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  • Quilting Jules

Why do you need 4” extra fabric on all sides for your backing?

So, you've pieced a beautiful quilt top and you're ready to take your quilt to a longarm quilter. Hooray! We can't wait to help you finish your quilt!

There's just one last step...making sure your backing fabric is 4" bigger on than each side of your quilt top. If your quilt is 60" x 60", the backing needs to be 68" x 68". But why?

One of the ways that a longarm is different than using your domestic machine to quilt, is that we load your quilt onto a frame. Your quilt remains stationary while the sewing machine head moves around your quilt. This is, of course, different from a domestic machine, where you move the quilt around while the sewing machine stays still. Keeping your quilt stationary on the frame lets us quilt on a large surface area with the longarm's extra large throat space (Betty has 22" of quilt-able area each pass!).

When we get ready to quilt your quilt, we load it onto the frame. Or, more specifically, we pin it onto what we call leaders, canvas fabric attached to the frame. Below is a quilt loaded onto the frame. You'll see the backing is attached right side down with pins to the canvas leaders at the top. Then the batting is placed on top, and then your quilt top.

Here's another view of the whole quilt ready to go! The backing fabric is also attached to a leader and rolled up out of the way. This helps keep the back smooth and taut as it's quilted. You might see on the bottom right how the gray fabric disappears, rolled up and angled back to it's leader.

But why do we need so much extra fabric?

The extra fabric is there so we can hold on to your quilt while it's being quilted. We use leaders on the top and bottom to secure your quilt back, but if there isn't enough fabric, we could end up sewing onto those leaders. On the sides, we use clamps to keep the sides taut and ensure even stitch quality. If there isn't enough fabric on the sides, we could sew these into your quilt, or even sew over pins(!!!). Below is a picture of how we keep the sides of the backing straight during quilting. (The ruler raises the clamps so they don't run into my motors.)

So basically, we are trying to keep your quilt as straight and flat as possible while it's being quilted. The extra fabric on all the sides helps us hold the backing in place and center your quilt.

I hope that helps explain why we ask for additional fabric for your backing! Please email me with any questions! I love to talk quilting.


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