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Thread: What I see as a Longarm Quilter

  1. #1
    Senior Member crashnquilt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Lebanon, Missouri

    What I see as a Longarm Quilter

    I realize I may well get blasted for this post BUT I just gotta say these things anyway.

    When the top and backing is loaded onto a quilting frame it is pulled taught, not tight enough to bounce a quarter off of it but taught enough for tension when rolling it onto the rollers and back and forth while quilting. If the backing has been pieced, this is when the problems begin. If the seam(s) go from top to bottom of the quilt, when the backing is rolled on the frame there is build up from the seam(s) laying atop one another that can AND will cause several problems from the longarmer. So if the backing has multiple piecing the longarmer is faced with multiple problems.

    Now for the top. Hopefully we all set the stitches then press seams to one side with an iron. We are taught to press to the dark or one side by setting the seam then flipping the top fabric over and pressing. Here is where a LAQ problem will arise. Make sure you are NOT pressing in a tiny bit of a fold. We've all done it. That tiny bit of fold, albeit may only be two or three threads of fabric, will raise it's ugly little head to a LAQ. Now if you have done this teeny tiny fold more than once in your piecing, each one WILL cause it's own problem.

    If you have a top like a pinwheel or kalidescope (sp) block there is quite a build up of fabric in the center of the block. You may have pressed, ironed, hammered, steamed, steamrolled, ran over, hammered more, and the like to flatten that center. Okay, it looked really good on your ironing board. Well, give that block a bit of a stretch. That center will pop up. It isn't that you may have pieced the block wrong, it is just the nature of the beast. Now a LAQ has to figure out a way to quilt that block AND have the center lay down. Please remember, the center seam of that block is THICK! When we go to quilt over it our machines may get stuck in the fabric. For most of us, the only way to correct this problem is to turn the machine off, turn the flywheel to lift the needle, then turn the machine back on. In most cases, this will appear as a skipped stitch. Worse yet, when the machine gets to the fabric build up, our hopping foot may not be able to clear the build up and kind of "push" the center to one side. Then we always face the problem of the needle breaking at the intersection. (I have learned the hard way to never quilt without some kind of eye protection) I have had to replace eyeglasses from broken needles that have put a chip in my lens right in my line of sight.

    Now about those wavy borders. The most common cause of wavy borders, whether cut cross grain of straight of grain is the cut ACTUALLY BEING ON SOME KIND OF GRAIN! If you did not prewash your fabric and set the fabric on straight of grain, most likely your borders are off grain. Off grain fabric WILL wave. We all complain about fabric "shrinking" when washed. Actually the fabric does not shrink. (no I'm not nuts) The fabric is returning to actual size! When fabric is made the fiber is stretched. After the fabric has been created, it is then stretched in pressing. The fibers are treated with chemicals to "relax" the fiber so that it will lay more flat. Then at the end of it all, once again the fabric is stretched to be rolled onto bolts flat. (I worked in a fabric mill for many years, this is why I know this) Now, I'm not telling you that you have to prewash your fabrics, that is your personal preference, but I will say I prewash all my fabrics before I start a quilt. Also, I do purchase at least a quarter yard more than the pattern for the "just in case" problems.

    So, for the piecers, if you want to take the time to do this, there is a way you can foresee SOME quilting problems. No one will be able to foresee all the problems. Make sure your top and backing if VERY WELL PRESSED. You need to clip all threads that may show thru. If you see a ravel problem, trim it! Once you have these problems addressed, lay your top (and backing if pieced) on a large surface. Carpeted floor works perfect for this. Give it a bit of a stretch and pin it. Stand up, back up, and give a look. Do you see any ripples? If so, you LAQ will have to deal with those.

    I fully expect to get some flack over this post. I am fairly certain most longarm quilters will agree with what I have written. But I know there are some piecers out there that will think I am entirely NUTS. For those of you that think that, go spend a day with a longarmer, you will change your mind.

    Now, about "certification" for longarmers. What I am about to say IS MY OPINION, like it or not. If a person goes thru medical school and BARELY passes the board because they really didn't study, they are still going to call themselves a Doctor. May not be a good doctor BUT people will go to them AT LEAST ONCE. If a person goes thru beauty school and comes out barely knowing the difference between a razor and pair of scissors, they can still call themselves a hairdresser. So, with knowing these facts, what is the purpose of making a LAQ get certified? Also, that person will be judged (or graded) by another HUMAN, leaving the results to PERSONAL CHOICE.

    Okay, I will jump off my soapbox now and go attempt to finish the quilt that is currently on my frame.

    Wouldn't you like to live with my mind just for a moment? I wish you would, I think I need to get OUT OF IT!

  2. #2
    Super Member Daylesewblessed's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    West Texas
    Thank you for this post. A few months ago we had a panel of about 5 longarm quilters as the program for a guild meeting. It was as enlightening as your post. We all want our quilts to look the best possible, and we will get better results if we work WITH the longarmer to achieve that goal.


