Pieced backs for longarm quilters

As a longarm quilter, I sometimes shudder when a pieced back comes to my studio with the top. The best back of course is a fat back (extra wide fabric) so there is no seam at all. But the selection in the fabric stores are limited and sometimes you just can’t find what you like, so you need to piece the back with normal 45” fabric. No problem, except when there is!

The next best solution is to have as few seams as possible and they all run the same direction, preferably with the grain. But if that’s not possible, and you need to cut on the cross grain, you need to be sure to cut at a 90 degree angle to the grain, so it will stay as straight as possible. Sometimes you need to piece some smaller pieces with the seams running perpendicular to the longer seams. That’s OK as long as you are careful with the cutting.

If you cut a bit off the grain, you are now into the bias and we all know that the bias stretches. When the back is loaded onto the longarm frame, as long as all the fabric grains are straight, they will stretch taut on the frame and stay flat. But if you are on the bias at all, the back will sag at that seam as the machine moves over the quilt sandwich and then tucks are formed which often is not felt or seen until the quilting is finished. Then a lot of ripping, steaming, pinning, and re-quilting ensues to take out the tucks to get it to lay flat. That costs a lot of time and creates a lot of aggravation for the quilter.

Another issue with pieced backs are they often are brought in not being square. One side of the seam is longer than the other. Sometimes the two pieces were not the same to begin with, but often they are because a long piece is cut in half and then the two halves are sewn together on the perpendicular sides to the cut. But if you just hold them together and sew a long seam, the feed dogs of your machine will feed the bottom faster than the top and you end up with the bottom edges not together. At this point it could be trimmed, but one side is stretched more than the other and the seam does not lay perfectly flat. So what I suggest is that you pin that long side at least a foot apart to keep both the top and bottom edges even. I also recommend a half inch seam and to press it open. This then allows the back to be very flat when quilted and sometimes not even noticeable when finished.

Why do we want the backs to be square when they’re just going to be trimmed afterward? It’s because they need to be square to be mounted on the frame. I actually fold in half to find the center on opposites sides and then baste long zippers on to attach the back to the frame. When the back isn’t square, then I have more work to do, to get it square. If it’s significant, it’s an added charge to the total cost of getting it quilted.

I hope this blog has added awareness to how to prepare a back for longarm quilting. I know that all longarmers out there appreciate and nice square back!

Happy quilting!


Patience vs Passion

Have you ever had anyone tell you when they look at a quilt you've made and say "I don't have the patience for that". I am sure many of you have. I've asked a lot and many affirm that is true. But I disagree that you need patience...well, maybe at times....but the real issue is PASSION.

When you have passion about something, you do it no matter what. You find a way, you find the money, you find the time, you even find others who are passionate about the same thing you are. It is true with nearly any endeavor you can name.

Photographers hang out with other photographers....because who has the patience to sit for hours to get that "perfect shot" of an eagle, or hawk or sunset, etc? Again...it's not patience that they possess to do that activity. It is passion. Or fisherman waiting for a bite? Or a teacher with a room full of 5 year olds! No matter what activity, passion is what drives those who do it over and over and over again.

It is so true in the quilting world. And there are so many kinds of quilting that even within our world you can focus on just one or two kinds of quilting and be "bored" with something else. My passion is pictorial quilts. However, patchwork does not motivate me to spend hours at my machine putting it all together.....unless some really awesome pattern presents itself to me.....then maybe!

My real passion lies with the quilting process itself. To others, they love the piecing of the tops but hate to do the quilting. I really appreciate all kinds of quilts including patchwork, so as long as someone else is putting them together I am more than happy to do the quilting!

When I run across a photo I've taken or a landscape or even a portrait, I often will challenge myself to create it in fiber. My favorite topics are animals. You might have guessed that if you have seen my gallery.

So the next time someone tells you they don't have the patience to quilt, you can just smile and nod your head and let them think you have the patience of Job, but inwardly you know it's the passion to create quilts that motivates you to do another and another and another! And being part of a community of quilters is pretty awesome, too.

So happy quilting!