A professional longarm machine quilter for hire and some of the work I've done.
My sincere apologies….. this is not going to be a really good tutorial. They say a picture is worth a thousand words…. well I forgot to take some pictures and some are lost in cyber space. I’m doing this post because it’s at least a start. Anyone stopping by for help with issue quilts will get some ideas. Even if the instructions aren’t complete.
I have another issue quilt waiting that I will try to do a better job of taking pictures for better instructions. With issue quilts we cannot take it apart and remake it. (Unless we are hired to do that.) Our job is only to get it quilted so it can be used and loved.
Ok, the first thing is that I always float the tops. Floating is when the backing is attached to the leaders but the top isn’t. The top floats on the backing and batting. Floating lets me control the top as I manipulate it to stabilize. I stabilize by doing a stitch in the ditch around all the blocks and borders. No quilting is done anywhere else at this time. I don’t stitch around any of the pieces either…. just around the blocks and borders only. If I plan to do any stitch in the ditch around the pieces this is done at a later stage of the quilting process.
As I stabilize I’m also going to the end of my machine to check on the straightness of the blocks (or sashing)…. by eye. I can look down the machine to see if the sashing is fairly straight. Since the top is floating; if I see things are not quite straight then I can lift up the top to shift it here and there. I don’t worry about extra fullness anywhere at this time. It’s more important to keep it “pleasing to the eye straight”.
As I advance the quilt to do more stitch in the ditch; I’m keeping myself constantly aware of whether the top is doing the hourglass dance. This is when the beginning edge is very straight but the top gradually bows in toward the middle then outward again as you pass the center of the top giving it an hourglass figure.
If you have ever had a really good beginning when quilting a top; but, when you get to the last edge find that you have lots of friendliness (waves) in the last border, this is most likely caused by the hourglass dance. It shifted into the center but didn’t shift back out again. I check this with each advance by measuring from the end of the bar to the edge of the top. I try to keep the measurement within 1/4 inch of the same amount with every advance. (I will take pictures of this when I do the next issue quilt.)
So here is when I can start showing pictures. I’ve done a stitch in the ditch to stabilize the whole top and basted along the edges of the top. Now that the stabilizing is done, I can move back and forth with the quilting….. going to the areas that need quilting first. Moving to the next area and so forth.
Here is what the blocks look like after the stabilizing. See all the extra fullness in there? This is when I can start to deal with it. Before starting the quilting in each block; I first use my hand to evenly distribute the fullness as much as possible.
Then I do a small amount of quilting in the block. Here I’ve done the stems and tulips on half of this block. That’s the only quilting I will do in all the blocks for now. I want the quilting to be done gradually in each block so it’s quilted evenly over the whole top. I hope that makes sense…. geeze…. I wish I could make a video! Maybe I can figure out how to quilt and film at the same time before I get to the next issue quilt.
Here I’ve moved to another block and distributed the fullness as much as I can.
In my personal opinion…. pressing… is the number one thing a new quilter can do to improve their piecing. It’s also one step a beginner will avoid doing. But that’s another tutorial story.