10 Tips to Make Your Longarmer Happy

How can you make your longarm quilter happy to quilt your quilts? Here’s how.

If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy the quilting part of making a quilt you can usually find someone nearby who has a longarm machine and is willing to quilt your top for a fee. Choosing a longarm quilter is a little like choosing a dance partner: you’ve got work together for the result to be great. Both sides must give and take and be sensitive to the other’s needs.

So as one quilter to another, here 10 tips to make your longarm quilter love quilting your quilts:

  1. Make sure your quilt top is clean, square, and freshly pressed.
  2. Make the quilt backing 4 inches bigger than your quilt top on all sides.
  3. If you must piece the backing, horizontal piecing (seams run from one side to the other) is better for a longarm quilt frame.
  4. Mark the top of your quilt if it is directional. Do the same for the backing if it is also directional.
  5. Ask for multiple design suggestions if you’re choosing an all-over quilting pattern, which is also sometimes referred to as an edge-to-edge or E2E design. E2E designs work better when the quilt top is very busy. Custom quilting is more expensive; you may want to reserve custom quilting for very special quilts or quilts where there is lots of unpieced space in the quilt top. Ask your longarmer which pattern he or she would choose and pay attention to the recommendations – she/he knows what they are talking about!
  6. Ask for thread color suggestions; the longarmer will know from experience which threads work well and how they impact the final design. Don’t ask for different colors of thread in the top and the bobbin. Invariably, some stitches will show through and you’ll be disappointed with the final result.
  7. Make sure you have a clear understanding about the pricing. E2E designs are usually priced by the square inch. Custom quilting may also be priced by the square inch, usually at a higher price. Bobbins, batting, and any finishing might be extra. Don’t assume anything; having a debate about pricing after the quilting is finished is no fun for either of you.
  8. If you wish to provide your own batting, be sure the longarmer is willing to work with the batting you want to use. Some longarmers have batting preferences to ensure good quilting results. Find out if you must provide the batting or whether you can purchase it from your longarmer.
  9. Be patient. Pestering your longarmer with questions about when it will be done just takes them away from actually doing the work. Agree on a tentative (stuff happens, right?) date when it will be ready and then be flexible to an extent. If the timeline drags on longer than you want, don’t be afraid to retrieve your quilt top and take it to someone else who can quilt it faster.
  10. Above all, show your appreciation with more than just your checkbook. Like everyone else, a longarmer wants to know that her or his work is appreciated. Hearing quilters express their appreciation is meaningful. Another way to express appreciation is to  refer new clients to the longarmer.

If you’ve never taken your quilt top to a longarm quilter before, it will be a little scary and exhilarating. So follow these tips and before you know it, you’ll have a quilting dance partner who collaborates with you to finish stunning quilts!

Happy Quilting!


Putting It All Together

It was a long search for backing fabric for the log cabin quilt. I wanted a black fabric with subtle coloring and it had to be patterned. No solid fabrics in this quilt! Turns out that is not so easy to find. Finally I located just what wanted at Missouri Star. They had just enough for me to use for setting triangles, binding, and backing.

I plan to use the leftover bits from the FQs to insert a little colored row in the backing. Since the quilt is so large – queen size – I’ll have to piece the backing anyway. So why not make it a little interesting and link it to the front with some leftover fabric?!

So I cut some pieces and experimented with making a column of fabric to insert into one of the seams on the back. I laid out two columns, trying one that was laid out in a graduated design and another that was just randomly mixed. Though I like the graduated look, the random mix matches the quilt front better – I’ll go with that one.


It’s time to piece the backing snd the front together. Exciting!


Log Cabins on the Design Wall

Drum roll, please…

Isn’t that fun?!

In case you’ve never used a design wall, I highly recommend it for laying out your quilt blocks. Many materials will work -batting, felt, drapery lining, etc. Mine is simply a king sized batting piece hung with thumb tacks.

Stepping back a bit, I can see that one pale purple square really stands out (4th row down, two in). It looks out of place and will need replacing before piecing the top together. This is exactly why arranging your finished blocks on a design wall is a good idea: you can see any changes you may want to make before you sew the top together.

It also allows you to play with the arrangement of blocks to find the most pleasing arrangement for your top. I like this arrangement so I doubt any changes will happen to the layout. But I have been known to change my mind…

Before beginning to sew this together, I need to trim each block to ensure they are all perfectly square; it makes assembling the quilt top much easier. I used a Creative Grids 15″ square ruler for this job.

By placing the ruler along one edge so that the 45 degree angle line cuts through the corner of each row, I can cut off any parts of the edges that aren’t square. This will take some time but it sure makes a big difference in sewing the top together.

I’ve assembled quilt tops without first squaring up the blocks and it was so frustrating. Seams didn’t line up, rows were too short or too long, and sometimes an entire side of my quilt was out of square. So I truly believe this is one step you just shouldn’t avoid doing. You’ll thank me later when all your blocks go together easily and your seams line up!

On to the trimming now. Ugh!


Log Cabin Blocks All Done!

All the log cabin blocks are finally complete!

Stacked in sets by color, I can already tell it will be a wild quilt, but I’m loving all the great color and the pattern play.

I’m going to set up a design wall to lay this one out. It will be much easier that way to get the full effect of the interplay of patterns so I can place the blocks in the best arrangement.

