There are a number of tasks you need to do prior to giving your quilt to a longarm quilter. Often, on reading through this list it almost seems like almost too much bother. So, I wanted to share with you the reasons why the preparation is so important.
It is important that there is a minimum of 6" extra of wadding and backing fabric all the way around the quilt top, so that there is adequate room for the pins and the clamps.
Your quilt will be held firmly on a number of long rollers. The quilt top and the backing are pinned on both the top and bottom of the quilt. The wadding is then sandwiched in between and a straight line of stitching holds this in place at the top. The sides of the quilt and held in place with clamps to ensure an even tension.
At the bottom of the quilt, there needs to be enough room to pin the quilt top to the backing and also to complete the final row of quilting. If the backing fabric is too short, there is no room to quilt the pieced top right up to the edge!
The pieced top; the wadding and the backing do not need to be basted together prior to giving me your quilt. In fact, if the quilt is already basted, I would have to ask you to separate the layers first. This is because all three layers are loaded onto the machine frame individually, in order to ensure that they are all straight.
It is important that all the seams are pressed in the desired direction, to one side, rather than open. Open seams are weaker than seams pressed to one side and there is a lot of tension placed on those seams during the quilting process. This seam direction is particularly important if there is going to be a lot of 'stitch in the ditch' to be done on your quilt. When seams are wonky the needle can bounce off the seam line causing wonky quilting!
If the backing fabric has been pieced then it is better if this is pieced using a half inch seam allowance rather than a quarter of an inch, again because of the amount of tension on it.
Please ensure any borders that have been pieced have had an 1/8th" seam of stay stitching added around the edge. This is to prevent any stretching that could distort the size of your quilt.
All the borders should have been added by measuring properly through the centre of your quilt top in order to size the quilt top accurately. Again, as otherwise your border could end up wavy due to the excess fabric. I can work some ease into your quilt, but there is a limit!
If there is a particular direction to your quilt top, please let me know so that I can quilt it correctly. A small note held by a safety pin showing which is the top of the quilt is fine.
Clip any excess threads, so that they won't show through on your finished quilt.
I know that this list seems ever daunting, but doing all of this will allow the quilter to do the best job they can and to return to you a quilt that you will cherish.