I have always been a proponent of using wide backings for quilts. In fact, I have LOTS of 118″ wide fabric and some 108″ wide fabric in stock for my customers’ quilts. Attempting to sew through multiple layers of seams can wreak havoc on my longarm quilting machine, so these wide backs make my job a lot easier and does less damage to my machine. I just read this article on another blog that I thought was worth sharing. She mentions how it really is cheaper (and it is, trust me!) to use wide backs than it is to buy regular width fabric and then piece it. She even has measurements of how much fabric you will need. I have to disagree with her on the amount, though, as I cannot get a quilt backing with only 1 inch. I need a minimum of 4 inches extra on EACH side – see the tab above marked “Batting and Backing.” Check out her blog post here.
One of the problems that longarm quilters face is when a customer brings their own batting and backing. Customers may not understand why they need to provide so much more fabric for the backing and also for the batting – I will show you why. Personally I request a minimum of 6 inches more in length and width. In other words, if the quilt is 72 inches x 80 inches, I will request that they provide both batting and backing that is at least 78 inches x 86 inches. I’d rather have 4 or more inches more on each side, which would be at least another 8 inches from the quilt top measurements. In this case, the batting and backing would need to be at least 80 inches x 86 inches. I provide batting and backing for the customer, and it’s always better for me to do this so that I don’t have to worry about issues that may come up.
The reason we want you, the customer, to provide us with extra batting and backing is this.
You can’t really see all the roller bars, but that black pole that you see with my cheater clips is one of the rollers (those white clips on the black pole help me make sure I am rolling the quilt stop straight – they are lined up to the border seams). I have 3 roller bars on my machine’s table. You would think that they would roll all 3 layers (top, batting, and backing) at the same rate… but, they don’t. Those rollers seem to suck up the backing and the batting much more than they do the top.
Let me show you an example, using a magazine.
As you look at this rolled up magazine, you will see that the front of the magazine (the top layer) does not meet the back of the magazine (bottom layer on a quilting machine, which would be the backing). In fact, this letter size magazine has the top rolled up part extending about an inch beyond the bottom. In between the 2 are the pages (batting) of the magazine. If you can get that much difference on that small a piece, imagine what happens when you have a quilt top that is 72 inches x 80 inches. You need a lot more batting and backing than you do for the quilt top.
So, here is my dilemma. I picked up a charity quilt to work on that had the batting and backing included. I measured before I put it all on the machine and feared the worst because I didn’t think there was enough extra batting and backing. When you lay them all out on the table, they look fine, like you have plenty of batting and backing. I told myself I was just being paranoid and that, surely, I could do this. I’d just be careful.
Well, this is what happened.
As you can see, the batting came up too short. I folded the flowery, quilt top fabric back, so you can see that there is not enough batting for this quilt. I am VERY lucky on this one, because I thought the backing would be too short as well. I barely have enough backing – it’s the rose and blue plaid. If you come up short on the backing, you basically have to take the quilt off and sew extra fabric onto the back and then re-attach it to the table/frame, etc. I can’t tell you how relieved I am not to have to do that!!!
I can fix the issue of batting much easier. There are 2 ways I can deal with this, and I’m curious as to which way YOU would fix it. That navy blue fabric with the pink flowers is the border of the quilt.
I stitched in the ditch all around the border and used an allover design for the body of the quilt. So, one of the things I could do to add batting would be simply to remove the batting already in the border area beyond the stitch in the ditch. I’d cut a piece of batting to butt up against the stitch in the ditch and then enclose it by stitching along the edge and quilting it with the border quilting design (big flowery design). OR… I could just cut about 2 more inches of batting the length of the batting already there and just continue on my merry way.
Either way, my concern is whether or not there will be a gap where I’ve added batting. In other words, will there be a gap next to the stitch in the ditch if I choose that option? Or, will there be a “no batting gap” in the middle of that border where the battings would meet? Certainly I can whip stitch the 2 battings together where they butt up against each other. But, I’d really only be able to do that if they meet in the middle of the border. Butting a solid piece up against the stitch in the ditch could be less noticeable and less work, but will the batting migrate away from that seam?
What would YOU do?
Ever think how lucky someone is to own a longarm quilting machine? I mean, they must just slap the fabric and batting on there and turn it on and it does all the work for them. Right? WRONG! There is a a lot of work that goes in to loading a quilt, getting it straight, and making it come out right. With backing fabric, it’s nice not to have any seams in it, because each seam can draw up the fabric around it. You can’t avoid that with the quilt top, but you can with the bottom/backing. Batting needs to be a decent quality, too, because these high-powered machines will run right through thin batting and shred it to pieces. As for the quilt top, this is the most important to make sure you have it loaded properly.
As I load the quilt backing and top, I make sure I am rolling them so that their edges meet the edges of the fabric they are rolled on. For example, think of a fabric that you roll around a pole. With each roll, you want to make sure the edge of the top fabric meets with the edge of the fabric underneath. You also want to make sure you are not rolling one side tighter than the other. One strategy I use for that is the blocks and sashings in a pieced top.
The above photo shows a block and sashing. See how it is kind of caddy wonker and not straight across? If I were to roll the quilt top like that, the whole quilt will end up caddy wonker and stay that way after I’ve quilted it. So, using the seams and sashing as a guide, I try to roll it straight on. I look down the length of the roller to make sure it is straight before advancing the roller.
See how the sashing on this is a little crooked at the bottom of this picture? I’d make sure it was straight before advancing the roller any farther.
Another strategy I like is using a laser square for making sure my quilt top is laying square on the frame during and after I roll it forward. I also like to use my laser square for blocking my quilts, but I will show you how to do that in a later post. You can buy a laser square at the hardware store.
I can use the laser line as a guide for pinning the top edge of the quilt top to the batting and backing before I baste it together and stabilize the entire quilt. You can line up the vertical line to the edges of the quilt as well as sashings and other pieces within the blocks and the horizontal line will go across the top to show where the edge needs to be in order for your quilt to end up “square” and not caddy wonker. There are many tools you can use to achieve this. The laser square just happens to be one of my favorites.