Frequently Asked Questions
Bits of Useful Information.
1. Do I really need to leave extra backing fabric around the edges of the quilt?
YES!! Until I owned a long-arm machine, I didn’t really believe it made a difference either, but, YES, it most certainly does. When calculating the amount of backing fabric you need, please include an extra 6-8 inches on EACH SIDE of the quilt. For example, an average. Twin size quilt measures 63 x 87. Your backing fabric needs to be at least 6 inches larger on ALL sides so you will need to cut your backing 75 x 99. Your BATTING also needs to be larger than your quilt top, at least 2-4 inches on all sides please.
2. WHY? Why do I need all that extra backing fabric?
The extra fabric is needed for mounting onto the frame. Each layer of a quilt is loaded separately onto a different roller. The backing needs to be larger because it’s travelling a greater distance than the top over the frame. There also needs to be extra fabric on the sides since clamps will be attached to hold the fabric taught. That extra bit of tension is needed to keep the quilt square and the stitches even. The clamps need to be attached far enough way on the fabric so they don’t interfere with the movement of the machine head. And, not to worry, once the quilt is complete that extra fabric can be cut off and made into scraps for another quilt!
3. What do I need to do to my quilt top and backing fabric BEFORE I bring it to you to be quilted?
Your quilt top and backing fabric should be pressed well, free from deep wrinkles. Seams should lay flat and both pieces should be squared so the corners form a 90 degree angle. Seams which extend to the outside edge need to be secured by stay-stitching across them 1/8 – 1/4 inch from the raw edge. The stay-stitching will prevent the seams from opening while being rolled onto the frame. Stitch just shy of 1/4 inch from the edge if you will stitch your binding using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Seams should lay FLAT, either pressed open or to one side. If a seam is twisted and cannot lay totally flat, either leave it, or take out your stitching and re-sew. DO NOT clip into the seam allowance to make it lay flat as that will weaken the seam. If your backing fabric requires seaming, please try to keep the seams horizontal instead of vertical. Vertical seams will wind onto themselves several times when the quilt is rolled forward on the frame. This can make for a very lumpy, bulky area, which is difficult to keep flat and square. However, if vertical seaming is necessary, please try to keep smaller pieces toward the middle and seam larger pieces of fabric to the edges. This will help minimize stretching and help keep the backing square. Lastly, please try to keep the grain lines consistent when piecing. The cross-wise grain will have a little give, or stretch to it, where-as the length-wise grain will be more stable. This will help prevent stretching and puckering on the back while quilting. Press backing seams OPEN to eliminate bulk whenever possible. If you’re concerned about the seam not being as strong, stitch with a slightly shorter stitch length for added durability. If your quilt is directional, please indicate which is “top” with a pin, binder clip, thread basting, etc.. Please avoid using Post-It notes as they don’t stick well to fabric.
4. My quilt top does not lay flat, especially around the edges, even after I press it. What’s going on? Can you “quilt it out?”
In a word, “NO”. If your quilt top does not lay flat around the edges, and is wavy or ripples, chances are the borders are too long. There are some great tutorials on You Tube and in various magazines about attaching borders and I’ll share a few tips in the next answer. A little bit of fullness MAY be eased in when quilting as Edge to Edge quilting is often more forgiving. It’s possible that some of the waves MAY be smoothed out with the stitching. HOWEVER, if there is significant distortion which will cause pleats or tucks to be sewn-in, the borders will have to be removed, recut and reattached before proceeding. This will be discussed during our initial consultation. You may take your quilt home to fix and bring back later, or, I’ll make the necessary adjustments for you @ $25/ hour.
5. We’ve determined my borders are too long, and I’ll take them home to fix. What do I do to correct the problem?
Ripping, skinning, picking-out, call it whatever you want, we’d all rather be sewing than “un-sewing”. However, a seam ripper is an essential weapon in any sewer’s tool kit, so we might as well get comfortable using it. Basically, if your borders are too long you will need to remove your stitches and take them off. If you have multiple borders, I would take them all off just to be sure it’s them, not the piecing of the centre, which is causing the problem. Before adding borders, be sure your centre lays flat and is square. Use the biggest, longest ruler you have and try to line up as many lines on the ruler with your piecing to ensure it’s square. Next, measure through the CENTRE of your top. That will be the true measurement of the actual size, not the edges, which are prone to stretching. Measure each side of the quilt to check if either or both have stretched. Sometimes a little bit can be eased in with pressing and sewing, but if the measurement is way off, something in the piecing of the blocks is likely the cause. That needs a whole other remedy in itself! For now, we’ll continue with the borders which are slightly off. Measure your borders which are now separate from the quilt. You find that one border is 2″ too large on one side, and your top stretched 1.5″ on the opposite side. Somewhere your math was off, and/or you could have taken what seemed like the easy route at the time. How many of us have, at one time or another, simply cut a long strip of fabric and just stitched it to the edge of our quilt top, no measuring involved? I know I’m GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY! It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I soon realized that an extra few minutes of preparation saved hours of frustration later! Pin to mark the top, middle, and bottom of your quilt, and top, middle, and bottom of the border. Those measurements should be the same on each piece of fabric. Pin the centres together, then pin the tops and bottoms together. Excess fabric of the borders should hang over the quilt top on both ends. Stitch your seam with the quilt top laying down against the feed dogs and your borders on top. The feed dogs will help work in any stretching or fullness of the top. Press to set the seam before opening, then press the seam toward the border, ensuring there are no tucks on the right side of the quilt top. Square-up the top and bottom edges of the border flush with the top and bottom edges of the quilt. Your border should now lay flat and be square. Add as many as you wish!
