Monday, May 30, 2016

Seams and Leaders in Backing Fabric

I often get questions about how to prepare backing fabric, like....
• Which way should the seam in my backing fabric go?
• What if my backing fabric is just shy of required size?

These questions often go together. Here are some thoughts...

• In order to mount your backing fabric onto a longarm frame, the overall width and length must be at least 8" wider/longer than the quilt top.

• If your backing is not quite big enough, you can attach "leaders" to it, in order to reach the required size from top to bottom. The sides aren't as crucial. Leader fabric can be any cotton fabric. It does not need to match the backing or the quilt. It will be trimmed off prior to binding. It should not be stretchy fabric. Please be generous with your leader measurements. The quilter needs minimum 8" longer than the quilt top, but 10" or 12" is even better.

• About seams on a longarmquilters try to have long seams run across the frame, from left to right. If we have it running up and down, from top to bottom, the seam will be rolled around the bars on the frame each time we advance the quilt to the next area. And each time that seam rolls around the bar, the thickness of the seam piles up on top of itself, making a bulky spot on the roller that can make it hard to stretch the quilt taut and can mess with thread tension.

Good To Know: It is preferable to a longarm quilter if your seaming and/or leaders allow for mounting width-wise on the frame (as in Example A below). This allows for more quilting in a single span of the frame, with less time spent tying off and advancing the rollers. If it's not possible to set up your seams and/or leaders to match Example A below, you can follow Example B, and it will still be fine. It's just not as handy for the quilter.

If attaching leaders: the actual, real backing fabric MUST be at least 4" (total) bigger than the quilt top. If there's not an extra 2" on each side, there's a chance you will have to trim down the quilt top after the quilting process is over.

If there is a seam in your backing: attach leaders parallel to the seam in your backing (if there is one). Being parallel to your seam is more important than being "hamburger-style". Very important: Leaders should run the same direction as the seam in the backing.

If there isn't a seam: attach the leaders to the longer edges of your backing, hamburger-style, if possible. See Example A below.

Keep in mind: the act of adding 1/4" seams to both ends will remove 1/2" from the overall length of the real backing.

If you're curious to see how this quilt turned out, click here to see my blog post about it.

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