  3. #3
    Senior Member Mom3's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    suburb of Milwaukee, WI
    I see nothing arguable in your post - it's honest - it's informative - and it will help me with all my future quilting projects.

    Sew on!


  4. #4
    Super Member Deborahlees's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Wine Country-Southern California
    There was a whole lot of information in the statement. I also do not see anything arguable about it....never really thought about the seam in the backing....but can see the problem with pinwheels, been there on that one.....
    I still think that you need to check out the LAQ kinda like you would a contractor for your house. How long have they been doing this as a business, pictures of their work, ask for references....after all you will be giving them a piece of your heart....
    Yes that is a real picture of my hometown Temecula, California. We feature premiere Wineries, World Class Golf Courses, Pechanga Indian Casino and Hot Air Balloons

  5. #5
    Super Member valleyquiltermo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Ditto----ditto___ditto on crashnquilt's post...........
    Sweet Dreams come from under Cozy Quilts made with love.
    Life is short, take time to enjoy it. Play with your kids and g-kids,
    and do what you can for others.

  6. #6
    Super Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    dallas tx.
    Blog Entries
    I'm going to bookmark this and read and re-read it. Very good information. Thanks a lot.

  7. #7
    Super Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Blog Entries
    I am not a long-armer. I have never taken my quilts to anyone else to quilt, or even look at for that matter. I do plan on getting a frame for my machines-down the road. I have read so many posts on here from many who have questions about sending their quilts out, and the responses by the longarmers or domestic quilters. I have not investigated nor perused any sites regarding longarm quilting, and/or sending them out. That said, I think your article is very informative and certainly opened my eyes to questions I still had after reading all the other posts on the Board regarding the issues they have. I will print this out if you don't mind for future reference. To me, it all makes sense. Very well said. And if you get any flack about your post, I am very interested in those responses too.
    By the way, if you think of anything else to add to your message, be sure to let us know! Thanks for highlighting several issues and answering a few questions I had. While reading it I imagined you shaking your head every time you read a post from someone with a question or concern about puckers, wavy borders, split seams, poor stitching, etc. etc. When you know your craft, you know your craft.

  8. #8
    Super Member DogHouseMom's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Knot Merrill, Southern Indiana
    No flack here ... never having loaded a quilt onto a frame I appreciate knowing the *things* that can happen to it. I used a LAQ once and I might do it again in the future. It's nice to know the area's where I can improve and not hinder the job of the LAQ.

    I also agree about certification ... it's really worth the paper it's printed on (ONLY the paper). If a person wishes to know the abilities of an LAQ ... look at their work, preferably in person.

    I would like to add though that if someone is in business of quilting on a LA for others (ie a professional), THEY should also understand that not all piecers are going to know these things and a good professional LAQ should preview the quilt before it is on the frame and before giving the customer a quote to tell the customer "I might run into problems in these areas and the result could be puckers" and give the piecer the option to fix it first. To call upon your previously mentioned professions ... a good doctor is going to tell me all the side effects of a prescribed medication, and a good hair dresser is going to tell me if my hair will not behave like the model's hair in the picture.

    This is where I'm coming from. I had never seen a frame or a long arm, never knew how one operated. I had a quilt top that I wanted quilted in a way that was beyond my abilities at that time so I contacted an LA in the area who was recommended by my LQS (and I saw many of her quilts displayed there as well). I phoned her, described my quilt and what I wanted, made an appointment and brought her my quilt top, batting and backing ... ALL BASTED TOGETHER! She had not told me not to, how the heck was I to know quilts were loaded onto frames separate? Never having seen one, I thought they were loaded together. To make matters worse the poor woman was so horrified that I had basted it that she didn't hear me when I told her that I basted it with water soluble thread. She could have just spritzed it with water and it would have pulled apart ... she picked out all the basting threads! Yes, we had a good laugh about that, and fortunately my quilt turned out gorgeous and we are all happy.

    But yes, thank you again for your post. I have certainly learned a few things about how to prepare a quilt for a frame (and for that matter - your suggestions should be employed when quilting on a DM as well).
    May your stitches always be straight, your seams always lie flat, and your grain never be biased against you.


  9. #9
    Super Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Wow. Thank you for this post. As a longarmer, I can attest that you know whereof you speak. But I did not know that wavy borders could be caused by not prewashing/drying/pressing the fabric. I thought the only cause was not measuring/cutting the border strips before sewing them on. I also did not know that when prewashed fabric "shrinks", it is actually not shrinking at all, but just returning to it's unstretched size. Thanks so much for this information.

  10. #10
    Super Member nannyrick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Western New York
    Your post was very enlightening!!! Thanks for taking the time to share this.
    so many quilts to make, so little time.

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