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Getting your quilt ready for a longarmer

Getting your quilt ready for the
longarm quilter
Sue Smith


There are a lot of things involved in getting the best job for your quilt.

Selecting a longarm quilter  You need to have a longarm quilter that you like and trust.  The best way to find one is to get recommendations from friends and then to interview the possibilities.  Start with a phone interview and then go to her studio and examine her workspace if possible. She should be able to provide samples of her work.

The schedule  Discuss your longarmer’s schedule.  Many times they are booked out several months.

Pricing   Discuss pricing with your longarmer.  Don’t be shy about it, but remember that she has many thousands of dollars invested in her equipment and studio space and thousands of hours invested in learning her skill

Minimum  I have a minimum price because it’s just about as much work to put in a little quilt as it is a bigger quilt.

The top  Your quilt top should be clean and pressed.  Remove stray threads and check that you caught all the seams.  Stay stitch around the edge of the top to ensure that seams don’t pull open.  Borders should lie flat, not wavy.  Take the time to put your borders on correctly.  Measure through the body of the quilt and cut borders to measurement.  Fold to mark and pin to marked body of quilt.  Carefully sew your pieces together–measure, match, pin and sew.

Back  The back needs to be at least 4” bigger on all (every) sides and straight (this means square).  Carefully sew your back pieces together–measure, match, pin and sew.  For me this is the area with the most conflict.  Cut off selvages and press seams open.  Use half inch seam allowance.  Please try to have grain of fabric going the same direction on all pieces.  This helps to achieve a smooth back.  Some machine quilters believe that quilts will last longer and look better longer if you do not have a seam in the middle of the back.

I can use sheets for backs on my machine.  I need to have you remove or pick out the hems.  The sheet size still needs to be at least 4” bigger on every side of the quilt. If you want to use a sheet talk this over with your quilter.

If your back is lots bigger, that’s okay.

Batting   I carry several kinds of batting.  I don’t give you a discount if you bring your own batt but I will usually use what you bring if you want me to.

Thread   Ask your longarmer what thread she thinks should be used on your quilt.  Each of us carries the threads that work best on our machine. Please understand that most of us prefer to use the same color thread on the top and the back, so think about weather or not you want contrast on the top and back.  I will not use thread that you bring but am willing to get thread in your color.

The quilting  Try to have some ideas about what you might want for quilting.  It’s not always possible for a longarmer to do your quilting the same as the photo in the pattern.


please understand that many people are sensitive to smells and chemicals.  If you smoke or wear perfume, please air out your quilt.

Animal hair left on the top of the quilt can wick oil from the machine to the top.

Your quilt top cannot have embellishments on it.  This can break my machine (and parts can take months to get)

Any holes in your top (open seams or wounds) can cause the machine to be sewn to the top and the only way out of this is to cut your top.

Do not baste the parts together.  I need to mount the top and back separately.

If you need to mark a fault in the fabric use a safty pin and a big piece of paper.  Also bring it to my attention verbally.

Never wash an unquilted top.   This compromises the seam allowances.

Trimming   I will trim your quilt when I have finished quilting it if you want me to.  We need to talk about this at the time you leave your quilt with me.

I offer the service of making and putting your binding on the front of the quilt. I will also finish the second side of the binding by hand if you want me to.  You may also have you project back untrimmed.  In all cases you get all of your fabric back