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.