at all the shrubs and plants, and talking gardening with the owner. We ended up getting some composted mushroom and two rhododrendrons to start his garden adventure here in Georgia.
Mr Wazoo mesmerized by mulch and compost

shrub Shangri-La

I dunno...just like the look of these.

More eye candy
After the nursery, we stopped at a local attraction called Merciers and checked out the merchandise. They have a huge market during the season, as well as pick-it-yourself strawberries and apples. We will be back, for sure! Thanks, Darlene, for the tip!
I bet this is beautiful in the spring! There are huge orchards all arond the place.

the entrance


Yum, yum!

ha ha ha, doesn't everyone need Apocalyptic hot sauce to repel zombies?

I prefer blue cheese stuffed olives, but these looked good, too.

We bought some pear-cinnamon jam and some peach-raspberry butter . I had the butter on my english muffin today, and it was divine! Now, its time to go to work!

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I've been longarming for 15 years and have seen everything. If only every quilter had a chance to use a machine, they would understand our quirky ways.


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