"Oh, you just throw it on the machine and it quilts it?" Or "How long does it take to quilt a quilt?"
So I decided to write up the steps it takes to finish a quilt on a longarm machine. It is meant to be informative with a dose of humor thrown in for good measure.
Steps it takes to finish a quilt -
Load quilt Measure back to make sure it is at least 8” longer and wider than quilt top. You would be surprised how many are not as big as they should be to ensure a nicely finished quilt top. Determine if backing is directional for proper loading.
Make sure top and bottom edges are straight and square, trim if needed. Lots of attention is paid to how even the quilt top is and the quilt back is just as important.
Mark center of backing at the top and bottom edges. Pin bottom edge of backing onto leader carefully checking to be sure you have the wrong side facing the correct way, roll onto frame making sure back is straight and smooth as it is rolled, hoping you don't find any holes as it is loaded because that would require unloading and repair. Pin top edge of backing onto leader, roll onto frame, finish rolling until back is flat and smooth.
Place batting onto backing making sure it is smooth and flat.
Mark center of quilt top at top and bottom edges. Pin bottom edge of quilt top onto leader. Roll quilt top onto frame, smoothing and keeping straight as it is rolled.
Attach side clamps. Stitch a straight line across batting and backing at top edge, align top edge of quilt top with stitched line. Pin across top and sides, baste to quilt backing.
Set up design Open design chosen, check size of design, resize to correct size.
Set dimensions of quilt top. Fit design into dimensions of quilt top. Adjust rows to fill quilt dimensions.
Save design to continue if quilt takes more than one day to finish or in case of any problems (power outage! etc.) Start Quilting first row/s. Each row can take between 10-60 minutes depending on complexity of design.
Check tension, top and back when each row starts.
Advance rows Remove/adjust side clamps so quilt can be advanced. Mark a spot in center of quilt so design can be advanced along with the quilt as the finished rows are rolled.
Check back of quilt after each advance to make sure it is still flat and smooth, no sagging or wrinkles. Baste sides of top so machine doesn't get caught under edge of quilt top and do damage.
Continue quilting rows, (praying you don't get near the end of the quilt and find a block with the seams facing out! Yikes, now what?) and checking tension on top and back.
Keep an eye on each row in case the bobbin runs out, you don't want the machine to stitch very far with an empty bobbin, trust me. Replace empty bobbins as needed, cleaning out lint in bobbin case each time to avoid clumps being stitched onto back of quilt, they are not attractive. Have bobbins pre filled and ready to go when one runs out.
Time to quilt the last row, remove pins from bottom edge of quilt where pinned to leader. Pin flat to quilt back, baste edges. Adjust last row of design if it needs to be shorter and pray the bobbin doesn't run out six inches before the end of the row. Phew almost finished.
Unload quilt Remove side clamps. Un pin bottom edge of quilt backing. Un roll finished quilt and un pin top edge of quilt backing. Inspect for quality, Front and back Photograph Fold nicely, invoice and contact customer for pick up.