An update to the original post, which is included at the bottom of this post…
For those of you who like using zipper leaders, I have found a couple more shortcuts. Awhile back, when I was getting ready to baste the quilt backing onto the zippers, I had my 1/4″ quilting foot on my machine. Instead of swapping out the foot, the lazy side of me decided to leave the 1/4″ foot on and try to baste the zippers on with that. Guess what? It worked!
Another discovery has to do with backing that is not cut square. It’s more important, for me, to have the backing square than the quilt top. I can fix the quilt top so that it ends up square with the quilting. But, if you don’t have a square quilt back, then your quilt will never be square when it’s finished. Whatever side you attach to the zippers needs to be straight, so if the customer does not have a preference of which way the quilt is loaded (which is usually the case), then he/she will not know which 2 sides need to be straight. I could charge my customers for cutting the fabric for them to make the quilt backing straight and square, but I don’t feel comfortable cutting their fabric. You never know what they want to do with it. Besides, unless a customer has watched you step-by-step in the preparation process, he/she won’t understand how important this is. So, this is what I’ve done with quilt backings that are not straight.
I fold the fabric back and just stitch over it. This is especially an issue with pieced backings. Here’s another shot after I unzipped the other side of the zipper. See how the backing is pieced and the edges don’t match?
But, what about when you want to sew the other side of fabric to the other side of the zipper and it doesn’t match up? Before you unzip the zipper to attach the other side of the fabric, make sure you line up the 2 sides of the backing fabric. If they don’t match, mark the side that extends with a pin and pin it onto the other side of the fabric.
I only suggest you try this if you do not have too much fabric to fold back. When I attach the quilt top to the quilt sandwich on my frame, I make sure I am about 4 inches (at a bare, bare minimum 2 inches) from the edge of the zipper. The reason I do this is because I have found that when attaching the backing to the zipper, the fabric stretches a bit. This is a problem no matter what. When I was pinning the backing fabric to the canvas on the quilting machine frame’s rollers, the backing fabric would stretch then as well. Sometimes it was worse than when I baste it with a zipper leader. I know a lot about fabric, but I haven’t figured that one out yet. In the picture below, you can see how the zippers kind of “wave” with the stretch of the fabric. It’s not bad, but to be careful, I accommodate for that, which is the reason the above fabric folding technique can work for me.
One more thing… Sue Schmieden, the creator of the zipper leaders I use (www.longarmconnection.com) suggests color coding your zippers. I don’t have a picture to show you, because I haven’t tried it yet, but when I am ready to replace the zippers I have on my canvas, I will definitely try this! For color coding, Sue suggests that you use a different color fabric for each side of the zippers. So, for the belly bar or bottom of the backing, you would attach the backing zipper that would go on the canvas onto a piece of colored fabric (let’s say “red”) and then sew the “red” fabric with the zipper to the canvas on the belly bar. I’ve gotta tell ya, this sounds so much easier than trying to sew the zipper onto the canvas. Then, for the other side of the zipper that would be zipped go with the belly bar zipper, you would attach red fabric to that part of the zipper also. That way you know that the bottom edge of the backing fabric which is attached to the belly bar will always be red.
You would repeat this process with a different color for the other 2 rollers with canvas. Let’s say “blue” for the take up roller (the roller bar with the canvas that rolls up the top edge of where you are working if you are facing the front of the machine) and its set of zippers. And, then use another color (let’s say “white”) for the quilt top roller. I hope it all makes sense, but it would only make sense to another longarmer, I think.