Monday, 25 January 2016

Backing Fabric and Wadding - preparing to bring your quilt to your Long Arm Quilter



How big does my backing fabric need to be for long arm quilting?
When preparing your backing fabric for long arm quilting you will need to ensure that you provide a piece which is at least 8" (20cm) longer and 8" (20cm) wider than your quilt top.  You will see from the picture that this will allow at least 4" (10cm) on each side.  This can be extra wide backing fabric or a backing you have joined together. 

If you do not have any backing fabric I often have a limited selection available to purchase.  I am also happy to work with fleece, minky and other textured fabrics.

Why does my backing fabric need to be so much wider? 
The machine has wide clamps which grab the edge of the backing fabric to keep the fabric backing taught and flat during the process of quilting.  The extra width also accommodates the moving machine so that it doesn't hit the clamps and cause uneven stitching on your quilt.  Some digital patterns may also go slightly beyond your quilt top border.

The good news is that when the quilt is returned to you and it is trimmed, you may find that the waste fabric is wide enough for the binding, a hanging strip or other scrap project.


What if my backing fabric is not big enough?
You may have cut the backing before you decided to get your quilt long arm quilted and it may be slightly larger than the top, but not the full 8" recommended above.  In this case you can stitch on extra fabric to the edges to bring it up to the recommended size.  In most cases this extra strip will be trimmed at the end of the quilting process and will not be part of the final backing.

What is the maximum width for backing?
The maximum quilt width my machine will take is 94" (239cm), which allows for a maximum backing width of 102" (260cm).  Even if you quilt is much smaller, you can still have a wider backing, which will mean the pieces that you trim at the end may be more useable for a hanging strip, binding or another quilting project.
What is the maximum length?
The backing is rolled evenly onto a roller, so whilst there is a limit on the width, the length can (in theory) be any length, and again will mean the pieces that you trim at the end may be more useable for a hanging strip, binding or another quilting project.

How big does my wadding need to be for long arm quilting?
When preparing your wadding for long arm quilting you will need to ensure that you provide a piece which is at least 4" (10cm) longer and 4" (10cm) wider than your quilt top.  You will see from the picture that this will allow at least 2" (5cm) on each side. 
Why does my wadding fabric need to be wider? 
Essentially your wadding needs to be bigger than your quilt top and enough to 'fill out' the width of your binding.  Also, during the quilting process the whole quilt sandwich shrinks very slightly and the extra wadding accommodates this.

Do you provide wadding?
I can provide Hobbs 80/20 (cotton / polyester) or Hobbs Polydown (100% polyester) wadding for your projects at an additional cost.

Which wadding do you recommend?
As a long arm quilting service I am happy to work with any wadding which you provide.  In the past this has included 100% wool, bamboo, cotton, cotton/ polyester blends and 100%polyester.  Please refer to the manufacturer's guidelines to understand the composition and how the wadding will react when washed.  Different waddings have different shrinkage rates and may give the quilt a different look once washed.

The easiest way to check all this is to lay out all the layers together with the wadding on top of the backing and the quilt top on top of the wadding.  Each should frame the other. One of the key advantages of using a long arm quilting service is that you DO NOT HAVE TO BASTE YOUR QUILT SANDWICH!

Personal Note ...
Before I had a long arm machine I used to complete my quilt tops, choose the wadding and backing and then dutifully hand basting them into a quilt sandwich on my hands and knees, ready for the day they would be hand quilted.  Sadly, that day never came and they never saw the light of day ... until I bought my APQS long arm machine.  However, before I could quilt them I had to undo the stitching I had already done.  It took considerably less time to remove the stitches than it did to stitch them in the first place, but now they are completed quilts and are being enjoyed and used regularly.

You may have some quilts in a similar state.  If you have finally decided to get them long arm quilted the basting stitches will need to be removed before they can be loaded onto the long arm machine.  The removal of this stitching can be added to the cost of the service if required. 

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