6. Instead of piecing my backing fabric, can I use an old sheet?
Please, NO!! While I’m all for eliminating seams, please do NOT be tempted to take what seems to be the easiest, and cheapest way out. Sheets are woven with a different number of threads per square inch than typical quilting cottons, and they are often treated with various chemicals to affect their performance, ie. wrinkle-resistant. This will affect the stitch quality. As well, you’ve gone to a great deal of time and effort to create a beautiful quilt top, so why not put as much thought into the back as in the front? Pretty-much all quilt shops nowadays sell wide-backing fabric, and there are many more companies online, as well. While it may not seem the cheapest way to go, it’s definitely the quickest and easiest. However, when you consider purchasing the typical 6-8 metres of 42″ wide fabric to complete a Queen size quilt, versus the 2-4 metres of wide-backing fabric you’d need, the costs are quite similar, or, in fact, less. Wide-backing fabrics are typically 108″ wide, up to 120″, so that’s a lot of bang for your buck! Just think of all those left-over scraps once the quilt is done!
7. My quilt top is a scrappy Disappearing Nine-Patch. How do I select quilting thread with so many colours, prints and patterns going on?
Thread choice is a personal preference, and there’s endless possibilities. To help narrow the choices, decide if you want the quilting to stand out, or do you want your piecing, or the over-all look of the quilt to blend together. With Edge to Edge quilting, you’ll likely want the quilting thread to blend into your piecing. There’s often enough going on in the body of the quilt that the quilting pattern and thread choice should act as a complement, or enhancement, and not become a feature in itself. That type of quilting design and fancy thread choice are generally reserved for more custom, or heirloom quilting. That is one reason the prices for such types of quilting are much higher and the quilts take longer to complete. Variegated threads are perfect for scrap quilts as they change colour every inch or so, which adds a subtle texture, and new dimension to the quilt. Fine threads, like Bottom Line, are typically made with polyester fibres to add durability while maintaining a very sleek, barely-there appearance. I have several choices of threads in stock, though I can also order whatever you desire. Delivery is usually within a week.
8. How long will it take to quilt my quilt? When can I expect to have it back?
The quilting process varies with each quilt, depending on it’s size and complexity of quilting design. While I strive to complete every quilt as quickly as possible, life happens, threads break, and, unfortunately, I can’t devote as much time to quilting as I’d like. If only I didn’t need sleep! : ) However, completing your quilt is extremely important to me! I know the joy of having all those UFOs crossed off the list, the excitement of having the space, time and energy to tackle new projects. I want to share that joy! As a general guideline, expect your quilt to be returned with-in two weeks minimally, to a maximum of four weeks. Working with a Long-Armer is a collaboration, team work, and we’ll work together to help achieve your goals and work within our deadlines.
9. Mike, you’re a guy. Do you really do all the sewing and quilting yourself?
YES! I DO! More and more men are coming out of the closet to publicly confess their love of sewing and quilting. After-all, it’s a proven stress-reliever and who doesn’t need that? As well, quilters today have access to all this cool stuff, all these neat gadgets and advanced technology and what guy doesn’t love that!? I’m not surprized when husbands take over the long-arm quilting duties from their wives because a long-arm is a basically a big, ultra-cool tool. It’s another toy to play with, and we all know how boys love their toys! : )
10. Do you know you’ve made a spelling mistake? SEWCIAL isn’t really a word.
Thank you for your concern, but, no, I haven’t made a spelling mistake, and, yes, Sewcial IS a word. It’s the name of my company, so I’ve MADE it a word, or, rather, I’ve made it the correct spelling in this case. : ) Sewcial is a play-on-words of the word “Social”. Being a Gemini with a “gift-of-gab”, I’ve often been described as a “social butterfly”. I’ve always had jobs working with the public and have generally been described as “a people person”. I wouldn’t function as well working in an office cubicle all by myself everyday. Though I like and need my down-time, time to myself, I also like to meet new people, chat with old friends, and share anything and everything. Quilters, I find, are very social, giving people who like to share ideas, techniques and, the most precious of all gifts, their TIME! No wonder we make such a difference in this world!
I’d like to share my time with you by helping to complete that unfinished quilt top and turn it into a cozy, comfy quilt which will last a lifetime!
Call or write me today!