Can’t wait to see it!


2018 CVQG Quilt Show: Raffle Quilt

2018 CVQG Raffle Quilt and show layout.

It has been a busy year preparing for the Catawba Valley Quilter’s Guild 2018 quilt show. The show, offered every 3 years is a big deal for our guild. We expect to have over 300 quilts created by the guild members (only) on display at the Hickory Convention Center.

I’ve been proud to be part of the huge team working on this show. So many of our guild members have contributed time and energy to create this incredible show. For my part, I designed the raffle quilt that is a big fundraiser for the show. It was created by the team guild members on the raffle quilt committee and quilted in great detail by the very talented Rebecca Mullins. It is pictured here hanging in the entrance to the show to entice visitors to buy a raffle ticket – or 20. Isn’t the quilting phenomenal?!


In addition to designing the raffle quilt, I volunteered to do the show’s floorplan and the ‘hang’ layout for all the quilts. It’s an interesting challenge to design a show when you don’t really know how many quilts or what sizes to expect. But using the information about the entries from the 2015 show, as well as a empty floorplan from the convention center, I was able to maximize the space for a little over 300 quilts, 20 vendors, the Lily Boutique (items made by guild members for sale), a QOV space, and a demo space.

2018 Quilt Show floorplan

It was a nice easy layout with lots of roomy aisles all the way around. And based on the data from the last show, we should have room for 325-350 quilts to display.


Large Applique

In the previous post, I showed how I built the large graduated background for the sun quilt. In this post, I’ll share how I created the sun and attached it to the background.

I attached the finished rays to the round body of the sun to create the full sun. With the sun fully together and the background fully pieced, I was ready to attach the sun to the quilt. I laid out the background and pinned the sun in place on it. Then I used a blind hemstitch with monofilament thread and attached the sun and rays to the background.

Now for the scary part: cutting away the background from behind the sun.

Turning the quilt top over, I was able to see the blind hemstitch line around the sun and its rays. I drew a 1/4″ line inside the stitching line on each ray. Using scissors and lifting the backing away from the sun rays I had just appliquéd onto the backing, I cut away the excess backing, being careful not to snip any portion the sun.


Finally, quilt top was complete!

The next post describes how I planned and executed the quilting design, binding, and backing.

Figure It Out As You Go!

cropped-img_2239.jpgSometimes you just don’t know how to construct a quilt design that is easily drawn. A sketch is simple enough but when it comes to actually putting it together, a little engineering is sometimes required. The Hickory Sun Day quilt I made for Hickory Day School, was a ‘figure it out as you go’ quilt.

IMG_2939The quilt’s design is based on school’s sun logo. I envisioned a cross-fade of small bits of blue fabric for the background, getting lighter the closer it gets to the sun image. Almost like a blue fabric mosaic. For the sun, I imagined that it would also cross-fade from dark gold to pale yellow from the sun’s body to the tips of the sun rays.

I made a quick sketch and began collecting fabrics in wide range of blues and yellows. At first my selections were strictly batiks because of their color intensity,  the range of values, and the variation in a color range within a single fabric. But I found that sticking just to batiks was too limiting; I couldn’t get the colors I wanted,  so printed cottons eventually found their way into the quilt.

But how could I construct this quilt?!

With only 3 finished quilts under my belt, I didn’t have a clue how to put it together. My previous quilts used only squares and rectangles. But this quilt had circles and triangles laid out over a large graduated blue field. How could I get that effect with just squares and rectangles?

That’s when I discovered foundation piecing.

Foundation piecing is a simple way of using paper patterns to help quilters piece designs that are too complex for success with traditional piecing. Fabric strips are sewn to paper in overlapping straight lines and the paper is peeled off when the block or shape is complete. These complex pieced blocks then can be assembled into quilts using traditional piecing.

61I3I0u3GeL._AC_US218_Luckily, I had received a free quilting book with a recent AQS fabric order.  Quilts with Attitude by Deb Karasik contained instructions for foundation piecing, and that seemed like a good solution for the sun rays. Deb’s book explained in detail (with photos) how to foundation piece strips of fabric. It was exactly the solution to create the effected I wanted.

Using butcher block paper craft paper, I made a life-size template of the sun and one of its rays. Using a string with a pencil at one end and an brick at the other, I formed a simple compass. I traced the sun’s arc and then used a yardstick to draw the sun’s rays.

Cutting out the the sun’s body and one sun ray gave me exact size paper templates on which I could create the radiating color effect. I wanted the use a chevron effect within each ray to give it movement and direction. This served as the pattern for how I wanted the finished sun to look, but to achieve it, I needed paper foundations.

Foundation piecing is best achieved by using a thin paper that is easy to tear off the finished block. So I traced the sun ray’s chevron pattern I had designed onto a artist tracing paper (a thin, translucent paper) to created the foundations papers. It worked like a dream!

For the sun’s body, I drew concentric circles on the Kraft paper, then created patterns by tracing the circles once again onto tracing paper, adding 1/4″ to on both sides of each concentric circle for seam allowances. From these pattern templates I was able to cut out and sew together the concentric circles for the sun’s body. The outcome was exactly as I’d hoped for: the sun’s body was luminous and had even had dimension because of the graduated colors I used.

Want to know more? Find out how the background blue mosaic came together in the next post.